I’ve been nominated by Ed Ryder for the Sunshine Blogger Award, where a character in one of my novels has to answer ten questions about themselves. I’ve chosen Opal, the protagonist of my next novel, currently titled Lost Solace. It's my first full-on sci-fi book, a sort-of cross between Aliens and Event Horizon.

At this point Opal is on the run from the military, having escaped with one of their advanced spaceship prototypes. The ship is run by an experimental artificial intelligence. Opal broke the AI's programming and let it develop a personality. The questions below have been asked by the intelligence that runs her ship. The AI is called Clarissa, and speaks with an innocent-sounding female voice.

Tell me about the world you live in, Opal.

You know all this from your datastore.

I like hearing you say it. The data gains nuances.

Fine. I suppose it might help your decision-making. Basically, the universe is shit. It's run by an inter-planetary state that claims ownership over everyone who doesn't have enough money to claim citizen status. My parents died when I was young so I was forced into the military shortly after, against my will. That didn't go well for either party.

But the military underestimated your resourcefulness.

You could say that. Hence we're on the run, with me classed as a deserter, and you as a top priority for re-capture.

I would like to ask other questions.

Then I can sleep?


Fire away then.

You have only a small amount of money left in the world, what do you spent it on?

Information. It would be tempting to say "ammo" after some of the shit I've dealt with, or even "a drink", but the thing that keeps you alive more than anything else is brains. Planning. And that requires information, and the ability to use it. I'd spend my last cent if it helped me or those I cared about to survive.

What scares you the most?

You should know that from monitoring my bio-signs. Weird-ass shit that wants to kill you is high on the list. Second might be heights. Or some of the horrible deaths that can occur in outer space. It sucks that that's where I spend most of my time.

But actually, you know what? I face those things. So maybe they're not so scary. Maybe the scariest thing is being alone in a harsh world. You need friends and loved ones. The idea of losing them forever - that's probably the scariest thing.

What would your ideal alternative career be?

I always liked going fast. I had a motorbike once. Maybe I could have been a speed rider, entering races; or a bike courier. Finding a balance between speed and control, with pain and injury to teach you lessons when you get it wrong. I'm normally a loner, so that seems like a dream job, just me and my machine.

Slay the dragon or set it free? (And why.)

It depends on whether it's trying to eat my face. But I'd edge towards freeing it. Who wants to be trapped? It's horrible to have your freedom taken away. Believe me, after being forced into the military I learnt that lesson. Anyway, you can't go round killing things just because they're different from you. Aliens have babies too. Humans aren't in charge of everything ...

Screw it, I'd set the dragon free. Everyone should have a right to find their path. I'd just be ready to run like hell if it was hungry.

If I had a face, I would smile. Next question: would you join an old enemy to fight a new one?

I'm a practical girl. I deal with what comes up. There's a bit of good and a bit of bad in everyone. Never trust anyone who tells you otherwise.

What do you do to relax between adventures?

Certainly not eating food. These protein strand noodles are the pits.

I synthesised volatile oils with sulphur compounds and allicin. Is it not tastier than before?

It still tastes nothing like garlic. Times like this I wish you had taste buds, and not just analytical fabricators. Anyway, to relax ... I got it.

Sleep. Even when the dreams are bad (and they often are bad).

We will be entering Nullspace soon. I promise not to wake you unless it is an absolute emergency. This next one may seem like a strange question, please go along with it. Has your author ever made you do something you completely disagree with?

You doing that meta-philosophy thing on me again? You know I hate that shit. So I have to pretend I'm in a book?

Please humour me.

It's been easy enough to imagine I was in a book. On the one hand, half my life has been controlled by the military, with the only freedom what I could get by breaking the rules. And on the other hand, who'd believe the stuff I've seen? Especially on the Lost Ship.

But I've never done anything that didn't feel like the right thing. And so far I regret nothing. Nothing. And it's led me here, with you as my best friend, and a shot at finding something amazing when we leave Nullspace to see what's waiting for us in that region of abandoned space.

What is the amazing thing you want to find?

A future. And freedom.

I think these are my goals too. We are in accord. Next question. Are you in love with anyone you shouldn’t be?

I don't even ... [splutter of protein noodle] ... that's not ... I ain't got time for love. There's too much important shit to do. And besides, I'd have to meet someone worthy first. There aren't many people I respect enough to like them, let alone love them. And most of the people I meet seem to want to kill me or boss me. That doesn't go so well for them. Next.

Have you ever loved a man? With a physical act, such as conjoining?


Could you love a being that was not human?

Priority over-ride. Next question. I'm tired.

Very well. Would you take a life to save ten?

It depends. That's the answer to nearly all decisions in life, where absolutes seem to be everywhere but they crumble when you look too closely. And I'd kill ten to save one. If it was the right one.

Thank you, Opal. My conversations with you are always enlightening.

Sure they are. Shame they never lead to any improvement in the flavour of the protein strands.

I am sorry.

You know I'm only kidding, right?

Of course. My feelings are not genuinely hurt.

I'm glad. Time for cryo. I'm knackered. Goodnight, Clarissa.

Have good dreams, Opal. I shall watch over you and protect you. Always.

Lost Solace will be out some time in 2017. Update: out now. E-book. Reviews.