Crownchasers is a book that swept me away. I knew a race for the crown meets a clever space pilot would be my jam. But what I didn’t expect was how much I’d fall in love with Alyssa! So I knew I had to reach about to Rebecca for an interview. Behold all my burning questions upon finishing Crownchasers!
Alyssa Farshot has spent her whole life trying to outrun her family legacy. Her mother sacrificed everything to bring peace to the quadrant, and her uncle has successfully ruled as emperor for decades. But the last thing Alyssa wants is to follow in their footsteps as the next in line for the throne. Why would she choose to be trapped in a palace when she could be having wild adventures exploring a thousand-and-one planets in her own ship?
But when Alyssa’s uncle becomes gravely ill, his dying wish surprises the entire galaxy. Instead of naming her as his successor, he calls for a crownchase, the first in seven centuries. Representatives from each of the empire’s prime families—including Alyssa—are thrown into a race to find the royal seal, which has been hidden somewhere in the empire. The first to find the seal wins the throne.
Alyssa’s experience as an explorer makes her the favorite to win the crown she never wanted. And though she doesn’t want to be empress, her duty to her uncle compels her to participate in this one last epic adventure. But when the chase turns deadly, it’s clear that more than just the fate of the empire is at stake. Alyssa is on her most important quest yet—and only time will tell if she’ll survive it
Do you think you’d be a good pilot? How did Alyssa first come to you in your mind?
Oh, man, I’d be a terrible pilot! I do not like heights, and I get motion sick fairly easily, so I would not choose myself to get behind the controls of any kind of plane or spaceship. Please That being said, I’ve had a very long-standing soft spot for quippy spaceship pilots, starting back with Han Solo. The initial concept of Alyssa Farshot came about when I was looking to delve into a project where I could really push myself in terms of tackling a voice-driven, first-person perspective, so the idea was to kind of take a gender-flipped approach to Han, lean into that roguish sass and so forth. I feel like, in the final version of Alyssa, she draws a lot from another one of my favorite space pilots: Kara “Starbuck” Thrace. She’s messy, she’s vibrant, she’s flawed all in equal measure, but she’s mostly trying to stay the course and do what’s right.
Who are some of your favorite SF YA heroines?
This is such a good question because the YA SF space is filled with incredible heroines. Some of my recent favorites are Leyla McQueen from The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah and Ellie Baker from The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow. I loved how Shah took Leyla on this emotional journey from fear to wonder and determination to love and courage, and Dow’s Ellie is a rebel not because she physically fights, but because she holds on to the books and music that she loves and there’s something far more powerful about that kind of rebellion I think. I’m also a big fan of Natalie C. Parker’s Seafire trilogy and her heroine Caledonia Styx—actually all the heroines on the Mors Navis. I love what Parker has to say about sisterhood and what it means to find a crew who helps hold you together when your world falls apart.
I loved how Alyssa is able to balance her incredible skills and cleverness, while also being vulnerable, at least to the readers. Can you talk about how you went about creating your characters?
I’m a big-time plotter, so I always start out with my main character by figuring out the two central questions of “what does she want” versus “what does she need.” And that always helps in the initial draft to try and make sure I’m keeping her emotions tied to the external plot, so it’s not just fancy race shenanigans but no heart or internal conflict. But I don’t think I really drilled down into a lot of her vulnerabilities until I did revisions. Because there’d just be bits and pieces of her that would surface when I wrote in her voice in that first draft, and when I went back through it later, those moments would stand out to me and make me go, “Oh, that’s interesting, what could that mean for Alyssa, where can I build that in and build that up, what would take her to the next level?” Like all the flashbacks, for example, were not in the initial draft — they came later — and every time I added one of them, I understood Alyssa’s past from a slightly different angle. And that gave me new angles to play with when it came to present-day Alyssa.
One of the themes I loved in CROWNCHASERS was how the characters struggle with change. The idea of change being an ending AND a beginning. With the knowledge that our life is about change and it’s a kind of mourning to say goodbye to what that might have been. Do you think that is a question or theme you were thinking about while writing it?
In total honesty, I don’t know that that theme was top of mind when I was writing CROWNCHASERS. But it IS a theme that personally haunts me, and I don’t think I even realized I wrote it into this book until I read your question. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s something that ends up in a lot of my work, whether I mean it to or not. I’m really terrible at change. I struggle with upheaval and the ways that life shifts beneath you, and if I fear something, I usually take it as a sign that it’s something I need to make my characters go through. A few years ago, Jacob Clifton wrote on the website Television Without Pity that, “Change feels like dying because it is,” and when I read that, I found it extremely comforting in a way. This idea that there is an inherent mourning to be had in change. That even if it’s overall a positive thing, it still requires letting go on some level, and it’s okay and normal for that pain and promise to live side by side in your chest.
I ADORED how queer CROWNCHASERS is and how normalized it is, can you talk about the importance of having that representation not only in your MC but also side characters? Was Alyssa always pansexual in your drafts or the concepts of CROWNCHASERS?
Alyssa was pansexual pretty early on. Some of the nuances of it — like her past relationship with one of the other crownchasers — came later in revisions, but I knew pretty much from the first draft onward who Alyssa was in terms of her sexuality. I think the spectra we have in our own world — the wide range of opportunities we have to discover ourselves in terms of our gender identity, our gender expression, our sexuality — is so incredible. You don’t have to force yourself to fit into this box or that one; you can find one meant for you, or hell, just make your own unique you-shaped space. I love it so much. I wish I’d known half the stuff I do now back when I was fifteen. So I really wanted to take that energy and build this entire universe of characters from a perspective of queerness from the ground up. Especially since we’re talking about a galactic empire that encompasses 1,001 different worlds, all of them interconnected, trading, and bringing their own perspectives on gender and sexuality and identity to the table. I wanted Alyssa’s world and all the people she meets to reflect that fluidity and that diversity and have it be something that is widely embraced.
If you had a spaceship, what would you name it?
I’ve been trying so hard to come up with a cool, meaningful spaceship name, and I’ve been completely drawing a blank! Honestly, the one thing Alyssa Farshot and I very much have in common is our love of curse words. I cuss very fluently unless I’m watching myself. So I’d probably name it something really classy like, “IT’S A SPACE ROCKET, B*TCHES!” or I’d go completely over the top with it and name it the Star Dragon and paint a mural on the sides of it like it’s a 1970s van.
What should readers, like me, do until the sequel? I need help!
Ahhh, I’m sorry for the wait! I’d have the sequel in your hands tomorrow if I could, although I’d have to get a lot faster at writing in order to do that! In the meantime, may I recommend…
Prepare for a slew of recs because there’s some great stuff out there to fill the void until next fall! Some of my fellow talented scifi debuts from this year: The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow, Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson, and Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Rachel Vasquez Gilliland. If you need to specifically scratch the YA space opera itch, you should check out A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna, Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan, Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston, and Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray (if you haven’t already, that is!). Also, some of the best scifi television is being made right now with The Expanse and the new Star Trek series, Discovery and Picard. They’re telling some really incredible stories with amazing casts of complex characters that I’m completely in love with and hopefully you will be too.
Win a pre-order of Crownchasers! This giveaway is INTL as long as The Book Depository ships to you. Ends September 25th at 11:59pm EST.a Rafflecopter giveaway
About the Author
Rebecca Coffindaffer (she/they) grew up on Star Wars, Star Trek, fantastical movies and even more fantastical books. She waited a long time for her secret elemental powers to develop, and in the interim, she started writing stories about magic and politics, spaceships, far-off worlds, and girls walking away from explosions in slow motion. These days she lives in Kansas with her family, surrounded by a lot of books and a lot of tabletop games and one big fuzzy dog. Her debut book Crownchasers, a young adult space opera, comes out September 29, 2020 from HarperTeen.