A Conversation with PJ Haarsma, author of the Softwire Series

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How did you conceive the idea for the Rings of Orbis, and JT’s story?

When I was eleven-years-old I lived in Canada. My parents owned a cottage in a little town called Frankfurt. One Saturday afternoon I found what I believed was a dead alien. I was fascinated by what was laying at my feet, but I was interrupted by the town bully. Determined to take a souvenir with me, I tore a piece of cloth from the "thing" and ran as fast as I could. Stitched on the piece of cloth was a symbol that looked like four rings around a star. It's the same he symbol I now use for the book. As a kid I poured over that symbol and wondered where it came from. Using my imagination and the unusual symbol stitched on that piece of cloth, I constructed the entire universe of The Softwire.

New this spring was the third title in the 4-book series, The Softwire: Worm Hole Pirates on Orbis 3. How did you approach writing the series? For example, did you have an outline for the entire story arc before beginning to write? Or did the story and characters develop as you wrote each book?

I had an idea for why we exist as humans and what our role in the universe will be one day. I wanted the series to expose this idea so I alway knew where I was going. The story arc for the whole series was planned from the beginning. Each book takes the reader a little closer to this revelation and the characters had to learn about this as well. As a writer I always knew how they would react, or at least I thought I did. :)

My characters, however, definitely developed along the way, but I think my editor Sarah had a big role in this. I also became more comfortable with them as they grew older. They are close friends now. I don't know if I can let them go yet.

The alien characters on the Rings of Orbis are so vivid. Did you have any particular inspiration in creating any of them? Do you have a favorite alien character?

Not really. It was just fun to let my imagination go and create characters who's physical form added to my story telling. That's the best part of my job for sure.

I think Toll is my favorite character. He has both physical and mental strength, as well as a deep love for his friends and family that I admire. However, there is a delicious new character in book three who is quickly coming up the ranks. I don't want to say anything that might spoil it for you though.

In addition to the Softwire books, there’s an online world where fans can play the Rings of Orbis science fiction fantasy role playing game. How did the online universe develop? What aspect of the RPG have your fans been most excited about?

The game, www.ringsoforbis.com, came about when I was told that I needed a website as an author. I went out and looked at the sites of other authors and thought, why would anyone come back here? I knew my fans wouldn't, so I went looking for them online. I knew they were spending more and more time in front of their computers and I found them on sites like Gaia Online, Neopets and Facebook and realized, this is what I need! Little did I know the work involved creating such an enormous online community, but it's been extremely rewarding. The Rings of Orbis have given me such a powerful tool to connect with my readers. I think that's what the fans get most excited about. They have direct interaction with me whenever they want as I'm always online adding to the game and making it better. Fans get to hang out there between books, play games, make friends and live within The Softwire universe. It's truly unique.

Previously you had a career in photography. In what ways does your background in photography affect your writing and game development? What are your other influences, particularly in science fiction?

After spending 20 years looking through the lens of a camera you become visual by nature. I think my experiences have helped me to shape a scene within my head before committing it to paper. Also, as photography entered the digital age and I moved toward commercial production, my love of computers made it easy for me to slip into the gaming world as there were so many common tools.

What can you tell us about the final book in the series? What will you do after the Softwire series is complete?

The fourth book will expose the purpose of humans in our universe, but only if JT accepts his role. Readers will also understand Ketheria's purpose in this story – and I'm sad to say that we will have to say goodbye to another one of the kids.

***Reproduced here with permission from Candlewick Press ***
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1 People said

  1. Interesting Introduction! I'd love to hear more.


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