By Evangeline Jennings
Full disclosure. I’ve known Paige-slash-Tina for several years. In that weird way that we say we know people we have only interacted with through technology. She is one of the authors featured in the Pankhearst Mermaids series and I have a story that will appear in an exciting collection called Brave New Girls that she is producing with her friend Mary Fan.
And that more than anything is why we’re talking today. Because Tina’s commitment to encouraging girls to pursue careers in science and technology is a cause that is close to what passes for the Pankhearst collective heart. And because she writes stories about heroes who understand how many circuit boards make five. So, now on with the show.
G’day, Paige-slash-Tina, who the hell are you?
I’m Paige Daniels or Tina Closser I guess it depends on where you know me from. Paige Daniels is my author-ly name, but in “real life” I’m known as Tina Closser, mom, engineer, and all around boring gal.
And how the hell are you?
Feeling finer than a frog hair
Tell us about the Non-Compliance series?
The Non-Compliance series is story I started thinking about a long long long time ago in college. I read an article or saw a television show about how the Mark of the Beast will come in chip form, and those who refused to take it would be ousted from society. That seemed pretty interesting to me, because I’ve always liked science fiction, spy, and mobster movies and it seemed like a story with this plot line would have all of those elements. I also thought it would be cool to have a real smart and nerdy woman be the lead. We see lots of “powerful” women in stories and movies, but they’re usually like Black Widow or Wonder Woman, someone who kicks ass and takes names, which is fine. But we rarely see the nerdy girl who likes tools and messing around with computers unless she’s a sidekick. So I messed around with merging these ideas for several years and the Non-Compliance trilogy was born.
This new book is the last of a trilogy. Why do you think writers – and readers – are so fond of the number three?
I guess because from the time we’re little ones we’re always taught that a story has a beginning, middle, and end. I’ve always thought of the Non-Compliance series as one story so I guess it goes with that beginning, middle, and end thing. Or it could just be that mystical power of three thing.
I generally blame Tolkien, but that may be me. Anyway now Non-Compliance is done, what comes next?
Well I have the Brave New Girls project I’m working on on with Mary Fan. This is anthology of stories featuring tech savvy young women. All the profits are going to the Society of Women Engineers Scholarship fund. I’m also messing around with a Space Trucker action space story. And I may or may not be training for a marathon later this year.
When I was knee-high to something very small, a Marathon was what we called a Snickers. That’s more my level. Tell us more about Brave New Girls and the motivation behind the project?
Glad you asked. I was chatting with Mary Fan on Facebook one day while drinking a few brewskis. We were discussing books and science fiction in general and how big YA is these days, but it’s rare to find in all these trendy YA books a heroine who is tech savvy. So we thought, let’s just do it ourselves, write a book. Then we thought having an anthology would be a great idea so we could get a wide sampling of different authors.
The hope is to inspire girls in the YA age group (middle to high school aged) to think about careers in technology. It sounds silly, but when I was a teenager there weren’t a lot of female role models for me in science and technology, other than science teachers. All I knew is I liked science and I didn’t want to be a teacher. I watched and read a lot of science fiction and that gave me an inkling of where I wanted to head, but alas it being an astronaut wasn’t in the cards for me. So I kind of waffled around and chose physics because I liked astrophysics then I realized, within a semester of graduating, that another 4-5 years of schooling wasn’t for me. So I knew engineers made good money, they didn’t have trouble finding jobs, and most of my physics credits would go toward the degree so I randomly chose engineering as my second major. I chose electrical engineering because I was good at digital logic and I didn’t like Statics, which Mechanical Engineers had to be well versed in. That formed the basis of my decision making. I hope to spare students some of that waffling by making them aware of careers in tech.
I also think it’s important for girls because there is a dearth of girls in tech fields. Maybe by raising awareness of science and technology careers it might give a few girls options to think of in addition to “pink collar” jobs most women go into. If they choose not to go into science that’s cool, but at least they’ve made an informed decision. I’m excited by the anthology, because all of the stories are really great and the artwork is awesome too.
Mine’s the best, obviously. And I can beat up all the other writers. Did anyone in particular inspire the project?
I live in a rural under-served community where the career options for most people are coal mining or farming, and there are fewer options for girls. Oddly enough in the middle of all this there is a Navy Base, where I work, with great career opportunities, but a lot of people don’t really think those careers are for them, especially the girls. Part of my job, as the liaison with area schools, is to show kids and teachers how what they’re learning / teaching now helps students with future careers at our Navy base.
I wasn’t raised in the area I live now, but more of a city. I was raised by a single mom when employers weren’t so accommodating to single parents. It was pretty rough for us for a number of years, but throughout it all mom always went to school and taught us education was the only way out of our situation. I think about that, and if I could pass that message along to girls and women maybe in a book or whatever maybe it’ll help. And hopefully the money we raise with the book will be enough to pay it forward a bit and send a girl to school who might not otherwise get the chance.
Do you have a your favourite scientist?
I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about it. I like what Dean Kamen is doing for the awareness of STEM. I like the grounded-ness of Richard Feynman. I love Hedy Lemar’s story, even though, she technically wasn’t a scientist. Grace Hopper is pretty fantastic she was a computer scientist, mathematician, and an Admiral in the Navy. The story of the Top Secret Rosies is pretty great, check it out if you’re not familiar. I got to meet Heidi Marie Stefanyshyn-Piper once and that was way cool (she’s a former astronaut and a Naval Officer). But I don’t really try to “be” like any of those people. I don’t like labels.
As a writer, who inspires/influences you?
I have a pretty wide scope of genres and authors I read. I think my earliest fantasy / sci-fi authors were Terry Brooks and Dean Koontz. I also love Kim Harrison. I think she might be the first author I read that wrote first person with a plucky heroine. That really got me thinking about a whole new world of writing and the possibilities. I’m also really influenced by music almost as much as authors. A good piece of music, no matter the genre, can get my brain thinking about stories. I guess I’ve been influenced by Carl Sagan. I started out wanting to be an astrophysicist and the idea of a scientist that wrote was pretty cool to me.
Three authors you’d love to sit down to tea with?
Good question. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say this or not, but I’ve never been a huge author fan-girl or anything fan-girl for that matter. But I’d love to talk to Kim Harrison. Does Joss Whedon count? I know he’s not an author, but I love the stories he’s come up with. Hmmm…. I guess I need to think of a third. I’ve recently gotten in to David Baldacci novels. He can be a bit long winded at times, but I love how down to earth his novels are. Sure they can be a bit cheesy, but they’re fun. At the end of the day that’s the most important thing to me, as a writer, that maybe for a few hours someone had fun reading my story.
I think Joss Whedon definitely counts. What three words best describes your writing?
Down to earth.
Why do you write?
I think partially it’s something to occupy my mind. It seems like I’m happiest when I’m learning or creating things. I guess this is just another creative outlet. I’ve really loved learning the finer points of writing and how to communicate your feelings and ideas more clearly and concisely. It’s helped me tremendously. Also, there are so many times I watch television or movies and I think dang I could’ve written a better story than that. So I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a go. I figure the only I’d get a story the exact way I wanted (or close) was to write it myself. Wow, that sounded kind of control freak-ish.
And is that out of character?
I can be a control freak about things I can control. I’m trying to learn the difference, but it’s hard sometimes. I try not to bemoan crap I can’t change and focus on stuff I can. But if you’d ask my husband he would say that I’m absolutely a control freak.
If each of the three books in the series were a song, which songs would they be?
Just one? That’s tough. I seriously thought about this question the longest. I had a huge playlist for each book so it’s hard to narrow down, but here goes. I’m sure if you ask me tomorrow I’ll have a different answer.
Non-Compliance: The Sector (aka Book 1) – Shea is still a bit immature here and basically angry with the world so I choose ‘Shove’ by L7.
Your song choices are surprising. I was expecting twenty minute epics by Rush.
Ha ha! Yes, I am a Rush freak, but I wanted to throw you for a loop. But Rush did make a several appearances in my playlist like ‘Red Sector A’, ‘Subdivisions’, and ‘Farewell to Kings’. However, ‘Cygnus-X’, ‘2112’, and ‘Xanadu’ would more likely be found on my space opera playlist along with Alan Parsons Project ‘I, Robot’.
Non-Compliance: The Transition (aka Book 2) – Shea is mellowing a bit and the NCS is starting to see her as a leader. She’s trying to come to terms with this new role and things she placed at really high priority in book 1 have kind of changed. So I pick ‘Roads’ by Portishead. That song might not even mean what I think it does, but it has a cool vibe so whatever.
Things means whatever you want them to mean. And ‘Roads’ is a lovely choice. Did you come to that via Tank Girl?
Yes! I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who liked Tank Girl. I loved the soundtrack. I definitely got inspiration from Tank Girl in some ways for Non-Compliance like the friendship between Jet Girl and Tank Girl, and how those two ladies tore down tanks and jets like no one’s business, and even my bad guy in Book 3 is modeled after Malcolm McDowell in Tank Girl.
Well, I like ‘Roads’ so much that this is a version I made years ago.
Non-Compliance: Equilibrium (aka Book 3) – In the final chapter Shea makes some pretty gut wrenching decisions. Life won’t be the same no matter the decision she makes, but she always has her family’s future at the forefront of her mind. So I pick ‘Rivers and Roads’ by Head and the Heart.
Do you have playlists for running? Many that’s where the Rush epics are hiding?
I do have a playlist for running, but I don’t think there are any twenty minute epics on there. They aren’t very motivating for running. I have a lot of crap that, as a nearly forty year old, I should be embarrassed of. But the perk of being forty is that you don’t care, so I have stuff like Pitbull, P!nk, and will.i.am on my running playlist. I think the longest song on there is ‘The Song Remains the Same’ by Zeppelin.
I stick to walking. Typically around the grocery store. Which means I can listen to books and plays and shit. I save the fast stuff for when I’m driving. Anyhoo, now it’s time we moved on into the traditionally ridiculous final phase of the Pankhearst interview. Let’s start with an oldies but goodie. You inherit five million dollars the same day aliens land on the Earth and say they’re going to blow it up in two days. What do you do?
I would use the 5 million dollars to recruit a ragtag group of human insurgents that along with the tech at my Navy base should be enough to bring down the pesky Aliens. If not I’d be sure to leave enough money to buy a bunch of beer so that we can watch the Earth burn while drinking a cold one.
If they made a movie of the Non-Compliance series who would you like to see cast?
I’ve made no bones about the character of Quinn being partly based on characters Adam Baldwin played in the past, because I have celebrity crush on him he’s number one for Quinn, but he is getting a little old so Gerard Butler would be cool too if Adam Baldwin turned it down.
Shea – Gemma Arterton
Wynne – Jewel Staite or Kate Mara
Nikki – Katee Sackhoff
Conner – Colin Farrell
Lindsey – Jason Statham
Gordon – Matthew Timmons or Jonah Hill
Boss – Edward James Olmos
Brian Kelly (aka Dad) – Sam Elliot or Mark Harmon
Carson -Jesse Spencer
Tomas Eldridge – Malcolm McDowell
And would you let Peter Jackson direct it?
Peter Jackson? Hmmm? I’m not sure if he’d make the Sector look like the Shire. It would be cool if he’d bring dragons into it.
And if you could an Alfred Hitchcock / Stan Lee kinda thing, what would you do for your walk on?
Drunk #3 in Frank’s bar
One day we’re going to have a Pankhearst party – with karaoke. If you absolutely had to sing. What would be your karaoke song?Here’s a short list since it’s kind of a big cast.
After about six beers you can get me to sing “Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers
You can find the Non-Compliance series at Amazon
And you can stalk Paige-slash-Tina all over the internet