As the daughter of science-fiction author Steve Perry, Stephani Danelle (S.D.) Perry has writing in her blood. Since her professional debut in 1993, when she collaborated with her father on the Alien novel The Female War, she has written more than two dozen novels in various franchises, ranging from Alien to Resident Evil to Star Trek. Over the last few years, she has begun to work together with her friend and fellow writer Britta Burdett Dennison, whose first solo work Freedom Angst is about to be released as part of the Star Trek anthology Seven Deadly Sins in March. Danelle and Britta have kindly agreed to talk with us about their stories and their collaboration.
Their Star Trek: The Original Series novel Inception was just released a month ago. “Inception takes place prior to TOS, when Kirk is still a commander and Spock is serving under Christopher Pike,” Danelle explains, when asked about the novel.
“Their paths do not cross in the book,” Britta reveals, “but they are both indirectly involved with an incident that occurs with two women they know in one capacity or another – Carol Marcus and Leila Kalomi, both botanists working on a terraforming project.”
“It’s about [Kirk and Spock’s] personal relationships as well as a minor disaster that needs solving on Mars,” Danelle adds, with the “minor disaster” involving several groups of environmentalists unhappy with the botanists’ work.
So what came first – the idea of writing about the relationships, or the plot dealing with environmentalists? “Their early relationships,” Danelle confirms. “Our editor, Marco Palmieri, noticed that Spock met his lovesick botanist [Leila Kalomi, from This Side of Paradise] about the same time that Kirk and Carol were an item.”
“[He] thought it would be interesting to explore those two relationships, and Danelle came up with the idea to write the story about the environmentalist,” Britta adds.
When the novel starts, Kirk and Carol Marcus are already a couple. Were there ever plans to actually show the beginning of that relationship? “I don’t think so, because the idea was to have the timeline coincide with when Spock met Leila Kalomi,” Britta explains. “We tried to be careful about staying consistent with canon, which indicated that Spock’s involvement with Leila occurred right about the same time Carol Marcus and Kirk would have already been fairly seriously involved.”
Speaking of Carol Marcus, she has become a regular character in the literature-exclusive Vanguard series over the last few years. Did Danelle and Britta take that into account when writing Inception, and was there any communication with Vanguard authors David Mack, Dayton Ward, and Kevin Dilmore? “I can only speak on my own behalf, having not been aware of the Vanguard series, which I’m sure is awesome, considering the talent!” Danelle admits. “I’m not nearly as well-read in the vast Star Trek universe as I should be, to have worked in it; Britta has certainly read much more. In my limited experience, unless the editor suggests it, rarely do ST writers confer.”
Britta is aware of the series, but brings up a simple reason why there was no interaction. “I believe [Carol Marcus] was introduced in the Vanguard series after this book was already well underway. This book was originally written quite a few years back,” she reveals, “but was put on hold because the editors were concerned about the possibility of it contradicting some aspect of the recent movie.”
Given that information, it sounds as if Inception is the same S.D. Perry-written Carol Marcus novel which was rumoured quite a few years ago. Is that the case? “That’d be the same one,” Danelle confirms. “The book was written about the same time that the new movie script was being passed around. Knowing that the book and the new movie were both set prior to TOS, our editor decided that it would be best to wait and see if there were contradictions that needed to be addressed. Marco has since left Pocket, and the acting editor felt that the book and movie were different enough that it would be kosher to publish.”
So, while Inception is their fourth book together in publication order – after Star Trek’s Night of the Wolves and Dawn of the Eagles, and a Wonder Woman novelisation – it was actually where their collaboration began. “Originally, I was contracted for [Inception], but I had two small children then (still do!) and not a lot of time,” Danelle explains. “My good friend [Britta] had finished her first original novel some time prior, and after reading it, I asked her if she’d be willing to collaborate. She was, and we did.”
“Danelle and I had been friends for several years,” Britta clarifies, “and when I wrote my first novel, she was the first person I showed it to. Come to think of it, she may have been the only person! She was very impressed by it, though she did not immediately ask me to collaborate. It was a little while later that she was trying to catch up to a deadline, I was looking for a job, she remembered the novel and asked me if I’d be interested in writing Star Trek. Naturally, I said ‘YES!’.”
But they haven’t only collaborated on Star Trek. In 2009, their aforementioned novelisation of the direct-to-DVD animated movie Wonder Woman was released. “Wonder Woman leaves her island and goes to the big city to kick butt,” explains Danelle with a smile.
“The story is kind of a new spin on the Wonder Woman origin story,” Britta adds, more seriously, “meaning the golden-age version of how she met Steve Trevor, but with a much more modern take.”
Did the fact that they were novelising an animated movie instead of live-action make any difference to the way they approached the writing process? “Not really – except that we had a few storyboard sketches to look at, in addition to the script,” Danelle explains.
“Often, novelisations are written before the film is released,” adds Britta, “and the writer only has the script to go by; in this case the storyboards helped influence the way certain scenes were written.”
Most novelisations fall into one of two categories: either they’re straight-from-the-script retellings, or additional scenes are added by the author(s) to expand the story to novel length. Where does Wonder Woman falls on this spectrum? “Straight from the script. There were a few changes, but not many,” answers Danelle.
“There were a few new scenes incorporated that were not in the script at all,” Britta clarifies. “The editors encouraged us to do this in a few places where it helped to tie the story together a little better. Additionally, there were quite a few scenes in the script that had been cut from the movie which we were able to use in the book.”
Wonder Woman has been around for more than half a century, which raises the question of whether her history played into how she was portrayed in the novel. “Yes, it absolutely did,” Britta acknowledges. “I read all the Wonder Woman comics I could get my hands on when we were working on this, particularly origin stories, but much of the recent stuff as well. Obviously the movie deviates significantly from anything that has been done before, but I tried to pay homage to her history in as many ways as I could.”
Danelle adds that Britta “found many contradictions in [Wonder Woman’s] long history; big ones. We did our best to address what we could, but mostly we just stuck to the script.” The Wikipedia article for the movie states that the novelisation left out some of the more violent scenes of the movie, but Danelle disagrees. “We wrote the book based on what we’d been given. Having not seen the movie, I can’t speak to how well the tie-in and the film match up, but I can tell you that we didn’t leave anything out.”
Before Britta and Danelle teamed up, Danelle was writing solo, and now Britta is doing the same with her novella Freedom Angst in the Star Trek anthology Seven Deadly Sins, set for a March release. “The story takes place in the Mirror Universe,” she teases. “It surrounds the marriage of Ben and Jennifer Sisko, and the impact of Ben’s association with the Intendant of Terok Nor, among others. I wanted to give this story a really dark feel, almost noir-ish, and I feel like that ultimately came through very well.” In Freedom Angst, the Mirror Universe is the representing the sin lust, a combination decided by the book’s editor “because he wanted me specifically to do the Mirror Universe, and he felt that lust was the best of the ‘sins’ for that particular theme.” But having been assigned to lust actually played into Britta’s hands. “Given the choice, I am sure I would have chosen lust, since I prefer writing character-driven fiction over plot-driven, and I also like to get really sordid with the interpersonal themes in my stories!
“I had a lot of fun with this novella,” she smiles, but also admits “that initially I was a little worried about writing for the Mirror Universe since it was not my favourite Star Trek theme. I really enjoy writing from a Cardassian viewpoint, and might have preferred to do something with that, but in the end I was really pleased with everything about this story. Writing for the Mirror Universe gave me a certain amount of flexibility that I would not have otherwise had, because less has been established about it in canon. In the end I’d have to say that I would not have changed a single thing.” With Freedom Angst being her first solo work, what were the main differences to her collaborative efforts? “Well, with the collaborations we often edited one another’s scenes – with permission, of course – quite a bit,” she reveals, “usually just to make them agree with each other – but I usually let her have the final say, since she is the senior writer between the two of us and I trust her judgment completely. It was a little scary to go it on my own, but I was more than happy with the result.”
Besides the editing, how exactly does their collaboration work? “Every writing team has their own way of doing things,” says Danelle. “For us, we alternated characters… except Britta is way faster than I am, so she would finish her characters and then start in on mine, working backwards from the story’s end to meet me wherever I happened to be.”
But no rule is without exceptions, as Britta reveals: “I believe with Inception we divvied up chapters, but with everything else we’ve done, we decide who is going to write for which character and take it from there.”
For the moment, no other collaborations are on the pair’s plate right now, but Danelle says they’re “both open to the idea”, and that she would like to return to the Deep Space Nine post-finale novels after having been involved heavily with the first story arc of the series. However, “times are tough, and publishers are also cutting expenses – which means fewer books and less work for everyone, including us.”
In the interim, both are working on original stories. “I have been working on an original trilogy for a little while that may or may not ever be finished,” Britta reveals. “I did complete a first volume about a year ago and have been hammering out the second instalment, but as of yet I do not have an agent and can’t say as to whether this thing will ever see the light of day. I think it has potential to be a pretty great series, though, and I’m having a lot of fun writing it. Time will tell!”
Meanwhile, Danelle has “just finished an original thriller, which I’m hoping will sell, and have exhausted my few contacts in the industry, looking for more work. Anyone need a tie-in? We’re available!”
Until their next project materialises, you can already find their collaborations (including Star Trek: Inception and Wonder Woman) in stores, and Britta’s first solo story Freedom Angst in Star Trek: Seven Deadly Sins in March.
Inception was released by Pocket Books in February 2010.