Kenna, you are a fascinating woman. You are open about your schizophrenia and reach out to help other people dealing with this mental health issue. What impact has this had on your writing career and the stories you choose to tell?
It' s had very little impact other than I suspect the illness has given me a scope of living experience and glimpses of creativity and imagination that made me who I am today, and thus the writer I am. I think I'm more tolerant as a result and hate to see racism or bigotry in any form, as I've been the victim of it too often in the past, and others like me have also been victims of discrimination and ignorance.
You must realize, Alison, that I'm almost 69 years old and have been ill for almost 40 years, part of that unmedicated and misdiagnosed. I haven't always been as open about the schizophrenia nor as well as I am today. However, I've always had a great thirst for learning and new experiences, and this has served me well in carving out a path of recovery, often without a great deal of assistance. That being said, the proper medication is essential, and adhering to a medication schedule and developing a therapeutic relationship with an excellent psychiatrist. This has not always been the case, and only recently have medications and the medical community been more open to admitting the hope and growth that's possible with mental illness.
I've written my story with the assistance of a friend, Austin Mardon, PhD, CM (Order of Canada), who also has schizophrenia. It's a book called The Insanity Machine and is available on Amazon and select bookstores. The book includes the latest research at the time of writing (2012) and anecdotes from our lives including somewhat chilling renderings of manifestations of the illness, reactions from family, friends, and medical personnel, and advice to caregivers. Note I have never had a caregiver nor a great deal of support until now, after I committed in 2009 a criminal act and received help from the legal system to address the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, delusions, and obsessive ruminating.
I have a degree in history and philosophy and turned to writing mysteries and historical romance. How has your degree in anthropology and psychology affected your choice of genre?
One of SpaceHive's protagonists is a South Asian young man, and the latter part of the book takes place in India and surrounding South Asian countries. I don't know if my degree has affected my choice of genre but I'm fascinated by other cultures. Psychology delves into the psyche of course, and I've written a mystery novel called Red Herrings that is in the process of final edits. I think my characters are perhaps well rounded or at least introspective and a bit crazy to the degree that I know a very little bit about psychology. My degree at the very least enabled me to learn to think critically and to have a wide range of interests.
Coincidentally, when I was ten or so, I had a friend who pretended that she came from a planet of sentient bee-like creatures. (I was from an aquatic planet.) In Space Hive, your young hero is kidnapped and taken aboard a ship of extra-terrestrial bees and wasps. What is the fascination we have with the hive mentality?
There is something about the hive mentality, for example, ants as well, that appeals to us as humans, especially those who have taken any sort of sociology course. There is something about the crowd mentality known to social scientists, and our behavior as humans, certainly in cities, could mimic perhaps the hive mentality of bees and ants. We're learning more and more about animals and insects now and in recent years, and are learning that we are closer to our evolutionary ancestors than we ever thought. Bees are fascinating creatures. I read an article that claimed bees have personalities and emotions, some sort of social experiment that was done with individual bees and in hives, and I'm sure that's true. I don't have the link, but I believe it's true that all God's creatures are unique and have souls. There, I've thrown the iron in the fire!
Was research an important factor when writing Space Hive?
Yes, very, I did a lot of research on bees, wasps, science, chemicals, and India, as well as Urdu, the Indian language used by Aadab Ali, and his religion, Islam, as well. I was told by a South Asian broadcaster that the Urdu words are correct. The internet makes research so much easier now than when I first started working on my first novel (unpublished) in the 1980s, but the internet information also must be used with caution, as it can be incorrect. One must check many sources to ensure the validity of the research, or make sure the source is reputable.
Can you give us a short excerpt from one of your favourite scenes?
Jason spoke up from his position on the plastic recliner. "I've been loved by a bunch of people including my lovely wife, whom I met here in Burma six years ago. And our daughter, Beatrice."
He turned to his daughter. "You want a green Gummigator candy or a blue one, honey?"
Aadab, sitting with Iodine and Jason's father on an orange plastic couch, winked at the small child. "I bet she wants a red one."
"Yes, Daddy, I want a red Gummigator."
Jason's old robotess hummed softly next to Beatrice, and one large LED eye winked.
After getting kidnapped by giant alien bees, twelve-year-old Jason Anderson is transported to a spaceship called SpaceHive. There, he learns of a horrifying plot to annihilate Earth's human population so that extraterrestrial bees and wasps can migrate to a new world.
As a swarm of spaceships make a beeline toward Earth, Jason must convince three friendly worker bees to help him escape his space prison and find other humans to aid in his mission to stop the invasion. But General Vard, wasp commander of the Black Watch, has other plans.
Can Jason unite the nations of Earth in their common fight to destroy these alien invaders? Or will Earth be lost to the sting of conspiracy and a worldwide massacre?