Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the Escapist Book Tours virtual book tour for Lena Alison Knight’s Space Opera/Military Sci-Fi novel The Stars Within! Today, I am excited to help kickoff the tour by sharing an interview with the main character from the book, Kerelle Evandra, Senior Agent in the SysTech PsiCorp (Telekinetic/Telepath, Class-3)!
You can find our Q&A below, along with all of the info about the book, the author, links to purchase a copy of The Stars Within for yourself, and a chance to win a copy in our giveaway! Also, be sure to take a look at the schedule here or at the bottom of the post and follow along to see the stops from our other awesome hosts!
The Stars Within by Lena Alison Knight
Series: The Gift of the Stars #1
Genre: Space Opera/Military Sci-Fi
Intended Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Self Published
For Kerelle Evandra, her psionic powers have always meant three things: mandatory service to a multigalactic corporation, a luxurious lifestyle as a prized asset, and an electronic collar that will kill her if she steps out of line. As a powerful telekinetic, she’s spent the last ten years of her life in the corporate military, fighting anyone and anywhere the company demands. While she might resent her gilded cage – and obedience to her corporate masters’ cold directives – everyone knows that escape is impossible. And defiance risks not just her own life, but also the life of the person closest to her: Galhen Ambrel, her lover and fellow bound psionic.
But when Galhen’s service contract is suddenly sold to a distant oligarch, Kerelle learns that obedience was not the guarantee of safety she once thought – and that escape may not be as inconceivable as she was taught to believe. When a mission brings her into contact with an unexpected ally, she must decide how far she can go, and how much she’s willing to risk for freedom.
Solving Problems with Explosions • The Power of Friendship (and Guns) • Love in the Time of Corporate Dystopia
What music do you listen to?
Kerelle Evandra: I like downtempo electronica quite a bit. Sometimes it’s nice to just put my headphones on and let the world go by with relaxed beats, especially after a mission’s gotten hot earlier.
What are 3 items you can’t live without?
KE: I spend a lot of my time in the field embedded with the Security Force, and there isn’t usually much cargo allowance to bring personal effects. That said, there are a few things I always try to make sure I have:
#1, Well-fitting boots. The only thing worse than marching ten miles through rough terrain to the wrong canyon because the company can’t get its intel right, is doing it in shoes that give you blisters.
#2, My headphones. They’re small enough I can slip them in with my clothes, and sometimes in the field the closest thing you can get to privacy is to curl up in a corner and block out the rest of the noise around you.
#3, Good whiskey. If I’ve got any extra space in my bag, I try to slip in a little bottle of something interesting. A little luxury goes a long way on extended field assignments. Plus, my…friend is a big whiskey fan also, and we’ll trade tasting notes sometimes if I run across a bottle he hasn’t tried.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what is one thing you’d like to have with you?
KE: A standard SysTech Security Force nutrition kit, the kind with the water purifier attached. Don’t get me wrong, NuKit gruel is disgusting, but I could probably survive on it long enough for the company to triangulate my collar’s location and retrieve me.
Though if it were a nice enough island? Maybe with fruit on the trees? Maybe then I’d want some sort of signal jammer, so it takes them just a bit longer to find me.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
KE: I’m not being recorded here, right? This isn’t going back to SysTech? You’re sure?
Well…one of the most frustrating things for me is when an assignment is a lot harder than it has to be, because HQ didn’t bother to do the groundwork right. I don’t mean just, harder in that it takes extra work – I mean harder in that people are hurt or killed who wouldn’t have been, if we’d been properly prepared. But sometimes apparently it’s cheaper to just send us in with partial info than to do comprehensive recon.
I know I’m very valuable to the company, there aren’t a lot of class-3 telekinetics around. But sometimes the Security Force gets treated like they’re disposable. And don’t even get me started on the civilians. The most dangerous place in the galaxy for anyone to live is next to something the company wants.
What do you do in your free time?
KE: I don’t have a lot of free time, unfortunately. I do travel a lot, but it’s all business, and once the mission is done I usually have to turn around and leave. If I do have some extra time though, I like to try to squeeze in some exploring. And trying new foods! If I’m lucky I’ll at least have time to get a good meal and see a local landmark or two, before my transport arrives and it’s off to the next assignment.
Assuming I’m somewhere that has restaurants and landmarks. If it’s one of those assignments where we camp in the wilderness for a month tracking down pirates, then I’m just happy to wait somewhere with running water.
What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?
KE: I might not like the work I do for SysTech, but the only way out is through. It’s not like you can quit the PsiCorp, you know? So if I ever want to make it back to the people I care about, I have to put one foot in front of the other and finish the mission. That gets me up on days when all I want to do is shut my eyes and pretend the world doesn’t exist.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
KE: Back when I was in training in the Academy, our telekinetic combat instructor used to always say “act now, feel later.” It’s gotten me through a lot of my field work since.
What do you carry in your bag?
KE: Just my tablet and my payment card, usually. I’ve gotten used to traveling light.
What’s your favorite animal?
KE: I’ve always liked dogs. I wish I were in a position to have one someday, but PsiCorp aren’t allowed pets, so I’ll have to settle for just dog-watching at the park when I’m on leave.
What do you think about Galhen Ambrel?
KE: Um… Senior Agent Ambrel is a very skilled regenerative, and we’re lucky to have his talents in the SysTech PsiCorp.
…you’re SURE this won’t get back to SysTech? All right, fine. I think Galhen Ambrel is the best person I’ve ever known, and the best partner I could ever hope for. He’s the calm in my storm. And if the Director had any idea I was saying this, we’d both be in retraining cells by tomorrow.
Do you have a favorite saying?
KE: Hmm…one of my caretakers at the PsiCorp creche used to say that “the best therapy is retail therapy.” Not sure I’d call it a favorite saying, exactly, but I’ve definitely done my share of following it over the years.
What is your favorite holiday?
KE: Year-end. More often than not I get to be home for it, and HQ usually holds a gala that’s a lot of fun. I’m not usually one for formal occasions, but once a year or so it’s nice to sip sparkling wine in an evening gown.
If you could go anywhere in the galaxy, where would you go and why?
KE: Everywhere! That’s only partly a joke, actually – I love exploring new places, at my own pace. When I was a child I used to dream about somehow getting my own ship, and flying it around the galaxy to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Even then of course, I knew it was impossible, but I still liked to imagine a world where I could.
What do you do to relax?
KE: So I mentioned I spend most of my time on assignment, but I do sometimes get leave. If I have enough time saved, I love to visit a beach resort and just soak up the sunshine. Reading by the ocean with a drink in hand, nowhere I have to be? Perfection.
What is your favorite food?
KE: I love noodle dishes! Though after a few weeks on campaign, I’d probably say my favorite food is “anything that doesn’t come out of an add-water packet.”
What is your favorite season?
KE: The kind of summer I grew up with: clear skies, dry weather, just enough heat to make the nights mild, but not hot enough to be miserable during the day.
How would you define happiness?
KE: Me, Galhen, an empty beach, and a bottle of chilled sparkling wine. And absolutely no one interested in our whereabouts.
What are you passionate about?
KE: Honestly? I don’t know, these days. When I was younger and straight out of the Academy I was passionate about the work, just like a good agent. Growing up in the PsiCorp program, we’re always taught that everything the company assigns us is necessary for a greater good, no matter how it might feel. But I’ve been doing field work for close to a decade now and I…can’t really believe that any more.
How do you feel about your government?
KE: Well, I suppose it’s their fault I’m here now; the whole reason the multigalactic corporations can conscript psionics is because it’s legal under a treaty ratified by the Council of Interplanetary Governments. But that all happened a long time before I was born, and to be honest government stuff doesn’t feel very relevant to me. SysTech owns my contract, end of story. No government is going to intervene.
If you could change one thing about the galaxy, what would it be?
KE: Those psionic-conscription treaties. I literally don’t know where I’d be without them – I’m not like Galhen, I wasn’t old enough to remember the family I was taken from – but I wish I could find out. Wish I could know who I would have been without the PsiCorp. And I wish I could know what it’s like to decide my own future. But it is what it is, and I go where SysTech tells me.
What’s your biggest secret?
KE: You already know. It’s not that PsiCorp are supposed to be celibate – quite the opposite, actually, short-term flings are encouraged. But you’re not supposed to get attached, because that might distract you from your work. If management knew that Galhen and I have been together for almost half our lives now, well…it wouldn’t be good. For either of us.
The nice thing about being a class-3 telepath, though, is that it’s not hard to be discreet.
What do you hate?
KE: That I have to be discreet. That I’ve been to so many planets I’ve lost count, but I’ve never gotten to really visit one. That I don’t know where I came from, or who my family was. That there’s a collar around my neck that SysTech can use to kill me with just a few taps on a manager’s console. That no terrible thing I do in the company’s service is ever enough.
What’s your biggest fear?
KE: Losing the people I care about. We talked about this earlier, about what gets me out of bed in the morning…if I didn’t have that light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t know what I’d do.
What do you think your best quality is?
KE: I don’t know if I’d call it my best quality, but I can throw more force than almost any telekinetic in the PsiCorp. I was very proud of that when I was younger, but now I’m a bit more conflicted about it. I’m one of the most powerful telekinetics that SysTech has…but that means I get called in whenever they need large-scale destruction. Maybe I should have picked something else.
How would you describe the world you live in?
KE: A gilded cage.
About the Author
Lena Alison Knight grew up reading space opera and high fantasy, and started writing her own as soon as she could hold a crayon steady. She lives with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area, and when not writing she can be found taking brisk walks, haunting local coffee shops, or sprawled on the couch playing video games. Find her online at lenaalisonknight.com
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