“Spectra” author donates royalties to Alzheimer’s research in honour of father

Leigh Cavanaugh

Morgaine Craven, Joanne Elder, Thomas Wallenius, Leigh Cavanagh at Centennial College.

It’s been only eight months since science-fiction author Joanne Elder released her debut novel Spectra, and already her second in the series, Entity, is slated for purchase in May 2012.

Elder describes the first novel as a science-fiction thriller where “people [are] hunting each other and being hunted.” The story revolves around the discovery of a mind enhancing life-form where exposure to these energy orbs increases cognitive abilities, but at the cost of the entity itself. The story progresses when a rogue group of scientists decide to harvest these life-forms in order to maintain their enhanced intelligence, regardless of the horrific side effects.

While there aren’t any little green men between the pages of Spectra, during an interview at Centennial College’s Centre for Creative Communications she stated that readers can expect to encounter an assortment of gruesome insects.

The follow-up to Spectra, Entity, continues along this morbid path and travels to even darker places. Elder likens its mix of genres to that of Stephen King.

Prior to the start of her writing career, Elder worked as a materials engineer for most of her life. Yet she describes her progression from engineer to science-fiction author as “natural”, for science-fiction was something that she loved as a child.

While there is a certain amount of scientific content and terminology in her books, Elder says that “it’s something you won’t get hung up on”.

Elder’s background in science stems from her degree in engineering science from the University of Western Ontario. After graduating she spent years in the aeronautical and nuclear industries where she worked on CF 18 fighter jets and the Candu Reactors.

When Elder initially started writing, she hadn’t planned on making it into a series, but felt that there was room for possibly a second and even a third novel when she finished the first book.

“As an author you just get into it and go off on tangents,” she said during the interview.

For Elder, learning how to compose a novel was a challenging, but pleasurable endeavour.

“It’s a learning curve. I went to Chapters and bought all these books on how to write a novel. Believe me it’s a lot of work. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.It’s not a profit centre, but I enjoy doing it,” she said.

Today, Elder has been out of engineering for more than five years and has no plans to return, but rather focuses on her children and continuing her career in writing.

“You do it for passion… even if you’re a bestselling author. [For every book that sells] you make maybe $2 after everyone else takes their piece of the pie. If you sell 5, 000 books and become a bestseller you’ve made $10, 000 on your book.”

She calls her decision to leave engineering “tough” but decided she’d try writing because she always had an active imagination and she did not want to hire a nanny to raise her children.

Spectra is dedicated to her father, who passed away in 2008 after having struggled with Alzheimer’s. In honour of his memory, half of her royalties from Spectra are going to the Alzheimer’s Society.

Elder currently works on her third novel, but this time she diverges from the Spectra series. It is currently untitled but is also to be a dark science-fiction thriller.


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