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Interview: C.J. Cherryh Talks About Her Foreigner Series and Bringing It To Audio

If you’re a sci-fi fan, you’ve probably heard of CJ Cherryh. She has written more than 60 books since the 70s, is a multiple Hugo Award winner, and has an asteroid named after her. Her extremely popular Foreigner series is headed to audio, courtesy of Sable Jak and Audio Cinema Entertainment, and CJ was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Here’s more about the project via Sable Jak:

It was pure chance mixed with a “what-the-hell-the-worst-she-can-do-is-say-no” attitude on my part. In a conversation on a Facebook post I asked CJ if she’d ever thought of doing the Foreigner books as audio drama. NOT as audio books with one reader and silence behind him/her, but as a full-cast, full sound, fully scored audio drama. That’s the business I’m in both in my part time job with Jim French Productions, Inc. ( and with my own little company, Sebastian T Sweet Productions (

CJ’s answer was that no one had ever approached her.

So I did.

The project (at this point it’s just the first trilogy of the series) is too big for my little company and too extensive for Jim French Prodco but I knew the people behind the “Captain Huson” project; Audio Cinema Entertainment ( and knew they could handle it so I contacted them.

We talked more with CJ and her agent and created a demo out of scenes that she liked, and I also created a few scenes to show her would we could do sound effects wise. We recorded it, edited and mixed it and presented it to her. She and her agent said yes.

As an author myself (as is Tim Knofler with ACE) we offered CJ a contract we like to think most authors would kill for: She has final say on the script, the main character voices and input in artwork, sound, etc.

Right now we’re actively building a base so that when we go onto Kickstarter to raise the money to do the project we can rely on them to help get the word out.

Kristin Centorcelli: The first trilogy of your Foreigner Universe series will soon be produced as an audio drama! Will you tell us a little bit about the project?

CJ Cherryh: Well, it started when Sable Jak asked me if I’d ever sold audio rights, and there it went.

KC: Your Foreigner series is very extensive, encompasses quite a long period of time, and focuses on the life of Bren Cameron, a translator-diplomat. Will you tell us a bit about him and what inspired you to write the series?

CC: I have a background in linguistics myself, and have traveled a lot ‘off the tours’ in various places in the Med and around the world—being a stranger in a strange land, reliant on a small command of the local language is a situation I’ve been in more than once, sometimes involving the police, and quite often the kindness of strangers. So he’s a bit autobiographical. I also have a background in Mediterranean civ, particularly Rome , and I know how governments did and do work, so that feeds into it, too.

KC: The series has been described as “anthropological science fiction”. Is that how you would describe it as well?

CC: It could be; or first contact—just that the contact is sort of going the reverse of the usual direction: we’re the invaders. And the tech involved in Bren’s career starts in the American 1940’s and 50’s, with television and air travel as a novelty.

KC: You seem equally adept at moving from high fantasy to hard sci-fi. Is this something that you feel is an easy transition for you, or does it take a completely different mindset?

CC: I don’t do them simultaneously, for sure: it is a very different mindset. But because of my ancient world background—both are science.

KC: When you first began writing in the 70s, female authors in sci-fi and fantasy were few and far between and they were sometimes asked to use a pen name so it wasn’t obvious that they were female. Do you think we’ve made quite a bit of progress concerning gender and gender constraints in the sci-fi and fantasy genres?

CC: Oh, not as much as I’d wish. I think we’re getting better, but we’ve taken a few backward steps—we have in some cases misplaced some of our optimism, and some women have misplaced their expectations for themselves.

KC: I heard a rumor that early in your career, some of your manuscripts were misplaced by the publishers. Will you tell us about that?

CC: Oh, these things happen all the time. That’s why you keep a copy. But I did have one publisher lose 3 copies of the same manuscript. 10 years later, a copy arrived on my doorstep: a packet of typescript of Hunter of Worlds (no easy thing to type, I might add) and I wondered which fan had been that oddly determined to send me a gift. Then I realized it was one of the lost copies returned to me. I told that story at a convention, and Moshe Feder raised his hand and said: “I have the other half of the story!” I handed him the floor, and he explained that he had been an editor at the publisher, had found the manuscript and taken it to his senior editor with a do-buy recommendation—until the editor recognized it and broke the news it had already been published in several languages. Moshe anonymously mailed it back to me—my address had not changed—and we had a great convention story about the world’s longest submission delay, and why, when you’ve heard nothing in a year, you really should query.

KC: You’ve influenced so many authors throughout the years! Who (or what) are some of your biggest influences in your writing?

CC: First, my dad, who introduced me to Edgar Rice Burroughs, and to L Frank Baum. And Publius Vergilius Maro, whose work I translated over and over and over, trying to figure how to get his brilliant description into English. And Jack Williamson and Andre Norton, who filled many, many hours with wonderful worlds.

KC: If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?

CC: Probably the Oz books: I’d broken my arm quite messily, and was stuck in bed through every single young-person book in the town’s little library. My dad sweet-talked the librarian into lending me the ancient, fragile Oz collection, from the basement, which I read very carefully, book by book. It was a wonderful summer.

KC: What’s one piece of advice that you would give a struggling writer?

CC: Have fun at it and don’t quit. Write a little every day. Two pages a day for a year and you have plenty for a novel. Don’t do anything LIKE anything else: always take the lefthand path where the author you admire went right: be unique. Think of something different. And you’ll end up with your own story.

KC: So, I have to ask, I read that you took up figure skating at the age of 61!! Are you still skating?

CC: That was about ten years ago. I skated until about a year ago, and Jane got sick, and we didn’t skate, so now we’re out of shape. We’re going to the Y and exercising daily to see if we can work up to getting back on the ice. When I quit, I could do a waltz jump and was working on a toe loop; but I don’t know how our return to the ice will go. Either very well, and everything will come back very quickly—or not.

KC: Is there any other news that you’d like to share with us?

CC: Bren’s stories are still happening. And I’m not slowing down. There’ll be other novels, other stories. We publish our own e-books, which you can find via my website,; and we do a lot of silliness you can keep up with there. It’s a fun community. By way of other hobbies—we ripped out the whole yard in favor of a stony garden and a backyard koi pond: we have carried a lot of rock. We travel—often with two cats in tow; we love driving trips; and we enjoy life. Everyone should have it so good!

About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).

9 Comments on Interview: C.J. Cherryh Talks About Her Foreigner Series and Bringing It To Audio

  1. Well done interview, Kristin. I’m jealous, too. 🙂

  2. James Goetsch // January 25, 2013 at 9:52 am //

    Thanks for a good interview with my favorite science fiction writer!

  3. I can’t wait to hear the results of the audio drama. I’m a big fan of the Big Finish Doctor Who ones that have been going on for years. I’m not sure why more don’t do that with stories.

    “Two pages a day for a year and you have plenty for a novel.”

    Well, there goes all of my excuses!

  4. Joe Clark // January 25, 2013 at 1:07 pm //

    If you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting CJ and Jane, it is one of the best times you can have. You would never know that CJ is as famous as she is, and the two of them treat everyone as though they’re old friends. I had a great time in Spokane with a whole bunch of people, and we went all sorts of places, did all sorts of things, and even got to sample green sauced pizza. Don’t forget that Jane is also an accomplished writer, as well as a graphic artist, photographer, and guitarist. CJ also plays guitar, preferring a 12-string acoustic, while Jane’s is a classical guitar. Filks were a lot of fun when we were out there, nobody tried to make anyone else feel bad. CJ and Jane were so good to us.

  5. I’d like to see a novel that is the backstory of Ilisidi.

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