Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Charlotte Nash's THE SHIP'S DOCTOR | Author Interview & Book Review

Charlotte, please tell us about yourself and your writing.

I have an unusual background, having studied both engineering and medicine and worked in some unique environments. When I started writing, these experiences influenced my stories. So, I write both speculative fiction, and contemporary romance stories set in rural Australia, the latter being based on some of my working experiences.

What does your writing space look like?

I’m largely an itinerant writer, so the only constants are my little laptop and my notebooks. Otherwise, it could be at home (a corner desk, or the couch), a library, a coffee shop, an airport lounge, a hotel room. I used to travel a lot in my work, so I formed the habit of being able to write anywhere.

How long have you been writing?

With serious purpose, 7 years. Before that, I’d call what I did dabbling – occasionally writing things without any sense of structure or knowledge. It took probably 3-4 of those years to achieve a base layer of skills, and I’m still learning.

What inspired your current book?

My current novelette, The Ship’s Doctor, is actually one of my earlier pieces, and it was the first story I ever had published (back in 2010). It was inspired by, of all things, a roof-extractor fan on our house, which made the walls vibrate when it was out of grease. Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine picked the story up, but as a print a few years ago now, it was getting hard to find. Some people really liked it so I was inspired to re-release it in digital format. With the success it’s had, I’m thinking of releasing newer stories directly to digital.
Please tell us about your current work in progress.

My current work in progress is a contemporary Australian rural romance novel called Iron Junction, set in the Pilbara mining region. It’s about a female doctor, Beth Harding, working FIFO. Beth finds herself on the outside of the community, dealing with a prickly colleague and difficult patients, at the mercy of the unforgiving landscape and the punishing mine roster. It all seems like a misadventure, until she meets Will, a man who excites her dreams and could make the difference between going home and going on.

What is your favorite book genre? Who are your favorite authors?

I’m a multi-genre reader and take pleasure in all kinds of books. I have special fondness for sci-fi and romance (not necessarily together!), but I will and do read anything and everything. My favourite authors are Michael Crichton, Neal Stephenson, Ted Chiang, Naomi Novik, Jilly Cooper and J R Ward.

Quick quiz:
Favorite food? Yorkshire pudding with gravy
Favorite color? Green
Favorite animal? Horses or birds – hard to choose
Biggest pet peeve? Bigotry
Dream car? Bike for me: Triumph Street Triple
A sci-fi adventure novelette of space medicine, mercenaries and machines, with a touch of romance.

The ship's doctors are a new class of professional, medicos with implanted intuition for the organic mega-spacestations of the future. It's an ability that comes with consequences: for this Doctor, a compulsion to which she is a virtual slave. Still, this should have been an easy job: just a trip to the furthest-flung blue-class station for a basic malfunction. But instead, the Doctor finds situation critical: a dead colleague, an infected core and Riley, a grafted flight engineer who knows something about her past. The station is quarantined, but in the midst of the drama, a mercenary band the Doctor has unwittingly assisted stages a coup, which threatens to spread the infection across the verse. The Doctor and Riley must stop the contagion, but to do it, the Doctor crosses a boundary that might be the end for her. Will she make it out? Or will she sacrifice all for the station?

Originally published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and now re-released.


"How long have these fluctuations been going on?"
"Forty planet cycles, give or take," says Riley.
"How long is that here?"
"About two Earth weeks."
"Two weeks?"
I glare at them. Dammit. They'd let her go for two weeks. The information brings a memory I don't want: of hot raw burn to my sinuses. I suck cooling air through my nose to forget.
"It took half that time getting you here," complains Murphy. "Anyway, I don't see the problem. There's a leak somewhere, a processor down, whatever. We haven't lost critical systems and—"
"Time is precisely the nature of your problem," I snap, mind doing the maths. Gods, two weeks! "This isn't a leak, captain. A station this size can't maintain critical systems for two weeks on a leak."
I've folded my arms. My toe taps. I picked that up from my registrar at the docks and I've never shaken it. He even spoke to the ships that way. Time to take control. "Riley, I'm going to need a sample."
"You going to explain what you're doing?" Murphy tries to re-establish authority. The other first-caps nudge each other, all that powder grey precision suddenly not delivering.
But I wasn't, not yet. They'd have their answers. But sharing information now will slow me down. I don't blame them; they're fearful. They remember the Selenium. She died spiralling into a sun, when the DNA microsplice tech was new. We all remembered her, because her doc went down with her. There were rumours about why. But this wasn't about that, not exactly.


The Cover: THE SHIP'S DOCTOR initially grabbed my attention due to the nice, clean cover by Farah Evers. It wasn't the blurb and I'm not familiar with the author, which just goes to show that a good cover is really a must have.

Story:  I cut my reading teeth on the science fiction of Asimov, Clarke, Bova, Heinlein and many others, so I'm always delighted to discover a new science fiction writer. I downloaded THE SHIP'S DOCTOR from Amazon during a free day and started reading without having reviewed the blurb, so I had no idea what to expect. The story is first-person, which I usually don't like, but Nash really makes it work.

The single most frustrating aspect of THE SHIP'S DOCTOR is that she doesn't have a first name, a last name, or even a nickname. I scoured the blurb, read the story twice, scowled and eventually realized it to be a deliberate device versus a HUGE oversight. (After all, what author forgets to name her main character?) Interestingly enough, I didn't actually notice until I went to write this review, which accounts for this wordy paragraph.

The heroine (from this point forward referred to as "Doc") is smart, sassy, smart-mouthed, sexy, strange, and snarky. She lives in the distant future in a world where humans travel through space and colonize other solar systems. She's been modified to relate better to machines than people. The fun she pokes at the stuffy people around her provides the reader with moments of amusement. Her insights into human nature are unusually perceptive given her nature.

The story is set aboard Freya, a living ship that's feeling a bit under the weather. There's a potential epidemic brewing and a space pirate takeover. The plot is fast and furious, interspersed with witty humor and interesting descriptions of the technology that gives Doc her special abilities. I LOVED the romantic interest, Riley, and I really wanted the bedroom room scene to have sizzled a bit more. There was a pop culture reference I tripped over and some of the phrasing struck me as awkward. The author pushes the question of what truly separates man from machine, and reaches an unexpected but satisfying conclusion.

Definitely a great read. I wish there was more...

Author Bio:
Charlotte Nash is an Australian writer with degrees in engineering and medicine. Her speculative fiction short stories range from near-future cyberpunk and science fiction to contemporary fantasy, and are published in Australia and overseas. She is also the author of rural medical romance novels published by Hachette Australia. Find all her works at charlottenash.net

THE SHIP'S DOCTOR is available for purchase at:

Find Charlotte Nash on the Internet:
Twitter:  @CharlotteNash79


  1. Charlotte,

    Welcome and thank for agreeing to be my guest today. I loved your story. It was smartly written.

    1. Thanks Melissa :) I enjoyed being a guest!

    2. Also interestingly ... at the risk of naming a character and not having the name fit what you've read ... the doctor was always Coryn Asterdottir in my head. :) Readers who'd like some more sizzle in the bedroom can email me direct to grab the deleted sex scene between Riley and the Doctor (featured in the first three drafts). charlottenashauthor AT gmail.com

  2. Looks interesting. I love a strong female MC.


  3. Fantastic! I haven't started with it yet, but it sure will go on my list to read. Great interview!