Profiles in Science Fiction Romance: Nalini Singh and her Psy-Changeling World

Veronica Scott for AMAZING STORIES: Welcome to my periodic series of author profiles. Today I’ve chosen one of my all time favorite authors, Nalini Singh. Her Psy-Changeling series with shifters, telepaths, empaths, a futuristic setting, high tech and more contains the books I’ve read and re-read the most over the years. She keeps the series fresh and with a new book out this week, I thought it was the perfect time to ask a few questions.

VS for ASM.: What was the first science fiction romance or paranormal book you ever read and what did you like about it? 

NS: Given the passage of time, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact book. It was most probably one of Jayne Ann Krentz’s early SF Romances like Sweet Starfire. Christine Feehan’s Dark Prince had a big impact, too. I also remember being captivated by the romantic arc in Anne McCaffrey’s The Rowan, though that sits firmly in the SF camp.

I do vividly recall how I felt after finding this genre of books that blended romance with fantasy, paranormal, or science fiction elements – as if I’d found my home as a reader. I grew up reading masses of SF/Fantasy, and then found Romance in my teen years. But sometimes I’d want a touch more romance in my science fiction/fantasy, or vice versa, so finding these books that crossed genres made me ecstatic. I could have all the things I loved in one book! What a gift.

ASM.: What prompted you to write your first  Psy-Changeling novel, which is still one of my all time favorites? 

NS: I’ve been writing speculative fiction in one form or another since the day I first started exploring my urge to create stories. It just felt very natural to me.

Slave to Sensation specifically was born out of my fascination with the human mind, and of all that it’s capable. I’ve always thought that we, even now, don’t understand the true parameters of it. Then one day, I found myself thinking what if extrasensory powers like telepathy were real and potent? What if the cost of that much mental power drove you mad? What would you do to survive?

The idea took hold and grew and grew until it was pouring out of me into what became the first Psy-Changeling book.

ASM.: I loved Slave to Sensation. I’d never read anything like it and the series just kept getting even better over time. How do you go about world building? Do you do elaborate planning, keep a big file, use post its, wing it – what method works for you? The Psy-Changeling world is so sprawling by now… 

NS: My worldbuilding in terms of what you read on the page tends to be character driven—I see what the characters see, learn what the characters know.

However, prior to that, I generally have the big-picture concept in mind. For example, with the Psy-Changeling series, I knew the Psy were a race without emotion, and I knew about their choice to become Silent a hundred years ago, cutting all emotion out of their lives.

I knew changelings existed in this world and that they could shapeshift at will into leopards or wolves or other creatures, and that they sat on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum to the Psy: as warm as the Psy were cold, as wild as the Psy were controlled. And I knew humans were caught between these two juggernauts. I also knew about the PsyNet, and other critical elements of the world such as the changeling race’s natural mental shields.

At which point, I began to write. I love the process of discovery alongside my characters.

However, once a book is written, the world built in that book becomes set in stone. It can still grow of course, but it cannot do so in contravention of what has already been said.

Continuity must be maintained.

And so after writing a book, I make notes of all continuity elements*—including locations on maps, timelines, how a particular psychic power works etc, because it’s really important to me that if a reader sits down and reads the entire series in a row, they feel the world come alive in all its complexity, with each new layer of the world building on the foundations laid down in previous books.

I also regularly reread each of my series. I think this is critical to maintaining character and world continuity.

*I used to do this on my own, but my amazing assistant now handles most of the updates to the series bible.

(As an aside, my writing method does mean I do multiple drafts of each book, to ensure everything lines up. But this works for me – I love just pouring out the first draft, then refining and even restructuring it if I haven’t written in a linear fashion.)

ASM.: I totally agree on the importance of continuity to the reader experience. Which character in your books is either most like you or who you’d like to be and why?  

NS: I see each of my characters as unique individuals, so I don’t see myself in them. They’re their own people, and I’m content to be invited into their world and their stories.

ASM.: What was the story spark or inspiration for Resonance Surge?   

NS: Because RS is part of a series, the spark is an ongoing thing. I’ve known Pavel and Yakov since Silver Silence, as I have Arwen. I met Theo in another previous book. So these characters were already well fleshed personalities inside my own mind (even if they hadn’t had that much page time to date). I didn’t know Yakov and Theo would end up in the same book until the moment it happened, and I was like oh, wow, I guess we’re doing this!

I often say the series is like a movie inside my head, always moving, always changing, and so with each book, I walk into the world and see what’s going on.

ASM.: That’s a very appealing concept, stepping in and out of the ongoing world you’ve created. I see the Russian bears are going to be prominent in the new book. What made you decide to create the StoneWater pack?  

NS: I knew we needed a powerful pack in that region, and after some research, I realized the Kamchatka brown bears are an integral aspect of the ecosystem there. At which point, the bears took over and we got StoneWater. I didn’t have much control in the matter – these bears know what they want!

ASM.: Yes, those bears are definitely not shy or reserved about their desires and intentions. Which book on your backlist was the most fun to write and why?  

NS: I truly enjoy every book I write – if I’m not enjoying it, that means something is wrong and I need to stop and figure out the problem. And by enjoyment, I don’t mean I’m happy all the time. I’ve written scenes while sobbing over the keyboard because it’s so traumatic, but I’ve “enjoyed” it in the sense that the writing feels good, the words feel right.

Having said that, I will never forget the ride that was Slave to Sensation. I wrote it in a manic rush, completing the first draft in three weeks because the story was just there and I had to get it out and I couldn’t type fast enough!

ASM.: Your own favorite tropes? Least favorite tropes?  

NS: All my bookish friends have heard me rant on my lack of love for secret babies lol! As for favorite tropes, oh so many! Friends to lovers is one I’ve always liked, along with (no surprise!) fated mates.

ASM.: Do you have a ‘writing buddy’ pet?  

NS: Do ten thousand plants count? Only slight exaggeration. I started with one house plant and well…my family and friends have been known to call my house an indoor forest.

ASM.: Plants totally count! What’s next for you? Will there be another in the Trinity series or perhaps a new Psy-Changeling offshoot? 

NS: My next release is a stand-alone thriller There Should Have Been Eight. It’s set in a remote alpine region of New Zealand, and involves a gathering of old university friends…and one very dark secret that’s about to come out.

After that will be the next Guild Hunter novel, featuring Elena and Raphael.

Right now, I’m at work on the next Psy-Changeling Trinity book.

ASM.: What’s on your To Be Read List?

NS: I just last night started Amy McCulloch’s Midnight, a thriller set on a cruise to Antarctica. Also on my reading table is an ARC of Kit Rocha’s Consort of Fire, along with the newest book in Vivien Chien’s Noodle Shop mysteries.

ASM.: You can learn more about Ms. Singh and her books on her website. Resonance Surge is the newest release…


StoneWater bears Pavel and Yakov Stepyrev have been a unit since birth, but now Pavel’s life is veering in a new direction, his heart held in the hands of Arwen Mercant, a Psy empath—and the only man who has ever brought Pavel to his knees.

This is it. A point of irrevocable change. For Pavel . . . for Arwen . . . for Yakov . . . and for another pair of twins whose bond has a far darker history.

A low-Gradient Psy, Theodora Marshall is considered worthless by everyone but her violently powerful twin, Pax. She is the sole person he trusts in their venomous family to investigate a hidden and terrible part of their family history—an unregistered rehabilitation Center established by their grandfather.

Places of unimaginable pain designed to psychically wipe minds, leaving the victims shells of their former selves, the Centers are an ugly vestige of the Psy race’s Silent past. But this Center was worse. Far, far worse. And now Theo must uncover the awful truth—in the company of a scowling bear named Yakov, who isn’t about to take a Marshall at face value . . . especially a Marshall who has turned his dreams into chilling nightmares.

Because Yakov is the great-grandson of a foreseer . . . and he has seen Theo die in an unstoppable surge of blood. Night after night after night . . .

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