Alicia McCalla Interviews Jen Finelli

Alicia McCalla Interviews Jen Finelli

All right, everybody. We ready? Hey everybody. And welcome to my writing playground. This is episode 10 of Diverse Sci-Fi and fantasy stories podcast. I'm your host, author Alicia McCalla. Thanks for tuning in. This podcast is all about me honoring my son's legacy by sharing my diverse science fiction and fantasy stories with the world.

Today, I have the wonderful opportunity to share the works of another author who also writes diverse science fiction and fantasy. Let me tell you about Jen. Jen Finelli is a world traveling sci-fi author, who's ridden a motorcycle in a monsoon, swam with sharks, crawled under barbed wire in the mud and hiked everywhere from hidden coral deserts and Island mountains to steaming underground urban tunnels litter littered poetry. She was once locked inside a German nunnery, and recently had to find her way through swamp field Korean foothills tied up with graveyards on Friday the 13th, a hunter of full moon without a flashlight. On her request to rescue stories often swallowed by the shadows, she's delivered babies, cradled the dying and interviewed everyone from prostitutes to senators. You can read some of her work for free at You want heroes and fairies or join her quest to build a clinic for the needy at

Jen's a practicing MD, FAWM candidate and a sexual assault medical forensic examiner, but when she grows up, she wants to be a superhero. Hey Jen, I absolutely adore your bio. You are so by warrior sister in arms

Jen: Thank you so much. It's true. The whole thing is true. It's really an honor to be here with you. You have a pretty interesting bio yourself, especially with the history of the Marines and everything else like that. So, I've definitely enjoyed stalking you to get ready for this.

Alicia: Stalking is good. So we did talk about me being a woman Marine, or a WM. Do you want to tell us a little bit, or just take one minute to tell us what it means for you to be a woman in the army and how that frames your writing?

Jen: Yeah, that would be fine. So I'm a physician and sexual assault medical forensic examiner. So a lot of what I do is support. Obviously I'm not the 11 Bravo or the 11 Charlie out there. I'm not doing the real stuff. So I have a lot of respect for what I consider, you know, the real soldiers, right. You know, I believe that everyone should have soldier skills, so I've always done my best to get those soldier skills. You know, shot expert on my M4 and worked charged. I tried to get my EFMB; other things like that. So these are all different adventure or skills that you try to pick up. So, you know, fighting and all those kinds of things is very important to me. It's always been interesting to me. But it's always been more of my role just as a provider to more take care of people. I'm sometimes a poor match I've discovered for things in the army. Like lately, my health has tanked, so I'm currently in the medical board process. And I think that has informed my writing more than anything else. Discovering kind of how people with mental health are treated, which is not always positively in the army and certainly not in the medical profession. And seeing also how we tend to stigmatize different diseases actually. Even again, within the medical profession, physical diseases, as well as mental diseases. And a lot of that has influenced how I look at people who are maybe outcast or not given the highlight.

    So I love and respect the Army and I get annoyed when people who are not in the army do a lot of critiquing, but as someone in the Army, I mean, I've seen my patients experienced discrimination for race or gender. And I've done a lot of arguing, fighting and reporting regarding those things and a lot of that has gotten me in trouble. And so that kind of fight when no one will believe you, because sometimes when you have a mental health disorder, people won't believe what you say because they don't understand that having something like depression, having a mental health disorder doesn't mean that you can't witness stuff and know things. You can still see things and know things.

 So a lot of that that kind of lonely kind of struggle or the fact of not being believed or not taking seriously a lot, even when it's true. There's real things that are going on, or the fact of taking care of people who are too afraid to fight for themselves a lot of times. Watching that whole world, and a lot of the tragedies that go on., Like, I've seen people who were accused of adultery as retaliation for filing a sharp complaint. Sharp for those of you not in any kind of military, is a sexual assault or sexual harassment complaint. In this case, it was a sexual harassment complaint. And that kind of retaliation and other things like that are again ---- Again, being in the sexual assault world, I see the stuff more than maybe the average person does in the military.

Alicia: So let me just tell you this, you are a warrior... girl. You're standing up for folks like that. That is so critical and so important.

Jen:  Not doing a very good job.

Alicia:  Well, but you're giving voice to the voiceless.

Jen:    You lose a lot.

Alicia:   Yes, right. I know this is a little bit off tangent, but one of the things that I've talked about openly on my blog, it's my grief journey. And a lot of people don't realize what it means to be on grief brain. And grief brain in some ways, it is debilitating just like a disability. And I know some people, they don't want to really just think of grief in that way. But for me personally, I had to relearn how to work and relearn how to live, and it is from despair to depression. And I think some of the things that people say to someone when they're struggling with grief or where they've lost someone really close to them. If they looked at grief, like they look at a disability, like someone who had dyslexia or someone who had a major event, like a heart attack, they wouldn't say somethings to people like, you'll see your loved one by and by. No one would say to a sight impaired person, you know, you'll see one day in heaven, you know. I mean, I know that might sound insensitive on my part, but it's hard sometimes when you're struggling and you're trying to cope and people are saying things to you that they mean well by, but it ultimately, you wouldn't say those kinds of things to someone who had a disability, I think. Because you have to learn how to renavigate again and get your life back.

Jen: Re-navigate again.

Alicia:  Yes.

Jen:  When my little brother died a couple of years ago, someone told me at a party, cause I was the same month that he had died. And they asked how I was and I said, well, my brother's still dead. And their response was, geez, you know, you're bringing down the mood of the party. Which was like, okay, I'm sorry that like bringing down the mood of your party. My whole mood of my whole life is down. My little brother just died. So yeah, people sometimes don't know what they're saying.

Alicia:  I don't think they realize it, but I think you wouldn't tell someone with dyslexia, you'll get over it or in time it'll go away. And obviously in time, it's not going to go away and you just have to learn how to reroute and re-navigate and relive your life again. All right, let's get on to your scene. So tell me a little bit about the scene that you want to share today. Is it short story or part of a longer work? Where does this come from?

Jen:  So I wanted to give you a little bit of a choice and I will do either one. So I write both superheroes and sci-fi. I am generally branded online as Jen, your sci-fi and superhero sis. In superheroes I wrote about the comic character who shoots his author based on --- I read a lot of comics and got angry at them and thought if I was a character, I would really want to kill this guy for doing these things to me. And so that's a story featuring Asian-American superhero character. And a lot of the heroes in my life, especially when I was younger, were young black teenagers who were not allowed to be nerdy because it made them not black enough. And you know, I look at this and be like, how does what you like change the color of your skin. That not fair or correct?

     So a lot of times the things that I've seen in all the people that I've watched, cause I I'm a support character in my life. You know, a lot of times I'll see people that wow, like that person, like other people kind of become my heroes. And so that's kind of what informed that story. And so I can read a scene from there that I have here. I actually even have it. I can show you the book and other things like that. So that's from this. This is an old book cover because the current cover has been redesigned by my wonderful artists, Nathan Sagala who's from Uganda. So I can read you the first scene from there, from the point of view of Jace, who is basically the reader's avatar through the story. Cause it's a story about authors, readers and characters and how they interact. So that's one possibility.

       The other thing is I was recently picked up by Kevin J Anderson's publication company, Wordfire Press. Most of you who are listening have probably heard of Kevin J. Anderson. He's written Star Wars books, written books and comics and all those other kinds of things. And my novel has gotten picked up there, my series. We're looking at the series right now. It's called Neodymium and the Neodymium Chronicles. The first book is Neodymium Exodus and it's another one of those galaxy, far away type space operas. It's about basically space ninjas, mostly teenagers who kind of talk to something invisible and the most powerful government in their universe wants to stop them from doing that because the scientists believe that they have either a contagious brain disease, because they'll share this invisible person with other people and then they'll talk to this person. So they're worried that they have either an invisible brain disease or the more superstitious, like magical people in this other government think that these children who talk to invisible people are actually portals for an evil entity that wants to get into our universe. So this government tries to track down and kill these children or to force them to reform and put them into schools.

Alicia:  Both of those sound like my kind of stories.

Jen:  I don't have to try to put strong female characters in my stories, because that's what I've seen in real life. Right. You know, that's who my mother and my father where so I'm super pale, but I'm actually mixed race. And my mother and my father were originally told they shouldn't get married because they might have mixed race babies if they got married. Oh no. What would happen with that? And they owe a lot. They owe their ability to get married to, you know --- Back in Virginia, the couple, they were called 'The Loves'. It was a black couple.

Alicia:  Yes. The loves. Yes.

Jen: Who they had a huge court case that eventually they won the right to be married as a black and white couple and being a mixed race couple. And that history has been like part of what allows me to even exist. Right. So we all owe each other as pale as I am, I owe that black woman for standing up for what she loved, which was her husband and what she wanted to do. And we all kind of owe each other. We're all connected in one body of people. So because of that, it's not like I have to try on purpose to like, okay, I'm going to put this kind of character, check the box, this kind of character, check the box, because that's not how people are. We are. If you look in the world around you with open eyes, you will see heroes of all colors, shapes, and sizes and genders and everything else and I think you can't be a real author unless you are a diverse author. You can't look at the world really and only see like white male heroes. If you're doing that, you're not really looking at the world.

Alicia: Okay. So you want to tell me which one you decided on? I'm okay with either one of those.

Jen: Because I know a lot of people like superhero stories, I can ---

Alicia:  You're going to go with the superhero? Okay. I like it.

Jen:   We can switch it up. We can switch it up a little bit.

Alicia:  So you want to tell me before you start reading? You want to tell me about the person or your protagonist in the story?

Jen:  Absolutely. You know what, let's go with -- I was looking forward to you choosing between the superheroes.

Alicia:   You can do the superheroes if you want. I'm cool either way.

Jen:  Actually, let me do the sci-fi because I think that the scene that I've chosen for the sci-fi has a little bit more bang for your buck right away at the beginning. The main character is a young, she's one of the space ninjas basically. And she is about to get called as a witch because of what she thinks and who she is. And this is right away at the beginning. So I'm going to go ahead and read. I'm a little excited and jittery being on here with you.

Alicia:   All right. You go right ahead.


    Lem. Everyone in the ice cream parlor froze when Lem Benzering grinned. Everyone except the meat man, the literal lizard in a suit, consummate businessman who dealt in favors and pounds of flesh. He didn't notice. His Ruby scaled claw left a streak of something like sweat on the plastic parlor table as he leaned over and cooed at Lem's little sister. Lem stirred the dregs of her milkshake, her eyes never leaving her glass. In his reflection, she watched the string of drool drip down onto the monster's business suit. Len was listening, listening to his heavy breathing.

         "Shaffer sales skins", Lem said. She said it for everyone in the ice cream parlor to hear. She wasn't a big fan of warnings herself, but the people who ran her life required them. The businessman's green hair puffed in offense. The slit eyes gleamed in the sunlight filtering through the wide storefront windows. "Mind yourself witch", he snared.

           "Witch, huh? Lucky for her, you didn't call it crazy".

            A loud slurp silence the whole parlor as Lem finished off her shake savoring the cool sweet cream on her bitter tongue. Four seconds later, Lem chopped down the businessman, like an overgrown holly bush. No one interrupted, no one had helped either. The space lemur policeman in the corner, stared at the phone in his paws, ears perked as he pretended not to see. The wonder frog server behind the counter tapped his bulging finger tips on his skull as if truly worried about dessert.

            Lem tightened her grip on the meat man's wrist, spitting through her teeth as she ground his face harder into the plastic table.

           "Whatever I am, everyone in here knows you're selling little girls to the grays and one day I'll prove it and get Officer Scritch over there off his duff for a change." Her voice drops to a husky whisker. "But the day you talk to my sister again, Officer Scritch won't be looking for you. There won't be a you to find.

         Meat man grunted. He got it. Alright. Lem straightened wiping her brow on the sleeve of a rough brown civies. She yanks the guy to his feet. He was tired. She wacked him on the back. "Go get out of here. See healer about that asthma."

      The ruby scaled businessman stumbled between the cafe tables and out the wooden door, huffing and crying. Lem smirked after him. "Man, if only all problems could get solved like this. If they just let her off her lease, she'd turned the entire town upside down.

        I'm going to stop there so that I don't take the whole podcast reading.

Alicia:  I like here.

Jen:  I thought you might which I why I chose that for you. I don't know if everyone listens to the podcast has read Alicia's work. But she writes a lot of really strong female protagonists who do a lot of punching and beating things up, so I figured you might like that one.

Alicia:  That's always exciting to me. Okay. Do you want to tell readers where they can go to find your work?

Jen:    Absolutely. So this book, Neodymium Exodus is coming out from Wordfire Press in October of 2021. You can actually get short stories in this world and learn about Lem and her space lemur best friend and her little sister and all her adventures in a universe where all humans are basically mixed race, because that's what we secretly all are.

Alicia:   Where can readers find you?

Jen:    So, you can find me at That's my name. J E N F I N E L L I. Or if you prefer phonetics, Juliet echo November Foxtrot Indigo November echo Lima Lima And there'll be a little pop up that asks for your email. If you pop your email in there, actually I will send you free stories in this world and in other worlds like the superhero comic book character who kills his author. So you can get all of that there. I also have work already out that's available on Amazon. Again like the comic book character, he shoots his author. If you like to read about blerds taking over the world and doing great things and more in our setting, then I would go towards the superhero stuff, like the comic book character who shoots his author, on Amazon.

     If you're interested more in Sci-Fi and kind of the connection between all human beings, I would get ready for the big space opera. Like it's probably the reason --- Like, I've written over a million words in the course of becoming a pro author and getting professionally published. I also have Indie work and between those two worlds, there's plenty for you to choose from. So I would start out and kind of look around and see what you want to see. And I would make sure you follow Wordfire Press online and look for their website for updates as well for when all of this good stuff is going to come out.

   And then, you know, I mean, of course those of you who are here with the podcast, I'm going to hope you're already on Alicia's email newsletter list, because if you like tough ladies and you're interested in superhero stories. So I've actually read some of her stuff and I've noticed that a lot of her settings are informed by places she's actually lived. Which I think is a really interesting thing to do and it adds kind of that gritty bite to her work. So I definitely think there are a lot of places to find good work and I would recommend. So I am going to plug two of mine and one of yours.

Alicia:  All right.

Jen:  Get in on that. People need to get in on that.

Alicia:  I'm ready for Lem myself. Okay. So I'd also love to hear what readers think about Jen stories. Feel free to post a comment on my blog and either me or Jen will respond.

     All right guys, I'm author Alicia McCalla, and I write black warrior women and sci-fi fantasy and horror for readers who want diverse protagonists and unique storylines. If you've enjoyed this episode and want to support me or donate to my cup of tea fund, just head over to my blog on my website, find this post and click on the donate button at the bottom. And if you're not one of my subscribers and want to join my league of heroes, go to to sign up for my newsletter, get updates, learn about my latest project and or purchase my diverse Sci-Fi and fantasy stories. And if you're already one of my subscribers, thank you so much. Please feel free to share this podcast with anyone you think might enjoy it. Okay. Until next time, be a warrior. Show your courage, strength, and bravery and thanks for listening. Bye.

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Alicia McCalla photo credit Dr. Howard McCalla

I’m author Alicia McCalla. Sign-up for my newsletter to get updates, learn about my latest projects and purchase my badass, spunky and smart Black heroines on Merchandise!