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Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Adeena Mignogna. Aerospace Engineer Uses Science Background To Craft Fantastic Tales

Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Adeena Mignogna. Aerospace Engineer Uses Science Background to Craft Fantastic Tales

My ALLi author guest this episode is Adeena Mignogna, an aerospace engineer who also uses her science background to craft stories of sentient robots and other fantastic tales. So, while she was working her science day job, she let her imagination run away through science fiction. And she found that indie publishing is the perfect way to get these stories from her head and out to the public.

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Listen to the Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Adeena Mignogna

On the Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast, @howard_lovy features @adeena, an aerospace engineer who also uses her science background to craft stories of sentient robots and other fantastic tales. Click To Tweet

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Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Adeena Mignogna. About the Author

Adeena Mignogna is a Mission Architect at Northrop Grumman with 25 years of experience involving all aspects of satellite, and now space station, design and development. Adeena is also the author of The Robot Galaxy Series of books, a podcast co-host of The BIG Sci-Fi Podcast, and a STEM speaker, using her lifelong love of science fiction and science to inspire others through writing and speaking about robots, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, exoplanets and more. She received Bachelor’s of Science degrees in Physics and in Astronomy from the University of Maryland and a Master’s of Science in Computer Science from Georgia Institute of Technology. You can find Adeena at her store, her website, and everywhere else.

About the Host

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Find Howard at howardlovy.comLinkedIn and X.

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Read the Transcripts to the Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Adeena Mignogna

Howard Lovy: My guest this episode is Adeena Mignogna, an aerospace engineer who also uses her science background to craft stories of sentient robots and other fantastic tales.

So, while she was working on her science day job, she let her imagination run away through science fiction, and she found that indie publishing is the perfect way to get these stories from her head and out into the public. I'll let Adeena Mignogna tell her story.

Adeena Mignogna: Hi everybody, my name is Adeena Mignogna and I'm a sometimes system, sometimes software, engineer in the aerospace industry where I've been working for at least 25 years, involving all kinds of satellite related things like command-and-control systems, software design and programming, flight dynamics, a whole bunch of stuff. I've also been a manager in that domain as well.

But then outside of that, I'm a science fiction author with a four-book series called the Robot Galaxy series out and a fifth book, a standalone book called Lunar Logic. That's coming out in January. I'm also one of the co-hosts of the Big Sci Fi Podcast.

I grew up on Long Island in part of New York, although that's not where I was born, but because my parents were New Yorkers, I do consider myself a New Yorker, they just happened to live out of state for a little while around, my birth.

But I grew up on Long Island and I grew up, so I was six in 1980, and that was when I first recall really getting exposed to science fiction related to film. So, specifically Star Wars is my first memory of science fiction, and I completely fell in love with the robots.

Between that and my dad who was an engineer, I've always had a love of, we didn't use the term STEM back then, but technical engineering things. I learned to program computers at a very early age, and really wanted to do something in that realm, and then when I became a Trekkie, which is when Star Trek the Next Generation started airing, that's really what added in the desire to be part of the space industry.

So, between all that, yes, I would say for my entire life, I always was going to do something science engineering related to some combination of space, computers, robotics, something there.

Then the writing was also always there too. I took a class in creative writing in high school. I took another one in college, and I can't pinpoint when I knew I also wanted to write stories, but somewhere in that timeframe too.

Howard Lovy: Adeena said her father always encouraged her to study science and that he was gender blind given the boys club attitude engineering at the time. Adeena said she was fortunate that her gender was never a source of frustration in her career.

Adeena Mignogna: So, I've been really fortunate that it's not been a source of frustration, but early in my career and actually up until the last maybe five, maybe a little bit more than five years, it was a given that chances are, if I'm in a room of technical people, I'm probably the only technical female.

I never had a problem, it was just a fact of life, and I was fortunate that I worked with folks that didn't seem to care, that I never ran into any problems because of it, I was not treated differently, anything like that. It was just fine. It was just sad. Hey, where are the other women?

It's not that there were none. It was just we were absolutely in the minority. Now, these days, right now, it is no longer given. I work with a lot of professionals, technical professionals, who are women. A lot, which is awesome. I mean, this is the way it should be. There should be a variety of people from all walks of life and backgrounds and situations and everything, and I feel like there is.

Now, I also work for a company. My day job is with a very large company that I know they do put a lot of effort into diversity and inclusion initiatives, and so I think they really do take that to heart. Sometimes working for big companies, there's a lot of bureaucratic overhead, and there's other things that are can be frustrating about a big company, but I think that one thing I do give them a lot of credit for.

Howard Lovy: Adeena studied physics at the University of Maryland while she also got on the job experience.

Adeena Mignogna: It's important to know that while I was earning my degree, I was also working as an engineer.

At the University of Maryland, they had a group that built spaceflight hardware. They built science instruments that would go into space on different missions, and starting my second year, I was able to get a job in one of these groups. They normally would hire young students who didn't necessarily know anything, and so that was me.

So, for several years, I was like a CAD drafter, drawing the different pieces that would ultimately culminate in this instrument that got launched in 1997.

So, coming out of college, I had the degree in physics, but I also had several years of actual experience. Though, it was funny because even though I really wanted to go work in the industry, when you're studying physics, at least back then, there's an assumption that you're going to go right to graduate school.

So I, for a long time, fell into that mindset too, and it was my final semester and I was going to go to University of Colorado at Boulder to study physics, and somewhere in my final semester, I literally woke up one morning and was like, wait a second, this has been great, but I'm not the best student and I really want to get out and work.

I really don't want to go for a couple of years of more classroom work. So, what am I doing? Then I was like, oh, wait a second, if I'm not going to graduate school, I need to get a job, and it was only like a month till graduation.

So, I literally took the first job that was space related that I interviewed for and was accepted for, which was to do satellite operations at Goddard, and again very lucky because the education that I got there and how satellites function and operate was awesome, even though I was only there for a year before I moved on to my next position at another company.

Howard Lovy: All the while, in the back of her mind, she had ideas for stories, but wasn't sure she had a novel in her.

Adeena Mignogna: So, I've always had ideas, and for the longest time, I thought I was only capable of writing short stories. I enjoyed short stories a lot. I'd read tons of the short stories, like by Asimov, and I liked to read the magazines, Analog and Asimov, those kinds of things. I really enjoyed it, and I thought that was the only thing I could write.

I didn't think I could write a novel. I didn't think I just could come up with something that was sustainable for a novel length. So, I didn't even really think about it.

Although, it was really funny because my dad was also an avid science fiction reader, and that's one of the reasons I was exposed to Asimov and stuff as a child because he had it all on the shelves. I would occasionally send him, my stories to look at and more often than not he'd be like, Adeena, this is not a short story, this is the first chapter of a novel. And I was just like, oh, because again, I just didn't think that I had it in me.

So, then NaNoWriMo comes along, and I was like okay, let me just try this, see what happens, and what it taught me is that, even though the first one I did is the worst thing I've ever probably written, it taught me that maybe writing a novel length was actually possible and, in my future, and something I could actually do.

So, then I figured out what I needed to do to be successful at that. Which is, I went from being, how we call ourselves pantsers or plotters and such. So, I started out as a pantser, and really learned that I needed to do at least a minimal amount of plotting, which for me is a very simple outline, it's a really just a scene list, and for me that's the magic; that's what carries me from beginning to end.

Howard Lovy: Adeena has one foot in science and another in science fiction, so she tries to combine a good story with good science, the important thing is internal consistency.

Adeena Mignogna: I would say that there's a hybrid of that, and I would say that I find within any novel or series or universe, self-consistency is more important than anything else.

So, in my novel, the Robot Galaxy series, the leaps of faith you need to take are the fact that there are alien robots, alien sentient robots with feelings that have faster than light travel that I don't explain. They just have it. They just have it.

But when we're talking about humans and extrapolating technology from today and thinking about our solar system and stuff like that, I try to at least draw from as much real science as I can.

So, to me, that's a hybrid, and one of the reasons I think that self-consistency is more important than anything is, so let's take, Star Trek is a great example. Okay, yeah, warp drive doesn't really exist and so many things that happen. But when I look at what it did for me in my career, it got me interested enough to get myself through college and into having my career. so

What if their science is a little far-fetched, what does it do for people? And if, by reading my books, if someone's, Oh, that's really interesting, let me go see how the real world works, where the real estate is, and they either learn something new that they didn't know before in the real world, appreciate some stuff about the real world, or even start wondering, Hey, maybe I should be in a STEM career if it's someone younger who's reading.

So, that's how I think about that.

Howard Lovy: Adeena played around with a few ideas until she settled on a story she wanted to tell first.

Adeena Mignogna: At some point, and it was in the maybe 2019 time, I was like, okay, if I don't actually pick one of my projects that are unfinished and finish it, I will never finish. If I don't finish, I have to finish something, what do I want to do?

So, I looked back, I went back to this 2012 NaNoWriMo, I was like, this is it. This is what I want to do. This is what I want to work on for a while.

Howard Lovy: But before Adeena began to publish, her career took a drastic turn.

Adeena Mignogna: So, this is going be funny because this is a very huge departure from everything I've said up until now.

There is a point, and I guess a little backstory to that is, in 2002 I got very burned out as an aerospace engineer. I was working for a very small company, and it was burnout.

It was enough burnout that I left the industry and opened a paint your own pottery store. For people who knew me really well, that should really tell you how burned out I was. That this person who's been a space geek and have only wanted to do space and technology things my entire life, and here I'm willing to do something completely different. That's really how bad it was, and two years into it, two years was enough to decompress to realize I want to go back.

So, I went back into the industry in 2004, but where this matters for the writing is I wound up, this is around the time, in 2005-2006, this was when the print on demand stuff started popping up, and I had been journaling about the business all along. I even had an old blog and stuff, and I was like, huh, I could probably turn this into a little book. And I did. And then I also did a second one that told the story of how the business wound up closing.

Then a couple years later, so maybe in 2013 or so, I was contacted by a small press, and they wanted to republish them, take the two books and republish them into one. I was like, okay, sure. I'm not doing anything else with this material because I didn't own the store anymore, I didn't really care.

At least I thought I didn't care. So, I was like, sure, I will take your advance, you can have my IP and fine. But then when they were editing it and redoing it, they wanted to change the name and while I was okay with the concept of changing the name, I hated what they wanted to change it to, and we went back and forth arguing over this, and based on my contract, I basically lost that, and so they renamed it something that I can't stand, and the reason I can't stand it is actually for a nonfiction book, I think it's misleading.

My books are, they're more memoirs than how to guides, and they made the title make it sound like it's a how to guide. So, from that experience, that's what I'm like, I don't want to give up control of my stuff like that. I want to have the final say.

So, when I got to the fiction, and now we're looking at 2018, 2019, 2020-time frame, when you've got Amazon, with what was CreateSpace and is now the whole, you know, all this stuff and you really can do this all on your own. I was like, that's the way I'm going because I'm willing to do, now you're not just a writer, you're a project manager or a small business owner.

It's a lot of work over and above just writing the book, and it's not for everyone to do that work, but I was willing to do that work and keep, whether it succeeds or fails then I'd rather it be all on me.

Howard Lovy: Now, this wouldn't be a proper interview with an engineer and science fiction writer if I didn't also ask about artificial intelligence.

Is Adeena an optimist or a pessimist?

Adeena Mignogna: I'm an optimist about the technology. I'm a little pessimistic about what people might do. Technology in and of itself is neutral, but then people might use it for good or for ill.

Cars are great, cars are awesome, but you could drive a car into a crowd of people and that's actually happened, so it's not the technology.

So, I'm incredibly excited and optimistic about the technology itself. How it's going to get used, that still remains to be seen. Although, I am probably an optimist in the sense of, I think legislation and guardrails and the right things will get put in place that will take care of 80 percent of the issues that are going on.

it Is funny because the book that's coming out in January, Lunar Logic, even though it's unrelated to my other series, it also has sentient feeling robots in it, and it's funny because of the timing. I wrote this actually also as a NaNoWriMo project several years ago, is where it started, and I wrote it before anyone had ever heard the term GPT, or understood what that was, and before I actually had even heard of the large language models too.

It really is timely in that you've got these AIs and robots that are asking philosophical questions about their existence, which is just, I think, an interesting way to look at, if we project forward from where we are to the about a hundred years or so in the future where this book takes place. It's interesting. Hopefully people will find it fun. It's meant to be a kind of a fun journey of philosophy, not a deep, dark, heavy one, but a fun one.

Howard Lovy: Adeena has advice for others who may not be professional writers, but, like her, had ideas that just needed to get out into the world.

Adeena Mignogna: First, get them out on paper, actual paper or digital paper. Get them out, write about them and then worry about plotting in craft and world building. If you have an idea, just start writing and don't worry. All the rest of it can come after.

Someone used to say, or someone says, you can't edit a blank page, and that couldn't be more true.

I think, Ray Bradbury or Robert Heinlein, his writing advice is like, write, finish what you write, and he's got others, but those two pieces I think are the most important things. Just write.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


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