First things first.
I'll be doing a zoom event with Jeff Carver over at Annie's Book Stop in Worcester @2pm on Saturday, 5/9. The link is in there blog. (See here.)
Unfortunately, I was unable to get material to them in time so only Jeff is represented there. But the Facebook link is there to RSVP. If you want to join us on Saturday.
They asked several questions. Since these aren't going up on their blog, I thought I'd put them here.
- Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you.
My father was an engineer with the heart of a poet. My mother was a writer with the heart of an engineer. So I became a science fiction writer. My day job is as a software engineer in aerospace. Right now I’m working on the Dream Chaser vehicle intended to supply the ISS.
- Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester--though they should totally check here first!)
Annie’s first, of course. For the ebooks, first would be bookviewcafe.com and second, Amazon. The print versions are available at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Annie’s is clearly the first choice.
- How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness
I have a blog I keep up regularly. In addition, since I do most of my publishing with bookviewcafe.com, that’s a good place to go. They also have a newsletter.
- For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from [newest release/spotlighted release]?
I’m interested in how human beings navigate novel situations. Simple Things is a story collection so there is a broad swath of things that happen to people and how they deal with them. Welcome to Witchlandia looks at what is now called “paranormal” and back in the seventies was called “psionics” in the context of athletic or cognitive ability. It’s a crime novel. Crime novels are interesting in the way they allow you to take characters out of their comfort zone.
- What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
Welcome to Witchlandia is deeply embedded in both Boston, Massachusetts and Columbia, Missouri. (Part 1 is in Columbia. Parts 2 and 3 are in Boston.) Since the main character has the ability to fly, her ability comes under FAA rules. I’m a pilot and this was very interesting to me. However, I could only reference a few aspects of flight in the book. Simple Things is a story collection and covers a lot of ground. One story, Jackie’s Boy, involves a young boy and an intelligent elephant navigating a post-apocalyptic landscape. They end up at (or near) the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. Given their environment, I couldn’t explore the sanctuary there. However, it is a wonderful place and I happily shout out to them now: www.elephants.com
- What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I have a new novel, God’s Country, coming out in July. If you were to ask the question what do recreational drugs, the discovery of a higher beings, prostitution, cults and biochemistry have in common, the answer would be God’s Country.
- What is/are your passions when you're not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
I do a lot of woodworking and gardening. Like anything else, you have to make time for that which (or who) you love.
- While you're writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
Music without words or words in a language I don’t know. I listen to a lot of Japanese pop music.
Well, that's a good question and I'm not entirely sure of the answer. For one thing, writing isn't really optional for me. To paraphrase Rorschach said in Alan Moore's Watchment: I don't do it because I choose to. I do it because I am compelled. It took a long time for me to come to terms with that.
Given that-- and given that it's important to me-- the actual process is a strange alchemical process that seems driven by its own opaque rules. I don't mean creativity is a mystery too arcane to be within the ken of mortal man. I mean I don't understand how my mind works with this. It is a compulsion-- if I don't do it for a bit I get itchy and irritable. I also get worried I'll never get back to it-- it's not like the world cares.
But it's even stranger than that. I underwent therapy a number of years ago (I'll talk about that someday but not right now.) and one thought I had was if I got better, would I stop writing? This, apparently, is a common idea. As if the writing was a symptom of some kind of sickness.
As an aside, in Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith, the drug, stroon, grants immortality. It is distilled from the exudates of sick ship on the planet Norstrilia. I wonder if stroon was, to Smith, a metaphorical equivalent to writing.
I got better and the writing improved. But it did not become any less mysterious. I sit down and conversations, scenes and characters come. I do work at breaking them down, lining them up and figuring out as much as I can ahead of time so that when I do sit seat of pants to seat of chair, the material is there to be put down.
That said, I've also found there's a delicate balance. I know writers that outline within an inch of their life. (An apocryphal story about Faulkner is he outline meticulously and then wrote while drunk. I have no idea if this is true.) I know others that don't. E. L. Doctorow said that writing is like driving in a fog where you can't see past the hood ornament. But Doctorow is clearly an uncommonly thorough researcher.
For me, if I know too much about what is going to happen, the work stop. If I know too little, the work stops until I know more. Sometimes I'll restart a section or work several times until I get the right take on the stuff and then it writes itself. I go from struggling creator to transcriber.
It feels like there's another entity at work here beyond my conscious mind. I'm not a particularly spiritual person so I don't think this is an intangible being. But I also can't tell whether it's my subconscious or the other half of my brain yelling across the corpus callosum. "Muse" might be a good word for this. "Harry" might be another.
The rest is finding time.
I get about 90 minutes a day, five days a week. Weekends are taken up managing the garden and the household. 9-10 hours a day are taken up during the week by my job. The remaining time is family time, reading and all the other stuff. In that 90 minutes I have to write my own material, critique other people's material, format books and write this blog.
And that's pretty much all I have to say on writing. Time's up.