Author Interview — Jason J. McCuiston

Over the years, I’ve interviewed plenty of experienced authors. However, it’s also instructive for you beginning writers in my blog audience to hear from an author just beginning his writing adventure. Lucky for you, Jason J. McCuiston stopped by the towering Poseidon’s Scribe mansion and I asked him some questions.

Jason J. McCuiston’s short story “The Last Red Lantern” was published in the anthology Triangulations: Appetites, and was a semifinalist in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest. His story “The Wyvern” will appear in the upcoming anthology Dark Luminous Wings. He’s working on a series titled The Shadow Crusade.

Let’s get to the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

Jason J. McCuiston: I’ve always been a storyteller. When I was little, before I could read or write, I used to draw pictures of cowboys, soldiers, and knights, then sit in my parents’ or grandparents’ laps and tell them these elaborate stories of what was going on in the pictures. Eventually, I got good enough at the drawings that people could see what was going on, and so I gravitated toward a career in art. By the time I finished high school, I had discovered Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and knew I just had to go into comics.

That was my plan when I went to college to study graphic design and illustration. Then, in the mid to late ‘90s, the comics boom busted. While I was working as a security guard after graduating with my near-useless degree, I read an absolutely awful vampire novel and decided I could do that. So I did. I wrote my own absolutely awful vampire novel.

I then flirted with writing, off and on, for the next seven years until I found myself unemployed in 2004, and I decided to write a scifi/fantasy hybrid novel. I had done zero research on the industry (or on the craft for that matter) and yet I cranked out a neo-noir interplanetary heist caper featuring dwarves, elves, and space pirates blasting their way across a cold-war era star system in search of the ancient secret of FTL technology. It was crap but had enough good points that I got a couple requests from agents. These didn’t pan out, of course, so I went out and bought my first book on writing, James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers, and I decided to get serious about becoming a writer.

P.S.: Who are some of your influences? What are a few of your favorite books?

J.J.M.: I have to say I’m heavily influenced by the works of Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, as well as Alexandre Dumas, Edgar Allan Poe, and Rafael Sabatini. I have to include Lloyd Alexander here as well. I loved his Prydain Chronicles as a kid before I ever read Tolkien, and it doesn’t take much to see the influence of those stories on my own. My favorite contemporary authors are Bernard Cornwell, Jeff Shaara, Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, and Stephen King. My favorite books of all time, in no particular order: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

P.S.: Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

J.J.M.: I love history. I love learning new things. And I love the mysteries you can find in history. I like to say I write in the cracks of history; anytime there’s a question mark on the page, I let my mind fill it in. My story, “1057 A.D.,” for example, is my attempt to answer two questions: What really happened when Edward the Exile returned to England to be named Edward the Confessor’s heir? And why are European vampire stories as equally prevalent in England as they are in Central Europe?

P.S.: From your blog posts, it appears you enjoy horror stories, but have a preference for monsters and magic. What attracts you to that particular sector of the genre?

J.J.M.: The short answer is, I grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons. But I’m an escapist at heart. When the antagonist or the obstacle to be overcome in a story has a supernatural or science-fiction element to it, I think it gives the reader a way to process real-world issues in a safer environment. I’ve never been a fan of the slasher flick or torture horror. Our world is too full of real, all-too human monsters to waste my time reading or watching a piece of fiction based on what people are capable of doing to each other. We have the twenty-four hour news cycle for that.

P.S.: Do you illustrate some of your own books? Do those two talents—writing and graphic illustration—mix for you in some way? Do your drawings inspire your writing or the other way around?

J.J.M.: I did some cover mock ups for my completed manuscripts just to put on my website and on my Goodreads profile, but for the most part, I just write the stories now. However, whenever I feel the goblin of writer’s block rearing its ugly head, I break out the sketchbook just to keep the creative juices flowing. Occasionally I’ll sketch characters or scenes from the story I’m working on just for my own benefit, but for me the story usually comes before the imagery.

P.S.: Your story, “The Last Red Lantern,” was published in the anthology Triangulation: Appetites. What can you tell us about that story?

J.J.M.: I don’t recall what inspired me to research the Boxer Rebellion at the time, but I did and out of the horrors of the Siege of Tientsin grew this idea of a young Chinese girl rescued by an American soldier, taken and raised on a Montana Ranch. She later returns to Asia to seek her mother, a legendary leader of the Red Lanterns, an all-woman martial-arts organization. Like most of my stories, it has speculative elements (in this case a warlock and a zombie army) in a historical setting (the eastern edge of the crumbling Russian Empire in 1917). I think it met the theme of the anthology, “Appetites,” because many of us hunger to know where we come from and how our origins can affect who we are.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

J.J.M.: The easiest part is the actual writing when I get into that zone, where it feels like I’m just transcribing the words and actions of what these characters are saying and doing in this amazing time and space that only exists in my head. Sometimes, in those moments, I feel like I could write the whole manuscript in one draft in one day. The hardest part for me, being a lifelong introvert, is adapting to the social media aspect of self-promotion. Don’t get me wrong, I have met some amazing people (yourself included) via the internet, and I love the sense of community I’ve discovered with other writers. My problem is just trying to get my mind to switch gears from blog posts, tweets, and that sort of thing back to real, honest-to-goodness fiction writing.

P.S.: Are you a member of a writer’s critique group? If so, please tell us about it, and tell us if you think the group has helped your writing.

J.J.M.: It’s not a group, per se, but I’ve got a couple of writer friends with whom I’ve swapped manuscripts this year. The three of us happen to live on different continents, so I affectionately call them my “International Critique Partners.” From G.L. Cromarty, the amazing author of the Divided World Series, I’ve learned a lot about pacing a large-scale plot and how to keep the human element relevant in global dramas. She’s also my social media coach, helping me out of my 20th century shell! Marcus Henson, author of the upcoming Honour Among Thieves novel, is a world-builder extraordinaire, and a master of fast-paced action sequences. Not only have I benefited from studying their impressive skillsets, and getting their constructive criticism, but I’m also recharged by their passion for the craft. Sometimes I love reading writers write about writing more than I enjoy reading fiction.

P.S.: Your story, “The Wyvern,” will appear in the upcoming anthology Dark Luminous Wings. Please tell us a little about the setting and protagonist of that story.

J.J.M.: I love the Fallout video games, and I was replaying Fallout 3 last year when I watched a little horror movie called The Atticus Institute, about the MK Ultra government experiments in the 1960s. In the film, the psychic experiments go completely of the rails when a subject turns out to be demonically possessed instead of being a normal human psychic. So I thought, “What if the world was destroyed not by a nuclear holocaust, but by a supernatural one?” And so I created what I called “The World after Tomorrow;” our world where the human race has finally started to recreate civilization six centuries after magic and monsters have completely reshaped the planet. It became my sandbox where I could just practice the craft of writing; I could write horror stories, westerns, high fantasies, neo-noir detective stories, military adventures, and in the case of “The Wyvern,” a steampunk ghost-ship story set in the skies above the Mojave Desert. As a nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, I wanted the story’s lead, Captain Noah Oggs, to be incapacitated with broken legs when the horror hits his airship the Cibola.

P.S.: You’re writing a series of short stories and novels called The Shadow Crusade. Please tell us about the world and main character of that series.

J.J.M.: The Shadow Crusade begins in the England and Normandy of 1096, just as the First Crusade is getting underway. I was inspired by Umberto Echo’s The Name of the Rose, and really liked the idea of a Sherlock-Holmes style character in the Middle Ages, but of course, me being me, he would have to deal with magic and monsters. Much like the protagonist of your story, “Instability,” Godric is a Renaissance man centuries ahead of his time. However, he is really too smart for his own good sometimes; he is a hedonist and an iconoclast, despite (or because of) being raised by monks. He is a Saxon orphan who is forced to ally with Robert, an introverted and dogmatic Norman squire, in order to save the world from evil. At its heart, the series is about true friendship; two young men have to overcome their racial and social differences in order to rely on one-another and form a lasting bond as strong as brothers.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Jason J. McCuiston: Understand that rejection is just part of the process. If you can’t handle that, do something else. If someone gives you feedback, take it in, digest it, and let it make you better. Also, just because your story is not right for this agent or that editor, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t right for another one. Keep writing, keep revising, keep submitting, and keep going. I have said, “I may write more bad stories than good ones, but I do write good stories.” My goal is to change that ratio, and the only way to do that is to just keep writing. Remember that: writing in itself is the goal, not the means by which we achieve something else. Write good stories and success will take care of itself.

 

Thanks, Jason, for your answers and for mentioning my own story! Readers eager to find out more about Jason can check out his website, his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, and his Goodreads profile.

Poseidon’s Scribe

Author Interview — A.L. Kaplan

My series of interviews with intriguing writers continues today; author A.L. Kaplan happened to stop by the sprawling complex of Poseidon Scribe Enterprises, Inc. Like me, she has a story in the anthology In a Cat’s Eye, but unlike me, she’s written a novel. Star Touched will launch on October 1st; that’s tomorrow!

A.L. Kaplan’s stories have been included in several anthologies, including in several anthologies: In a Cat’s Eye, Young Adventurers: Heroes, Explorers, and Swashbucklers, and Suppose: Drabbles, Flash Fiction, and Short Stories, as well as Indies Unlimited’s 2014 & 2015 Flash Fiction. You can find her poems in Dragonfly Arts Magazine’s 2014, 2015, and 2016 editions, and the BALTICON 49 and 50 BSFAN. She is a past president of the Maryland Writers’ Association’s Howard County Chapter and holds an MFA in sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art. When not writing or indulging in her fascination with wolves, A. L. is the props manager for a local theatre. This proud mother of two lives in Maryland with her husband and dog.

Now for the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

A.L. Kaplan: For as long as I can remember, I’ve created stories. When I was young, these ideas would keep me up at night as I rewrote them in my mind multiple times. Getting words on paper was a whole other ballgame. I couldn’t figure out how to get all those wonderful speeches from my head into the written word. My ‘artistic’ handwriting and ‘creative’ spelling got in the way. For some reason, my teachers just didn’t appreciate that kind of creativity. It wasn’t until college that I finally gained the confidence (and an introduction to computers) to write creatively. Finally, I could get all my ideas out, not just the still images I used in my art.

P.S.: Who are some of your influences? What are a few of your favorite books? 

ALK: Where to start? I’ve always loved reading. I grew up reading James Herriot, Jack London, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Albert Payson Turhune, and of course J. R. R. Tolkien. Lord of the Rings may have birthed my love of fantasy, but there are three other books I read that were a huge influence: Island of the Blue Dolphins, My side of the Mountain, and Julie of the Wolves.

P.S.: Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

ALK: Many of my ideas come from dreams and nightmares, but I’ve drawn inspirations from songs and pictures as well.

P.S.: On your website, you state that you’re the props manager for a nearby theater. Has that experience helped with your writing? Do you find it easy to describe props in your stories, for example?

ALK: Some of the props I’ve needed to find or make required a bit of research, so yes, it has helped with some descriptions. One of my favorite props was the intestines I made for Little Shop of Horrors. They looked awesome and were fun to make.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

ALK: Ideas are easy. Finding time is always a challenge. Marketing is a pain in the butt.

P.S.: What prompted you to write your novel Star Touched (which has a great cover, by the way)?

ALK: Star Touched was born from a series of nightmares with huge waves of water, giant fireballs, and unusual abilities. The story grew from there.

P.S.: There are lots of dystopian YA novels out there. What makes Star Touched different?

ALK: Star Touched is more than a book with a somewhat dystopian world. Sure, it’s rough living and people have been forced to do thing to survive this new crazy world. But it’s not all bad. Some places have held onto or rebuilt peaceful societies. Then there are the star-touched who can access earth energy and do some amazing things. In biblical times they may have been called miracles, or magic. That kind of power scares people. The constant persecution makes survival even harder for the star-touched. There are good people and bad people in this world. How they react to different situations can bring out which side of the spectrum the land on. Are they going to work together with their neighbors and help each other? Or are they going to loot the town, grab whatever they want even if it hurts others. It’s a constant battle.

P.S.: Do you plan a sequel to Star Touched?

ALK: Yes, a sequel to Star Touched is in the works.

P.S.: Star Touched launches on October 1st. Where should readers go to get it?

ALK: You can find Star Touched at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Kobo.

P.S.: Aside from your novel, you also write flash fiction. That sure covers the long and the short of things. Not too many authors are skilled with both those extremes. How do you manage it?

ALK: I started writing flash fiction for a weekly contest as a writing exercise. At the time, I’d only written novel length works. Keeping a story 250 words or less isn’t easy. It forces you take a good look at all your word and get rid of extras. Once I figured it out, it helped make all my writing more concise.

P.S.: Your website mentions a fascination with wolves. Really? Wolves?

ALK: When I was in high school I had a dream about wolves. The next day I went to the library and started reading. The more I learned, the more I liked. My collection now includes books, art, toys, and a few odd things like a howling cookie jar. Wolves have also inspired several stories, including my short story, “Wolf Dawn,” which is in the Young Adventurers: Heroes, Explorers, and Swashbucklers anthology.

One added note: I love wolves, but have no illusion of what they are — wild animals, hunters. I’ve met people who have had wolf/dog hybrids and have been lucky enough to have a great companion. For every story of a good hybrid pet, there’s another about an uncontrollable animal. A wolf is not a domestic dog. They think and behave differently. Think very carefully before you consider taking on the responsibility of adopting a hybrid. I opted for an Alaskan malamute – wolf like appearance in a domestic dog. If you’d like to learn more about Praeses, check out For the Love of Canines: Praeses parts 1 and 2 on my website.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

A.L. Kaplan: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t succeed. You can, no matter how tall the roadblock. Follow your dreams and always travel with some method to record your words. You never know when inspiration will hit you.

 

Thanks for the interview, A.L., and best of luck with Star Touched! For readers of my blog, please be sure to find out more about A.L. Kaplan at her website, on Twitter, and Facebook. Also sign up to receive her newsletter.

Poseidon’s Scribe

Author Interview — TJ Perkins

Today, let’s welcome another fascinating author, TJ Perkins, who has a story appearing in the soon-to-be-released anthology Dark Luminous Wings.

TJ is a gifted and well-respected author in the mystery/suspense genre, but she recently expanded into the world of fantasy for teens. She wrote the Shadow Legacy series, a unique crossing of the fantasy and manga genres. Her short stories for young readers have appeared in the Ohio State 6th Grade Proficiency Test Preparation Book, Kid’s Highway Magazine, and the webzine “New Works Review.” TJ’s book Four Little Witches won the 2016 Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR) Visionary Art Award. She’s been published in the Who’s Who in America. Her mystery/suspense books for kids are Wound Too Tight, Mystery of the Attic, and On Forbidden Ground. Articles on TJ Perkins have appeared in the Carroll County Times, Chartley Chatter, Maryland Family Magazine and The Community Times. She’s been interviewed on WTTR radio. She’s made many trips to elementary and middle schools to talk about her books. Her biggest seller, Mystery of the Attic, has been made into a play, brought to life by the Cafe Theater Company in Brick, NJ.

Let’s get to the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

TJ Perkins: I discovered a love for storytelling when I was a little girl going to sleepover parties. We would pass the flashlight and add-on to a story. When it got to me, I made the story creepy and the girls just wanted me to keep telling the story. By the time I was in middle and high school I was on a roll; getting straight A’s in creative writing and English class. In my late 20’s I got a computer and never stopped writing. My story Mystery of the Attic is based on a very scary thing that happened to me as a young teen; I never forgot it and had to write it down. It became my biggest seller.

What prompted me? My grandfather (on my dad’s side). He would tell spooky stories at the dinner table and I would listen, captured by every word.

 

P.S.: Who are some of your influences? What are a few of your favorite books?

TJ: My favorite authors are Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Maria V. Snyder. My favorite book of all time is The Three Musketeers.

 

P.S.: Primarily, you write mystery, suspense, and fantasy. What attracted you to these genres?

TJ: I fell in love with spooky storytelling because of my grandfather.  I started going to Renaissance Festivals, fell in love with dragons, fairies and mystical realms, and then discovered fantasy books by Maria V. Snyder. Now all of my fantasy stories have an element of mystery to them and readers love it!

 

P.S.: Most of your books are for teens and young adults. What is different about writing for that audience compared to writing for adults, and how do you know what stories will work with that age group?

TJ: Kids are just as critical with the books they read as adults are. If they don’t like something, they will sure let you know in no uncertain terms – and they spread the word real fast. But young people are also fun to write for, offering more of an open, playful mind ready to be challenged and plunged into exotic worlds. Adults are exhausted, stressed out, they don’t have a whole lot of free time and most feel they’re seen movies or read books that have shown them pretty much all there is. They want something different, which makes them a more difficult audience. Bottom line is – you don’t know what will work. You just tell the best story you can and hope for the best.

 

P.S.: Your story, “The Sapphire Circle” appears in the upcoming anthology Dark Luminous Wings. Please tell us about the main character in that story.

TJ: The main character, Nick, is my son; making mistakes and doing stupid things as a young man. But he develops more of an adult mentality and wants to help society, rather than hurt. To me this personifies most young people in their early 20’s, doing dumb stuff, then something snaps in their minds and they change, start to figure things out and develop a sense of who they are.

 

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

TJ: The hardest parts are starting or ending a story and staying in the character’s heads. The easiest is developing the characters and world.

 

P.S.: Since you first began writing, how has your writing evolved in terms of style, theme, genre, etc.?

TJ: My kids were the basis of what it was that I wrote. When they were little, I started off writing mysteries for YA readers, going for the clean, non-violent stories. Then I realized that bad guys today wouldn’t just give up if caught; they would put up a fight. So, I added in some sort of a struggle to catch the bad guys. As my kids grew older, our love of video games and anime helped me create the Shadow Legacy series. When I became Wiccan it helped shape many of the themes in my stories for older readers and even my picture book Four Little Witches that won the COVR Visionary Art Award. In a nut shell – I grew older, wiser and evolved as a person and it helped shape my writing.

 

P.S.: Your book Mystery of the Attic was adapted into a play. That sounds like a fantastic honor. How did that come about, and what was it like for you to see your story performed on stage?

TJ: I was actually soliciting my mystery books for all sorts of venues. Thinking out of the box, I presented Mystery of the Attic to be a play and a theme for an amusement park ride since it was one of my most popular books and biggest seller at the time. Only one children’s theater in New Jersey accepted. It was amazing to see the kids act it out perfectly. It was even more amazing to see the kids in the audience get so quiet you could hear a pin drop while they were watching it. That play helped spike sales for several weeks afterwards.

 

P.S.: Your recent Shadow Legacy series sounds fascinating. Please describe the ‘world’ and premise of this series, and the protagonist.

TJ: The world is actually modern day Japan, but with a twist. There’s a village where past marries present day and they produce the finest assassins in the world. All countries have their own version of ninja, but nothing like the Chaio (means fire). Duncan’s parents died when he was very young and he was raised by his uncle. Duncan has an entity inside of him and it’s triggered by his teen anger. It uses that anger to grow stronger and tries to take over, but Duncan needs to understand what it is and learn to meld with it to stop the growing threat of a mysterious dark ninja magic that binds the user with a demon. Plagued with all the issues a teen becoming a young man has to deal with, learning all new powers, honing existing skills, keeping control of a inner power with a mind of its own and trying to save the world is way more than a teen should have to deal with – but that’s Duncan.

 

P.S.: You’ve achieved marketing success other writers dream about, with articles written about you, interviews on radio, and appearances at schools, etc. For those of my blog readers who are beginning writers, please discuss the importance of these activities.

TJ: You have to stay in the public eye any chance you get. Attending Cons, speaking on panels, and promoting are essential. If you don’t toot your own horn, no one else will and no one will know your book exists. YOU have to be the one to promote and market your book in as many ways as possible. Even if you get picked up by a large publisher YOU still have to be the one. Can it be made into a play? If yes, then send out emails to theater groups. Can it be produced on Broadway? Can it be turned into an amusement park ride? Are you skilled enough to conduct writing workshops? Do mailings to all schools to let them know your book is ready for purchase or to have you in.

 

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

TJ: My current work is a three-book story called Runes & Relics. This is high fantasy unlike anything anyone has done before. It has a strong female protagonist, a vicious love triangle and, of course, the fate of the world resting on her ability to control the elements and bring balance to her world. Only one of the men she loves can exist in the world at the same time, and she must decide which one – and kill the other. Her choice will set the stage for her future. Every decision she makes brings change to the world, either good or bad, bringing balance or allowing chaos to continue to unfold.

Book One is complete and in the hands of Tor. I’m working on Book Two.

 

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer to aspiring writers?

TJ Perkins: Take writing classes and learn how to write your story perfectly. The biggest mistake I see is that new writers do not know how to ‘show’ their story unfolding on the pages. They simply ‘tell’ it. Get an editor or ask people on Facebook to be beta readers – and they must be brutally honest. Also, get thick skin, (learn to take criticism), but mostly don’t give up.

 

Thank you, TJ! My readers can find out more about TJ here, at her Amazon author page, on Facebook, and Twitter.

Poseidon’s Scribe

 

Author Interview — Todd Sullivan

The interview series continues, this time with author Todd Sullivan, who’s got a story in the upcoming anthology Dark Luminous Wings.

Todd writes fiction, mainly speculative and urban horror/fantasy. He’s been published in several venues, including Eastit Journal, Tokyo Yakuza Anthology, and Tincture Journal. He attended his first serious writing class at Stanford University, then participated in the National Book Foundation’s 10 day summer writing retreats. He graduated with a Bachelors in English with Concentrations in Creative Writing from Georgia State University, and has earned a Masters of Fine Arts from Queens College in Flushing, New York. Todd moved to Jeju, South Korea, where he taught English in the public school system for five years. He is now in Suncheon-Si in Jeollanam-do province, where he teaches pre-K students English.

And now, the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

Todd Sullivan:  I started writing quite young. Sometimes in early elementary school. I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to pick up the pencil and put words to page, but I’ve surmised over the years that it probably had something to do with the severe speech impediment I was born with. I have no phonics skills, and learned how to speak by memorizing the way words sound. I took speech therapy before I started school, missing pre-k as a result. However, it was still always difficult for others to understand me when I spoke. I believe it this difficulty at verbal communication that prompted me to write. As a child, I filled brown spiral notebooks with stories, and had quite a collection that I kept up until Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The home I grew up in in New Orleans was destroyed along with all of my earliest writings.

P.S.: Who are some of your influences? What are a few of your favorite books?

T.S.: One of my earliest influences was Dungeons & Dragons. My older brothers were avid players. I was too young to play with them, but I would watch them play, and would read the books when they weren’t around. Reading Dungeons and Dragons’ campaigns helped me develop a sense of plotting. However, learning the art of storytelling probably came from my father. Every evening at dinner my father would tell us about his workday, and he was great at building up narrative tension for dramatic effect.

My love of reading came from my mother. Growing up, I seldom saw my mom without a book in her hands, and our shelves at home were full of books. Sometimes in elementary school, I read Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat, and this novel was probably the first style that I tried to emulate in my own writing. After that, it was Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha and Steppenwolf, and then Robert Anton Wilson’s Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy, and Wilson’s and Robert Shea’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy, that I tried hard to emulate in my own writing.

Ultimately, though, it wasn’t until I was in my early 30s and read a manuscript by a young guy I met here in Korea that I finally figured out what I was missing in my own writing. Reading Jarmo, a self-published book by Adam Spielman, made me realize the one mistake I kept making, and it’s a common one among writers. I was being too nice to my characters, making their burdens too light when readers are more interested in the trials and tribulations of fictional creations.

P.S.: Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

T.S.: I am a writer of the immediate. I have to have very close, personal experience of what I write about. My muses are the people I meet, the places I live, and the jobs I work. I am a writer who must keep experiencing new things in order to write.

P.S.: When and why did you begin writing fiction?

T.S.: It never occurred to me to write anything besides fiction. I am more of a novel writer than a short story writer, though I think I’ve finally figured out the short story form. The ideas I come up with tend to have a lot of depth and it’s usually easy to see them being developed further into more complicated works.

The novel is a massive commitment, however. I’ve written four, and I’m always relieved when I can write ‘The End’ on a first draft. Writing a novel is like travelling out into deep space with a destination in mind but so many ways in which you can get sidetracked along the way. And space is so vast that once you get caught up in one corner of it, it can take a really long time to get back on course.

P.S.: How has your experience with living and working in South Korea shaped your writing?

T.S.:  I lived in Korea two years before finally completing a short story based on my experiences here. My attempts to craft fiction the first 24 months all felt flat because they were too closely related to the prose I wrote in my Master’s program at Queens College. I wanted to write something new and different in this foreign country, and it took a couple of years of living in Korea before I met the right person and had the right conversation that sparked a novel called Natural Police. I finished this novel over a three-year period while living on Jeju, a small island at the southernmost tip of Korea.

With everything I write in Korea, however, I’m always careful to say that my fiction is not a Korean story. I feel that only Koreans can tell a Korean story. Instead, I write western fiction that takes place in Korea. It’s rare that my main characters are solely Korean. They are supernatural in some way, a species outside of mankind. This allows me to fill in the blanks that I don’t know about Koreans with my imagination.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

T.S.: The most difficult has been the lifestyle I’ve lived, at times voluntary, at times involuntary, of constant change to find new material. I can say without hesitation that I’ve spent far too much time alone between periods of transition in my life, and this is difficult.

As for the easiest, I don’t have an answer. Writing has been one long personal trek, an uphill climb of an Everest with no pinnacle. I think the only reason I kept climbing over the years is because I never found anything worth stopping for.

P.S.: Your story, “Wheels and Deals” will appear in the upcoming anthology Dark Luminous Wings. Please tell us about this story.

T.S.: The story is actually based on an old idea I conceived in my 20s. I had always wanted to write this story, but it wasn’t I lived in Seoul and studied Korean at Yonsei and Sogang Universities that I could clearly perceive an actual narrative. “Wheels and Deals” is about an angel that has lost its grace in pursuit of autonomy. In order to gain greater power, it now sells pure souls to demons and devils in Hell.

P.S.: Who is the protagonist of “Wheels and Deals,” and what is fascinating about this character?

T.S.: The protagonist is a Congolese girl who is studying Korean at Sogang, a Catholic university in Seoul. She’s fascinating because she risks everything to return the angel to grace. Her selflessness, in comparison to the angel’s selfishness, creates an intriguing dichotomy in the story.

P.S.: In what way is your fiction different from that of other authors in your genre?

T.S.: When I try to objectively analyze my writing to determine if it truly is unique, what I see of my narratives are first and foremost genre stories. I write about ghosts and goblins and the creatures hiding in the dark.

However, I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I was trained to write literary fiction, so I pay a lot of attention to character develop, dialog, and the construction of prose on the page.

From spending so much time alone over the years, I’ve indulged in a lot of philosophical ruminations, and plug that into my literary based genre fiction.

I have had many close, intimate relationships with a variety of the world’s people, so the characters in my fiction reflect this. My narrative worlds have been populated by people from South American countries, Asian countries, Middle Eastern countries, European countries, as well as by North Americans.

My literary based genre fiction has philosophical leanings and is multiracial and multicultural. I read a lot, and I don’t see this type of narrative combination out there.

P.S.: We understand you’ve written Natural Police, a novel that is not yet published. What is that novel about?

T.S.: Natural Police is about a Korean woman who is manipulated into joining a secret organization of undead government employees. It’s a horror novel, but the monsters are the main characters. It’s a speculative fiction novel because the narrative goes through great pains of exploring how a society like this could literally exist unknown in the mortal world. It’s at times unsettling because readers are seeing the world through the eyes of the beasts, but it’s an engaging read with lots of cliffhangers and surprises to maintain reader engagement.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

T.S.: I am working on my first fantasy story in many years. It’s a long short story, and will probably clock in around 15,000 words. The title is “The White Tiger,” and it takes place in feudal Korea. It’s been a difficult story to write as I’ve had to do more historical research than I’m comfortable with. However, the story is coming out well, and I believe it’s going to be one of my best pieces to date.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Todd Sullivan:  Pursing writing for anything more than a hobby is a mistake. Most people who write are trying to get to a “there” that isn’t going to happen. And they pay a heavy toll for that failure, because the “there” in which they are as close to happiness as they’ve ever been in their lifetimes.

I would tell aspiring writers to forget about getting “there”. Treat your writing as you would any other hobby you may have taken up. If you ever did martial arts, you didn’t seriously expect to be the next Bruce Lee. If you ever took up cooking, you didn’t except to be the next Gordon Ramsey. If you ever played tennis, you didn’t expect to be the next Serena Williams.

Well, perhaps once as a child you did, but then you grew up and came to realize that that type of success is really never going to happen. So you just did these hobbies for the personal fulfillment they brought you.

Do not chase the mirage. You’ll die of thirst before you realize the oasis is just an illusion. Don’t write to be the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowlings. You’re only building yourself up for disappointment. Write solely because it is one of many things that bring a sense of completeness to your very short life. And if, for some reason, your writing becomes massively popular, so much the better.

 

Thanks for the wonderful interview, Todd! Readers can find out more about Todd Sullivan at his website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Poseidon’s Scribe

Author Interview — Brian Trent

Today I interview Brian Trent, author of a story appearing in the upcoming anthology Dark Luminous Wings.

Brian is a science fiction writer with an interest in technology and society. His story “War Hero” was a winner in the Writers of the Future Contest. His work appears regularly in a wide array of publications, including Analog, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Cosmos, Nature, The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk, Galaxy’s Edge, Escape Pod, Apex, Daily Science Fiction, and more. He also writes nonfiction, with work appearing in UTNE, The Humanist, Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, and more. His works explore how human society, and indeed humanity itself, changes in the face of developing technology.

Now, the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing fiction? What prompted you?

Brian Trent: Reading is what got me into writing. From a very young age, I cut my teeth on Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, but also on the Thousand-and-One Nights, Joseph Campbell, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and plenty of Doc Savage. I was instinctively attracted to stories of adventure, exploration, dark wanderings, and possible tomorrows. I wrote my first stories on large lined Legal pads that I’d buy by the dozen, then graduated to a Brother 11 typewriter, electronic typewriter, and computer. Who knows what we’ll be using in the future?

P.S.: Who are some of your influences? What are a few of your favorite books?

B.T.: H.G. Wells and Jules Verne had a huge impact on me, as did Poe, King, Clarke, Lovecraft, Bradbury. A friend of the family bought me an anthology of Golden Age science fiction stories, and that helped propel me fully into the genre. When I’m interested in something, I really dive in; I read sci-fi from the pulps of the 1920s through the then-nascent cyberpunk revolution. I also studied the lives of the authors I admired, until it felt like I knew them personally. If there had been a celebrity gossip column for literary figures, I’d probably have subscribed.

Favorite books are too many to list, but I would count Ender’s Game, The Jungle Books, Snow Crash, Neuromancer, and especially The Stars My Destination among them.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

B.T.: Beginning a story is always the hardest part for me. Facing the glacial whiteness of a blank page and trying to think of a good entry point into the tale is always a challenge. For that reason, I rarely open my drafts at the beginning. Rather, I jump right into a scene or dialog that might take place anywhere other than the start!

The easiest part? That’s tough to say, as it varies from story to story. I love crafting the plot, building layers and setting them into place like the gears of a clock. And I adore exploring characters through dialog; you know when you’re on the right track as a writer when the characters are in full conversations that seem to spring directly out of their heads.

P.S.: You’ve written a considerable number of nonfiction articles in addition to your many fictional stories. How difficult is it to shift between the two types of writing?

B.T.: I have a background in journalism, which can help polish your writing. Steven King made the same observation way back: it encourages you to write to the point, and to write lean. Most of my reading is nonfiction, too. I find it an easy switch between the two styles, probably because a lot of my published nonfiction is in the field of science and technology, and has appeared in science fiction magazines — I’ve published nonfiction pieces with Strange Horizons and Clarkesworld, for instance.

P.S.: What is it about the science fiction genre that draws you there?

B.T.: Science fiction is a wonderful journey into unknown country. There are well-worn trails, sure, but plenty of uncharted territory as well. What I love about science fiction is that its speculations are often based in the probable: the “science” part is an essential part of the definition and scope. While I enjoy fantasy and I write in that genre as well, I appreciate the rational extrapolations of sci-fi more than “magic is the answer.” I’d say that the genre also serves the dual purposes of lighting hopeful beacons into the future, as well as sounding the warning bells on that same journey. It’s one thing to wonder about the potential dangers of, say, genetically engineered viruses, but it’s more effective (visually and viscerally) when you can read a fictional story that examines those ramifications. Really, it comes back to Wells (the pessimist) and Verne (the optimist). And both approaches are needed.

P.S.: Your story “Enchantment Lost” appears in the anthology Dark Luminous Wings. Please tell us about the story.

B.T.: “Enchantment Lost” is set in the far future, when a centuries-old woman hires a recovery specialist to undertake a rather unusual mission. As expressed by the story’s opening lines: “I need you to find my childhood. I know where it is. I’m hiring you to recover it, and return it to me.”

P.S.: What prompted you to write “Enchantment Lost?”

B.T.: I did a lot of ruminating on the anthology’s theme: Dark Luminous Wings. That can mean so many things. For me, the setting (which I won’t spoil) suggested itself immediately, as it exemplified all three words in the anthology’s title. When I set out to outline the tale, I built that theme into the aesthetics, the setting, and the underlying motivation of the characters. What does “flying” mean for us? It can be a destination or an escape, a nod to Icarus and also a promise of future travels. I ended up writing the story in a week, as things just clicked into place.

P.S.: Many of your science fiction stories contain historical references or are inspired by historical events and people. Why is that?

B.T.: I’m obsessed with history; I devour history books by the score. And I like to build my science fiction on the bones of history, as it springs off of known elements into tomorrow’s inventions, explorations, and developments. One lesson from history is that people don’t change: we are fundamentally no different from the people who lived in ancient Athens or Babylon or… well… the meltwater marshes of the Neolithic. The props change, the technology improves, political and cultural zeitgeists come in and out of fashion, but humanity remains the same. Even when we contemplate post-human futures (which is one of my favorite subjects) they still arise from an underlying human framework. In “Enchantment Lost,” the characters of Jack Saylor and Sylvia Tornquist are people who possess motivations we can understand, even if the world they live in is very different from ours.

I also love classical-era aesthetics. I dislike the monochromatic, sterile look of a lot of sci-fi, or conversely, the grimy patina on so much dystopia. I like color and vegetation infused with colonnades and vibrant agoras, while computers hum and glow in the background.

And lastly, I admire the zeitgeist of scientifically-minded eras like the Enlightenment, and the art-minded eras like the Italian Renaissance. I like to import both into my invented futures.

P.S.: In what way is your fiction different from that of other science fiction authors?

B.T.: I don’t know if it’s for me to say, really, but I do think my areas of interest (history, mythology, literature) infuses some different elements into my fiction. I do write across a wide array of genres and subgenres, from hard SF to steampunk, alternate history to space opera.

P.S.: The Published Works section of your website lists many, many published stories. Some are award or contest winners. What’s your secret for being so prolific?

B.T.: I habitually work on numerous stories at once, toggling from one to another so these batches tend to “grow up” together. And they’re usually very different from each other, so that I don’t burn out on one particular subject. If I’m working on a hard SF tale requiring lots of research and plotting, I like to balance that with a fantasy story, and balance that with a more action-oriented tale, with maybe a gothic horror story on the side. It keeps me on my toes, helps prevent stagnation, and it always keeps me writing: I don’t get bogged down in one story’s composition, because if progress is slowing for one project, I’ll alight onto another one and work there for a time. I guess my varied approach also matches my own interests: I don’t watch just one kind of film or read one kind of book. I’m interested in how things work, in the details of the universe I live in. Working on multiple projects comes naturally, as my daily imaginings, readings, and travels are all over the spectrum.

Another thing that aids this productivity is that roughly seventy-five percent of my stories are set in my “War Hero” universe. This universe is already a well-defined setting with its unique history, politics, and technology, so I don’t need to invent from scratch all those details any more: each new story in that timeline expands on the scaffolding that earlier stories have constructed. A lot of my stories will themselves suggest events that I’ll later explore. One recent example is in an upcoming novelette, where I make an offhand reference to a newspaper headline concerning an orbital heist. It has no bearing on the story other than serving as a local detail… but the story of that heist is told in my Galaxy’s Edge story “Breaking News Involving Space Pirates.”

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

B.T.: I’m continuing to write books in my historical fantasy series RAHOTEP; each book explores another episode in the life of a four-thousand-year-old entity from ancient Egypt. And I have a science fiction novel being published next year. I can’t say too much at this time, but details on that and other pending work will be released on my website, www.briantrent.com.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Brian Trent: Polish your craft until it gleams. Open yourself up to learning from the greats in the field. Read, read, and read some more, seeing how others do it. And when you’ve done all that, strategize your approach to the industry. It isn’t enough to say “Never give up.” You need to look at the industry with a tactical eye. Never stop growing as a writer.

 

Thanks, Brian! Readers can get to know Brian better at his website and at his Facebook page.

Poseidon’s Scribe

Author Interview — Jeffrey G. Roberts

It’s been awhile since I’ve conducted an author interview, but Jeffrey G. Roberts recently landed a WW II Spitfire on the airfield here at Poseidon’s Scribe Enterprises. He and I both have stories appearing in the upcoming anthology Dark Luminous Wings. So I asked him a few questions.

Jeffrey’s Dad was a pilot in World War II, and that’s where Jeffrey got his love of aviation. He graduated from Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1974 with a Bachelor’s degree in writing and a Master’s degree in history. He’s lived in many places—Florida, New York, California, Ontario, Canada, and now Arizona. He started writing seriously around 1978. Since then, he’s written The Healer, plus seven novels of science fiction, fantasy, horror, as well as numerous short stories. Jeffrey says he’s attracted to the weird & unexplainable; he wrote his master’s thesis on the lost continent of Atlantis.

Now, the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

Jeffrey G. Roberts: I started writing in college, Northern Arizona University. I simply have a creative imagination. My Dad did too, as he wrote for radio just after WW II. I like to create worlds that do not exist – but might; characters that are not yet in existence – but could be; and situations that never happened – but someday could. A writer is like a god – creating, destroying, altering, then creating again. I often wondered, in my overactive imagination, if, when I go to sleep at night, if my characters keep looking at their watches, frozen in time, waiting for the morning, when their creator will breathe life into them once again—to move, to love—to be!

 P.S.: On your website, you list some of your favorite authors as Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, Arthur C. Clarke, James Thurber, Thornton Wilder, and H.G. Wells. If you could pick just two or three of these, what do you like about their fiction and how did they influence you?

J.G.R.: I’ve always admired Ray Bradbury for his surrealism and child-like fantasies, such as Dandelion Wine and The Halloween Tree. He explores that twilight world between dreams and reality, which I love. Douglas Adams, in his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, was a brilliant comedic wit, who I try to emulate in my work.

P.S.: When and why did you begin writing fiction?

J.G.R.: I dabbled in story writing in Junior college, but really began to explore my abilities when I attended Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, AZ, where I eventually received a degree in writing.

P.S.: You’ve written some stories utilizing time travel, notably your novels The Healer and Cherries in Winter. What fascinates you about time travel?

J.G.R.: What might be, what could be; either in the distant future, or in an alternative future where everything has changed from what we know—like the American flag being red, white—and green; or interstellar travel as perfectly normal in 2017; or the geographical boundaries of nations are completely different than when we left on our journey of discovery—these are ideas and concepts which fascinate me, and whose depths I delight in plumbing.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

J.G.R.: For me, the easiest part of writing, ironically, is the writing process itself. The most difficult, undoubtedly, is the tortuous process of self promoting my novels and stories. It’s like blood-letting of the creative soul.

P.S.: Your story “One Day in the Hills of Milan” will appear in the upcoming anthology Dark Luminous Wings. Please tell us about it.

J.G.R.: I’ve always been deeply involved in the love of aviation. My Dad was a decorated ace in WW II, flying Spitfires, as an American in the RAF. So I guess I got the flying bug from him; soloing in 1968. And I’d always been fascinated by the fact that history has never been able to conclusively prove 100%, that Leonardo da Vinci did not fly his man-powered glider. Some accounts say his assistant actually did, breaking both kneecaps upon landing. And I thought – what if?

P.S.: What inspired you to write “One Day in the Hills of Milan?”

J.G.R.: The genius of Da Vinci has always fascinated me. How could he have been centuries ahead of his time? Perhaps he had ‘help?’

P.S.: In what way is your fiction different from that of other authors?

J.G.R.: At the risk of sounding conceited, I never start a story or new novel, if I know the concept has already been done. If it has, I tweak it, I twist it, and I present in an entirely new light; i.e., I try to march to the beat of a different drummer, creatively speaking.

P.S.: You have a book coming out titled In the Shadow of the House of God. When will it launch and what is it about?

J.G.R.: It will be out in May of 2018. Hatred has run amuck in our civilization. Blood is being shed planet-wide, as mutual animosities, suspicions, and antagonisms between the 34,000 religions on Earth (believe it or not!) threaten to erupt into Armageddon. And this is where the Devil devises an insidious plan to take advantage of all this hate, once and for all! So he makes a wager with God: “I believe humanity is basically vulgar, vicious, and filled with wondrous hate. I’ll wager, if you pluck one representative of every religion on Earth, and put them into a titanic edifice of your own design, beyond space and time, then eventually this beautiful hatred will cause them to slaughter each other!” God thinks for a moment—and accepts the wager! But every wager has a condition, or price. The stakes here? Creation itself! But there is something the Devil does not know. And for 3 people: a Hindu from India, A Christian from San Diego, and a bitter agnostic from Vancouver, B.C., what plays out in this interdimensional arena will forge lasting friendships—as the Devil and God look down on this cosmic chess match, to observe what happens next. A new age of peace? Or hell on Earth?

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

J.G.R.: I am currently working on another novel, The Horror on the HMS Cottingly.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Jeffrey G. Roberts: My advice for aspiring writers is: A – have patience; B – Develop a thick skin, able to take rejection (Something I have to work on daily!); and C – Persistence. Someone once said that to be a successful writer, an aspiring author should go out and buy all the books on the art of writing you can; study them all—them throw them in the garbage! Because if you follow their advice to the letter, do you know what your book will be—bloodless, with no soul, no color, no voice. Your voice! Your style! How many writers in the past broke many literary rules? Writers like Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Bradbury. But in so doing, they developed their own voice & style. Learn your craft well – then develop your own voice!

 

Thanks for winging your way here, Jeffrey! Though his plane has been fueled and is taking off, readers can find out more about him at his website, on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn. His novel The Healer is available here, here, and here, and you can watch a trailer video here (or here on some browsers). His novel Cherries in Winter is available here, here, and here. You can watch its trailer video here.

Poseidon’s Scribe

Author Interview — Gregory Norris

Recently, author Gregory L. Norris stopped by my sprawling complex here at Poseidon’s Scribe Enterprises, and I took the opportunity to interview him. After all, (like me), he has a story appearing in the upcoming anthology In a Cat’s Eye.

norris-photo-1Gregory is a full-time professional writer being romanced by his muse. He has thousands of publication credits to his credit, most in national magazines and fiction anthologies. A former writer at Sci Fi magazine, he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and he’s the author of The Q Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He’s had two paranormal romance novels reprinted as special editions by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape with Romance” segment – the first time HSN has offered novels. He has fiction forthcoming from Cleis Press, STARbooks, Evil Jester Press, The Library of Horror, Simon and Shuster, and Pill Hill Press. Gregory judged the 2013 Lambda Awards for excellence in GLBT writing in the SF/F/H category. In 2014, Gregory was hired as screenwriter on two feature films, including the terrifying horror movie, Brutal Colors. Twice, his short stories have notched Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best anthologies. Norris lives in and writes from the mountains of New Hampshire, in a beautiful old New Englander house called Xanadu. His career has been featured numerous times in print interviews, on radio, and on television.

 

Now, the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

norris-photo-2Gregory L. Norris: I grew up in a tiny, enchanted cottage situated between a lake and vast, dark woods, and was raised on a healthy diet of creature double features and classic SF/Horror TV—shows like Dark Shadows, Lost in Space, and, especially, Gerry Anderson’s deep space parable, Space:1999. The morning following the premiere of the latter, I picked up my pen, put it to paper, and wrote the first of my stories, which are still archived in my filing cabinets. I was ten-years-old then, and dabbled with writing stories, novellas, even a novel, up until I was fifteen. That summer, sadly moved from the enchanted house to a suburban neighborhood, I began work on a novel that featured my few friends as the lead characters. Those friends took stabs at writing their own stories, but stopped after the first few pages—some, following a couple of paragraphs. But they all held onto my tale, wanting to know what happened next. On a sleepover on a muggy July night, possessed by the muse, my pen tore across the page to THE END of that novel. I was so filled with an emotion I now think of as eight-pointed stars—inspiration—that I picked up the pen in my exhausted hand and started work on another story. I knew then how much I loved writing. Nearly 1200 short stories, novellas, novels, and screen- and teleplays later…

P.S.: What authors most influenced you? What are a few of your favorite books?

G.L.N.: As a young reader, I absolutely loved—and still adore—Edgar Allen Poe. And it’s been my pleasure to be published alongside him in two anthologies by the fine folks at Firbolg Publishing. To this day, I can still recite his brilliant ‘Lenore” by memory. I also loved the Dark Shadows novels by Marilyn Ross (a pseudonym for author Edward Daniel Ross). I have most of them, hand-me-downs from an uncle, in the bookcase in my Writing Room as we speak. These days, I’m influenced by my talented contemporaries. On Tuesday nights, I am blessed to sit in a conference room in my downtown and listen to my fellow creatives read their newest pages in the weekly writers’ group I helped found. Last year, I devoured author Roxanne Dent’s novel, The Janus Demon, and loved it so much that when I was done I started again with Chapter One—a highly recommended joyride of a read. Anything by Roxanne and her sister Karen Dent is a joy for the senses.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

G.L.N.: I write full-time, and learned a looooong time ago how important it is to be organized. For instance, at the end of every workday I make sure to carry my coffee cup out to the kitchen sink. Mentally, when I enter my Writing Room the following day, it’s clean, organized, and welcoming me to sit and write without distraction. I’ve cleared most distraction from my home and work life as well. When I travel to retreats—I leave on October 12 for my sixth of 2016 to a luxury retreat center for writers in Vermont—I make sure that my Writing Room is immaculate and will welcome me home to continue the good work I’ve done on the road. Difficult? Years ago, I realized how important it is to get out of one’s way, to not make excuses, to just dive in and write. And to love the process. That, to me, is the easiest. I love to write. I love my stories. They’re my babies, and even the homeliest among them is a joy and I am devoted to giving them all, at the very least, a first draft, a life, even if that life is only lived to THE END in the confines of my home office and not out in the publishing universe. Granted, they howl at me in the night, all of them (at this point, as I type these words, 107 of the little incomplete bastages, all demanding my attention).

norris-photo-3P.S.: From your website it seems you mostly write horror. What other genres have you written in, and which one is your favorite?

G.L.N.: I do write a lot of horror. I love the genre, and all its sub-genres—tales of giant monsters, SF Horror, ghost stories, grand guignol, the quiet chill. But I write and publish everything, including Mystery, SF, Fantasy, Romance, Erotic Romance, Literary/Mainstream. Even Westerns! I used to say I despised Westerns, because when I was a kid, that’s what came on after the creature features. Then in 2013, I was hospitalized for five days with a cyst, and the only things on the TV during the wasteland of daytime television were classic Westerns. I wrote in my hospital bed with those Westerns playing in the background, and left the hospital with a chunk of fresh pages as well as three ideas for Westerns, all of which have been written and sold. As for a favorite, well, like individual stories I don’t have a favorite genre. I love to write, regardless of the particular world my tale is set in.

P.S.: In what way is your fiction different from that of other authors in your main genre?

G.L.N.: I suppose the easy answer is my point of view, my creativity. Every year at this time, our writers’ group is given a half-dozen prompts to write from for our Halloween meeting. If the prompt is, say, “Jack O’Lanterns,” well, my story is going to be different from the dozen others shared that night. I write mostly without fear, write what I want to write, and write with that same rush of inspiration I so remember from that July night when I was fifteen. It has, knock on wood (in this case, my desk—the dining room table we ate upon in my boyhood enchanted cottage, which was given to me when I was fifteen and confessed I wanted to be a writer to my mother), stayed with me past my fiftieth year.

P.S.: How long have you been writing full-time? (So few authors are able to!)

G.L.N.: I’ve been writing full-time since 1995, when I was hired to write sports/adventure stories for the late, great Heartland USA magazine. Over my twenty years with that publication, I traveled to the X-Games, covered Building Demolition, and interviewed tons of celebrities and sports stars. I also wrote for the Sci Fi Channel’s official publication, did articles for Soap Opera Update, Cinescape, and a significant number of national newsstand publications. At a buck a word, it was easy to write full-time. When those magazines went away, I focused on my short stories and novels, along with the occasional screenplay. I never forgot a golden bit of wisdom by author Grace Paley when she was asked the secret to writing full-time: “Low overhead,” she answered. We bought a fixer-upper and fixed her up and have no mortgage, and, through hard work and determination, have paid off all our other bills, so when writing work comes in, which it does constantly, we’re able to enjoy it, such as in the form of those six writing retreats in 2016—which included two trips to Vermont, one to the slopes of Mount Monadnock, and one to the Isles of Shoals.

P.S.: What was it like to do some screenwriting for the Star Trek Voyager series? How was writing for TV different from, and similar to, writing for the book format?

G.L.N.: Voyager was a trip! I must have pitched over a hundred ideas to nail the two. The second, which became the fifth-season episode “Gravity”, came as a result of, exhausted to the point of passing out on the night before one of those pitch meetings with Paramount, dreaming about members of the crew being stranded inside a gravity well. I woke up, jotted the notes down, and pitched it that same day. Two weeks later, it was contracted for and became the episode featuring the back-story of Tuvok, the ship’s Vulcan tactical officer. Screenwriting is another personality of writing—skeletal framework, mostly dialogue and action. While on the island retreat in early September, I belted out thirty pages of a mystery screenplay that I hope to wrap in Vermont during this coming week.

P.S.: What are the predominant themes in your fiction?

G.L.N.: That’s a very good question. So good that I struggled to come up with a clear answer. If anything, I would say that in my Science Fiction, there is wonder for the vastness of the cosmos. In my Horror, the elegant stroke of fear along the spine, which I so remember from my boyhood spent on Saturday afternoons in front of the big, boxy TV set hooked up to rabbit ears. There were days when, following movies like Attack of the Mushroom People or Majin, Monster of Terror that I was too freaked to go outside and play. And the rest of the time in my work, I hope the theme, whether in romance or erotica or any other genre, is Love.

catseye_final-72dpiP.S.: Your story, “The Neighbors’ Cat,” will appear in the anthology In a Cat’s Eye. Please tell us about it.

G.L.N.: In May, I flew out to Hollywood to attend the Roswell Awards, where my short story “Mandered” won Honorable Mention. It’s a big deal—at the Roswells, winners see their stories staged by famous actors of Film and TV. At one point, I was on stage with Dee Wallace and Jasika Nicole, who we loved on Fringe. I departed early on a Saturday morning. That morning, a neighbor’s cat was parked outside my sun porch door, harassing our two cats. We love cats. That neighbor, not so much. So I remarked, “Even their cat’s an a-hole.” ZING! By the time I landed in Hollywood and was at my hotel, an entire story developed. I put pen to page and belted out the first half of a story in which a neighbor’s cat brings warning of the nefarious goings-on in the house next door.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

G.L.N.: I am, today, hopefully putting the final words down on a Space:1999 fan fiction story called “The Tomorrows” which has seriously challenged my German heritage—we’re not supposed to cry, and I’ve blubbed nonstop since starting this novella, which I wrote to read at my September 18th wedding (we had a very short ceremony, followed by an amazing all-day writers’ group salon). I’ve got various projects lined up to take with me to Vermont, including short stories and the mystery screenplay, and then I’m using November to commit to National Novel Writing Month—my goal is to write an SF novel I’ve been invited to submit to a publisher. I’ll use December to focus on short fiction and to wrap up my 2016 (my goal is to complete everything I began this year, and not send a single project to the Works-in-Progress drawer of my filing cabinets). In January of 2017, I’ll begin work on a novelization of a Gerry Anderson made-for-TV movie that I’ve been hired to pen from the original screenplay.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Gregory L. Norris: Write from the heart, and with all your heart. Love the process—it will translate onto the page to your readers. Don’t assume writing is easy; it isn’t. But like any passion that is spun into a trade, the ‘work’ part fades, and it becomes a calling. As for rejection, we all get passes and passed over. It’s part of the process. I always, always assume the story or novel or script I’ve just hit ‘send’ on is going to get rejected. And when they don’t, when they bring home their contracts, I’m overjoyed. My formula for success is as follows: Write, Finish, Polish, Submit. Grow up and mature as writers, but never grow old.

 

Thanks for stopping by, Gregory! Readers can learn more about Gregory L. Norris and his stories at his website or on Facebook.

Poseidon’s Scribe

October 14, 2016Permalink

Author Interview — M.J. Ritchie

Today I’m pleased to present my interview with M. J. Ritchie, another author with a story in the anthology Hides the Dark Tower.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]A lover of words, and things that go bump in the night, M. J. Ritchie’s been writing since the age of nine. She has degrees in business from Drexel University and Johns Hopkins University with experience in everything from accounting to sales. As a faculty associate at The Johns Hopkins University Carey School of Business, she has helped graduate students learn the intricacies of business processes and organizational change. In her consulting practice, she works with organizations to improve performance. Writing fiction indulges her desire to play god on a small scale. She hopes her writing will educate, entertain, or inspire her readers. She’s married and lives in Maryland. Visit her at www.mjritchie.com.

Now for the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: When and why did you begin writing fiction?

M.J. Ritchie: Ever since I learned to talk I’ve had a love of words and language. I began writing poetry at the age of nine and have written in various forms for my own enjoyment throughout my life. I began writing fiction with an eye toward publication a little more than a decade ago. At the time, I was working as an independent consultant on a variety of systems projects in which the only project variable that didn’t change was my deadline. Writing fiction appealed to me because it allowed me to play god on a small scale, to be the one in control. I’ve since learned that playing god isn’t easy.

P.S.: Who are some of your influences? What are a few of your favorite books?

M.J.R.: To this day, I remember the plight of the land turtle crossing the road, so vividly described in The Grapes of Wrath. I think I read that book in high school. It was my introduction to Steinbeck, who devoted a chapter to that one scene. That book made me aware of what good fiction could be and do. I made it a point to read all of Steinbeck’s works available to me at the time. I also enjoy the psychological horror of Shirley Jackson, as exemplified in “The Lottery” and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I’ve written an homage piece to “The Lottery,” which I hope to get published. I love the Irish short stories of Frank O’Connor, and Frederick Busch’s “Ralph the Duck,” a study in understated writing that packs a wallop. I love the beautiful simplicity of children’s stories. The Velveteen Rabbit and Charlotte’s Web with their life lessons are favorites. I enjoy reading poetry too, especially when I’ve hit a writing wall. Poetry has an evocative effect that helps me work through a stumbling block.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

M.J.R.: I don’t know that any aspect of writing is easy for me. Like Dorothy Parker, I “hate writing, but love having written.” That being said, I can’t imagine not writing. One of my biggest writing challenges is to write multi-sensory descriptions without having them seem appendages to the scene. I admire those who write scenes so that you can smell the coffee, or the manure; hear the wind or see the room and its garish furnishings. I struggle with that.

P.S.: Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

M.J.R.: Anywhere and everywhere: My own life experiences, watching people, eavesdropping, reading articles. Every once in a while, an idea just pops into my head.

P.S.: What is the primary genre you enjoy writing in? What interests you about that genre?

M.J.R.: To be honest, I don’t know that I have espoused a genre. I’m still flirting with different types of stories. I enjoy writing stories that entail elements of tragedy, lives gone awry, darkness, the supernatural, mysterious events, adversity. I have a curiosity about things that we can’t see or explain. I also am awed by people who, despite misfortune, somehow survive, succeed.

P.S.: In what way is your fiction different from that of other authors in your genre?

M.J.R.: This is a difficult question to answer because my writing is not specific to a genre. I’m interested in character and what motivates people to do what they do. I like exploring how people react to life events. Many of my stories involve a death of some kind. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve experienced the death of loved ones that I’m drawn to that topic or not, but I have a certain fascination with the subject. I also am a great admirer of the human spirit and its resilience, so my stories, though sometimes dark, are usually hopeful.

P.S.: What is your favorite story that you have written? Can you tell us a little about it?

M.J.R.: My favorite story is my novel, Emily’s Child, which is about a happily married couple whose world shatters when their eight-year- old son dies. Each grieves the loss of their son, but in different ways.

The husband, Tony, juggles the increasing demands of work, while tending to his grief. His position as the lead architect on a major project keeps him away from home and his wife, Emily. The stakes are high—this is the career opportunity of a lifetime.

When a project of her own falls through because of a trusted colleague’s betrayal, Emily feels increasingly lost and adrift. She begins acting strangely. An accident causes a psychotic break, and she is hospitalized. Here, she must unearth and confront her past.

This story of a young woman’s confrontation with death and her past is also a study of human relations. The story explores the ways that people cope with loss—some healthy, some not, and the strain that such loss places on relationships. Childhood trauma, betrayal, and mental illness are also potent themes of the novel.

P.S.: Your story in Hides the Dark Tower is “Soul for Sale,” a haunting tale of the value of that thing one shouldn’t offer on an online auction site. What prompted you to write it?

M.J.R.: Several years ago I read an article about the bizarre items people were auctioning on eBay. I remember thinking at the time that the theme might make for a good story. This idea resurfaced when I saw the submission guidelines for the Hides the Dark Tower anthology. I’ve been to the Yucatan and thought that it would be a good setting for “Soul for Sale,” which tells the tale of atheist Nicholas Marsden who sells his soul—something he doesn’t even believe he possesses—on eBay to a wealthy, attractive buyer for whom money is no object. The buyer’s sole condition of purchase is that Nicholas accompany her to Mexico on an all-expense paid trip. Such a deal, right? At the outset, Nicholas finds the whole arrangement amusing, as well as lucrative. He soon discovers, however, that this venture may involve a high price—to him.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

M.J.R.: I’m currently writing a story with the working title “Semper Fi” that’s about the casualties of war. A couple loses their only son, a young Marine, in the war in Iraq. The fallout of this terrible loss is their relationship with each other. Marva, the wife, who did not want her son to join the military in the first place, handles her grief by building a wall around her emotions. She is unavailable to her husband, Jude, who consequently enters into a brief relationship outside the marriage. Marva has to decide on how to move through her grief and whether she can forgive her husband.

My research for this story renewed my appreciation for our military and the sacrifices they and their families make. We need to remember that their sacrifices enable our freedom and the lifestyle we enjoy. While we sit eating dinner or watching TV, people are putting their lives on the line for us. No one returns home from war the same. Not all wounds are visible. These days, it’s all too easy to forget that we are indeed the “home of the free because of the brave.” We have to honor and value our veterans.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

M.J. Ritchie: My advice to aspiring writers and to anyone pursuing something that matters to them is to keep at it and to listen to your intuition or gut. Quiet your internal critic as best you can and don’t set up imagined obstacles for yourself such as I’m too old, too young, not smart enough, not talented enough, not whatever enough. Focus on what matters to you. Write what you enjoy writing. I have a saying hanging in my office: Dum spiro, spero. While I breathe I hope. Do the work, put it out there, and hope for the best. Save your old stuff—your rejected work that never saw the light of day. When you become famous, everybody will want to publish it. And if possible, join a solid writers group. My own group has been an invaluable source of knowledge and encouragement. They’ve kept me going when I might have given up otherwise.

Thank you, M.J.!

Readers inspired to find out more about her can visit her author website at www.mjritchie.com.

Poseidon’s Scribe

Author Interview—Andrew Gudgel

Today I’m happy to welcome another fellow author who contributed a story to the Hides the Dark Tower anthology. It’s Andrew Gudgel, science fiction author, Chinese poetry translator, and a past winner of the Writers of the Future contest.

Andy GudgelHere’s the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

Andrew Gudgel: I got interested in writing in high school–essays, poetry, stories. You name it, I tried writing it. I wrote a lot, all the way up through college. Then I went and joined the Army. For ten-plus years I did other things. Fortunately, writing was still waiting for me when I came back.

P.S.: Who are some of your influences? What are a few of your favorite books?

A.G.: I’m not sure I could nail it down to just a couple of authors because I feel a writer should be influenced by all the things he or she reads. But just to pick an example at random: Jorge Luis Borges’ “Ficciones.” He wrote such interesting stories, not only in terms of theme, but in style. Reviews of books that don’t exist. Descriptions of infinite libraries. Fictional worlds that become real and begin invading ours. Borges made me aware of possibilities in fiction that I’d never imagined existed.

I also think a writer–any writer–should read broadly in categories outside his or her preferred genre of writing, and for pleasure as much as for writerly education. For example, I read as much poetry and as many essays as I can, simply because I enjoy both.

P.S.: You recently completed a graduate degree at St. John’s College in their Great Books program. How has that affected your fiction writing?

A.G.: One of the best things about St. John’s is that you read the Classics in philosophy, religion, science, literature, politics, society and history. You learn that there are questions and themes that are eternal in literature and in life. (Plus it gives you plenty of neat ideas and material to snitch for use in your own stories.) It affected my fiction writing by making me more focused on character and what happens inside each and every one of us as we move through life. SF has the advantage that you can create situations and characters that don’t (or don’t yet) exist, which allows you to explore your characters and the human condition in ways other genres simply can’t.

P.S.: Your primary genre is SF, correct? How did you become interested in writing in that genre?

A.G.: I do primarily write SF, but will follow a story wherever it leads me, be that SF, fantasy or literary. I fell in love with SF early on–my father used to read Ray Bradbury stories to me and my brother on summer nights when we were little. And when I read H. Beam Piper’s “Space Viking,” it made enough of an impression that I still remember it, forty-odd years later. Plus I’ve always been fascinated by science, technology, and gadgets.

P.S.: What other authors influenced your writing?

A.G.: In terms of science fiction, Ray Bradbury, William Gibson, Charlie Stross, and Robert Heinlein. As for prose style, Seneca and Sir Francis Bacon. Both were writers of the short, pithy sentences I aspire to.

P.S.: In what way is your fiction different from that of other SF authors?

A.G.: I’m very interested in the human/character side of SF: how we interact with technology, how we’ll be different/the same in the future. I hear about these cool–but true–uses of technology that are completely unexpected, and that gets me excited and fired up to write. For example, in India, a tech company is using hand-woven silk strips for their diabetic test kits because it’s cheaper than imported plastic. That’s a low-tech/high-tech solution. Low tech in that it’s local weavers and hand-made fabric. High tech in that it’s a creative human solution to a pressing problem. When I write, I try to concentrate as much people on and how they solve their problems as on the technology itself.

P.S.: In Hides the Dark TowerPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001], your story is “The Long Road Home,” an exciting story involving an immense alien tower. Can you tell us about the protagonist?

A.G.: Wang Haimei is a “Tower Diver,” a person who uses parachutes and hydrogen balloons to explore the inside of a hollow building that’s ten-thousand stories tall. There’s nothing left of the aliens who inhabited the tower, except for the very rare artifact which makes the finder instantly (and incredibly) wealthy. Haimei has just the right combination of meticulous attention to detail, love of adventure, and desire to get rich that all true tower-divers have. But she lost her fiancé, Moustafa, in a tower-diving accident a year ago, and this trip is her first one back since then. When a jealous competitor sabotages her gear, Haimei decides to try and walk back up to the exit at the top of the tower, even though she knows she’ll die long before she gets there. She discovers a kind of quiet courage that keeps her from giving up. As she walks, she discovers she’s being followed—perhaps by an alien that’s remained behind, perhaps by the shade of one long gone. She comes to appreciate the company, though, and uses the time spent walking to come to terms with death–both Moustafa’s and hers.

P.S.: In addition to writing fiction, you translate Chinese poetry. Have you found that your translation work improves your writing of stories in English, or is there no connection between these pursuits?

A.G.: I’ve found that translating, and translating poetry, has had a big influence on my writing. Knowing another language lets you see the world in different ways and makes you aware of connections you might never have thought of. For example, in Chinese nouns have measure words. (They’re roughly equivalent to the word “cup” in “one cup of coffee.”) But every noun has a measure word in Chinese, and they’re often reused. Which groups nouns into “categories.” Snakes and rivers use the same measure word; clouds and flower blossoms share one, too; so there’s a linguistic relation between certain nouns in Chinese that doesn’t exist in English. Being able to see—and make—new connections has made my writing richer. And poetry is a compact, image-rich art form that requires you to pack a lot into a small space. Perfect for learning both imagery and economy of words.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

A.G.: I’ve got a couple of irons in the fire right now—revisions, that sort of thing. The one I’m currently working on is an alien invasion novel/novella, which focuses on different peoples’ experiences of the event, and in which the aliens are only ever glimpsed at. I was inspired by the fact that you never see the whole shark until near the end of “Jaws.” So the glimpses the characters get throughout the story—are they the aliens or just alien technology? I was also very interested on the effect of such as big disaster would have on people—both as individuals and in groups—and not making the aliens central to the story allows me to focus more on that aspect.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Andrew Gudgel: I’m a big fan of aphorisms and mottoes, so I’ll keep it short:

  1. Nulla dies sine linea — Pliny (“No day without a line” i.e. write something every day.)
  2. Read as broadly as possible.
  3. If you try, you might fail. But if you never try, you’ve failed already.
  4. As long as it fits the guidelines, don’t self-reject a piece by not submitting it.
  5. Write, submit, repeat as necessary.

These are all the old saws, but there’s a reason they’re still around: they work.

 

Thanks, Andrew! All my readers will want to surf over to your website to learn more about you.

Poseidon’s Scribe

January 24, 2016Permalink

Author Interview—Robert E. Waters

Another fellow author from the Hides the Dark Tower anthology has consented to an interview. It’s interesting how that anthology gathered so many incredible writers together. Today, please welcome Robert E. Waters.

Robert E WatersRobert E. Waters is a science fiction and fantasy writer. Since 1994, he has worked in the computer and board gaming industry as technical writer, editor, designer, and producer. His first professional fiction publication came in 2003 with the story “The Assassin’s Retirement Party,” Weird Tales, Issue #332. Since then he has sold stories to Nth Degree, Nth Zine, Black Library Publishing (Games Workshop), Dark Quest Books, Padwolf Publishing, Mundania Press, and Rogue Blades Entertainment. Between the years of 1998 – 2006, he also served as an assistant editor to Weird Tales, and is still a frequent contributor to Tangent Online, a short fiction review site. Robert currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife Beth, their son Jason, and their cat Buzz.

And now, the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

Robert E. Waters: At a very early age, I was interested in story. My grandfather used to tell me stories he made up on the fly. One of my favorites were his “Quirrel the Squirrel” stories, and I’ve considered putting them down on paper and getting an artist to draw them. Perhaps someday I will. I was also into horror movies when I was a kid, and even though I’d have terrible nightmares after seeing the movies, I kept coming back to them. So I’ve always had this thing about story, about strange, fantastic stories in particular. And that early interest eventually led to me to writing my own stories by the time I was twelve.

P.S.: Who are some of your influences? What are a few of your favorite books?

R.E.W.: My early influences were Robert Sheckley, Clifford Simak, and Robert Silverberg, just to name a few. Specifically, science fiction authors (or those authors more commonly associated with SF) have had the biggest influence on my writing, although I must say that the first time I read JRR Tolkien, I was paralyzed with awe. The years, unfortunately, have not been as kind to me when it comes to Tolkien’s staying power. Don’t get me wrong: He’s a terrific author, but his writing style, his manner of dialog, his pacing, etc. have not had the long-term effect on my own work that other writers have had. And some of my favorite books are not SF/Fantasy at all. My favorite novel ever is TC Boyle’s Water Music. It’s in my opinion, a tour de force of stylistic prose genius. It literally took me six months to read anything else afterwards because everything I read thereafter just could not compare. Other novels in the SF/Fantasy genre that I have always considered my favorites include Orson Scott Cards Ender’s Game, Sheckley’s Dimensions of Miracles, Walter John Williams’ Metropolitan, and of course George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Oh, and let’s throw in Glen Cook’s Black Company series for good measure. His and Martin’s fantasy are the kind I like the most; grittier and more realistic.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

R.E.W.: The easiest part for me is getting into the emotions and personal interactions of the characters. Once I have a good idea of who a character is, how he/she needs to react, their background, their personal relationships with other characters, etc. I can put them into pretty compelling situations. The hardest for me is keeping my prose tight. I have a tendency to meander into backstory. I seize on a nugget of a character’s backstory that I particularly like and want to share it with the audience, even though it has no relevance whatsoever with the story at hand. So I have to be mindful of how much superfluous flummery I am putting into a story.

P.S.: How would you describe the genre or style of the stories you write? Any common themes?

R.E.W.: Well, my genre is almost always science fiction and/or fantasy. It’s funny, but I find that I can write fantasy better than SF, even though I prefer SF when it comes to reading. And no, I really don’t have many common themes, although I do love the character who prevails in the face of insurmountable odds. I like a flawed character, not one who has the right answer for every situation, says the right things every time. I like characters that have to fight to achieve their glory, and I don’t mind a character stumbling into victory, so long as it’s an honest stumble.

P.S.: What sets your stories apart from those of other authors who write in your genre(s)?

R.E.W.: This is a tough question and one that I’ve never given much thought to. But I like to think that my stories bring some real humanity to my characters. I try to create believable characters for my stories, people that the reader can relate to in some way or another. A lot of authors do this, certainly, but oftentimes characters in SF are defined more by the gadgets they carry and not the content of their hearts. George RR Martin is often fond of quoting William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize speech: The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself. There’s a lot of truth to that in writing fiction.

P.S.: You spent several years as an assistant editor of the renowned magazine Weird Tales. How did that editorial experience affect your writing?

R.E.W.: My experience at Weird Tales was a huge factor in my writing. One of my jobs there was reading the slush pile. Stacks of stories would be put in front of me and I’d have to read them all and decide if they were good enough to be pushed up the editorial line, or should they be rejected. Doing this over and over helps in a couple important ways: First, you see errors in the stories that you are doing in your own writing, and second, it humbly reminds you that you are one in hundreds of people trying to get published. I came out of that experience ten times a better writer then when I went in, and I highly recommend to anyone who gets the opportunity to read slush to do it, even if you don’t get paid.

P.S.: You wrote “The People’s Avenger” for Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]Hides the Dark Tower. Can you tell us the backstory for this tale?

R.E.W.: The main character in “The People’s Avenger” is Nalo Thoran, a hired assassin who works the streets of Korsham City. A thief by the name of Falco Creed has come to Korsham to find and steal back an ancient artifact that holds cultural significance to his people. The artifact had become a spoil of war taken by the Korsham army in battle against the Brenian’s of the south. The story revolves around their cat-and-mouse chase through the dark, dank streets of Korsham, as Nalo tries to kill the thief, and Falco tries to stay alive.

P.S.: That’s not your only story featuring the character Nalo Thoran. You’ve written several others. Please describe him. Do you intend to combine those stories in a series?

R.E.W.: Nalo Thoran was once a simple urban boy living in the streets of Korsham City. During one of Korsham’s wars against the southern kingdom of Brenia, he was pressed into the army and forced to serve as an assistant to a quartermaster. On a quiet, foggy morning in the midst of this war, he was lured to a waterfall by a beautiful singing voice. There he met Tish, the Mistress of Kalloshin, The Seething Dark Eternalness, the Paton Saint of Assassins, who bathed with him and stole his soul. Nalo was immediately transported to the assassin’s guild in Korsham, where he has served and killed for Kalloshin for decades. But he’s not a happy warrior in this secret war. He serves his master’s purposes, but he hates every minute of it, dreaming of a time when he can be free to live his own life, or to die. Either end game is acceptable to him.

To date, I have published five Nalo Thoran stories. I have a couple more scheduled for publication in the next year, and someday I hope to combine them all in a series, or as a collection.

Wayward EightP.S.: You’ve just had your first novel published, The Wayward Eight: A Contract to Die For. Can you tell us about it briefly? Do you think you’ll write more novels, or go back to short stories?

R.E.W.: The Wayward Eight is a weird wild west novel set in the miniatures game universe Wild West Exodus. The story revolves around a mercenary unit known as the Wayward Eight, led by ex-Confederate officer Captain Markus Wayward. He and his gang of killers have been hired by the Union to find and assassinate the known mad scientist Doctor Carpathian, who has come to America from Europe to create and lead an undead army to crush the Union and all others that may stand in his way. But there are other mercenaries on the hunt for Carpathian as well, and Markus Wayward and his crew find the way fraught with difficulty.

And yes, I do plan to write other novels. There are plans for at least one more novel set in the Wild West Exodus universe, and two other novels which I cannot provide many details about as of yet. But I also plan to work on short stories as well as the opportunities arise. I get invites to anthologies from time to time and I am a frequent contributor to Eric Flint’s online magazine, The Grantville Gazette, which publishes stories set in his 1632/Ring of Fire alternate history series. I’m keeping busy.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

R.E.W.: I recently finished a short story set in my Devil Dancers military SF series. The Devil Dancers are Apache fighter pilots engaged in an alien war with the Gulo, a wolverine-like race that threatens to conquer all of human space. I have published three stories so far in the series, with three more pending publication. In these stories I explore Native American culture and spiritualism, and try to address issues of both peace and war, and what is the price to preserve and wage both. My latest story is “The First Peace,” which is a title inspired by a bit of philosophy from Black Elk: “The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that its center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Robert E. Waters: Robert A Heinlein’s advice is still relevant today. To be a professional writer you must: Write, you must finish what you write, and you must put on the market your finished stories. Good advice then, good advice today. Another thing I’d recommend is to study history and science. It’s amazing how many ideas you can come up with by reading accounts of historical events. I recently wrote a story called “Mungo Snead’s Last Stand” which is another weird wild west story that will be in the Weird Wild West Anthology from e-Spec Books later this year, and the events in that story were inspired by my reading of the Rorke’s Drift battle of the Zulu Wars. The inspiration behind my Devil Dancers stories is my love of Native American culture and years of study in that field. I find it incredibly hard to just sit down and write. I need an idea solidly in my head before I type the first sentence. So, read history, read science, read about other cultures, and then imagine twists to apply to those events that will give you story ideas.

 

Thanks, Robert! My readers can find out even more about author Robert E. Waters at his website.

Poseidon’s Scribe

December 5, 2015Permalink