Visit the next author installment here: Lynne Stringer
Did you always want to be a writer or did you kind of fall into it? Tell us the story of how you came to identify yourself as a writer.
I was a sickly kid, getting pneumonia every winter for several years in a row. At that time, I was in an oxygen tent and what I could have with me was very limited, so I read when I was well enough. I fell in love with the classics of the golden age of science fiction. Asimov’s Robots and Foundation books allowed my mind to escape and provided hope. I developed a great respect for those who could create stories from their own minds, and I began writing my own. Recently, my mom found some of my earliest stuff I’d handwritten, and they were just as awful as you’d expect from a child of eight or so, but I had big ideas.
Once I got into high school, one of my teachers had us write a journal, about anything you wanted to write about, but we had to write every day. I decided to write a Buck Rogers type story, with spaceships and blasters and robots, oh my. My teacher encouraged me to continue writing, and I have been off and on ever since.
As a writer, are you a reader? What genres do you read and do you read more frequently in the genre you write in, or avoid it completely?
I like to read science fiction and fantasy for the most part, and I make it a point to read other independent authors because I see more “cutting edge” stories from them that don’t follow a specific pattern. As an author I have limited patience for “formula stories” where an author writes the same story over and over again just changing details or names, and some of the big-name authors fall into this category, but I won’t name names!
Tell us about your first writing experience. How does that compare to where you are now?
I’ll start with the first novel I wrote when I was in my early twenties. At that time, I thought I knew what made a good story and wrote a great deal of narrative, little dialog, and minimal humor. Thirty years later, I love to write dialog and try to make the narrative as minimal as possible. That and I’ve now embraced my inner jester and always include some scenes just for laughs.
We all know the ‘just write’ memes if you are following any writers page, so apart from that, what’s the best advice you can give to someone new?
Set a goal and stick to it. My goal for this week is to write at least 5000 words, which isn’t a lot compared to what some people write, but I also spend time marketing, editing, and networking as an author, and I’m mentoring three first time authors, so all that takes time too. I’ve fallen into the trap of “I’m halfway done with my book so I need to look for cover ideas” then spend hours on image sites and accomplish nothing. Write the book first. Don’t worry about the cover until you’re doing editing revisions.
What’s your biggest obstacle to writing and how do you overcome it? Most of us know that it is time, so try and let us know when you are best at your writing, and why that doesn’t work, and what you do to counter or overcome that problem.
Probably my biggest obstacle is my own attention span. I’ll be writing one story, then my mind starts to drift into another plotline and I find myself more interested in the second story. I’ll write on it for a while and finally come back to the first story, and by the time I finish a novel I have three others started.
The best thing I’ve found to overcome that is by using a simple calendar and marking on it with Book release date for Kindle, paperback and Audible, and planning it out like a project. I worked for several years as a project manager, so I’m deadline driven.
Self-published or traditionally published? Tell us why that works for you?
I’ve gone the self-published route. I tried the traditional way several times, would submit a story, wait six months for a response, then resubmit it. Meanwhile years are passing and nobody had read anything of mine. After finding some success with anthologies, and through the help of other authors, I learned enough about the business to decide I’m better off on my own.
Here is your chance to plug a book. Tell us about it and why we need to read it?
I’ll tell you a bit about Cold Cosmos, Book One. Idiom Lee is your regular, everyday cowboy/lawyer from 1895 who makes the mistake of getting involved with a woman in trouble who isn’t exactly from around here. As in, she’s an alien shapeshifter from another galaxy. They escape on her ship, run by an A.I. with memory issues, accompanied by a six limbed sloth-cat creature with a severe superiority complex, and they team up with a Shade who looks a lot like a spectre of death, and a rhinoceros-guy with a golden horn and a penchant for smashing heads.
I’d relate this book to Guardians of the Galaxy, Firefly, Farscape as well as some of the classics from the golden age of science fiction. It’s fast paced and filled with action and laughs, and is the first in my latest series, with book two coming out this summer.
Next project? Where are you in your writing journey and where to next for you?
Cold Cosmos Book 2 is going to be my next release, and I’m also working on the final book in the Black Swan Planet trilogy, Black Swan Empire. After that’s done, I’m going to continue with the Cold Cosmos storyline, as I have plans for an unlimited series there – ten books or more. I’m sure I’ll write a few short stories in between as well.
What’s your favourite genre? Tell us about one book from that genre that changed your life or outlook in life?
Science fiction for certain. Foundation by Isaac Asimov was the first book I’d read that had a concept of building something to span thousands of years and I found his concept of psychohistory as ground breaking at the time. That book inspired me to create stories for the next generation.
The most personal question of all, what does writing give you? Why do you do it, what’s the point, and what does it provide in your life that you can’t fulfil by any other means?
I write because I love to do it, and it’s a creative release. My mind creates stories whether I want it to or not. Many nights I’ll wake up from a dream and have some deep, complex idea that I must write down quickly. Some mornings I wake up to find my grand idea was “A man falls in love with his soup”, but once in a while, I’ll find a gem in my scribbles, and I feel like I have to create a story. I’ve had just enough success writing that on occasion I’ll get a message from a reader telling me how much I made them laugh or how they loved my story. That by itself is all the reward I need.
Bonus Questions (If you wrote both, feel free to answer both!)
Non fiction writers
What is the hardest thing you had to learn about putting together a factual book? Talk about how you verify facts, or try to display the information, especially if there are a lot of photos or diagrams. Offer some advice for the audience who might want to try non-fiction.
There is a lot of information about world building, character driven plots, and showing not telling. Discuss briefly how each of the elements of your book came together and which part do you love the most – the world you’ve built, your characters, or the story itself? I know, it’s like picking a favourite child, but give it a try.
I look at world building as creating a set of parameters that I have to work within. For science fiction to be entertaining, we need a way to get from point A to point B quickly enough the characters don’t die during the trip, so that means an FTL (Faster Than Light) drive of some sort. I don’t really care a lot about how it works, but it needs limitations, so I focus on those and how the passage affects the characters. I’m not one to draw up big maps to include in my work like a lot of authors do. If I say it’s a two-week trip, just trust me.
Once that’s done, then I can focus on the character-driven storyline, and that’s what I love to do the most. I write a lot in first person, because then I can describe only what my main character sees, does and understands. I think this makes the action come along quicker, because I can begin a story with them first experiencing something unusual.
When I start a story, I create a “plot-line” as in an outline of the plot points. At this point I might have “They are captured by the enemy, tortured and escape through some cunning plan” and that’s the extent of the detail I have. As I write and the specific details come together, I fill in the blanks. Often times, my characters surprise me with their ingenuity!
To pick a favorite, I’d have to go with the characters. At the end of the day, a well-defined character will be remembered even after the details of the story and world have faded from memory.
About James Peters
James Peters fell in love with Science Fiction at a young age, becoming hooked on the works of Asimov, Anderson, and Pohl (among many others), as well as the mixed bag of anything labeled Science Fiction on television or at the movies while growing up. While in grade school, he was given an assignment to write a journal about anything he wanted. He quickly filled the pages with a Buck Roger’s type adventure of robots, spaceships, and pew-pewing lasers, discovering his inner passion to write.
He writes with a gritty blend of character-driven action, wry humor, and social commentary that transports the reader through wild worlds of speculative fiction and fantasy. He’s known to cross the borders of different genres into new territory, along with an occasional ‘wink and nod’ to pop culture and other authors, then shock the reader with an unexpected turn of events.
Sit back, open your mind and enjoy the ride. Your adventure awaits.