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How long have you been writing for and how much of that time have you spent writing fiction?
I spent thirty-five years as a professor writing papers, proposals, textbooks, and other documents. I retired last year. I started writing science fiction in 2012 at fifty-six years old, with first book Crystal Deception released in 2013, so I am approaching my ten-year anniversary as a genre author.
What’s the average word count for the books you write and how long does it take you to write your average book?
The four books of the Crystal Series range from 96-98K words. The three books of the Bump Time trilogy range from 86-88K words. They each took about fifteen months to write. The Lagrange series I’m working on now will be in the 86-88K word length.
What is your writing routine (Do you have a daily word count goal? Do you write whenever the spirit moves you?)
I get up early and write every morning, 360 days per year. I don’t have a hard goal but tend to write 250-400 finished words a day. I edit as I write, so everything behind me is done and polished, and there are blank pages ahead of me. The upside to this is that from the time I write the last chapter of a book to when it is ready for my beta readers is only about one month. I can appreciate that new authors can get bogged down in editing. But it works for me.
How much do you research for a book before you start writing?
None – I write what I know.
What do you find most difficult about writing a book?
Spelling and grammar. If it weren’t for modern writing tools, my books would be unreadable.
Which of your books are you most proud of and why?
I give my all to every book, and love what I write, otherwise I would change it. So I am equally proud of all my books.
Which self-publishing platform do you like the most and why?
I publish on Amazon only. There is so much to do as an indie author, including publishing, advertising, and social media. I stick with Amazon because about half my readership comes from the Kindle Direct Program (KDP). My current to-do list is overwhelming and adding to it with more platforms is a non-starter at this point.
Would you publish with a traditional publisher if they contacted you? Why?
Maybe. My goal is to be read. If they could deliver on that, I would be interested.
How many unfinished or unpublished works do you have?
One short story I submitted to three magazines and then shelved.
Do you prefer creating stand-alone books or series?
The Crystal Series and Bump Time trilogy are “read in order” series. My new work, Lagrange Rising, is the first of a series that can be read in any order. So to answer the question, I prefer writing series.
What’s one character you wish you would have created? What do you find compelling or interesting about this character?
N/A – I would write it if I wished for it.
What book do you wish you would have written? Why?
N/A – I would write it if I wished for it.
Do you find it challenging to write characters of a different gender, race, or culture than you? Do you do any special research for these characters?
As an engineering professor, I work closely with students of different genders and races from around the world on a daily basis. I feel comfortable writing characters who are similarly worldly. I wouldn’t feel on solid ground writing characters who are immersed in their own culture in foreign lands, who never have ventured out of their hometown. Interesting story about gender. I wrote a chapter in Crystal Deception for a male character, a real shoot em up action scene. My editor suggested that the female character wasn’t getting enough press, so I changed the hims to hers and gave her that chapter. That’s a long way of saying men and women get equal treatment from me in my stories.
What does success as a writer look like for you?
Someone with a ten-fold increase in readership compared to me.
Writing can be a lonely job. Do you take any special steps to ensure you remain part of the world?
I love a quiet life. And through my outside endeavors (professor emeritus of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut, and founder and director of Control Station, Inc.) I get enough outside interaction to feel fulfilled.
Constantly sitting and writing can be physically debilitating. How do you take care of yourself, physically?
I walk in my neighborhood every day after I write, where I brainstorm what happens next in the story I’m working on.
Do you read your reviews? How do you deal with bad ones?
I read them when they first appear. Bad ones hurt, except if they are the kind where the reader was emotionally involved in the story and wished for a different outcome. I like those because I know I touched them in some way.
What books have you read that were particularly inspiring?
That answer changes as I age. During my teens I gobbled science fiction, reading authors like Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, and Bradbury. I started mixing in fantasy authors, ranging from Tolkien to Piers Anthony to Zelazny. Now I read genre fiction novels, which are more entertaining than they are inspiring.
Do you have a favourite author? A favourite book?
This year my favorite author is Lee Child of Jack Reacher fame. I appreciate that his testosterone-filled stories can be off-putting. But I love his writing – his descriptions, his scene setting, his pacing, his ability to suck me in. He can take three paragraphs to describe a sunrise and I love it. I’ve been studying his books and working to channel his style into my new Lagrange series.
Do you plot your stories in great detail before starting to write, or fly by the seat of your pants?
I am a pantser. My plotting goes as far as “the good guy wins.” With that said, my books are very intricate, with intertwined plots and complex characters. I live my story as I write it. My excitement comes from discovering what happens next, because I don’t know until I put the words down. I don’t even let myself think about how a story ends until I’ve reached the half-way point in a book.
Of all the characters in your stories, which is your favourite?
Love all the good guys. Don’t love the bad guys.
Have you based any characters on real people? If they found out, how did they respond?
No. It’s all imagination.
What’s the best thing about being an independent author? The worst?
Writing is the most fun I have had in any professional endeavor. I live my wildest dreams through my stories, from space travel to time travel to interacting with advanced AI. All endeavors have hassles, and I would say those of an indie author are not onerous, with advertising and social media being the biggest challenges.
Do you make a living selling your books?
Self-publishing is a money losing prospect for me. So no, I don’t make a living at it. My goal is modest – someday I hope to make more than I spend, an elusive target in my first nine years. Book covers and editing services and advertising costs more than I make.
What advice would you give to a new author?
Write and write and write some more. They say it takes 10,000 hours of effort to master a skill. At twenty hours per week, fifty weeks per year, it takes ten years to reach that goal.