Interview with Donald Firesmith

Published 2016-01-29.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans (i.e., readers who enjoy my books) are my only true measure of success as an author. Although I write books I would like to read, I enjoy seeing them in print, and the occasional royalty checks are all very nice, books need readers. I would much rather have happy readers than fame or royalties.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I can't remember the first story I ever read, especially as my mother read to me from before I could even talk and I learned to read early. What I mostly remember is that I read huge amounts of science fiction in high school (some 70+ books my freshman year). My three favorite authors were the three grand masters: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein. I also read a lot of Asimov's popular science books and we corresponded quite a few times. I was also greatly influenced by the Tolkien Trilogy. I must have read it 20 times. In fact, I liked it so much that when I spend a year going to school at Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich my Junior Year in college, it was the only English-language book I took with me.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I wrote lots of science fiction short stories as a teenager and when an undergraduate. Some I thought were real good (at least based on the idea and plot twists), whereas quite a few were pretty abysmal. I can't remember the first one.
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on the second book in my Hell Holes series, Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton. It follows the surviving characters from the first book on their trip down Alaska's Dalton Highway, one of the most dangerous roads in the world, even when you're not being chased by an army of invading demons. Whereas the first book was written from the viewpoint of Dr. Jack Oswald, a geologist and the team's leader, the second book is being written from the viewpoint of Dr. Angela Menendez, his climatologist wife. I am just finishing the next to the last chapter, and have just finished collaborating with the artist on the cover of this second book.
What will you be working on next?
As soon as Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton is put to bed, I will begin working on the third book in the series, Hell Holes: To Hell And Back. This book will be written from the viewpoint of Aileen O’Shannon, a sorceress from the Tutores Contra Infernum, an ancient and secret (at least up until the demon invasion) order formed to protect humanity from demons. It will tell the story of humanity's first attack on the demon's home world, hence the title.
Describe your desk
Cluttered with piles that threaten to unleash avalanches if I don't go through them every 2-3 months. I write on my laptop, but have it in a dock so that I can have a better keyboard. I have a plant to my right and a large glass container with 20-30 of my magic wands to my left. On the wall in front of my, I have a signed Lindsy Sterling poster (check her out on YouTube if you haven't heard her music before) and a couple of German woodcarvings. Standing in the corner to my right are my sword, staff, spear, and a 16th century pike from a Swiss castle. On my left is a bookshelf full of science fiction books (quite a few I got signed at science fiction conventions) and science books, especially on the brain and consciousness.
What is your writing process?
I try to write an hour or two every day. I start with a concept, genre, basic plot, and list of characters. My current books involve a lot of travel from place to place, and that drives a lot of the action. I actually spend a great deal of time researching on the Internet to ensure that I get the non-fiction parts of my paranormal/fantasy/science fiction novels right. For example, I did a great deal of research on the North Slope of Alaska for Hell Holes: What Lurks Below. I also had a lot of help from a University of Alaska geology professor. For Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton, I am heavily relying on Google Maps, calling and talking to someone at the Trucker's Cafe in Coldfoot, and I am getting great support from a former USAF helicopter pilot who works at the company that makes the military helicopters that are important in the second book.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
That depends on whether I am writing one of my technical books in software and system engineering or writing fiction (typically paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction). In the first case, the joy is the capturing of practical lessons learned that system and software engineers can use to produce better systems. With fiction, it is totally different. The joy of writing fiction is actually the joy of discovery. I typically start with a very general concept, genre, characters, and a general sequence of events. The discovery comes in filling in the details. The situation and the characters' personas dictate roughly how they will act and react, but when I am writing and in the zone, I don't so much decide what happens next so much as read the story as I write it. Thus, I often don't know what is going to happen until it does, and I discover it as if I were reading another author's book for the very first time. That is why I sometimes tell my family and friends that I can't wait to get back to writing so that I can find out what happens next.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend the work week working as a principle engineer at the Software Engineering Institute, where I help the US Government acquire large, complex software-intensive systems. Although I spend much of the rest of my time writing, I also spend a great deal of time reading work-related technical books, articles, and papers. I also read one or two novels a week. Currently, I am binging on young-adult paranormal and fantasy, especially by female authors. Anytime left over is spent crafting magic wands that I sale on my wand shop's website ( and Etsy ( Occasionally, I find the need to sleep and eat, but those are low on my priority list.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I really really like BookBub ( I find that practically every day, they show me at least one interesting book I can "buy" for free on Amazon. I've tried several other sites that send me book notifications, but I find that BookBub is much more on target with my interests. Definitely check them out if you don't already know about them.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My favorites are iPad and Kindle Fire. I like the Kindle from a price standpoint, but my iPad is much more powerful and versatile (e.g., I can get my corporate email on my iPad but the Fire is not supported).
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

Books by This Author

The Simulation Theory of Consciousness (or Your Autonomous Car Is Sentient)
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 21,600. Language: English. Published: October 22, 2019. Categories: Nonfiction » Science & Nature » Life Sciences / Neuroscience
(5.00 from 1 review)
This short book argues that every cyber-physical system (that is, every software-reliant physical system) that creates and executes a real-time simulation of itself and its environment is conscious in the sense of being subjectively aware of that simulation. In other words, autonomous vehicles are sentient.
The Secrets of Hawthorne House
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 98,690. Language: English. Published: October 1, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth
Matt's life changes when a family of "witches" moves into the dilapidated Victorian mansion next door. The Secrets of Hawthorne House is the story of an unlikely friendship, the clash of two radically different cultures, hidden magic, and a search for the lost Hawthorne treasure.
Hell Hole: The Official Screenplay
Price: Free! Words: 28,070. Language: English. Published: April 7, 2018. Categories: Screenplays » Sci-Fi, Screenplays » Horror
This movie script for the full-length feature film, Hell Hole, is based on Donald Firesmith's science fiction novel, Hell Holes: What Lurks Below. When a strange hole opens up in the Arctic and ravenous demons emerge, a scientist, his estranged wife, and a member of an ancient secret order must team up to close the hole and save humanity.
Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton
Series: Hell Holes. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 54,820. Language: English. Published: May 6, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal, Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
(4.00 from 1 review)
In this exciting second modern paranormal fantasy book in the Hell Holes series, the three survivors of a research team sent to discover the cause of the mysterious hell holes flee south along Alaska's Dalton Highway from an army of invading demons.
Magic Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 144,010. Language: English. Published: January 31, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General
Found after being accidentally left behind on a Scottish train by a young witch traveling to her first year at the secretive Isle of Skye School of Magick, Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore is an actual textbook in the the history, making, and use of magic wands. It covers both theory and practice, with chapters on magical woods, crystals, metals, and cores from magical beings and beasts.
Hell Holes: What Lurks Below
Series: Hell Holes. Price: Free! Words: 39,640. Language: English. Published: January 16, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
(4.00 from 6 reviews)
When an oil company sends a scientific team to investigate one of dozens of huge holes that have mysteriously appeared overnight in the tundra of the North Slope of Alaska, they discover a far worse danger lurking below, one that threatens to destroy us all...