Interview with Eric Michael Craig

When did you first determine that you wanted to write? And who have been your greatest influences in choosing “the path of madness?”
I think I have known for most of my life that someday I would write (in fact my seventh grade English teacher probably was the first one to notice that I had an aptitude for this craft). My real life has always kept me from pursuing it until recently, and I now have time to sit at the keyboard and hammer away.

One thing that I do think is important is that, with few exceptions, life has to season a person with experiences in order for them to become a good writer. Some people are born to it, but most of us have to learn the hard way. I’m probably a little of both types, born with the desire, but having to bear a fair share of road-rash in order to find my voice.

As to who my influences are, that is a difficult question. I have spent most of my life reading science and speculative fiction, starting out with “Rocketship Galileo” by Robert Heinlein when I was in second grade and then branching out into everything I could find. I have read literally thousands of novels and it would be almost impossible to single out any of their authors as an influence. One of the most riveting books in my recent memory was “Moonfall” by Jack McDevitt and in some ways parts of the Atlas series are loosely styled after that story. If you haven’t read it, take a look (after you read mine of course).

“The path of madness?” What an interesting turn-of-phrase. Sometimes it does seem that doing anything artistic might be considered insane, whether that would be writing, painting, or even music. Putting food on the table has to be a priority for all of us and anything that doesn’t lead to that goal is often considered to be madness. Only a rare few can risk everything to pursue an art wholeheartedly.

Of course there’s another aspect to that phrase that may be closer to what you mean; I will paraphrase a quote I once read… “there are people that sit in dark rooms and listen to the voices in their head, most people call them insane, but other people call them Writers ….”

Perhaps both of these definitions could apply to me in some ways (maybe even all three).

“Shhhhh, I am trying to talk to someone here,” I say to the little voice in my head.

Since I am only fiftyish now, I hope that I still have a long run as a writer, but who knows? I like the future and I hope to see a lot more of it.
When did you first start writing?
7th grade. Well that was the first time someone noticed that I was putting words together in strange ways. An English teacher told me I had some potential and so I sort of tinkered at it between other things I wanted to do growing up.

I didn’t really get serious about it until after I retired and had some time on my hands to enjoy life instead of chasing it.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Coffee. Lots of coffee. The smell of coffee. Seriously.

The truth is that I was a terminal workaholic for a lot of my life, and even though I retired early, I still tend to spend a LOT of time working. Now though instead of punching someone else’s clock, I punch my own, and as a result I tend to have odd hours. It’s not unusual for me to look around and realize I am still sitting at my desk and the clock is telling me it’s three in the morning. Unfortunately though, that always seems to happens on days when I HAVE to get up to deal with real people and the real world.

It kinda sucks when that happens, so especially on those days, coffee is my best friend. (There is actually a character in Stormhaven Rising and Prometheus and the Dragon that shares my coffee addiction... I was thinking about getting a coffee cup made in her honor that says “Why is the coffee always gone?”)
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Snoring. Face down in a semi-comatose state. Or in recovery from sleeping and seeking a fresh supply of coffee.

Actually I have several hobbies. I play music, I occasionally do some art, and I like to make things. I spend a lot of time designing and building “alien technologies” so I can take over the world someday. Read the first couple books in Atlas and the Winds and it will give you an idea of the things I like to tinker with. I really do play with inertia in some very strange ways as a hobby, and as a result try very hard not to make things that might result in a singularity (just kidding ... mostly).
Describe your desk
Mission Control. I built my desk recently because the one I had before really didn’t work so well. This one is a lot more sophisticated, and is integrated into a complete workspace. I have five monitors and my keyboard setup on an arm that swings out over a nice overstuffed recliner. I like it because I can kick back and put my feet up while I work.

A lot of people think it looks like the perfect “gamer desk,” and it probably would be great for that, if I was a gamer (well, if I had time to be a gamer is more like it). I tend to have news or some other video playing on the monitor that sits way up on top, and then the others are usually covered with references or other things I am using to write.

I also do graphic design for my websites and build my own pages so there is often a copy of Photoshop or some 3D modeling program open and rendering something. My desktop is always cluttered with a half dozen open windows, but I intentionally made sure the horizontal surfaces were too small to accumulate junk.

I have an integrated 7.1 surround sound system so I also spend a lot of time listening to music while I write. If it weren’t for the fact that I have to get up to use the privy, I’d be able to stay here in my chair for weeks at a time (I tell people that ask, that I’m training to be an astronaut).
What do you read for pleasure?
Technical stuff. Articles on science and futurism. Engineering journals. Once in a while I read a novel, but usually I have ideas of my own that are keeping me awake at night so I don’t tend to get too involved in stories.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yeah unfortunately. It sucked, but well I was only 12 or so and I figured it had to be cool if I could correctly use Vanadium in a sentence. From there it was mostly technospeak and boring. It was about the first flight to another solar system and a war that humanity found itself stuck in with the indigenous alien population.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
See Dick Run... Run Dick Run.
No, really the first real story I read was Rocketship Galileo by R.A.Heinlein. I cut my teeth on sci-fi. My dad had been a science fiction fan, and so he set me on this path. I read every science fiction book I could find after that. In a way I grew up believing that the future was going to be amazing, and although the road getting here has been a lot longer and more winding than any of us could have imagined I think we’ve finally made it to some pretty amazing times. I am glad I made it this far, I just wish some of those that started me out on this journey, were here to see it with me. We’d be having some damned incredible discussions right about now.
Can you give a sense of what the first two books in the series are about, without revealing too much of its storyline?
Since the story is set somewhere around twenty years in the future, a lot of the things we see around us are still going to be among the realities of that world. By that time, at least in the reality I’ve painted, there aren’t going to be nuclear powered spacecraft, there won’t be flying cars and there won’t be political unity in the world. Humanity will still be lumbering along in our current state of mindlessness in regards to the much larger universe around us. And that’s the framework in which I pit humanity against the relentless adversary of celestial mechanics.

In the first chapter, two astronomers find an asteroid on a collision course for Earth (sounds cliché right?), but from there the story goes in several distinct and unexpected directions.

The Earth is not even close to ready to face such a threat. There are no Bruce Willis heroes waiting in the wings to ride a huge nuke into the heart of the asteroid and save the planet. The real issue is that the timeframe from discovery to impact makes it almost inconceivable to design and build something for that task. (I’d point out as an example, that NASA has known for a decade that they needed to replace the Space Shuttle, but still have not deployed a replacement technology).

This puts the US government in a desperate race to solve the problem, and quickly. Of course, they’re not the only ones in the race. There are others with ideas too. Several world governments and a rather peculiar billionaire inventor/industrialist complicate and affect their efforts.
Your novels deal a lot with near-future technologies. How much of your own history, in a technical setting, has found its way into the future-tense of Colton Taylor’s world?
I spent more than a decade as the Director of Research for a small private corporation working on some rather extraordinary technologies. Some of the things we did in that lab were well beyond “state-of-the-art”, and some of those did end up manifesting in the technology of Stormhaven and have a major part in the story.

During the nineties, I oversaw work on Power Generation and Propulsion Systems technologies that utilized quantum inertial principles that are still well outside the mainstream scientific theory. I don’t want to go into the details here and bore your readers, but the things Colton Taylor achieves in Atlas are really a lot closer to reality than most would imagine.
What sort of things can we expect to read from you in the future?
My short story Ghostmaker is an idea that came to me quite some time ago, but has been percolating in my brain, waiting for a voice. It’s very different from Atlas in tone, but it is a voice I enjoy using. I tend to think story concepts through in a detailed way that doesn't lend itself well to the short story, so I don’t know if there will be many more like it, but I do have another novel with a similar style that I am planning to put into words sometime in the next year or so. Finishing the full series of Atlas and the Winds is my first priority.
Published 2016-03-28.
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