Interview with Mike Kobzan

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, it was a short essay at school about the Earth breaking up. I've always been fascinated in science, after all I'm an engineer, so I suppose it's no coincidence that nearly all my stories are science fiction.
What is your writing process?
I let my mind wander when I'm working letting whatever is happening in the world influence my thinking. And then I ask myself "what if" questions, for instance what if I had some kind of zap gun that I could use to change things. And then, if I'm lucky, a plot develops. The plot to me is the most important part of the story. If I have that everything else just falls into place, I can just start writing and let the characters develop on their own.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Yes, River World by Philip José Farmer. It showed me that good science fiction doesn't necessarily need to be about aliens, ray guns and spaceships. History can also offer a whole load of material for an exciting science fiction novel.
How do you approach cover design?
I'm a designer, it flows in my blood.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Lord of the Rings. Don't ask me why, I actually hate fantasy. I read all three books during a trip through France in the 1980s

King Solomone's Mines by H. Rider Haggard. Adventure in strange lands, promise of riches and mystery. None of the films do the novel justice,

Asimov's Foundation series. I read them all within a few weeks when I was still a kid and found them fascinating. I tried to read them a few years ago again and just couldn't get the patience to carry on. I suppose it's something to do with the way we consume media today. All action and tension and if nothing happens within five minutes we lose interest.
What do you read for pleasure?
News papers. Nothing offers more suspense than what is happening in the world today. You just can't make it up.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kobo Touch. As far as electronic devices go it's as good as Stone Age and it also looks rather battered after being taken on my travels of the past few years. But it still works and is compatible to most ebook formats.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I'm a ebook indy novice, I've just uploaded my very first ebook to Smashwords. So I haven't developed any techniques just yet. Not that I'm a novice in writing. I've had books published in print, but none of them were novels. I used to write a lot about computer graphic software for the local press here in Germany and computer graphics books for professionals.
Describe your desk
It's a mess, a continual battle against chaos. I've sometimes not bothered booting up my desktop because a just couldn't be bothered to clear away the stack of books standing in front of the monitor. Luckily I have a laptop that I use when I'm writing. This I usually do in bed or in the garden.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a smallish town called Bolton which is now part of Greater Manchester in the UK. The people are great, very friendly, I should know; I'm one of them, but not really much ever happens there. I always had the impression that the world had forgotten the place. So I suppose I used my imagination to compensate.
When did you first start writing?
I really started writing in volumes when I discovered the computer as a teenager end of the 1970s. It was a mainframe at the local university of the town I was then living in in Germany. I used to sneak in to play chess, until I discovered their word processor and forgot everything else. writing on a computer is easily 100 times better than using a typewriter.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book? This time it was a pain getting the thing finished. I've written three other novels before this one that I'll be publishing sometime in the future. They're in German and I've decided to rewrite them (not translate them) in English. It took me 4 months to write each of the German ones, I had everything in my head and it all just flowed onto the screen. With this last one I was always dissatisfied with the plot and kept changing it.

I just wanted for once to write a science fiction novel with spaceships, aliens and space battles, the plot was secondary. That's like starting off in your car on holiday (vacation to the US Americans) without so much as a map or destination. It came out great in the end, (at least I think so), but it was a lesson learned. Don't start writing until that plot is well and truly finished.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
When I started writing, publishing was a pain. You either were very lucky to find an agent or a publisher to get your works marketed or your efforts landed in a drawer. And it had nothing to do with writing quality. You could write as well as you wanted, but if you weren't called Prince Charles or were at least as well known as the guy, you might as well have played the lottery. Now, with the digital world authors have been freed of all this. The only thing standing in the way of an author and his readers is the time it takes to up load a manuscript onto a publisher's site.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I don't know yet. I'll be able to tell you in maybe six moths to a year's time.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When I write, my imagination flies. I've read a lot of very good novels but they are nothing against when I'm writing my own stuff. When I'm writing I'm already anticipating the parts that are going to have suspense. And when I reach these parts my heart is pounding. I've almost had tears running down my cheeks when describing some tragic scenes. It's like watching an extremely realistic film in my head.
What are you working on next?
I'm got three science fiction novels I once wrote in German. They were never published so I've decided to rewrite them in English. This will not be a translation, I'm planning on changing a few things and developing the characters a bit more. The most important thing after the plot are the characters. If you can get the reader to identify him/herself with the characters half the battle for a good story has been won.
Who are your favorite authors?
Asimov was good. But he could have laid off the robot stories a bit more. Douglas Adams' wild plots and style will always be unique. Then there's Ian Banks. Always liked his stories, especially the Culture series. Michael Chrichton, who I had the pleasure of personally getting to know when he visited Berlin quite a few years ago is also one of my favourites.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My kids. All right, that's not quite true any more since my youngest has just turned 18. But I sometimes have the impression if I don't get up and prepare breakfast they'll stray in bed until Armageddon.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm a freelance industrial designer and engineer. That's my prime source of income. I also travel far and wide if the time allows, usually on my bike and also on my motorcycle. And I do mean far and wide. From Berlin and back I've cycled to Istanbul, Stockholm, Edinburgh, Gibraltar and also once all the way around the Mediterranean. The last one was just before the civil war in Syria broke out. It's not possible to do that at the moment.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I surf the internet. Also my kids are avid readers and we seem to have the same tastes, so they advise me on what's new.
What do your fans mean to you?
After my family and my motorbike come my fans...if I should ever have any. I write my works as if I'm my own reader.
Published 2015-07-12.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Unvirtual
Price: $3.90 USD. Words: 143,440. Language: Commonwealth English. Published: April 17, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias
In a not far off dystopian future, a team of hardware engineers develop a cheap to manufacture computer capable of generating such convincing virtual realities that it’s absolutely impossible to differentiate between simulation and reality. The only way to find out is to commit suicide and see if one wakes up connected to a computer, but what if this is just the continuation of the simulation?
Khufu
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 85,600. Language: Commonwealth English. Published: October 27, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Strange cuneiform markings on ancient Egyptian clay tablets turn out to be computer binary code that exposes the true purpose of the Egyptian pyramids and leads to a discovery that will forever change the world.
The Loneliness Of The Galactic Gardener
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 139,480. Language: Commonwealth English. Published: July 12, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Military
Earth’s first ever interstellar battle cruiser, The Viscount Nelson, finds a mysterious cloud like entity imprisoned on a captured enemy Jadra space station that uses its extraordinary powers to heal Dr Denise Hearst, one of the ship’s scientists, after she is fatally wounded in the fighting. It also offers information that is key to defeating the Jadra. The Nelson returns to earth where, due to t