Interview with Richard Penn

What's the story behind your latest book?
The story begins on an isolated colony in the asteroid belt, a space station with only four hundred people. This book presents a realistic view of space travel, where it takes many months to travel to another asteroid, and the trip can only be taken at a specific time. Lisa Johansen is a young policewoman on the colony, and when a gruesome discovery is made it is up to her to assemble a team and deal with it.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I began writing because of a long-standing interest (some might say obsession) with the colonization of space, dating back to the classic science fiction I read in my teens. I still believe that the future of humanity is not to be limited to this small planet, and I want to communicate some of that. Independent publishing lets me speak in my own voice, include my drawings, and generally have fun with the message, without taking time out to please the literary world.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Uh, don't know yet. I'm just publishing my first book here today. High hopes, and I like the tone and ease of use of the website.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
It's the most fun you can have sitting on your own! As a guy who's been in a technical job all my life, it lets me be creative and use my imagination in way I've not done since I was a boy.
What do your fans mean to you?
Ask me again when I've got some! If you're a fan, let me know and I'll tell you what you mean.
What are you working on next?
It's a series. Book two is in proof review, and I'm just starting book three.
Who are your favorite authors?
Robert Anson Heinlein, Robert Varley, C J Cherryh, Tanya Huff, Spider Robinson, Terry Pratchett. Outside of sci-fi, Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, Stuart Kaminsky, Ed McBain.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Need to pee? Taking the question a bit less literally, I've often been working a plot problem in my head, and writing that next chapter has to come right after the first cup of tea.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend the summers on a narrow boat on the canals, part of the winter travel in Europe with my caravan. So travel is big. The last couple of weeks, a lot of time trying to publicise my work, but that's a short-term thing, I hope.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I generally search from my Kindle if it's a mainstream author, on Alibris for second-hand books, And of course, I'll be searching for new authors on Smashwords, oh yes.
What is your writing process?
Design a setting, a place in space my characters want to visit. Come up with a dated timeline, based on the physics of the Solar System so they can travel in a realistic way. Then find a bad-guy and an evil deed they can deal with, and a vague idea of the story arc. Then they're off. The characters decide how to proceed, make plans, and I do my best to thwart them at every step. On a writing day, I generally read and edit the previous day's writing, then go ahead and write another chapter or two. Not every day is a writing day, of course, I need to have some idea where to go. I walk or travel in the boat if I need to resolve a plot problem, and fart around drawing pictures or checking Twitter, on other days.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Not a specific first, but very early one, was Heinlein's 'Citizen of the Galaxy.' It sort of set an agenda for my reading, the rest of my life.
How do you approach cover design?
I do my own, against all the advice out there. I love drawing space scenes, and I find one which fits the story, bung some print over it, and robert's your dad's brother.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
John Varley: 'Golden Globe', Robert Heinlein: 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress', Terry Pratchett: 'Night Watch', Tanya Huff 'Blood Trail', J K Rowling - the entire series (I cheated). Ask me next week, I'll give you a different answer.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle, so far.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Goodreads self-service advertising. Twitter.
Describe your desk
It's not a desk, it's a one of three couches, on my boat, on my touring caravan or my static (where I live).
When did you first start writing?
Just last year, at the age of sixty-three!
Published 2014-09-10.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.