Interview with Robert Mariner

What do you read for pleasure?
That's evolved over time, as I imagine have most people's preferences. I've read all manner of fiction and fantasy, but a constant for the past 60-plus years has been science fiction, starting with Heinlein's "Red Planet." I've enjoyed observing how the technologies of the writers' visions of the future have evolved right along with our own developing tech, starting with Jules Verne's "Nautilus," then going through "Doc" Smith's "Skylark" and "Lensman" books, through to today's works by Eric Flint, John Ringo, and of course David Weber (does that man EVER sleep?) Now, if human nature would develop for the better at that rate - -
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a couple of tablets, plus a pocket comp from a few years ago. I don't want to get into advertising, so please don't ask me for brand names! I even use a recent model of cell phone as an e-reader. I think that for an e-reader, however, a tablet has the greatest potential - convenient size, good battery life, good contrast even in bright daylight, even color is getting quite good. I even have the "aliens" of my own works using them, as eventually they will become about as commonplace as our own #2 pencils.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Well, I'm just getting started in this business, so don't have much experience. YET. So far I'm relying on word-of-mouth, as well as hopefully making my Website (which isn't up yet) carry all the right hooks. I've never been a qualified salesman, so I'm taking direction from others who are successful at this aspect of this business.
Describe your desk
There's still a desk under all that stuff?

Seriously, it's an old single-tier wooden desk that my parents gave to me when I was in high school. It has two monitors on it, a keyboard and a mouse, and the usual pens and pencils in a holder. There's a small black plastic container left over from a microwave snack that has some change in it, it's behind the keyboard between the monitors. The tier of drawers is to the right side, and on the desktop on that side I always have a writing tablet and a pen. Above the monitors are three shelves, supporting the usual dictionaries, thesaurus, plus some boxed binders with notes for various project ideas that haven't made it into digital format.

Miscellaneous stuff in the drawers - some software manuals, a flashlight, a couple of rulers, some other random stuff - the usual. Old letters from people long gone but never forgotten.

A desk is a writer's work bench. As such it must be kept clean except for the work being addressed at the moment, and the tools needed for that particular task. A computer dedicated to the full-time job of being an author's primary writing tool set helps keep our work space uncluttered - if we have the discipline to keep it that way.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My father worked for the National Park Service, and my mother was a stay-at- home housewife; as such the family moved around a lot, but was so fortunate as to have lived in some truly wonderful places. My sister and I had to be home-schooled for a while when we lived too far from town to attend public school - at that time this was a fairly common situation for people living 'way out in the boonies. When I was 12, we moved to San Francisco - talk about culture shock! But I survived, and found the wide spectrum of various people's cultures, skin colors, and values fascinating. I had always been aware of the need to find just the right words to say what I wanted, and decided to become a teacher of English composition - - only to find in college that I don't have the personality to be a good teacher. So now after a long career as an engineering designer, I find myself drawn back to my early desire to use words, hopefully now to bring enjoyment and maybe fresh ideas to you valued Readers!
When did you first start writing?
I'm not really sure. During my home-schooling, which was during 4th through 6th grades, I was expected to do written compositions quite frequently, and at some point I found that I enjoyed putting ideas on paper. Later, in high school, I had a couple of things I wrote that received some attention, and for one of which I won first place in a reading contest, but writing hadn't really taken my interest. It wasn't until I was a professional engineering designer, and realized that I was having to edit, re-write or ghost-write papers for engineers who couldn't write coherently in this language, that I even began to suspect that writing may be a gift. Having grown up in a house full of books, with parents who were exceptionally avid readers, I may have merely assumed good writing to be something everyone could do - - certainly my father could write entertaining stories for my sister and me. But it wasn't until my own career began to wind down - that's a whole different topic! - that I seriously considered writing professionally.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The latest book, "Stand Against the Night," is a sequel to "Alien? Cousins," which is almost a first-contact science-fiction story set in December of 2004 and early January of 2005. "Stand" is set in June of 2005, and is Book Two of what is intended to be a four-book series I call the "Refuge series." "Stand" follows some of the characters we meet in "Cousins" as they realize that the human population of the Refuge Confederation world called Éhofen is under attack from an ancient biological weapon, and might well go extinct within one lifetime. They take ship to that world to present a proposal to cure that world's people of this weapon's devastating effects, also to clear that world's globe-spanning artificial intelligence of related malware. Of course, the Éhofen aren't quite what any of us imagine when we think of ordinary people; they are the ones in whose memory we have created the mythical beings called Elves. It turns out theirs is not the only advanced intellect on their world, and that the characters we thought we were coming to know, also are of interest to that other intelligence.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The likelihood of getting published. I had been attempting to engage the services of a literary agent for over two years, and after sending out in excess of two hundred queries, receiving only a few dozen form rejections, I decided to try the indie approach. Being a total unknown is a hurdle most of us have to deal with at first, and of course my first book, "Alien? Cousins," is well beyond the average length that appeals to most agents. So, partially because more words simply demanded to be set to paper - or computer memory - in this book, going indie seems to be the best thing to do at this point. Maybe I'll be successful, maybe not - but I will have done whatever I can to reach for success. Now it's up to me and you Readers to give me the best possible chance of success as a writer.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
It's too early to have a good answer to that question. "Alien? Cousins" was approved for Smashwords' Premium only yesterday and won't go on sale until November 10, and so far, one person has put it on their library as of earlier this morning (November 3) - - let's hope for LOTS more sales! But that one is one more than I would have sold without Smashwords.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
So far, finding ways to put hopefully worthwhile ideas down in a way others might read. Now, if my works sell, especially if they sell well, the greatest reward will be if Readers enjoy what I've offered to them and want more.
What do your fans mean to you?
Assuming I ever actually GET any fan following, that I can provide ideas and stories that they enjoy. Readers, of whom hopefully some will become fans, are a writer's reward for work well done (at least in the Reader's opinion,) and their satisfaction becomes our food and drink. My obligation to them is first not to insult their intelligence - - science-fiction readers include some of the sharpest, smartest, most detail-conscious and creative people in all of history, and if I can produce stories that appeal to that segment of humanity - - WHAT a rush!

I like to think that providing people with innocent enjoyment, and hopefully with a few useful ideas at the same time, has some societal value. Plus of course developing a loyal fan base might well provide a few dollars, now and then - -
What are you working on next?
Book Three of the Refuge Series is titled "Coronation in Winter," is set in August of 2005 on the Confederation world called Éhofen, and is the first book in this series to introduce the reader to real spacefaring aliens, which merely means, to non-human people (other than artificial intelligence entities, that is.)
Who are your favorite authors?
Uh - randomly, here, please don't ask for me to alphabetize this list on the fly - - Heinlein, Forester, Kent, Tolkien, Cherryh, Flint, Ringo, Weber, Hugo, Kipling, Dumas, Clancy, Paolini, Meyer, Verne - - many, many others! Shakespeare, Virgil, Homer, Plato, Aeschylus - - -

It's difficult to pick out any few as "favorites," because every one of the authors whose works I've read has contributed in some way to whatever I might become as a writer. I hope to contribute to literature in a positive way, honoring writers who have come before me. I stand on the shoulders of Giants -
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Awake! Awake! Arise!
There's too much to do in hours so few!
So it's off on the run; we've hours of fun,
A race to be run, a day to be won!

Corny, yes, but as someone once said, a positive attitude might not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Sleeping, reading, doing research into the next project, hiking our local hills - - oh, and once in a while actually doing "real work." After all, I'm only a SEMI-retired engineering designer.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I have friends, and a library, and know how to use a computer - - and recently encountered Smashwords. Where in the connected world can one NOT find e-books? - - although sometimes the blurbs and samples don't give us a really good idea of the book. That's the advantage of the library, and then I can buy the e-books I want to keep. Although I will admit that I find some books that I'd far rather have in paperback or hardcover!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes - My first full story was a script for a short fiction film when I was in college, and was centered around efforts to evacuate people from a small community downstream from a small earth-fill dam that was being eroded and was about to collapse. It was based on the collapse of a real earth-fill dam in the 1950s, in an area I had passed through.
What is your writing process?
So far, I've been fortunate enough that an idea will present itself to me, and I write down the basic idea. Then I put it aside for a while unless it is particularly insistent, let the excitement calm down, then look at the idea and if it still looks interesting, start trying to figure out how to make it work. I'm an engineering designer by profession, so I try to make the story line reasonably coherent - except where it reflects real life with unanticipated redirections from where we all think we're going or what we anticipate doing next. It seems to me that if real life throws wildly unexpected things at us, it should do so in stories as well, so we can see how the characters react. Hopefully they will make good decisions, but that doesn't usually happen in real life either.

And then of course there those moments when something just jumps out and simply HAS to be written just as fast as possible - - at those times I find myself just reading what appears on the screen, wondering from where in all Creation are those words coming? Those times are interesting - sometimes I wish I could tap into whatever that is a little more.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No - that's lost in the mists of time and the sheer number of stories that have been read since!
How do you approach cover design?
Carefully!

No, seriously, I get basic ideas and then ask a truly gifted artist to take it from there. I probably give that person a horrible time, too, because sometimes I find that something just has to be a little different, and sometimes I'm not able to get the idea across very easily. That might be partially from my long exposure to engineering, with its utter dependence on fairly rigid rules and procedures - - hey, I have to blame something.
Published 2015-11-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Stand Against the Night
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 180,760. Language: American English. Published: December 18, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi, Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
The human population of the world called Éhofen is dying. Éhofen – people whom the humans of Earth barely remember in legend as Elves. Only one person can gather help from all over the Refuge Confederation, even from Earth itself, to stop that catastrophe. Élowynn Carmischal, Heir to the Throne of Éhofen, will will abandon even her inheritance in her relentless quest to save her people.
Alien? Cousins
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 228,440. Language: American English. Published: November 10, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi, Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
December, 2004: A midair collision with an incoming meteor can ruin your whole day. For many of the crewmembers aboard the reconnaissance ship ‘California Dreamin’, it did just that. For Myron Kenichi Watson, of Belmont, California, it brought together the past and the future, revealed ancient legends and myths to be history or present reality, and opened a doorway to the stars.