A rather huge question. What I wanted to write about was a first contact scenario. What happens when humanity meets a vastly superior alien race? When you look through the history of science fiction there are basically two such scenarios. The first of these is hostile. The alien race comes to destroy the earth, make war on the planet, take humanity as a slave race, steal our natural resources, or something to that effect. The second scenario involves more benign contact, humanity meets a race that wants to befriend them, study them or even mentor them. I was looking for a third scenario. What I came up with was an alien race on a pet collecting expedition. The Fahr are not interested in humanity per se or even in the natural resources that the Earth has to offer. They want to collect a breeding population of our humpback whales. But behind that relatively-benign intention is something much more ominous, as the reader will soon discover.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Writing is a compulsion. I'd do it whether or not I was looking for readership. I'm naturally bent toward artistic expression of one sort or another. I also play guitar, compose music, and enjoy photography. So I create because that's who I am. A secondary answer to that question is that I feel I have something to say. My work is quite theme driven.
Why do you write science fiction?
I view science fiction as literary thought experimentation. One takes the "what if?" question and explores the ramifications. What if the sand on Mars was alive and sapient? What if there was a total nuclear war on the Earth and the only survivors were aboard the International Space Station? What if a race of beings existed that fed on consciousness? What's interesting about this genre to me is that it's also a great medium for asking very human questions. Like what would a society look like where the dominant instrument of social change was a profit-driven corporation? That's the primary question I ask in "Planet Song".
What are you working on next?
I'm currently writing "Alpha Tribe", the second novel in the Fahr Trilogy. In it the human race is bioengineered away from its tribal past. The first rough draft is finished and I'm working on the second draft.
What is your writing process?
It starts with a story idea, often not that fully formed. I think on it quite a bit before I put anything down on paper. Before I retired, I was a letter carrier for Canada Post. That may seem like a non-literary occupation, but what it did was give me lots of time to think. Delivering mail is a repetitive and non intellectual activity so it frees up your mind to do other things. Usually within a month or so of starting a project, I'll realize what the story is about. This may seem like an odd statement but what the story is about, to me, is not the narrative line. What the story is about is theme. What am I trying to say through this story? So I begin by creating a story and then at some point in the process I figure out what that story is about. Once I've done that, I begin consciously writing the story to theme. This is a bit unusual in the science fiction genre, and may be the reason so many people who don't normally like science fiction, do like my writing.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The slush pile. The slush pile is where your book resides when it's awaiting the attention of a traditional publisher or agent. In my experience, the average time one spends in a slush pile is eight months. That means, during that entire period of time, you are waiting for a decision on whether that publisher or agent is interested in your book. If they then decide they're not interested--and there can be a variety of reasons why that might occur--you've just spent eight months without the result you're looking for. The history of publishing is littered with stories of authors whose books spent years in various slush piles before being published. I'm 64 years old. Sitting in slush piles is a young person's game. Were I to choose that route to publish my books, I could be at very advanced age before my books become available.
What do your fans mean to you?
Stories are for sharing. Would you tell a story to an empty room? Of course not. What would be the point in that? So the fans--or readers as I prefer to call them--are the receivers of the stories. They are the reason the stories exist and I tell those stories for them. Keeping my readers happy and engaged is my primary motivation.
Who are your favorite authors?
Though I write science fiction, I read widely. My favourite authors include Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Emma Donoghue, James S.A. Corey and Gillian Flynn.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I travel a fair amount, play my guitar and compose music, attend theatre and music performances, watch hockey and tennis and volunteer. My wife is also an elected politician up here in Canada which does, occasionally, force public appearances not related to writing. My smile muscles are well developed.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Being an author puts me in a position where a lot of other authors want me to read their books. That's the literary community in a nutshell. So I don't so much discover new e-books as have them directed to me.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I'm not sure. There's a significant gap between the time I first tried to write and a time when I began to take it more seriously. The truth is the first story was probably a song, because I began writing songs long before I began writing stories. And when I did begin writing stories most of them took the form of stage plays. I have a degree in theater and my first writing experiences were for that medium.
How do you approach cover design?
I have no skill in that area so I defer to professionals. Ben Baldwin, a UK artist, does my book covers.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use both a Kindle and my iPad. But I still read and sell paperbacks. I find the whole digital versus paper debate silly. I read in what ever form is convenient for me at the time, and enjoy the experience equally regardless of medium. To date I've sold more paperbacks than eBooks but I'm hoping that will change soon.
Describe your desk
A mess. Stuff scattered all over the place. My computer, however, is organized and neat. That's where I do my work.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Alberta, Canada. To be honest, that has had little influence on what I write except, perhaps, for the fact that it's a conforming society and I'm a nonconformist. So I suppose if one were to dig deeply, one might find a rejection of its values in what I do. It's not a conscious thing though.
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