Interview with Victor D. Lopez

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. Alas, it is lost along with much of my early work done on typewriters with no backups. I will rewrite it some day as it still speaks to me and, like many of my later stories, it delved into the interplay between the conscious and subconscious mind, life lessons and redemption. My second short story, Eternal Quest, survives in my latest short story collection, Mindscapes, and is still a favorite that is little changed from the one written by a young old man of 19 who had already learned some of the most vital lessons about the things that matter that he would ever learn. My philosophy, too, has changed little over the intervening decades.
What is your writing process?
For both my fiction and non-fiction I tend to compose at the keyboard. I do no outlining and seldom work on plot lines ahead of time. Also, my first draft is usually also my final draft with only minor changes. During the day, I almost always have a cup of coffee on hand as I write. At night, it may be tea, diet Coke or Pepsi or a glass of wine. Less often, when writing late into the morning, especially after a particularly good or bad day, the glass of wine may be replaced by a snifter of brandy or an Absolut vodka martini with olives. (No more than 2 drinks a day on average as a rule, though.) I like to work in significant blocks of time without interruption other than fetching coffee or pestering my wife during very brief breaks until she yells at me and I slink back to work.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I'm not sure what the first story was but it was certainly Disney and about Donald Duck. (In my native Spanish--just like my first Superman comic books and child's version of Homer's Odyssey. I still love these, though I have not read a Superman comic since I was 12 or 13. My love of fiction was inspired by Disney, Homer, Hans Christian Anderson, Aesop, and blossomed into an even greater love of Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Poe, Wordsworth, Keats, Blake, Niven, Zalazny, Koontz, King, Clarke . . . in a gloriously meandering line that is the only yellow brick road I ever need to walk.
How do you approach cover design?
I like to use my own photographs when possible. Even when using stock photographs or public domain designs, I like to incorporate a photograph that I've taken that means something to me. I've done that in my book of poems, my intellectual property book and in two of three short story collections. (Even my latest audiobook collection cover incorporates one of my photos in the montage of individual short story covers.) Of course, I don't have that luxury with the trade books and textbooks through my traditional publishers--on the upside, they do a far better job of editing my work than I. :)
What are your five favorite books, and why?
It is impossible for me to answer this. So I'll just list the first five that come to mind that have had a significant impact.

1, Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth. I love Wordsworth above all other poets of all times--even more than Shakespeare and Milton. This lengthy Ode encapsulates him for me, and links him to my favorite philosopher, Plato. It has had a profound influence as the first among my beloved Romantic poems.
2. Bleak House by Charles Dickens. "If that is the law, the law is a ass." What more need I say? (A case that drags out for generations until the last farthing is spent and then is finally resolved. That's not fiction. That's an ETERNAL TRUTH! And yet I still went to law school. Maybe I should list Freud next.)
3. Plato's Republic. (And the Socratic Dialogues.) There is Plato's idealism, Aristotle's realism and the rest is largely a historical footnote.
4. Shakespeare's complete works. The comedies. The tragedies. The sonnets. The inferiority complex for the rest of us who dare write anything at all after reading him.
5. Roger Zelazny's Amber series. I know, I know. It's absurd to list it here but it is still my favorite fantasy series of books from one of my favorite writers. I've read thousands upon thousands of pages in favorite fantasy series, including every word in the trillion page (it seems) absurdly long "Sword of Truth" series of books by Terry Goodkind (whom I love). At times I literally screamed in frustration at the repetitiveness GET TO THE F*^%$*#G POINT! George RR Martin (another favorite writer) in his lengthy Game of Thrones series of books (all eagerly digested--likewise the HBO series) also made me squirm and/or skip ahead from time to time lest I tear out the few remaining hairs on my head. I will buy the next long-overdue installment as soon as it is available, though. Likewise many other favorite authors like Stephen King (I almost died of boredom on my way to the Dark Tower on many occasions) -- and on very, very rare occasion even Dean Koontz whom were I pagan I would worship as a demigod. But Zelazny never had that effect on me, especially in his Amber series. Not a single skipped word. Not a single needless, redundant description. Were it not nearly 2:00 a.m. and need I not get up in less than six hours to attend Commencement ceremonies I'd probably rummage through my library for my Book Club two-volume Chronicles of Amber right now.
What do you read for pleasure?
Everything. But mostly science fiction and fantasy--classic and new. I also enjoy non fiction, of course. Just finished Killing Patton by Bill O'reilly, and Charles Krauthammer's Things That Matter. (Krauthammer is a national treasure. All of O'reilly's books are good reads and his Killing Lincoln, Jesus, Kennedy and Patton books are really terrific.) Now I'm working through a couple of anthologies and listening to the audiobook version of Dean Koontz's "Tick-Tock."
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I don't own a dedicated reader. I use a couple of Android tablets that can read anything out there and downloaded audiobooks too. A small laptop works well too.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Book giveaways have been best at generating interest in my books. I do very little marketing other than an occasional Goodreads ad campaign and short story giveaways through Smashwords from time to time.
Describe your desk
Cluttered.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Queens, New York mostly. Working class neighborhoods exuding the incredible diversity (ethnic, racial, lingual, political,cultural) that exists everywhere in New York City have enriched my life and broadened my perceptions beyond anything that would have been possible had my parents raised me in their native homogeneous Galicia (Spain) of the 1960s and '70s. My writing reflects the vast multicultural soup in which I was thoroughly steeped and slow-cooked. So does my trilingual upbringing (Spanish, Galician, English) with their separate rich roots and very different cadences, sensibilities and predilections. These have informed my poetry, fiction, non-fiction and life in indelible ways at levels beyond conscious thought.
When did you first start writing?
Almost as soon as I learned to write. I was writing (bad) poetry when I was eight years old, and "stories" before that. I kept a journal before I knew what a journal was--and burned it when what it contained was too painful, troubling, embarrassing, or simply too real to deal with at a tender age. I wish I had not for I can't remember what that precocious child found too troubling to keep around. This (no longer precocious) adult would like to know--and smile (mostly) and perhaps shed a tear or two for the unrequited love, frustrations or deep truths learned too young in life to process in a more productive way. I wrote a lot back then. Doubtless it was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (apologies to The Bard). Some things don't much change.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
There are a number of factors that led me to explore the indie route after publishing two trade books and five textbooks with traditional publishers (Irwin/Mirror Press, McGraw-Hill, Prentice Hall, McFarland & Co. and Textbook Media Publishing).

First, I wanted to publish a typically short book of poems for which there is essentially no significant market and which no traditional publisher would be likely to consider. Along the same lines, I wanted to publish a short story collection. Because I am not known for my fiction or poetry, I knew that finding a traditional publisher to take on either project would be a very difficult task, if not an impossible one. Most traditional publishers these days won't even read manuscripts from unagented authors, and I was not likely to find a good agent to handle my fiction and poetry without a past track record of success in these fields. Agents that charge up front reading fees (or any fees, for that matter, other than a percentage of the book's royalties/advances) are not agents I would consider in any case, any more than I would consider publishing through a vanity press masquerading as a small press. (Any publisher that requires an author to purchase a minimum number of books at a "discount" is a vanity press by any other name.) I could easily find an agent to represent me as to my non-fiction, especially my textbooks or law-related trade books. But I do not need representation as to these since I've never had difficulty interesting traditional publishers in such projects. When I complete my first novel, I will very likely search for a literary agent as it is a prerequisite for submitting it to most of the leading publishers today. For other projects, I'll go it alone or self-publish. But I digress. During the summer of 2011, I needed a break from my heavy research agenda that included research for a scholarly article and work on the instructor's manual and test bank for one of my new textbooks. So I decided to collect selected samples of my poetry spanning some 40 years and my favorite short stories written during the same time period and self-publish two books. I used CreateSpace to produce the paperback versions of my first two indie books and Kindle Direct Publishing for the Kindle version of these, later also ported to Barnes & Noble and still later to Smashwords for even wider distribution.

Second, I wanted to experience complete freedom to publish precisely what I wanted and charge a low price to encourage as wide a distribution as possible. I also wanted to offer the book in both paperback and eBook formats. That was a particularly important consideration for another work that I was working on that summer, my intellectual property general reference work. Ultimately, I published all three books.

Third, I wanted to experience publishing on my timetable with complete editorial control for the first time. There is no question that all three books would be better had they undergone the vetting of the traditional editorial process; I am not the best editor of my own work and without question each work is less perfect than it would have been with an editor to help guide and rein me in when needed. Although it is equally true that at times even the best editors can be difficult to work with, especially when their preferences conflict with a writer's style and voice. The perfect is indeed too often the enemy of the good.
What are you working on next?
I'm winding down a sabbatical leave as I write this. This semester I completed research on usury laws in all 50 states and how these are in effect undermined by federal law. The research was started last summer and completed in late January, with a paper completed in early April and presented at the NEALSB annual conference in late April. It is now out for a first round of reviews in selected first-tier journals and law reviews. I am also currently in the process of researching "good Samaritan" statutes in all 50 states, a project that will continue beyond the summer and will form the foundation for a paper completed before the end of the fall 2015 semester. This summer, I will also work on a new, expanded 3rd edition on my Business Law and the Legal Environment of Business for my current publisher, Textbook Media Publishing, that should be out early next year. Not much time for fiction or poetry projects in the coming year, I'm afraid, nor for work on my first novel that has been mostly on hold in mid-stream for the better part of a decade due to time constraints.
Published 2015-05-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Two Speculative Fiction Short Stories: Justice and The Riddle of the Sphinx: Solved
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,030. Language: English. Published: April 15, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
This publication contains two science fiction/speculative fiction short stories. The first, "Justice", involves a trial for the last remaining capital crime in a unified near-future Earth. The second, "The Riddle of the Sphinx: Solved" reveals the true nature of the Great Sphinx and the powerful secret hidden beneath its right paw eons ago by its unearthly builders.
Intellectual Property Law: A Practical Guide to Copyrights, Patents, Trademarks and Trade Secrets
Price: $8.99 USD. Words: 70,050. Language: American English. Published: April 14, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Law » Intellectual property, Nonfiction » Law » Intellectual property
This book is intended as both a primer on intellectual property law and as a general reference for authors, artists, musicians, librarians, entrepreneurs and others interested in learning about intellectual property law and the processes for obtaining copyrights, trademarks and patents in the U.S. and through international agreements. Appendices and links to online resources are also provided.
Mars: Genesis 2.0 (short story)
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 8,140. Language: English. Published: April 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic, Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi
An asteroid much larger than the one that killed off the dinosaurs is headed our way and will strike Earth in two years. The most technologically advanced countries launch massive efforts for an expanded space station and moon bases to save some vestiges of humanity from total extinction. The U.S. opts for a riskier but potentially more viable mission to Mars as a long shot for reseeding humanity.
End of Days (short story)
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,260. Language: English. Published: April 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
This short story poses a novel theory of cosmology involving the role of black holes in the creation and extinction of a limitless number of multiverses including our own. It explores scientific arrogance and the ability of determined terrorists to exploit it, using two suitcase nukes and a commercial plane in a field experiment that will begin an irreversible countdown to the end of days.
The Day the Dolphins Vanished (short story)
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,190. Language: English. Published: April 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
When a dedicated marine biologist/linguist makes the breakthrough in the near future that allows true communication to take place between humans and dolphins, what might our aquatic cousins learn about us and teach us about ourselves, and what consequences might result from an exchange of knowledge?
Earth Mother (Short Story)
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,040. Language: English. Published: April 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » General
If a visitor from another world were to offer you the gift of telepathy and immunity from all disease for the rest of your life for a small service, would you be quick to accept, or would you look a gift horse in the mouth?
Mergs (Or Why Godot Can't Come) (short story)
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,170. Language: English. Published: April 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
In a world that worships power and raises human beings onto pedestals erected from the insubstantial building blocks of ego, hubris, and self-delusion, it is no wonder that we look for meaning and enlightenment in all the wrong places. But what if even the most wretched soul amongst us were a god in a singular universe whom sentient beings worship and completely depend upon for their survival?
What Price to Live the Dream? (short story)
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 9,930. Language: English. Published: April 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
If it were within your power to change your subjective past through the use of technology, what price would you pay to revisit a crossroad in your life when you had made a terrible, life altering mistake? Would you give up an unfulfilled life haunted by the ghosts of roads not taken for the chance at happiness in an alternate reality?
To Sleep, Perchance to Dream (short story)
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,150. Language: English. Published: April 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
This short story delves into one possible chilling explanation for what lurks in the dark recesses of the human brain for which science has yet to discover a clear use. One man has discovered the truth, and it will kill him.
Mindscapes:Ten Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction Short Stories
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 42,860. Language: English. Published: April 12, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Literature » Literary
This book contains 10 science fiction and speculative fiction short stories on themes ranging from the innermost dimensions of the mind to the outer reaches of the universe focusing from diverse perspectives on the meaning of life, the superlative strength and wrenching weakness of the human spirit, the power of love and the duality of human nature anchored in both the divine and the profane.
Of Pain and Ecstasy: Collected Poems
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 7,080. Language: English. Published: July 11, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
This collection of poems presents a unique perspective on enduring themes--love, existentialism, the darker side of life in an urban environment, loneliness, quiet heroism and the transcendent power of poetry to rebuild weary souls and teach lessons we may not want to learn.
Book of Dreams: Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction Short Stories
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 25,620. Language: English. Published: July 11, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Literary collections » American / General
This collection of five science fiction and speculative fiction short stories probes the interrelationship between dreams and reality, the nature of reality itself, and the dangers attendant to the single-minded pursuit of wish fulfillment with its attendant unexpected and unwanted consequences. NOTE: The author's Mindscapes collection includes all of the stories in this book and five new ones.
Eternal Quest (short story)
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 7,800. Language: English. Published: July 11, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Themes & motifs » Spiritual & metaphysical, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
On its surface, this speculative fiction short story (7,800 words) deals with one man's obsessive quest for knowledge and the devastating price he must pay for the knowledge he ultimately acquires. Beneath the surface, this story is about deep friendships complicated by unrequited love, split loyalties, the interplay of id, ego and superego, and existentialist lessons learned too late in life.