Interview with Allen J. Woppert

Before you wrote your novel, you wrote English Language Teaching textbooks. What’s the difference between the two, and which do you prefer?
It depends how you go about it. Our approach in the language textbooks was story-based. So while the top priority was to teach English, we always tried to do it with an entertaining story. Nobody ever objected to having fun while learning.

With a novel, the emphasis, of course, is on entertainment, but if my readers learn a thing or two in the process, I’m sure they won’t complain either. So the two kinds of books actually have more in common than you might think.
What is your writing process like?
I have probably the worst writing habits of any writer! Even though I’ve been doing this full-time for many, many years, I don’t keep a regular schedule. Every “how to write” book I’ve ever seen says to stick to a schedule, write X number of words a day. But for me, I have to feel inspired, so I only work when I have the feeling that what comes out on paper is going to be good.

And I’m not big on plotting or outlining. It makes me feel like a hypocrite to say that, after years of teaching students the importance of an outline! But I’ve never been able to work with one—it’s just not how my mind works.

I start with characters, and I sort of know where they’re going in the end, but I try to let them run free and get there by themselves. As I write, I find the characters develop a personality of their own. So I don’t try to force them to do things—it sounds weird, I know, but they make the decisions every step of the way.
Where do your ideas come from?
That’s not actually something I can answer because I don’t always know. It can be something someone said, like a conversation overheard on a bus. Or in one case I remember, it was a sudden and unexpected silence. I was looking for an idea for a radio play, and my assistant closed the window because the playground next door was getting too loud. The sudden quiet in the room startled me, and in an instant I had an idea for a science fiction story: a boy was playing tin can alley when he was suddenly whisked off to some sort of cosmic zoo. It turned out rather nicely, if I may say so myself.

But truth be told, most of my ideas seem to come to me in the shower. I think it’s the sensory deprivation that clears my head and lets the ideas slip in.
What made you decide to write about evolution v. creationism?
It’s an important topic, and all the time spent and energy expended debating whether to teach facts or myths in the science classroom is such a waste. I’m convinced that that’s one of the reasons the United States is falling behind other countries in education. And eventually that’s going to affect productivity and cost the country its role as an economic leader.

That said, I wouldn’t really say that The War on Science Goes Batshit is about evolution v. creationism. That would be a fairly boring story—or maybe an essay.

The whole science v. religion controversy is actually more the backdrop for the story of Timothy, his family, his friends, and the slightly odd place he lives and goes to school in.
Is Timothy’s story autobiographical—is Timothy you?
I wish! Timothy is a whole lot smarter than I am, and definitely braver. He’s a hero; I’m just a writer.
Published 2013-10-14.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The War on Science Goes Batshit
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 64,310. Language: English. Published: November 1, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Social Issues
It’s an all-out war at Batshit High when boy genius and science geek Timothy Thompson stops his biology teacher from introducing “intelligent design” and tries to force her to teach real science (evolution). The school and community are divided. Things heat up, eventually becoming a matter of life and death for Timothy. A delightful and suspenseful coming-of-age story with a political twist.