Interview with David Lee Summers

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
My "day" job is operating the 4-meter and 3.5-meter telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Southern Arizona. Basically, I work from sunset to sunrise every other week helping astronomers get the best data they can when they're awarded research time at our facilities. When I'm not doing that, I like traveling around the Southwest. I'm just back from a trip to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. Last summer, I visited Tombstone, Arizona. My other hobby is cooking. I'm especially fond of Mexican and Cajun/Creole dishes.
When did you first start writing?
I've been writing as long as I can remember. I was probably about eight years old when I announced to my parents that I wanted to be a writer. They rolled their eyes and suggested that I should think about other career options. The next time I approached them, I told them I wanted to be an astronomer. That resulted in another eye-roll. I first attempted to become disciplined about writing in high school and college friends remember me writing in breaks between classes or whenever I had a little free time. I got serious about publishing my writing in 1993 when I wrote my first novel, "The Pirates of Sufiro." Along the way, I also pursued my dream of becoming an astronomer, and I have worked at a number of observatories around the southwestern United States.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The latest book I published on Smashwords is an anthology of short stories I co-edited with Steve B. Howell, project scientist of NASA's Kepler Mission called "A Kepler's Dozen." The Kepler probe is searching for planets around other stars. Steve came to me with the idea of creating an anthology of short stories set around planets discovered by the Kepler Probe. I approached several of the authors I knew from "Tales of the Talisman" Magazine and from attending science fiction conventions and we assembled the book. Steve and I worked to make sure each of the stories were both scientifically accurate and fun to read.

I'm also published by Sky Warrior Books and those books are published under the davidleesummers1 profile. My latest book there is called "Lightning Wolves" and it's a wild west steampunk adventure inspired by my love of Southwestern history and particularly that once a week I drive by the turnoff to Tombstone, Arizona. Now most people who know western lore know the story of the Gunfight at OK Corral, but Tombstone itself has an interesting history and I explore it in an alternate reality where many of the young people of the Southwest have been pulled into the Pacific Northwest to fight a Russian invasion in 1877. An expatriate Mexican professor builds a mining machine to extract the silver from the mountains where Tombstone will grow up. Meanwhile, cattle rustlers see a way they can make an even bigger profit.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I have worked at all levels of publishing from being an indie author to being published professionally by such magazines as "Realms of Fantasy" and "Cemetery Dance." As such, I can say that publishing is a "one size fits all" game. Some projects work better for some publishers than others. My first project with Smashwords was a reprint of my first professionally published short story, "The Slayers." I posted it as a way of celebrating the story's tenth anniversary. My second project was a novella in the "Empires of Steam and Rust" series. The model there was that each author who contributed a story to the series published their own story so that no one had to be responsible for disbursing the royalties. I published "A Kepler's Dozen" through my own company, because I wanted to take advantage of the timeliness of an anthology devoted to stories about NASA's Kepler mission.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Through it's comprehensive formatting guidelines, Smashwords helped me understand ebooks and create books that work well across many platforms. The lack of digital rights management on Smashwords titles has been a factor in selling books. Over the years, I've also networked with other Smashwords authors and we have been able to help each other with marketing and promotion of our books.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I spend a lot of time promoting my books at science fiction and fantasy conventions. While there, I meet a lot of fascinating authors. If I think they have books I'll enjoy, I definitely search for them on Smashwords. Another place I discover new authors is through small press anthologies and magazines. If I read a short story I particularly like, I'll seek out more of that author's work.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I remember composing a story in fifth grade about people in a wagon train having adventures in the wild west, battling the elements and outlaws. That would have been right about the time I discovered a few westerns I really enjoyed, such as the musical "Paint Your Wagon" and the TV series "The Wild Wild West." That love affair with westerns and adventure has certainly played a role in later works such as "Revolution of Air and Rust" available here on Smashwords and my wild west steampunk adventure "Owl Dance."
How do you approach cover design?
Over the years as editor of "Tales of the Talisman" magazine, I've cultivated a relationship with several different artists and particularly my art director, Laura Givens. My approach is typically to find an artist who I think would be suitable for a given project then describe the story to them. Sometimes I have a fairly specific idea of what I want on the cover. Other times, I'm less certain. If I have a good idea, I'll typically try to find photos of things that are pretty close to what I have in mind and send those to my artist. If I'm less certain, I'll let them come up with something and we'll go back and forth until I think we've found a good match for the story. Laura is especially easy to work with. If you're a science fiction and fantasy writer looking for an artist to work with, I highly recommend visiting the art shows at local conventions and getting to know the artists in your area. Many of them will do outstanding cover work for you at reasonable rates. Sometimes, in the process of working with an artist, I've seen things in my story I that hadn't seen when I was writing it!
What is your writing process?
I have a long commute to work and before I even sit down to write, I spend a lot of time visualizing elements of my story. I like to be at the point when I sit down to write of relating an incident that feels as real to me as something I remember actually happening. If I'm writing a longer work, I often create a very bare-bones outline, to give me a road map of where I want to go. Despite creating an outline, I try not to let that constrain me too much. If my characters grow in a different way than I expected, I let them, then revise the outline. As for the day-to-day process, I typically get up in the morning and write a few hundred words while having my coffee. Then I go out for a two-mile walk around my neighborhood. I come back, write some more, then have lunch. After that, I often write a little more, then take off for the afternoon. I use the later afternoon time for email and catching up with book promotion.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
As a writer, I have traveled to alternate realities, sailed aboard airships and slain dragons. I have traveled back in time and joined Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution. I have traveled to planets that I would probably never see in my lifetime. Writing has allowed me to experience all those things. What's more, writing allows me to share those experiences with my readers. My greatest joy has been those times at conventions or book signings when someone has come up to me and told me how much a story thrilled them, scared them, or made them laugh.
What do your fans mean to you?
I have to admit, it's hard for me to think of the people who have read and enjoyed my work as "fans." They've been traveling companions and sometimes even friends. They mean the world to me. They're the people who breathe life into my work, see it filtered through their own eyes, and live the stories over and over again. I can't say how much I appreciate all the people who have taken time to read my work. Thank you!
Published 2016-01-30.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Solar Sea
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 63,870. Language: English. Published: March 21, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » General, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Sci-Fi & fantasy
Whales around the world changed their songs the day scientists announced the discovery of new particles around Saturn's largest moon which could solve Earth's energy needs. The Quinn Corporation rushes to build a solar sail space craft to unlock the secrets of these strange new particles. The crew makes a grand tour of the solar system and discovers wonders and dangers beyond their imagination.
Kepler's Cowboys
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 91,740. Language: English. Published: March 1, 2017 by David Lee Summers. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has discovered thousands of new planets. Visiting, much less settling, those worlds will provide innumerable challenges. The men and women who make the journey will be those who don't fear the odds. They'll be Kepler's Cowboys. Saddle up and take an unforgettable journey in this anthology of science fiction stories about planets discovered by NASA's Kepler mission.
Kepler's Cowboys
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 91,740. Language: English. Published: March 1, 2017 by David Lee Summers. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has discovered thousands of new planets. Visiting, much less settling, those worlds will provide innumerable challenges. The men and women who make the journey will be those who don't fear the odds. They'll be Kepler's Cowboys. Saddle up and take an unforgettable journey in this anthology of science fiction stories about planets discovered by NASA's Kepler mission.
Blood Sampler
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 13,780. Language: English. Published: June 9, 2014 by Alban Lake Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Undead
Two of the finest minds in the genres have amalgamated their resources and imaginations to come up with some of the gothiest and goofiest vampire flash fiction this side of Bucharest. David Lee Summers, of Tales of the Talisman and Heirs of the New Earth fame, and Lee Clark Zumpe, mild-mannered reporter for a daily metro-Floridian newspaper, take you on a journey through tales that fit everywhere
Tales of the Talisman, Volume 8, Issue 3
Series: Tales of the Talisman. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 58,370. Language: English. Published: November 12, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories, Fiction » Fantasy » General
Explore P'Eng-Lai, the legendary home of the immortals. Travel to an exotic future inhabited by the bee and wolf tribes. Join a quest for a druid's master -- just be careful, the master has been dabbling in forbidden magic! Climb rugged mountains in search of dragon eggs and power. These and other tales of the imagination await in this issue of Tales of the Talisman.
A Kepler's Dozen: Thirteen Stories About Distant Worlds That Really Exist
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 60,530. Language: English. Published: June 12, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
A Kepler's Dozen presents thirteen action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Edited by and contributing stories are David Lee Summers, editor of Tales of the Talisman Magazine, and Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission.
Revolution of Air and Rust
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 24,180. Language: English. Published: November 13, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Steampunk & retropunk, Fiction » Fantasy » Historical
(4.00 from 1 review)
It's 1915 and the American Expeditionary Force has invaded Northern Mexico. Pancho Villa leads his revolutionary army in a desperate raid against the American force only to be outflanked. Just as American airships prepare to deliver the death blow, Pancho Villa is transported to a parallel Earth where he finds an unexpected ally and the technology that might turn defeat into victory.
The Slayers
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,800. Language: English. Published: May 7, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
(5.00 from 1 review)
A young man named Rado signs aboard a mighty dirigible called the Slayer to hunt dragons, but soon learns that the captain will not rest until he kills the mighty gold dragon. First published in 2001, "The Slayers" is a fun, clever retelling of Moby Dick in a fantasy world with dragons.