Interview with M Thomas Apple

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Troy, New York, but my family moved three or four times before I was 12. The shifting of environments, both physical and social, is probably the biggest influence. Troy was "the big city" for me until age 8. Lots of buses and urban life style choices. Then from 8 to 12 I lived in Berne, a tiny hamlet in the Helderberg Escarpment west of Albany. I loved tromping through the woods, finding fossils, fishing and bird-watching, going on life or death toboggan runs. Then in junior and senior high school I lived in Warrensburg, the "Queen Village of the Adirondacks." The relative isolation led to lots of hiking (in warmer weather) and D & D (in colder weather, which was most of the time).

I would say that my formative time in the Helderbergs influenced my sense of the value of nature, and also the fragility of our relationship to it. It was in Berne that I first developed an interest in SF and fantasy, reading through all the CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, and Madeleine L'Engle that I could find. I was Meg, I was Sam, I was Edmund. But I desperately wanted to be Charles, Frodo, and Peter. My adolescent experience in the Adirondacks expanded my childhood interests by introducing the social and political realm, especially when my 11th grade English teacher introduced me to the work of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and George Orwell.

And Troy? Troy was, and still is, my long-lost squabbling, bickering, interrelated multiethnic family. One I constantly try to recreate.
Who are your favorite authors?
I grew up reading the "Big Three" (Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke) of science fiction, as well as others from the Golden Age such as Bradbury, whose short fiction about Mars enthralled me as a child astronomer (this is when the Viking probes landed on the Red Planet in mid-late '70s). But when I found Franz Kafka and PKD (Phillip K Dick) in my college years, I found my genre.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien)
Till We Have Faces (CS Lewis)
The Demon-Haunted World (Carl Sagan)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K Dick)
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki)
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I think it was probably a short story I wrote as part of an elementary school 5th grade English class assignment. Each week, we were told either to use 20 vocabulary words in a series of sentences, or to use them in a story. I thought simply writing a list of sentences was boring, so I always chose the story option. The teacher liked them, so he made me read the stories at the front of class. I can't remember the names of the stories, but I was really into Sherlock Holmes/Encyclopedia Brown type of mystery stories at the time, so I invented a couple of characters and wrote short mystery stories about their adventures solving crimes (with myself as the main character, of course!).
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Ever since I read "The Joy of Writing" by Peter Elbow, I have always found joy simply in writing. The process of writing. The act of writing. Putting my thoughts, dreams, fears, hopes, doubts, experiences into symbolic/numeric/literary form, to be read by others - or by myself - in the future. The greatest joy of writing for me is the thought that somebody, somewhere, at some time in the future, will be able to read my writing, long after I am gone. And so writing becomes a kind of immortality. Or is that too hopeful?
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Coffee. Also my MacBook. Usually at the same time.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Hiking. Playing way too much Master of Orion and Civilization than any rational human being ought to. Netflix bingeing. Daydreaming about finishing my novel.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Random-happenstance while researching on the net for my stories. One find leads to another, and then suddenly there's a book I get hooked on.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My iPad. Sometimes I read on my iPhone, but the screen is just too small. It is a lot easier to hold while taking the train to work, granted. I usually stick to Kindle (it's a free app, after all) but I also use Apple Books and once in a while Google Play. Other devices and apps are really only meant for the US market, which makes them less appealing to me, as I don't live in the US.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans mean the world to me! Nothing makes me more energized and positive about continuing to write than reading comments from people who read my work and find something in it that strikes a chord, makes them think and reflect, provokes emotional responses, makes them angry/sad/thoughtful/happy.
What are you working on next?
I'm drawing close to completing the first full draft of a science-fiction-slash-fantasy novel called Bringer of Light, which I hope will be the first book in a series called Children of Pella. It's much longer, and much more ambitious, than any of my previous work. It has a full cast of complicated characters representing multiple ethnicities, religions, personalities, and concepts. It's full of political intrigue and personal conflicts. It starts in the hard science world and moves into the mystical. Hopefully it'll be available just in time for summer 2019!
Published 2019-01-26.
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