Interview with Robert Holt

Describe your desk
Desk? You must be joking. I can't find my desk under all that clutter: the keyboard and mouse; letters; books; papers; rocks, fossils; electronic components; wires; cables; ethernet switch; screw drivers, tweezers; magnifiers; hard drives; flash drives; 200 MB and 700 MB CDs...
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I prefer to read eBooks on either my desktop or laptop pc. That way, I don't have to hold the device in my hands for hours on end.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the great cosmopolitan area of Cincinnati, Ohio, a city within a vast forest (or at least it used to be...). Cincinnati has people of all colors, shapes and sizes. In any Downtown restaurant or on Fountain Square, just listen and you'll hear many odd and curious dialects (and that's just in English), as well as many other languages. It is an amazing city gorgeous city and county parks, with fine museums, a wonderful symphony orchestra, some absolutely amazing cuisine, and some incredible fossil collecting site having a wonderful array of marine fossils. Cincinnati was an exciting place to grow up.
What's the story behind your latest book?
A couple years ago, I joined a writers' group. We wrote from imaginative prompts suggested at each meeting, the stories to be read to the group at the next bi-weekly meeting. The only rule was to try to limit the prompt to roughly five-hundred words (and I still have difficulty writing a good story in less than a thousand to fifteen hundred words)...but, fortunately for me, our members generally ignore that rule. A prompt is a word or phrase, meant to stimulate the imagination. It doesn't even have to be included in the story. It's simply something to generate ideas for something to write about. Usually we have from five to ten stories presented at a meeting, and wow, you would be amazed at how many vastly different ideas come from one prompt!

At one meeting early last year, a prompt was suggested--two men and a flapping tarp. My imagination took me several places, but the one that stuck was a couple of teens, hiding under a flapping tarp in the back of a pickup truck on a farm, when a meteorite lands, nearly crashing into them. Then I wondered, why just a meteorite? Why not a spaceship? And the story took off like a rocket!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I write to please myself. I like my stories...well, mostly. However others have read my stories and found them fascinating. So, why not spread the enjoyment...
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
FREE Publishing? WOW! I thought I'd have to pay thousands to publish a book through the traditional route. But free? This is the best thing since sliced bread!
What are you working on next?
I'm currently working on the sequel to A Plea in the Darkness, as well a few new stories. One, I envision as a Young Adult novella or novel about a girl who lives and works with her father on a nature preserve on another planet. I have already published two short stories about her and her cat-analog in my anthologies, A Twist in Time, and Dark Star Safari. I am also starting a third anthology.
Who are your favorite authors?
My favorite authors are the old masters of science fiction: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clark, Roger Zelany, Philip K. Dick, Andre Norton...and the list goes on for a few kilometers...
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The whole Universe inspires me. I avidly check out the latest findings in astronomy and astrophysics, rocketry, particle physics, recently discovered phyla of animals, what's happening in conservation and ecology, and what will I read about, see on TV or outdoors, or what will I write about today? Life is so exciting, I can't wait to get out of bed and get the day started!
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I read, both science fiction and fantasy, and non-fiction; I go outdoors, walk, travel and explore when I can, watch the night sky...
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I scan the categories I like at Smashwords.com, and Barnes & Noble.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
In fifth grade, Mrs. Lampe gave us a prompt: The Pied Piper led the children out of Hamlin to a mountain. The mountain opened to the sound of the pipe, and he led the children through the opening into another land. What happened after the mountain closed?

I could tell you about the plague that infected the children, and what they did about it, but why don't you write your own story...
What is your writing process?
Something comes to mind, and I make a note of it, or I just begin writing. I carry around both a Post-It notepad, and a pocket Moleskin journal, for when ideas pop up and I'm not at the computer. If I'm at the computer, I start a new file for each idea.

Once I have an idea, I jot notes on post-its, or longer segments in the journal, and transfer them to the story file later. For some stories, I go with the flow, just waiting for ideas for scenes to come to me. For longer stories, like novellas or novels, I create a technical outline, Chapter by chapter, scene by scene. With things like that, its important to try to keep track of the cast of characters, names, dates and places, so the technical outline is almost essential.

During the day, I usually let ideas come freely, wherever I am. But I do most of my writing at night, after the 10:00 news, and often stay up until two or later.

I constantly re-read what I have written, making additions and corrections. Often I read it aloud, because when you hear what you have written, you recognize the errors more quickly than when you silently read the text.

When I think I've completed a project, I give it another read, then put it aside for days or weeks. When I come back to it, it's like reading it for the first time, and that also makes it easier to pick out more errors, and think of things I should have written to clarify some of the ideas...

Huh! This is the first time I've written about my writing process. Frankly, writing's more work than I thought!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Ollie and the big horn...or something like that. It was my favorite book when I was five. I'm not certain what kind of impact it had on me, except that it was fun. "Many brave hearts are asleep in the Deep, so Beware, Be...eee...eee...e...ware." Mommy would sing it in her "baso-profundo" voice, and I would try to emulate her. Oh well, it was a long, long, long, long time ago.

But by the time I was nine, I was reading the science fiction anthologies and novels my older brother had bought and left behind...and those were soooooo cooooool!
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I'm afraid I can't limit myself to five favorite books. My favorite fiction works tend to be series: Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet series;Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series; Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, Jk Rowling's Harry Potter series; Asimov's Robot series; JD Robb's (Nora Roberts) _______ in Death series; and many, many others...
Sorry, I can't pick a favorite.
How do you approach cover design?
I try to create my own covers, because it's cheaper than contracting an artist. I set up a new, blank Photoshop (well, GIMP actually, but it's the same process) file, 1600 x 2400 pixels, and transparent. Then I search for public domain images on the Internet, photograph my own subjects, or make my own drawings, and composite the image to my satisfaction. I search for typefaces (what most people call fonts, though a font is technically a particular style of a typeface) that I think looks good on the background, and type it in. Your artwork should always be composited in layers, so that each layer can be edited, or moved around the cover image separately. That makes it easier to move images and text to where they appear best.
What do you read for pleasure?
Science fiction and fantasy would be the simple answer. But I also love reading Science, Scientific American, Nature, Science News; National Geographic, Discover...
When did you first start writing?
Fifth Grade. Already told you about Mrs. Lampe's prompt...
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Reading my own stories. I think I mentioned earlier that I really write to please myself. If someone else likes my stories, that's just a bonus.
Published 2015-05-01.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Conflict In The Darkness
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 141,100. Language: English. Published: January 24, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi
Old Chinese Curse: May you live in interesting times. For Laurie Denari, the alien commander of Earth Space Force, the interesting times have no end in sight. Having created the ESF, Fleet Commander Denari must now deal with opposition from dangerous factions on Earth, and what may well be an alien invasion fleet hundreds of times the size of her own.
A Plea In The Darkness
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 142,450. Language: English. Published: April 25, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi
When an alien fighter craft crash-lands in the U.S., her pilot is healed by Air Force doctor Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Harris. Dr. Harris names the alien Laurie, and helps her convince his superiors of an alien threat, the Krev. Laurie and her ship’s AI enter a treaty of technology exchange with the US, and begin to build a space fleet, based on their advanced tech. 1st Book in the Series...
Dark Star Safari
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 91,180. Language: English. Published: January 26, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
Dark Star Safari: Thirteen stories of stories comprising 2 novelettes, and 11short stories of science fiction, fantasy and the paranormal.
A Twist In Time
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 85,190. Language: English. Published: January 17, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Science fiction » General
A Twist In Time, and 12 Other Stories - An anthology of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and the Paranormal.