Interview with Warren Merkey

When did you first start writing?
I thought of becoming a science fiction writer when I was in high school. I wrote a lot of words but never anything good.
What's the story behind your latest book?
It's not only the latest but the only book I've written. The basic outline was completed about 45 years ago and was about 30,000 words in length. It was intended to become a movie script. A literary agency thought it was not any good (and it wasn't, at least in terms of skill) so I gave up on it for a number of years. When I met my future wife I told her the basic plot of the story, and of course she told me what I wanted to hear, but that didn't help much because starting a family takes a lot of work, and writing is such a selfish-seeming occupation. Many years later, when I was diagnosed with a melanoma on my scalp, I decided to write the story before I died.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Three reasons. First, the infamous slush-pile filter of all traditional publishers. I was too old to wait through dozens of rejections. Second, my book had gotten too long for a first-time author to be submitting to the slush piles. Third, I was familiar with computers and word processors and thought I could adapt to the new publishing paradigm.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The enjoyment the reader receives would be joyful to me, but if you are really asking what part of writing I enjoy the most, it would be rewriting. Rewriting is where you begin to find what you are trying to say and how you should say it. You can actually see the improvement, even if it is still not the best that can be done.
What do your fans mean to you?
Having fans is still unknown to me. I'd like to think that, at my age, it would no longer be important to my ego. There are too many more serious matters in the world. If I should have fans in the future it would at least mean that I have touched their lives in some meaningful way.
What are you working on next?
I seriously doubt that I will finish writing another book, and certainly not one as long as Far Freedom. I have written a few pages of an adventure story based in the Far Freedom universe. I haven't had the time or inspiration to continue with it. Maybe if I can retire.
Who are your favorite authors?
When I was a young man Heinlein was my favorite. I loved his juvenile books. I've outgrown his politics. Asimov, Clarke, Cherryh, Laumer, McDevitt, McCaffrey, and Pournelle are other writers who come to mind. Clarke's 'The City and the Stars' was a favorite in my youth.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The freight has to move. I drive a big truck to earn a post-retirement living. That isn't inspiration; it's a cattle prod. If I was a full-time writer, early in the morning is the best time to write, simply because your brain works better. I don't need inspiration to get up and live, and sleeping isn't real life.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm writing I'm not making any money, so I spend my time working for a living or coming home to my family and helping around the house.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I look for ebooks on my smartphone, which is pretty hard since the search functions are primitive. It isn't much easier on a laptop. Cover designs don't attract me so much as they dissuade me. I avoid series titles. I guess it's a combination of title and cover art that stops me long enough to read the entire description, and I scroll through hundreds of titles. I rarely respond to any advertising.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Only that it was for my 12th-grade English class and it was kind of like scifi and was supposed to be funny, and when I read it to the class they all laughed and I got an A.
What is your writing process?
Rewriting. Get something down on the drive, then destroy it by changing everything.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No. I'm 70. But I think the main characters were named Dick and Jane. I know I read everything I could find in my 1st grade class.
How do you approach cover design?
Cautiously, hoping for simplicity and elegance.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Rolling Stones - first Heinlein SF story I read and really opened my mind to SF
The City and the Stars - because it showed me how limitless SF could be
The Pride of Chanur - because it began the Chanur series (and I usually avoid series)
A Talent for War - just to pick at least one book by Jack McDevitt
Far Freedom - my own book, because it has things I like that no other book has
What do you read for pleasure?
I read hard SF and space opera. I don't have time for much else. I read the newspaper but only the comics give me pleasure. When I have time, I read the tech news on my computer.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Smartphone, because of portability.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I'm too new to publishing.
Describe your desk
The top of my thighs, covered with a clipboard or other flat object that holds my laptop computer. I am usually sitting in the cab of an 18-wheeler or on the sofa at home, early in the morning.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
We moved around. I lived with my grandparents in the early 1950s as my grandfather and uncles left Kansas and worked construction in South Carolina and Florida. Perhaps leaving a small-town life and seeing some of the rest of the world set my mind to wandering.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
It hasn't yet but it gives me hope.
Published 2014-05-15.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Lady Far Freedom Part 3
Series: Far Freedom Divided. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 140,080. Language: English. Published: February 9, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
A 20th-Century human being has been delivered to the Freedom by a thing that does not fit any category of machine or being. Samuel Lee remembers only his childhood on Earth, but when he remembers the rest of his life it will upset the balance of terror that controls the rest of humanity.
Cryptikon Far Freedom Part 2
Series: Far Freedom Divided. Price: Free! Words: 124,720. Language: English. Published: February 8, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
The Navy's mission for the starship Freedom is exploration toward the galactic hub. Admiral Demba's mission objective is a search for someone she has lost, but there is a suspected sinister third mission objective. Escape from the Navy is the first task, followed by a rendezvous that changes the physics of the ship. Demba's objective then leads to tragedy, resurrection, and startling discovery.
Keshona Far Freedom Part 1
Series: Far Freedom Divided. Price: Free! Words: 133,200. Language: English. Published: February 7, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
Admiral Fidelity Demba, needing a superior captain for an otherwise doomed mission, kidnaps Jon Horss the Navy's flagship captain and takes him to an empty forbidden planet - Earth. An abandoned boy on Earth disrupts not only her plans but her belief in who she is. The Commander of the Navy arrives to investigate her but some other entity sends her and the boy to a place called Oz.
Far Freedom
Series: Far Freedom Divided. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 397,880. Language: American English. Published: May 12, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
In 1986 a near-sighted astronomer disappears, leaving his crippled wife alone. Their secret military weapons experiment has major consequences for humanity and for aliens in the far future. In 2687 two women - a singing admiral and a renowned physician - because they forgot someone they now remember, steal a Navy starship and risk a second collapse of human civilization.