Patrick and I met via membership in several Edgar Rice Burroughs forums on facebook. He has a great writing style in the forums and his new book sounds like it is a real winner to those of us that enjoy classic science fiction. I am very pleased to introduce him to you all here on No Wasted Ink.
I was born in 1951 in Sterling City, Texas. When I was 10, my mother presented me with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, a gift that helped shaped my life. I earned a bachelor of journalism in 1974 from The University of Texas at Austin and worked as a reporter for two daily newspapers in Texas. My wife Mary and I have a son, Wesley, a recent college graduate who serves as first reader for my novels. My favorite pastimes are backpacking and playing ragtime piano. We make our home in Midland, Texas, where my wife is managing editor of the daily newspaper.
When and why did you begin writing?
When I was 14, a teacher suggested I consider writing as a career. Thrilled over the prospect of emulating my hero – Burroughs – I went home that afternoon and began my first novel.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
From the moment I sat down and wrote that first line as a kid, I thought of myself as exactly that—a writer. But forty-seven years later, I’m still learning.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
Although the first two of my 20 books were science fiction novels, Starflight to Destiny is my first sci-fi work since 1980. Here’s a teaser:
A deep-space archaeological dig shrouded in mystery…
Clues to the location of a legendary power in the reaches of the galaxy…
A man and a woman, each of them holding half the answers, both of them defying a totalitarian government.
Together, Blake Sharrel and Rhonda Gregory embark on a starship quest to find the Leijan, an enigma that holds the fate of the cosmos. It’s an epic journey filled with peril: a crew of pirates ready to slit their throats, a planet where intruders are crucified upside down, and a chase across countless light years of unexplored space.
From one planet’s Valley of the Skull to another planet’s City of the Skull, and on to a derelict spacecraft orbiting a black world, it will be a Starflight to Destiny.
What inspired you to write this book?
My science fiction roots run all the way back to Burroughs, but I’ve also found that my work in one genre fuels another genre. Since 1982, I’ve researched and written extensively about lost treasures of the Southwest. Starflight to Destiny is actually a lost treasure tale, although this treasure is a lost power and the setting is interstellar space rather than a Southwestern wilderness.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I learned early on never to emulate another author stylistically. Over the decades I’ve developed my own style, although I’ve always felt that a competent writer should adapt his style to the subject matter. My works range from documented history to folklore to journalism to westerns to sci-fi, and each genre demands its on style.
With that said, Starflight to Destiny most closely resembles the works of Leigh Brackett and the mature Edmond Hamilton, with a large dose of Burroughs.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
A title should attract a potential buyer’s attention, but also be true to the subject matter. “Starflight” immediately indicates science fiction and an interstellar journey. And as readers will find out, “Destiny” could not be a more appropriate term for what my characters find at quest’s end.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
On one front, I want to stress the importance of perseverance, which I think is the key to success in almost anything, whether it be writing or interpersonal relationships. It’s always easy to throw your hands up and give up, but that frame of mind won’t gain a person success in writing, much less in a marriage or in the relationship with his children or friends.
When I completed the manuscript for my first nonfiction book back in the mid-‘80s, I suffered through 75 rejections. At that point, I faced a choice: I could either give up or I could persevere. I chose the latter. I changed the title – that’s all – and started through the same publishers a second time. After I had endured exactly 100 total rejections, an acquisitions editor snapped it up.
With another manuscript, a novel about hobo life in the Great Depression, I went through 17 drafts over a 32-year-span before it was good enough to find a home. It’s no accident that I titled it Perseverance.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Even in science fiction, I draw upon my own experiences, shaping them to fit my needs. First love, last love, forever love, never love . . . Who hasn’t gone through at least some aspect of the intricacies of interpersonal relationships?
There’s a lot of Humphrey Bogart’s Rick from “Casablanca” in my main character in Starflight to Destiny, but there’s also a lot of me.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
I’ve already mentioned my admiration for Burroughs and Leigh Brackett. For my buck, Burroughs was the greatest storyteller ever, and Brackett was the master stylist. Every time I read one of her works, I’m so awed by her incomparable style that I think I might as well give up writing.
I also admire James Oliver Curwood, whose Kazan, the Wolf Dog is on a level with Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes and The War Chief as my all-time favorites. Jack London’s The Call of the Wild is high on my list too. Do you note a trend? High adventure is the common element in all of my favorite authors’ works, which is something I pursue every time I go backpacking.
If you had to choose, is there a writer you would consider a mentor? Why?
From the standpoint of authors as persons, rather than writers, I had the utmost respect for my dear friend Paul Patterson and his one-time student, the acclaimed western author Elmer Kelton. I dedicated books to each of these late, great men, most recently my novel To Hell or the Pecos, which is dedicated to Kelton.
Patterson, one of the last old-time Pecos River cowboys, guided me into folklore and Old West history in the early ’80s and was my chief consultant on all things western. Kelton went to bat on my behalf numerous times as I sought contracts with publishers for my documented histories about the Old West.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
I chose a spectacular deep-space photo from the Hubble Telescope, and Lee Emory of Treble Heart Books used it in designing what I consider an eye-catching cover. I think it may be the most attractive cover of any of my 11 novels.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
In a question-and-answer session back in college, I asked Larry McMurtry what advice he would give an unpublished novelist. He replied, “Write regularly. You may have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t have the energy and dedication and perseverance to sit down and write, you’ll never get anywhere.”
Let me add this quote that I have framed over my work station: “The real trick is to keep on writing when no one cares whether you do or not, to keep on writing in the face of loneliness and fear.”
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Expect more than a simple space opera in Starflight to Destiny. Maybe reading it will help point you toward your own destiny.
Starflight to Destiny
Treble Heart Books
Lee Emory, Cover Designer