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Author Interview: Joshua Grasso

Joshua Grasso is a professor of English at East Central University and the author of three books on Amazon: The Winged Turban, The Astrologer’s Portrait, and The Count of the Living Death. He is also a fellow member of the Fantasy and Science Fiction Network.  Please welcome him here on No Wasted Ink.

author-joshua-grassoHello—my name is Joshua Grasso, and I’m currently an Associate Professor of English at East Central University, a small university in Oklahoma. My day job consists of teaching all those wonderful classes that are the genesis of every science fiction and fantasy book out there—British Literature, World Literature, Shakespeare, Gothic Literature, and every once in a while, a class on Superheroes as Lit. As a teacher, I try to do the same thing I do in my books: introduce students to a new, exciting world that has (seemingly) always existed, and invite them to start exploring themselves, using language, art, and logic as their guide. I think some of the greatest adventures in history actually started in the classroom, by a writer, or an explorer, or simply a dreamer who caught wind of something unique from a lecture, or a discussion, or a reading assignment. That’s where my journey began, anyway—as a first-year college student in a drafty classroom.

When and why did you begin writing?

As an English major in college, I was inspired by all the works I read, particularly the works set in ancient worlds and languages: Homer, Shakespeare, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, etc. These works seemed vitally alive to me, yet also quite incomplete; there were ‘holes’ and gaps in the narratives that seemed to invite a future writer to fill in. They provided the perfect introduction to my own world and ideas.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In 1995, I entered a one-act play writing contest at my college and surprisingly won (I had never won anything writing-wise, and I haven’t won much since!). The grand prize was a full production of my little play, but as luck would have it, this occurred just weeks before the Oklahoma City bombing (April 1995). Since we were in Oklahoma, that became the focus of everyone’s life and the production became largely forgotten—and was finally just half-performed for one evening. Still, it was a starting point, though I quickly realized my talent did not lie in writing plays (I typically just stuck my characters in a room and set them arguing at each other; I learned that you should probably change scenes once in a while).

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My most recent book, The Winged Turban (2015), is a fantasy novel with a slight Gothic influence set in a Europe-that-never-was. A young woman is married into a strange family and packed away into an ancient estate, where she uncovers a strange old portrait that was never there before, and at least one person is fairly certain is a portrait of her (though it’s well over 200 years old).
What inspired you to write this book?

The cover of the book features a famous 15th century painting by Rogier Van der Weyden, The Woman with a Winged Turban. This is a painting I often use in my classes when teaching the late medieval period, and I’ve always been captivated by it: the painting and the woman. One day, while teaching, I began having a conversation with myself, wondering who she really was, and how I could build a story around it. Those rough ideas slowly blossomed into a full-fledged novel about a year later. The painting—slightly changed—is actually described in the book, so if you know it (or have memorized the cover) you’ll realize immediately what I’m talking about.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I think so, but that’s a dangerous thing to try to nail down. I used to be very verbose, flowery, and full of asides. I’ve tried to cut that down, but even today, I like sentences that flow from specific word use and sentence structures. I love long sentences, too, and I’m not afraid of using semicolons, colons, ellipses, or parenthesis (even though an agent once warned me that writers stopped using them ages ago!). I don’t like writing that is too obvious or clipped. I think writing should be like a ball of yarn: the more you read, the more tangled up you get in the narrative, and just when you think you’ve gotten loose—ah, another tangle! The writing should be clear and readable, but not easy or obvious. It should make you read, re-read, and think a little. That’s what I hope my style does—makes you re-read, not out of confusion (well, once or twice) but for the sheer enjoyment of a sentence or idea.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Ha, this one was easy: I just stole it from the title of the painting. I loved the phrase “winged turban.” It’s just a style of medieval fashion, but it sounds so mysterious, and most people have no ideas what a winged turban is, anyway. You have to read to find out. And then you’re like, “oh, it’s just her headgear.”

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Messages are tricky: a good novel has more than one, and none of them are just bobbing on the surface. Though I would hate to spell any of them out (and there are probably some I’m not even aware of), I did want to stress the idea that the “villain” is rarely a true villain in the sense that we find in movies and old novels. A villain is often just the person who has different goals and desires than you, and is more driven in achieving them. The ‘villain’ in this book is not very evil at all, just desperate to do what she thinks is the ultimate right thing, even if some sacrifices need to be made. And most of the ‘heroes’ agree with her…up to a point.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No, this is all from my own imagination, books I’ve read, and themes I enjoy reading about. That’s the beauty of writing for me: nothing is autobiographical (other than the ideas/aesthetics), and I can completely immerse myself in characters, worlds, and journeys that are a complete expansion or negation of my own. I don’t want to see myself anywhere in the book if I can help it!

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

The biggest influences on my writing are typically (with a few exceptions) British, very old, and usually mentioned as “classics”: Austen, Coleridge, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Wilde, Mary Shelley, Voltaire, Tolkein, White, and the extensive works of “Anonymous” (particularly Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, etc). For me, a great story has to be coupled with powerful and beautiful language, and the pre-20th century world seemed more at peace with this. After WWI, beauty in writing seemed somewhat naive or improper, so writers adopted a more clipped, terse style of writing which gets to the point but (often) without flair or beauty. I think writing should be beautiful, so that you can fall in love with a single sentence, and only later understand how that sentence fits into the puzzle of the entire piece. I also like works where the narrator is him/herself a character, and writers like Chaucer, Austen, and Wilde were masters at this. After all, if someone is talking, why make him/her anonymous? Give him/her life and a voice, even if the ultimate identity remains mysterious.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Since I’m also a professor, I learned the most from the writers I wrote about and ended up teaching, figures like Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, and Jane Austen. Analyzing their works as a scholar, and then figuring out how to teach them to (largely) bored undergraduates, really makes you appreciate how they work as writers and as books. That has to rub off on you as a writer yourself, and I picked up a lot of Austenisms in my writing, some of which I edited out, but others I kept as a badge of pride. No shame in sounding like one of the greatest masters of prose in the English language!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The only thing I’ve truly learned about writing is to be devoted to it. Don’t do it by halves. By that I mean make writing (not being a writer, or acting like a writer, but actually writing) your entire life. Write every day until it becomes second nature. Read every day without fail. Find the connections between different authors and try out their techniques. Set goals and come as close as you can to accomplishing them. But most of all, write. If you don’t like writing, there’s no reason to become a writer. And if you do, then get to it!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Remember that I’m poor and I can’t afford to pay fancy editors to go over my work. It’s just me and some friends and students. So if you find a typo, tell me about it before you post a 1-star review! I promise to fix it! You can’t believe how hard it is to find every single typo or missing word in a 90 thousand-word manuscript even after reading it five or six times in several different mediums. But other than that, I hope you enjoy the book!

book-cover-the-winged-turbanJoshua Grasso
Ada, OK

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Author Interview Laura Woodswalker

Author Laura Woodswalker is a nature and science-obsessed nerd who believes that writing, art, and music are true expressions of the transcendent.  I am pleased to welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

author-laura-woodswalkerMy name is Laura Woodswalker. I ‘m a retired cat lady who has raised 3 children, worked various nursing and graphics jobs, and written several books to save my sanity. Music, art and writing have always been my favorite time-wasters. In addition to writing books, I produce electronic music and visual arts. I also perform at the electro-music festival in NY state. Between projects, I also do weaving and various DIY crafts.

When and why did you begin writing?

When I was 12, I became obsessed with the Incas and wrote a novel about them. But my writing has often been episodic, in response to difficult times in my life. I wrote my first SF novel in the late 70s when my bluegrass band broke up. After my divorce, I wrote a 200K novel about the Khazars.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t really. I don’t have this ironclad compulsion to write all the time—only when I get an idea that forces me to write it.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

TESLA’S SIGNAL is a historical science fiction novel based on the life of electrical genius Nikola Tesla, who gave us the world’s electrical system. In 1899, while experimenting with high-frequency currents, Tesla believed he had received a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization.

This inspired me to write about an alien visitation in the early 1900s. The invaders try to recruit Tesla for their conquest of Earth. After he escapes them, he is the only human with the scientific know-how to counter their mind-control frequency devices. The authorities, meanwhile, blame him for the aliens’ devastation and hunt him as a public enemy. Nikola and his colleague Clara are the only ones who can save the world!

What inspired you to write this book?

When I read Tesla’s biography, I saw that his life was “a science fiction story that practically wrote itself.” I did not feel qualified to write a SF novel about an electrical genius…but I felt as if Tesla had grabbed me by the throat and demanded I write his story.

Do you have a specific writing style?

When readers enter our world, they are blind, deaf and crippled. They depend on us to take them everywhere. So I don’t like to distract them with too much ‘show-don’t-tell’. At the same time, I prefer to tell a story rather than make my readers wallow in suffering. Conversation and human interaction are the backbone of a compelling scene. Also, I like to throw a bit of humor into my dramatic scenes.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

It was a no-brainer…although the signal was actually something that Tesla received, rather than one which he sent.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

On the surface, my novel is a classic adventure story. But there are deeper levels in which I explore the soul of a lonely genius who finds love and transcendence. The message is how my characters overcome their fears and temptations, find courage and love, and the willingness to sacrifice themselves for humanity.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The character Clara, a Yiddish immigrant who becomes Tesla’s colleague, is very much drawn from the culture of my immigrant grandparents. Much of the novel is set in New York City, where my grandparents lived. When my characters must flee to a remote location, I put them in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania where I grew up. They meet a professor who can help them—and he is based on my father, an engineering professor.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Zenna Henderson, my #1 favorite author, wrote about “The People”–telepathic aliens whose ancestors crash-landed in the southwest in the 1800s. The stories depict their attempts fit in with normal Earthlings, without losing their unique gifts and differences. How could this theme not resonate with a lonely high-school outcast? Likewise, my other favorite author, Clifford Simak, wrote about “mutants” who tried to save the world while facing persecution. With my ethnic background, I could certainly relate to this. My favorite science fiction theme has always been the noble mutant, alien, and the gifted outcast.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

In the 80s I discovered Marion Zimmer Bradley and the Darkover conventions. This subculture was my gateway to SF cons and meeting other writers. I then discovered the Philadelphia SF Writers Workshop. I attended this sometimes grueling workshop for many years. One could not ask for a better writers’ boot camp. After critiquing and being critiqued for many years, I learned how to hear an editor’s voice inside my head.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I designed my own cover. I was an art major with a degree in computer graphics, so I felt that if I hired someone else I would be wasting my education.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Take the advice with a grain of salt. The main point in writing is “variety”. Vary your sentences, types of scenes, styles. Readers have short attention spans. Also, transcend your ego. It is going to get hurt; that’s part of the process.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

This is a stand-alone novel, but the companion volume TESLA’S FREQUENCY should be out in a few months.

book-cover-teslas-signalLaura Woodswalker
Phoenixville PA

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Author Interview: H. L. Burke

H. L. Burke is a writer of eclectic fantasy for young adults and children. She is also a semi-professional dragon keeper. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

author-h-l-burkeMy name is Heidi, but I write as H. L. Burke because, while I appreciate that my mom likes classic children’s books about Swiss goatgirls, I really don’t think Heidi is a great name for a fantasy author. Just way too cute. Can’t go wrong with initials, right? I’m a part time writer, full-time mother, and military wife. My two young daughters and my gigantic orange cat argue about whose slave I am, and our German Shepherd never listens to me. I drink a lot of coffee.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’m a talker, and writing is like talking, just a little slower. I wrote short stories even before I could write, dictating to my mom, then illustrating them in crayon.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I took ownership of the title at a really young age. When it was the late 90s and all my friends got hotmail accounts, I had a mailing list of people who I’d send short stories to. I won a few small contests, and my peer group generally thought of me as “the writer.” Then there was a point that I stopped … but I always felt guilty about it, like I was letting down people who I knew in high school because I wasn’t writing any more, so eventually (after about maybe a five year break) I kicked myself in the pants and started again. That was about four years ago.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My most recent book has the current title of Coiled. It is a fairy tale retelling based on an obscure French fairy tale called The Green Serpent which is in turn heavily influenced by Cupid and Psyche. It’s about a prince who turns into a giant snake whenever someone looks at him, so he befriends a princess with her own curse that has twisted her appearance to make her grotesque and courts her in darkness … of course, there’s a vengeful god who isn’t too happy about this and a quest that involves Gorgons and even a dragon. The book was recently picked up by Uncommon Universes Press and is due for June 2017 release.

My published book is Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors, a steampunk adventure. It was released in 2016.

What inspired you to write you published book?

The idea writing Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors was to reverse engineer a “puzzle game.” One of my favorite ways to relax is with a good puzzle/adventure game, and a lot of them have a similar premise: the protagonist (played by you) is trapped somewhere and has to navigate their way out while solving a mystery or putting together a story. So I worked backward from that and thought about a reason a person might have to break INTO some place and the sort of challenges they might face. Then I wondered who their companion would be, and what if there were killer robots … I loved coming up with the premise for this book and once the setting and the challenges were decided, I think it was probably the most effortless story I’ve ever written (helps that it’s a novella).

Do you have a specific writing style?

Conversational. I tend to be very to the point. I like each little detail to carry a lot of weight, so while I’m not a minimalist, I do tend towards sparser prose. I like things simple and sincere.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

My idea for Nyssa has always been that she’s reminiscent of a serial adventure heroine. Sort of a female Indiana Jones but trained as a cat burglar rather than an archaeologist, so having her name be the title was a given. The House of Mirrors refers to the primary antagonist. While Nyssa does face some human baddies, the thing that really has it out for her is the house itself. It has booby traps and killer robot sentries. The “creepy mansion” set the mood for the piece, and I wanted to put that in front of the reader from the get go. 

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

There is one that I cannot discuss without getting into spoilers, but it involves how different people deal with situations out of their control, whether with acceptance or anger. Also, throughout the series, there’s an underlying current of Nyssa trying to redeem herself from past sins and also of finding one’s family in people who are willing to love you in spite of your past.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Nyssa is a lot like I imagine my young daughter will be when she grows up, sarcastic and smart but with a soft-center that would like to trust and which feels deeply for other people. The funny thing is I didn’t make the connection until after I’d written her. I think that’s one reason she appeals to me so much.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I am a big time fan of J. R. R. Tolkien. He’s the only author I really obsess over, in that I’ve read biographies about him and collect books written about him as well as books written by him … but he’s kind of such a massive figure in fantasy that it’s almost a given. My personal writing style is more influenced by more modern YA Fantasy authors, specifically like Shannon Hale and Gail Carson Levine or Patricia Wrede, the ones I grew up reading. I love their fresh take on fairy tales.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor?

I’m such an impossible student that any writer I chose would probably get really annoyed with me and it would totally ruin our (admittedly hypothetical) relationship. Seriously. Can I just have tea with Neil Gaiman instead? I really would like to have tea with Neil Gaiman.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I used my friend Jennifer for Nyssa. However, since I’m going with a publisher for my new book Coiled, they will be providing an in-house cover designer. For my other books, I started working with Jennifer because we’ve known each other since our days on a Tolkien Fan Forum … and we are both mothers of young children trying to balance creative-life with all that motherhood entails, so it was easy to work with her. I probably will continue to use her for my self-published projects.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never ask permission to make art. I see a lot of hesitant new writers wanting to know “am I any good?” (the answer is usually, “probably not yet, but you have to keep trying.”) or “is this idea worth writing?” (impossible to know until it has been written) or other versions of trying to get the approval of others before they begin. Just begin. Then get your work torn apart by a good critique group and start over … rinse and repeat until you rise from the ashes as a Mythical Writer Beast!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Hey there! Theodore the Dragon says hi! (they’ll get that)

 

book-cover-nyssa-glassH. L. Burke
Oceanside, CA

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Author Interview: Angela Horst

Fantasy novels are particular favorites of mine to read, which makes introducing a new fantasy author to you a delight for me. Angela Horst is a local author and one that I believe you will like. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

author-angela-horstHello! My name is Angela Horst and I’m a stay-at-home mother to an energetic, sometimes impish five-year-old. I’m an avid reader, gamer, and all-around geek. I worked at Blizzard Entertainment, a gaming company, before quitting to start my life as a mom. My husband worked there as well (he actually gave me the interview for the job!), and after getting to know one another, moving to Austin, and moving back to California, we eventually got married.

I tend to write and read in the fantasy genre. My favorite book of all time is The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle, though I do delve into other genres like Stephen King once in awhile.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing consistently in high school. Having a free period and study times, I found myself with the time to daydream and be creative. I read voraciously, sometimes under my desk during class (which is probably why I’m not the best at math). Reading gave me the motivation to write. It helped me to escape, and the ideas that other authors had would inspire me to make my own stories.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

The Nightmare Exterminator is a bit of an oddity. I’d call it magical realism, but there is also a pinch of paranormal, fantasy, and a good helping of humor. Noah Clifton has the ability to enter nightmares and rid them from a dreamer’s sleep – for the right price. His sidekick is a surly gnome named Guinness, and together they piece together clues in order to find out about Noah’s life before exterminating nightmares. Before he was even human.
What inspired you to write this book?

Funny enough, it was a dream! I had a vague sense of a man and gnome who defeated nightmares, and I used that skeleton to world-build around them.

Do you have a specific writing style?

For some unknown reason, it’s hard for me not to write as a first-person male. I can sneak in deeper thoughts with first person, and perhaps I write as male because I’m a tomboy? Whatever the reason, it does come with a drawback. It’s hard for me to get out of my comfort zone, though I do try to on some occasions as a challenge.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Not one that I thought about while writing. Noah is a jaded smart-alec who isn’t fond of human interaction at the beginning of the book. He is sarcastic and sees only the negative. By the end, this has lifted, and he is able to focus on enjoying life. If there is a message, I suppose it would be: don’t let life pass you by and live it to the fullest.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Peter S Beagle has influenced my writing the most. He has my whimsicality and while this is not as prominent in The Nightmare Exterminator, I’ve grown to write in his style of flowery, descriptive writing. He is inspiring in that there are so many ideas and talent in one man. I met him at a book convention when I was young, and I’ve loved his books ever since.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

If not Mr. Beagle, I would say Brandon Sanderson. This man has a way with world-building that is second to none. I am a terrible world-builder. I’m good with details and scenes, but world-building is not my strong point. Mr. Sanderson can do it in his sleep. His book, Mistborn, has inspired me to be more aware of an over-arcing story and epic storyline when writing my own books.
Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never stop reading. Reading is the best tool for a writer. Words, worlds, even sentence structure can cause inspiration. Have an idea that’s sparked from another author’s writing? Write it! Of course, make it your own. Add the flourishes that make you you. Tap into that creativity and let your muse do its job.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I appreciate any eyes I can get on my novel, and I wanted to thank Wendy Van Camp for allowing me this interview on No Wasted Ink. I wish nothing more than a reader of my novel to realize it’s 2 AM when they look up from their tablet. I want to take you on a journey, to escape the real world if even for a moment to show you my pride and joy. And hey, maybe you’ll dream about Noah and his companions when you fall asleep. Maybe they’ll come along during a nightmare and do what they do best.

Thank you, Angela.  It is always my pleasure to help fellow authors.

the-nightmare-exterminator-book-coverAngela Horst

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Author Interview: Douglas Van Belle

Douglas A. Van Belle is an award winning New Zealand science fiction and fantasy writer who is known for bringing his extensive academic research background into his work. From flash fiction to feature films, his eclectic work mixes drama, humor, science, and speculation on the human universe to produce unpredictable stories. I am pleased to be able to interview him here on No Wasted Ink.

author-douglas-van-belleWhen and why did you begin writing?

The flippant answer is: Very young and because I could.

There’s actually a lot of truth to that, but a more serious answer is that I was a voracious reader from well before I even started school and writing always seemed to be part and parcel of being a reader. There is one moment that stands out in my memory. When I was about six or seven, I saw someone’s Hugo statue on display at the local public library, and I became just a tad obsessed with winning one. The librarian (who is a story in and of himself) told me that I had to read, read, read, read first, so I read every bit of science fiction and fantasy that I could get my hands on, including a lot that was absolutely inappropriate for my age, and not too long after that, I started writing. I enjoyed the writing even more than the reading, and over the years I have kept writing simply and solely because it was something I enjoyed.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Always and not quite yet.

To be honest, there wasn’t really a first moment. I could point to key events along the way to the big book contract that includes my latest novel, Breathe. I published my first article in the local paper when I was a teenager, wrote a commissioned piece not long after that, my first research article came out when I was in my early 20’s, followed a few years later by my first book. My first serious attempt at fiction was a novella that was published in 2006, my first novel came out in 2010, and I sol my first feature film in 2013, but the truth is that I have always been a writer.

I also don’t really think that I am a writer and I kind of hope that I never do. I still spend several hours a week working on odd little writing exercises, and experimenting with style, form and other aspects of the craft. I don’t really need to do any of that anymore, but I also suspect that the moment you stop thinking you need to learn, refine and improve your craft, you lose something.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

The premise of Breathe is that the catastrophic failure of the first base on Ganymede leaves nine people trapped in an emergency refuge that can only recycle enough air for four. As you might imagine, it doesn’t end well.

However, even with that setup, I can guarantee that the story goes places that you absolutely will not expect. No matter what you think you are seeing in the first third of the book, it will almost certainly turn out to be something different that it seems. That is particularly true in regards to the elements relating to gender and sex. One of the key story elements in the book regards the clash between intellect and the human animal, and some of the set up in the first third of the novel looks like stereotypical, old-school gender BS. The book is old-school hard science fiction, but not in that way. It’s a setup and I doubt if you will expect where it goes.

What inspired you to write this book?

Funny story there, but I never really imagined Breathe as a novel. It started when a TV producer in New Zealand asked me if I would adapt some of my short fiction for the screen and write some original short films for a Twilight Zone style show. Breathe started as one of those short films. As is usually the case, the TV show died a slow and gruesome death while “in development” but a short script for Breathe was so popular among everyone who helped try to get the show off the ground that I just couldn’t let it die.

The first attempt to turn it into a feature-length film was an absolute atrocity and the project was abandoned, but about six months after that, I started asking myself questions about how such a catastrophic failure of the base might occur. I wrote about a third of a feature film script, discovered the real story wasn’t what I thought it was. That process took about three years, but once I discovered the story, the novel itself only took a couple of months.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Yes and no, and this one isn’t a flippant answer. The former is the reason for the latter.

Treating writing as a verb, so that style refers to the way I approach the process of writing, then yes, I have a clear and defining style. I write primarily as an act of discovery. I grab a story idea, a character, setting, situation, or anything else that might serve as a starting point and just start writing. Breathe actually started with the producer saying he wanted a story in a single room of a space ship so he could reuse a set from one of the other stories in the TV series. I played with that a half dozen different ways until I had the husband, the jilted wife and the mistress trapped in that room, then I stopped and outlined the story that became Breathe.

I do the same with just about everything. Write until I discover the parts I need, then outline the story. It’s messy, and I throw a lot of what I write away, but I also end up with stories that go in directions I would have never imagined if I started with a plan or an outline.

Treating writing as a noun, so that style refers to the stylistic elements of the stories, novels, and films I write, then no, I don’t have a style and that is because of the way I write. The style of the story is one of the things I have to discover. As is the form, the narrative voice, details of the point of view and everything else.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

It was the working title for the short. I slapped on there just to identify it and keep track of the files and it turned out to be just too perfect to change.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

A lot of my academic research focuses on the human, social and political aspects of disasters, so I draw from that and I draw from the years I spent working in construction prior to becoming an academic. The base is a construction site and the combination of people reflect the collection of imperfect souls that would end up building a base out at the edge of human civilization.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Pick a science fiction author, or to a lesser degree a fantasy author, and there is probably something they have written that influenced or inspired. I could toss out a few names, such as Larry Niven, James White, Or Ursula K. LeGuin, but given the eclectic combination of stories that emerge out of the way I write, it would be a bit disingenuous to single out one or even a handful.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I wouldn’t. For most of my life I wrote fiction simply for the fun of it, and as a result I didn’t start engaging the social and professional side of the community of science fiction writers until fairly recently. By the time I started attending conventions and meeting fellow writers I already had two novels published and I was reasonably well established. I do get some wonderful advice and feedback from other authors. This is a tremendously generous profession, but it isn’t what most would consider mentoring

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Jeff Fennel, a friend out of California and probably one of the most underrated artists around. He does a lot of translucent paint on metal pieces and they are absolutely fabulous. I was talking about Breathe and he said he had a great idea for a cover. Turns out he had a dozen variations on a great idea and my publisher is using several of them as a way to help Jeff showcase his work.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yeah, nothing that you write is precious. Every writer has to find a balance between discovering the story as they write and the structured, outlined and planned writing of a story. However, if you think that anything that you write is precious, you will never be able to find that balance. My rule of thumb is that I should throw away at least as many pages as I keep. You may end up keep more or less, but you MUST be throwing some away.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Yeah, nothing that you write is precious. Every writer has to find a balance between discovering the story as they write and the structured, outlined and planned writing of a story. However, if you think that anything that you write is precious, you will never be able to find that balance.

breathe-book-coverDouglas A. Van Belle
Kapiti Coast, New Zealand

GOODREADS

Breathe

Cover Artist: Jeff Fennel
Publisher: Intergalactic Media Group

AMAZON