Interviews

Interview with the Moi

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00040]I was recently interviewed on Melanie Tomlin’s blog about Scars of the Sundering: Lament. Check it out!

Lament is book two in my Scars of the Sundering trilogy. It is currently available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.com.

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Interview at UnderDiscussion

I was interviewed this weekend by the fine folks at UnderDiscussion: The UnderGopher Podcast. We talked about Zack Jackson, my other novels, and gaming. Of course, since I’m bad at off-the-cuff things, I forgot to bring up a few points about the Zack Jackson series that I knew I should talk about.

I spoke about how part of my inspiration for Zack Jackson was Star Trek and the optimistic view of the future it has. I wanted to write about a future I felt was cool and would actually want to live in. A big part of the Zack Jackson universe is the wide-spread acceptance of, well, just about everything. I make an effort to show how diverse and interesting life and people are, and if a character doesn’t understand or is just being exposed to something for the first time, I use it as an opportunity for character growth. I’ve found that to refrain from beating readers over the head with a message of acceptance and diversity, the best thing to do is just mention such things briefly and have the characters accept it without a word, as though it is the most natural thing. After all, diversity is natural and we should be accepting of it because that is the way things should be.

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Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction – Author Interview Series

This week, my interview is with Laura K. Anderson, author of “Foresight” and one of the editors of the anthology.

1. Where did you get the idea for your story?
It was actually a question I wanted to explore: Do we have any inherent legal right to our future?  It was a discussion I had with my husband one day.  After all, if someone can see our future and take it for their own, how many lawsuits will there be?  I didn’t fully explore the idea in “Foresight” because that was a lot about exploring the world and learning about the drug, though.

2. Do you plan to write more stories in that setting or with those characters?
Possibly.  I’m not entirely sure yet.  I really like the setting, and I want to actually examine the idea of people having a legal right to their future.  I’m not sure I’ll use the same characters, but I will probably use the setting.

3. What was the appeal of Sojourn for you?
Working with the community.  My primary role in Sojourn was as editorial director, and my love of the Fear the Boot community was what prompted me to get involved in with Sojourn.

4. What was your favorite part about writing for the Sojourn anthology?
I have to choose a favorite part?  Ryan was a fantastic editor who offered some great advice.  But more than anything I had fun using my knowledge and skills to help the authors.  Freelance editing is a part-time job for me because my favorite part about editing is working with authors who have no idea what they’re doing.  I like it so much because I’m helping them learn about writing, learn about editing, and learn how this whole business works.

5. Did you learn anything while writing your story, if so, what?
I learned that I really enjoy science fiction.  I used to think about science fiction and kind of grumble about it, imagining space ships and aliens.  But I realized that science fiction encompasses more than space opera and that I could find things about science fiction that I enjoyed writing.

6. Is there any trivia or behind-the-scenes information about your story you would like to share?
The earliest drafts of this story were actually written for a class I was taking on writing science fiction.  It was such a struggle for me, because I typically wrote only fantasy. This was a huge learning experience for me.

7. What was the biggest influence on your story?
Philip K. Dick.  He’s my favorite science fiction writer, and he’s one of the authors who made me realize just how much I actually love science fiction.  His stories are very different from my own, but he really helped influence my ideas of what science fiction is.

8. Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
Write for us!  I can promise you, there is something exciting about holding that book in your hands for the first time and seeing this thing that you helped create.

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Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction – Author Interview Series

Today’s interview is with Chris Hussey, author of “Unknowing Agents” and one of the hosts of the Fear the Boot podcast.

1. Where did you get the idea for your story?
The idea actually came from an idea I had for a role-playing game a long time ago. I liked the idea of creating characters who would infiltrate different genres, acting as agents in this grand scale fight against evil. I never really got around to developing the game, but I realized it made for a great fiction idea.

2. Do you plan to write more stories in that setting or with those characters?
Probably not. I certainly could. The storyline and the universe lend itself to the idea easily, but I viewed this really as more of a one-shot piece. Of course, I’m kind of a “never say never” person.

3. What was the appeal of Sojourn for you?
For me, it was all about seeing Fear the Boot move on to that next level. Dan’s built something very impressive and has really wanted to move it forward. I love the podcast and community for many of the same reasons the rest of the community does, so doing my part to help out was a no-brainer.

4. What was your favorite part about writing for the Sojourn anthology?
Working with the editors. Laura and Ryan are very good at what they do, and it was a breeze to work with them. They made it easy, yet still challenged me as a writer.

5. Did you learn anything while writing your story, if so, what?
Tough to say. I think the biggest thing I learned is that I now need to learn more about the publishing process. I’ll be doing that soon enough myself, and I can tell I have a way to go.

6. Is there any trivia or behind-the-scenes information about your story you would like to share?
The character of ‘Ben in the story is based very loosely on one of the members of my current game group, who has since departed. He is directly named after him, however. Also, Deckard is the name of one of the PCs from my old group. My friend Shayne played a character named Deckard. The character himself is not based on anything Shayne ever did with his Deckard.

7. What was the biggest influence on your story?
I have an unhealthy desire, for some reason, to do all manner of stories and such about tabletop games and the people who play them. I’m not really sure why that is.

8. Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
To key off the previous question, I’m currently working on a couple of projects in that vein under the broad title of  Table Tales, which is sort of an umbrella channel name for that gamer media. The first is ‘Gamers Behaving Badly’ which is an audio show about a group of tabletop gamers who play RPGs the way they weren’t meant to be. The second…, well you know what? Rather than bore you with my laundry list, I’ll just push you over to the site. It’s http://www.tabletalesseries.com

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Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction – Author Interview Series

Today’s interview is with Ryan McDaniel, author of “Blind Barthon” and one of the editors of the anthology.

Where did you get the idea for your story?
The spark of the story was when I was reading The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland and a realization hit me like Thor’s hammer. The insight was that these stories were told around the campfires of Vikings. My perspective on the stories changed from words written on a page to a window into another culture. Its hard for me to put to words, but I suffice it to say that I had a much greater respect and reverence for myths after my new insight. That was the spark that made me leap to my computer and start writing “Blind Barthon.”

Do you plan to write more stories in that setting or with those characters?
No, I think this is the only adventure that Barthon is going to go on. But of the wider world that Barthon lives in, I don’t know. Readers might be exploring more of Normondor, Athalia, Astrogad, Harrowfell, and the Reach in the future.

What was the appeal of Sojourn for you?
The appeal of Sojourn was unlocking the potential of the Fear the Boot community. A common problem in RPGs are GMs that railroad their players. And the common criticism on Fear the Boot is: “why don’t you just write a novel if you want to control everything?” Well, in my opinion, that’s what happens. The anthology might be subtitled: “When Game Masters Give Up and Write Their Own Stories.”

What was your favorite part about writing for the Sojourn anthology?
The fact that Laura and Dan (my partners in crime as I like to think of them) are so great to work with. A few people have asked me if I had any advice for someone who wished to do as I did. I always smile and say “work with people who are smarter than you are.” Because if I was the only one running this show, Sojourn would have never happened.

Did you learn anything while writing your story, if so, what?
I learned that an audience will follow me in an unconventional story. Of the few people to whom I have spoken about my story, they had nothing but nice things to say. Also they had nothing but good things to say about the entire book as well.

Is there any trivia or behind-the-scenes information about your story you would like to share?
Well I actually have two bits of trivia, and both of them are short. One may have noticed that in “Blind Barthon” none of the female characters are mentioned by name. The mother is referred to as “mother.” Likewise the potential brides are referred to as in relation to their fathers: the farmer’s daughter, the warrior’s daughter, etc., all except one, of course, and that is the final bride, Edda. The name is a reference to the Prose Edda, a compilation of Norse poetry that comprises most of the Norse myths. The Prose Edda, at least to my knowledge, is our only substantial link to the Scandinavian mythology. Without the Prose Edda we don’t have Odin, we don’t have Valhalla, and Marvel Avengers have one less member. So not only is Edda a bridge to the spiritual realm by being an elf, but she is also a bridge back into Barthon’s true heritage.

The second bit of trivia is that the Barthon story started out as worldbuilding material. For this fantasy world—that I am still developing—I really strive for a sense of realism and authenticity. I have a Nordic culture in my world, and I wanted to give them a mythology that I would be happy with. “Blind Barthon” was one of those myths that I wrote up, and I thought, “Others might actually like this odd story.”

What was the biggest influence on your story?
The inspiration of the story is from Joseph and Francis Gies’ Life in a Medieval Castle. There is a section of the book that discusses the customs and philosophy of love and marriage in the Middle Ages. Most of the lessons that Barthon is given by the gods are based on facts that I learned from the book.

What’s your favorite part about editing?
The favorite part about editing for me is taking someone’s awesome story and making it the best it can be. I remember a middle school art class where the teacher would take my artwork and start altering it right in front of my face. She did this to everybody too. It made me just want to scream (also she wasn’t a very good teacher anyway). She always said she was “helping” but it ruined whatever I was working on. Because it wasn’t mine. That is not how I edit. If I start going in and started altering their story, then it’s my story, not their story.

What’s your least favorite part about editing?
The worst part about editing is giving frank and honest criticism. I suffer over those emails so much, because you can’t just tell someone their work is garbage. You have to do it diplomatically. And if I am going to diplomatically tell someone that there work is garbage, then I am going to make damn sure that I can defend my points. Whenever click the send button it always feels like lobbing an active grenade. I’m just praying that the damn thing doesn’t blow up in my face.

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
I would like to thank everybody who has bought a copy and has helped spread the word. No matter what it was, big or small, I appreciate it.

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Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction – Author Interview Series

For the first Friday in May, my author interview is with Elizabeth Roper, author of “Destiny.”

Where did you get the idea for your story?
I have a weakness for thieves, cat burglars specifically. I love heist movies like To Catch a Thief and wanted to write something similar. Stealing jewels felt boring, so I went with something a little more high stakes. It fit perfectly with the political situation that is developing in the setting.

I was watching the interactions between my friends and their siblings and then later the interactions between my two boys. They can either be best friends or worst enemies, depending on the minute. I am an only child, so that is foreign to me. I started developing the idea into what it would  be like to have someone who is your biggest ally or your worst nightmare and never knowing which you’d get. Even though the centerpiece of the story is a theft, that is just the framework. It’s really about family ties and the knots they can develop into.

Do you plan to write more stories in that setting or with those characters?
The short answer is yes. The island of Barinth is the setting for a novel I’m writing and Tamsin is one of the key players. Short stories such as “Destiny” allows me to explore her background a bit before the events of the novel.

What was the appeal of Sojourn for you?
Being able to contribute something to the community that has become such a large part of our lives. It was really great to be a part of the effort and watch the anthology grow and succeed.

What was your favorite part about writing for the Sojourn anthology?
Being introduced to so many different worlds and characters through helping other members of the community with their stories.

Did you learn anything while writing your story, if so, what?
That I talk too much. In all seriousness, the plot I had set out was ambitious for the word limit, almost too ambitious. I had to really strip the narrative down. It is still more verbose in places, but it is better than it was.

Is there any trivia or behind-the-scenes information about your story you would like to share?
Another name for the Lia Fail is the Stone of Scone. It a large red sandstone block that has been used in Scottish coronations for centuries and English coronations since the uniting of the crowns. I know this doesn’t take place in Scotland, but with a name like the Stone of Destiny how could I pass it up?

What was the biggest influence on your story?
I am a student of history and am firmly convinced it is taught wrong. The behind the scenes stories of historical events are much more interesting than the dates and dry facts. I tried to tell the story I had with that view in mind.

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
Thank you to everyone involved for the support and allowing me to be a part of the effort. A special thank-you to Branden Leavens. He really helped me step up my game and bring a lot of ideas into focus.

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Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction – Author Interview Series

This week’s interview is with Peter Martin, author of “Crossing the River.”

Where did you get the idea for your story?
The original story idea came from musing about where a paladin’s fear immunity comes from, but along the way, it transformed a bit. The setting is actually one I came up with to run my Saving The Game co-hosts through, but I think it’s just a writing setting now.

Do you plan to write more stories in that setting or with those characters?
Yes, to both parts of that question. I’d really like to do more with my Lantern Knights and show what they do when they aren’t battling their own internal demons.

What was the appeal of Sojourn for you?
A chance to get published and a reason to force myself to write.

What was your favorite part about writing for the Sojourn anthology?
Working with the editors. Both were great, but Laura in particular really went above and beyond. I think I went through at least a half-dozen revisions with her before I even submitted my final draft.

That I enjoyed working with them so much surprised me a bit, because I figured it would be like getting a paper graded over and over again. I was very pleased to discover that was not at all the case. I’m incredibly grateful for their input; the story, short though it is, is MUCH better for their oversight.

There’s a whole sequence at the beginning I added after talking with Laura, and some of the messages of internal struggle got a lot more frank and direct when Ryan mentioned that he didn’t think the river was an imposing enough hazard. That was incredibly valuable,because I didn’t want the river to be much more than a convenient symbolic device.

Did you learn anything while writing your story, if so, what?
Yes. That I tend to do my best work when I’m writing material that touches on themes I need to remind myself of. The internal struggles of my protagonist are very similar to my own; writing the story was almost therapeutic.

Is there any trivia or behind-the-scenes information about your story you would like to share?
This particular drum has probably been beaten so much that it’s just a loose collection of drum parts by now, but I continue to be impressed by what a joy everyone associated with Fear the Boot is to work with. The contract we signed was incredibly favorable, and Laura and Ryan were great to work with. If you’re looking at submitting something to Sojourn 2, don’t worry about the human side!

What was the biggest influence on your story?
My own religious faith and studies. I’m a moderate/progressive Christian, and the image of God as a loving, kind figure who desperately wants His wayward children to come home is a theme I’ve been contemplating a lot in the last few years. Passages like Psalm 103:12 and Isaiah 1:18 were very influential in how I portrayed God in the story.

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
Thanks to Dan, Laura, and Ryan for making the anthology possible, and thanks to you for doing these author pieces!

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Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction – Author Interview Series

This week’s interview is with Dan Repperger, author of “Surviving Sunset” and host of the Fear the Boot podcast.

Where did you get the idea for your story?
When people talk about history, we seem to focus on what happened but not always why.  As an armchair historian, I’ve always been fascinated by deconstructing the people who created history’s major turning points.  What kind of person did these great or horrible things?  What were their motivations and fears?  Strengths and weaknesses?  Life story before and after the events?

How did Hitler become so evil?  What kind of music did George Washington like?  What made Clifton Sprague crazy enough to fight the Battle off Samar and resourceful enough to win?

That’s really what inspired “Surviving Sunset.”  The story is about a major event (i.e. the fall and occupation of an entire planet), but that’s used as a mechanism to test the characters and draw out who they are when social facades are literally and figuratively burned away.

Do you plan to write more stories in that setting or with those characters?
Yes.  In fact, I already have.  I first started developing the setting in 1997.  It went without a name for many years before I settled on Epoch of Rysos.  In the early 2000s, I was contracted to publish serial fiction about another corner of the setting.  That series ran for several years before the publisher shut down; however, I continued developing the idea.

I’ve been asked to do something quite specific for the next volume of Sojourn, but I have every intention of revisiting Epoch of Rysos in volume three, as well as trying my hand at a solo project somewhere along the way.

What was the appeal of Sojourn for you?
First and most importantly, it was a collaborative project with people I knew and respected.  Having that sense of community kept me focused, motivated, and pushing myself harder than I would have if I’d been doing it on my own.  I think it also made the whole thing feel less intimidating, since I wasn’t doing it alone.
Second, I’m humble enough to admit I’ve not spent nearly as much time perfecting my writing as I have my speaking (mostly through eight years of podcasting).  I didn’t feel quite ready to tackle a novel.  But a short story done with the support of friends and oversight of professional editors?  That felt like a very reasonable goal.
What was your favorite part about writing for the Sojourn anthology?
Having it done!  Not because it was a dreadful process—farthest thing from it—but because of the awesome feeling of holding the book in my hands, seeing it on the shelves of bookstores, and hearing how much readers have enjoyed it cover-to-cover.  It’s that indescribable joy of saying, “Hey, we did this.”
Did you learn anything while writing your story, if so, what?
A piece of fiction is only yours when you’re creating it.  The moment you put it in front of other people, it becomes a shared idea.  A reader’s own life experiences will influence how they interpret your story, and they just might understand parts of what you wrote better than you do.

When I was first drafting the story, there was a central character by the name of Hollenbach who was trying to win for the sake of “king and country” without any real regard for the people caught in the middle.  That clashed with the more humanitarian views of his second-in-command, Mercer, until various characters were able to out some of Hollenbach’s secrets and get him deposed as unfit for command.  However, if you’ve read the story, you never encountered that character.

When the editors first looked at my story, they felt he was almost a distraction, taking up space that would have been better spent developing the other characters.  And they were right.

I’m a firm believer in respecting authorial intent, but I think authors that stick to their guns too firmly can miss out on the chance to explore some of their best ideas, simply because they’re so focused on one aspect of the narrative that they don’t realize the even bigger potential sitting untouched elsewhere.
Is there any trivia or behind-the-scenes information about your story you would like to share?
Back in the early-to-mid 1990s, my brother and I co-wrote material for Battletech.  We started writing through AWOL Productions (publisher of the official fan magazine at the time) and then later doing small projects for FASA itself.  We were given a shot at some bigger projects, but unfortunately FASA went under before any of them saw the light of day.

While many elements of “Surviving Sunset” are original to this project—and almost all of them are original to Epoch of Rysos—some of the specifics about the resistance and its leadership were resurrected from those unpublished Battletech projects. For example, John Mercer was originally written as the second-in-command of a mercenary corps that had been defeated by the Clans and lost its original leader in the process.  He inherited the unenviable task of trying to inspire a shattered organization he wasn’t qualified to lead and then pit it against a vastly superior enemy.  All of the specifics changed when I ported him to Surviving Sunset, but the character is still there and has an arc drawn from what I developed years ago.

There’s a lot more ahead for him, and it’s been fun trying to figure out how to adapt a Battletech-inspired story into a very different setting.

What was the biggest influence on your story?
I already mentioned an interest in the human dimension of history, which heavily influenced the framework of the story.  However, since the story focuses on two sisters, I had to draw from the most reliable source I had: growing up with two younger sisters.  I vividly remember how I interacted with them and how they interacted with each other—the love, unintended cruelty, misunderstandings, difference even just a few years of age made in how we viewed the world, and inexplicable bond that just keeps drawing us back together.

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
I’d like to thank the authors and editors who believed in the project enough to make the book a reality, putting in the work needed to make it something we can all be proud of.  I also want to thank the readers who believed in us enough to take a chance on the book.
Volume Two is already shaping up to be an even larger and better collection—featuring many of the authors from Volume One—so stay tuned for more!  I’m excited and already partway through writing a fantasy-themed comedy about a gnoll that wants to save Christmas.

 

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Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction – Author Interview Series

This week’s interview is with Robert Freund, author of “Keepers of the Flame.”
Where did you get the idea for your story?
I must have watched a documentary at some point about Neanderthals that sparked my interest in human prehistory.  I did a little bit of research on my own about the subject and found that period of time to be fascinating.  In particular, it was the theory that Neanderthals went extinct likely through a combination of warfare and crossbreeding with humans that sparked my imagination.  My mind naturally went to a colorful place in making up a reason behind the slow dying-off of Neanderthals.
Do you plan to write more stories in that setting or with those characters?
I don’t have any plans to do so as of now.  I think I told the story that needed to be told, and I’m satisfied with that.
What was the appeal of Sojourn for you?
Sojourn provided me with two opportunities that I couldn’t pass up.  Firstly, as an aspiring writer, the chance of exposing my work to an audience wider than my friends and family was uplifting and inspiring.  Even before I knew the fullness of Ryan, Laura, and Dan’s dedication to the project, I was more than happy to add my voice to the project.  Secondly, the anthology was planned from the start as a community effort, and I’ve never been part of an online community as inclusive and good-natured as the one that has formed around Fear the Boot.  Not only were we displaying the talent of the Writer’s Guild sub-group, but that of the hosts, fans, and friends of the podcast.
What was your favorite part about writing for the Sojourn anthology?
Knowing that I was a part of something that was bigger than any one of us (by which I mean the contributors, the editors, Dan, etc.).  There was an entire community behind it, even if most of that community was unaware of the anthology’s existence for most of that time.  The result is more than I could have imagined, and truly something that we can all take pride in.
Did you learn anything while writing your story, if so, what?
I learned a lot, and I think I’ve grown significantly as a writer during the whole process.  After numerous false starts (there were eight attempts at writing this story, one breaking the 2000-word mark, before my wife finally helped me find the right voice and tone), I ultimately chose a tense which I have never used before—present tense—and paid very close attention to the language and terminology that I put into the story.  And I think those little touches, like the boy thinking of hyenas as laughing hounds or sabertooth cats as longtooth cats, really helped set the atmosphere and bring the reader into the boy’s world.  It really helps a piece of writing to think long and hard about the sort of language the characters would use, the way they would see things, in the context of their own environment.
It being my first time working with editors, I learned a lot about that part of the process as well.  My dealings with Laura and Ryan were always polite, professional, and constructive, leaving me to hope that any editors I might work with in the future are of similar demeanor.  This side of it is all about telling your story in the best way for your audience.  There are always going to be disagreements, but the biggest lesson I’ve taken away is this: as long as both the writer and the editor maintain their professionalism and an open mind, the process can be relatively painless.  Dare I say, it can be downright pleasant.
Is there any trivia or behind-the-scenes information about your story you would like to share?
I know what the Keepers of the Flame are in this made-up version of human history, but I like to leave most of it to the readers for speculation.  All I really want to say is that they are NOT aliens.  There is every other imaginable way to interpret the evidence, so long as you don’t think they are aliens.
What was the biggest influence on your story?
Apart from my interest in Neanderthals and prehistory (fleeting as it was, looking back), I would imagine the biggest influence was Robert E. Howard.  I’m not as widely read as I would like, but he is the only writer I can recall who has a number of short stories that are set in the mists of prehistory, even if you don’t count his Kull and Conan tales.  The one I recall in particular was called “The Valley of the Worm,” which was about a prehistoric hunter and featured, among other beasts, terrifying sabertooths.
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Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction – Author Interview Series

Tom McNeil is the author of “Top of the Heap,” and the next victim author in my interview series.

Where did you get the idea for your story?
I started writing “Top of the Heap” around 2002.  At the time, I had read several articles on the Internet by futurists claiming that, because of the rate of advancement of medical technology, immortality might be just around the corner. I wanted to write a story based around an idea, in the classic Sci-Fi sense, and I latched onto the idea of immortality. Similarly, articles about climate change were also hard to avoid. It seemed natural to set a story about an immortal at some time in the future, and a future in which some type of climate change even had happened only seemed logical.

Thinking more about immortality, I asked myself what an immortal life might be like. What would a person do once they had earned enough money to never have to work again?  Wouldn’t they get bored?  Not to give too much of the story away, but thinking of answers to that question was the spark that led me to write the story. During the writing process, I fleshed out more of the characters, gave them a history and incorporated that into the “Top of the Heap” giving the main character, Dale Medici, more of a motivation than just boredom.

Do you plan to write more stories in that setting or with those characters?
I am toying with the idea of writing a novel about Dale Medici.  There were a few ideas that I had for “Top of the Heap” that I liked but just couldn’t fit in.  After I finished it, I realized that a third idea that had been bouncing around in my head (a civilization with no fossil fuels) would fit perfectly in the future world described in the short story, and once I made that connection, I was flooded with new themes, ideas, bits, scenes, characters, and an overall conflict.  I even came up with a title – “The Lost Art of Making Fire.” I’ve never even attempted to write anything that long, but I feel motivated to at least give it a try.

What was the appeal of Sojourn for you?
The Fear The Boot Community. Dan, Ryan, and Laura were all incredibly supportive and helpful. For me, they took a lot of the fear and guess work out of the process. I think all writers fear rejection, but the way this project came about lessened that fear quite a bit for me.  Also, being a collection by lots of different writers with varying styles and subjects reduced the pressure quite a bit.  I realized that if I made “Top of the Heap” the best story I could, some readers would like it and others would not —and that’s fine.  In fact, that’s a good thing.  Fiction should be written with an intended audience in mind.

What was your favorite part about writing for the Sojourn anthology?
The editing and, in my case, re-writing process was fun, once I got to it.  It was great to get honest feedback from someone that was not a best friend or family member.  Honest feedback is essential.  Laura was especially helpful in getting my story finished.

Did you learn anything while writing your story, if so, what?
The story is more important than your ego.  I’m 49.  So, sometimes I have to fight off the feeling that I am older and wiser than everyone else—because it usually isn’t true. When I first brought “Top of the Heap” to a writer’s group meeting/online review session and read it out loud (and I’m sorry, I do not remember who was there), the almost universal feedback I got was, to paraphrase, “we love the idea, but the way you told the story stinks.” Faced with that, I felt my ego well up, and I almost withdrew thinking that maybe I was not a good fit for this.  But, in a rare moment of maturity, I decided to take a step back and try it “their” way—which basically meant re-writing the whole thing.  I had a lot of roadblocks and false starts, but once I got the first re-write done, I realized they were right.  It not only became a much better story, but it allowed me to add more material than the original version had.

Is there any trivia or behind-the-scenes information about your story you would like to share?
It takes place on an island in the Saint Lawrence river.  I used to go to that area on vacation with my family as a kid, so I described it as a combination of how I remember it and how it might be different in the future. Also, there is a pun, sort of, in the narrative pretty early on, but no one has ever pointed it out to me.  It might be too subtle.  I keep waiting for someone to send me a “I saw what you did there” comment, but so far—nothing.

What was the biggest influence on your story?
I am a fan of classic science fiction, particularly Isaac Asimov and Fred Pohl.  Their stories were always based around a fantastic idea or concept and how people would react to it.  They wrote stories that challenged you to think, and I wanted that feeling in “Top of the Heap.”  Hopefully, that came through to at least some of the readers. I think my dream job as a writer would be to write episodes for an anthology series like “The Twilight Zone” or “The Outer Limits.”

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
I just want to thank Dan, Ryan, and Laura for everything they did on this project.It was great working with them, and I look forward to working with them again on Sojourn Volume 2.

Categories: Interviews, Publishing, Sojourn | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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