Interview with the #Scifi #author

Oh no. No one actually interviewed me. But over at a member posted a thread asking us about how we started as writers and then added a few more questions. It evolved into an interview of sorts, so here goes:

1. How did everyone get their start in writing fantasy?

It was a confluence of cultural influences that led me to science fiction and fantasy. When I was eleven, Star Trek first hit the small screen. But before that, there were a bunch of popular SF-themed shows. Land of the Giants and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are two. When I was even younger, there was a Saturday morning kid’s show called Fireball XL5 about the missions of the spaceship Fireball XL5, commanded by Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol. The characters were produced through puppetry and had the cheesiest of production values (sometimes you saw the wires), but to my five-year-old mind, it was fascinating.

My mother took us on a rare trip to the library, where I found the Wizard of Oz in the children’s bin. Since I had seen the movie every year since I could remember, I wanted to see what the book said. I was six and had just learned to read the previous year, but I checked out the book anyway. It was obviously not suitable for a six-year-old reading “Watch Spot Run” books in school, but I took a stab at it anyway. Later, I discovered the small section of SF books for children in the same library and started reading Andre Norton books.

In my Catholic middle school, there was a book on Greek mythology that I checked out over and over again until the nun in charge of the library decided I had an unwholesome interest in pagan myths.

It was in high school that I discovered Tolkien, since we had a beautiful red leather cover edition of the book in the library. I checked that out a number of times, until I was flush enough from my part-time job to buy paperback versions of that classic. I bought a lot of science fiction books with the money from that job.

In my junior year of high school, I was forced to take geometry, taught by the most boring teacher in the entire world. To amuse myself, I wrote a Tolkien knock-off and finished the story from beginning to end in that class. Consequently, I did very poorly in geometry, but the teacher passed me (with a D) to get me out of his class.

So we can thank (or curse) that geometry teacher for my writing career. See? Teachers do influence their students.

2. When writing, do you find yourself basing a main character on yourself, making them an “anti” you, or does your character have bits of you?

Everything I write comes from the voices in my head–the character’s voices. And they are all different. Are they bits of me? Some of them. B’yetishen from the Mindbender series has a single-minded determination that is all mine. But if we could stand side by side, you couldn’t tell we are of the same mind, so to speak. James, also from the same series, shares my love of research, study, and the trait of thoughtfulness. Of all of them, he shares more of my personality. Arekan, I don’t know. He’s just there in all his irascible, roguish ways. Perhaps what we share is that we’ve both been knocked around so much by life that we don’t care what other people think. As for others, the more I write, the more the characters can live independently of me. What helps, I think, is my thorough knowledge of astrology. Since I’ve studied thousands of charts, I get to see how different personalities are put together.

3. Who are your main influences in your writing?

It’s impossible to name them all. Tolkien, of course. In the mid-seventies, I found a Cliff Notes study guide on the most influential science fiction books (to date) and proceeded to track down and read most of them. From there, I discovered Harlan Ellison, whose writing was brilliant. And Ursula K. Le Guin, C. J. Cherryh, Marion Zimmer Bradley, whose Darkover books took up much of my time, and Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, which did the same. Suzette Haden Elgin is another who, while her story construction techniques frustrated me, has a lovely way with language. I find I write better after I’ve read something of hers. I guess you can throw in Frank Herbert too, though only through Dune. I didn’t get much into the rest of the Dune books. And the reason time seems to stop after that in my reading is that I married in the early eighties and proceeded to have children, and between working full-time, raising four children, and keeping house, my time was well spoken for. It was only after I was laid off from Evil Empire, Inc., I was single again, and the children had grown, that I was able to throw myself head first into writing again.

That’s it so far. How about you? If you are a writer, how did you start? And if you are a reader, what books have grabbed you the most? And if you have a question you want to ask me, go ahead.

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