Do you have a favorite writing spot in Nashville?
Actually, I do all my actual writing at a workstation in my bedroom. Its aqua walls and familiar paintings provide a restful background, except for the occasional cat fight. I plan my writing just about everywhere, wherever I have a bit of free time – rather like daydreaming. A lot of the idea creating and polishing is done with my son, Lawrence, at monthly meetings in restaurants.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing seriously in the early 1970s when I took a creative writing class at Watkins Institute. There I got consistent feedback that my work was good and interested people, so I was encouraged to keep on. I began writing science fiction as a sort of game with my son, Lawrence, and after retiring decided to publish.
What inspired you to write A Test of Alien Alliance?
Well, it started with Lawrence’s science fiction enthusiasm. I had been writing as long as he could remember, and he asked me to write a Star Trek story. There are lots of fan-created Star Trek stories in various fanzines. After having fun with science fiction for a while, I decided to create my own universe, one as complex as the real one I learned about during my business career.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating A Test of Alien Alliance?
The most surprising thing was that I had to keep backing up and putting things in. I was so anxious to tell my story I was just making up characters and situations as I went along. Then I would realize how much it would strengthen the story to introduce them earlier and flesh out their lives. I hope to be more attentive on the next book!
Which of your characters do you relate to most and why?
I relate most to Nimrod Ekeroth because he is ‘different’, being an alien half-caste and therefore feels not quite accepted. He has enormous abilities and does a hard job, but he needs the emotional support of his close friends.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I’m not writing science fiction, I write healthy restaurant reviews and political buzz for Examiner.com in Nashville. I am very active politically, since I have the time. I also paint dressed up cats on small objects and sell them at local festivals. They are NOT the Felidae I write about in A Test of Alien Alliance.
If your real life as a teenager was a Young Adult book, what would you, the main character, be like?
Conflicted and creative. My younger brother was born schizophrenic at a time when most people did not accept mental health problems or special needs kids. Our family was lucky to find help for all of us. During group therapy, I learned a lot about the things that can mess up a teen’s life.
Both my parents were creative and urged me to be. They helped me work on my strengths, playing the piano, sewing, embroidering, reading, listening to the opera. Sure, everybody dies at the end of the opera, but first you get to let it all hang out with a full orchestra. That’s catharsis for a lot of pent-up feelings. I started drawing my Creative Cats in high school.
What book have you read too many times to count? and why is it a favorite?
There are a bunch of those, but the most recent is Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch. This is fantasy rather than science fiction, and I picked it up in the library because of the time travel cover. It has remained a favorite because it creates two compelling portraits – Commander Vimes of the Watch and Lord Vetinari the Patrician. Of course, then I discovered the rest of the Discworld books, but that’s always been a favorite.
What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
Various people at various times have told me I was not putting in enough physical description of the characters or the setting. I tend to concentrate on the characters’ emotions, interactions, and what they are trying to communicate. It seems easier just to live in their heads. After all, a spaceship is a spaceship is a spaceship. Thankfully, Lawrence reminds me every time I forget to describe something. This has made me a much stronger writer.