Well, let’s see, I wrote off and on for many years, was a Famous Writers School dropout when I was in industry at Rocketdyne, then came grad school and a thirty year academic career teaching physics and being a dean. The writing got serious in the mid 80’s, my first publication was in ABORIGINAL in 1988 and then I won the grand prize of Writers of the Future in 1990. Algis Budrys was my teacher, mentor and friend and, alas, recently passed on. I made my reputation with short stories,over 40 of them, and SHANJI was my first novel published. There have been several books since then, but I still write short stories.
Who are some of your favorite authors (past and present)?
My early author favorites were Heinlein and Hamilton and Van Vogt. I love the work of people like Greg Bear and Kay Kenyon and Patty Briggs and Jack McDivitt, and I just finished “Bright of the Sky” by Kay Kenyon, which I nominated for a Nebula.
Could you tell us a little bit about The Viper of Portello? What’s it about (for those that don’t already know)?
VIPER OF PORTELLO was originally called CULEBRA, which is spanish for Viper, and the story came out of the blue like much of my stuff does. I like military sf and spy thrillers,and I read lots outside of sf, so it probably came from that.
When you began writing The Viper of Portello, were you inspired by anything in particular? Perhaps a story you read, a news article, or maybe you were just thinking one day and a light bulb turned on in your head?
I had a good friend who was Brazilian and I liked his passion about things. Part of the ‘out of the blue’ was a planetary system settled by descendants of Brazilians and Colombians, so Eduardo really goes back to portuguese people.
One of the things I really like about The Viper of Portello is that you didn’t make Eduardo a character who does evil things and doesn’t have to accept the consequences of his actions. In fact, you portray Eduardo as having to almost become someone else just to do some of the things he’s ordered to do as, perhaps, a way of maintaining his sanity. Could you talk about this, particularly the “discussion” (for lack of a better word) of one’s actions and their consequences?
Eduardo really IS two people initially, a kind of split personality, with two sides in uneasy coexistence which becomes more and more strained as the story goes on. And the gentle artist takes over when the dark side of the personality gets its fill of killing.
In VIPER I have a dual personality trying to live two lives, one violent, the other peaceful, creative and loving, a man trying to please a father who basically wants him dead. And in the end, it’s the story of a man who discovers his true father and a long overdue love he has longed for. Yes, the setting is science fiction, the story is military science fiction, but it’s a story that could happen today on planet Earth.
Do you hope to write more within the universe you’ve created?
Right now I have no plans for a sequel, or any new book about Eduardo’s world, but if VIPER does well I will certainly be tempted.
What other projects do you have in the works, if any?
An earlier book of mine, called TOTH, will be out in reprint from Wildside Press next year. BRANEGATE is being read by a major house, and SEDONA CONSPIRACY is being read by another. All are military science fiction. Right now I’m working on short stories again.
Your novel is being published by Fairwood Press (to be released in August of 2008). What brought you to a small press over a larger press? What do you think are some benefits of working with smaller presses? (Hopefully this question doesn’t sound like I’m bashing on any particular type of press. I don’t mean to. Both small and large presses are great, in my opinion. I’m just curious what brings writers such as yourself to a small press.)
I sent the book to several large publishers, but they seemed to think it was a bit ordinary, and it takes forever for the big guys to make a decision. I finally got impatient with the process and tried it on Fairwood Press; Patrick Swenson knows and likes my writing, has published me several times in TALEBONES, and did my short story collection. Big publishers could learn much from Patrick in terms of how he treats his writers and the excellent packages he turns out. (I’ve had a book with a big publisher for seventeen months, and still don’t have an answer!)
Since you do write quite a lot of short stories, and mentioned you are focusing on them right now, what advice do you have on writing short stories? Do you prefer one form over the other?
I started out writing short stories, and do have a fondness for them. A
short story can be written in a week with most work schedules, and a completed
work sent out. The response times from magazines range from a couple of weeks
to a few months at worst for anthologies. Compare that with novel response
times of years. I’ve learned as many lessons about craft from writing short
stories as I have from novels. Maybe even more, since short work MUST be tight
and to the point. I think it’s the best way for a new writer to begin, but then
there are people who are simply long writers. I know accomplished novelists who
can’t write a short story to save their soul. I’ve gone both ways, but much of
my success, such as it is, is in the short story markets. It’s easier to get
work done quick. (Consider that one novel of mine has now been under review for
seventeen months while I continue to age as gracefully as I can.)