Finding your passion
As an author when we write about passion in our stories, we compile phrases and words to invoke feelings in our readers. We wrap them up in memories or emotions that they might have long suppressed or hidden. But it is that very same feeling and emotion that prompts us as authors to write in the first instance. The drive and desire to create is the thrill and love we get from the written page. Long after the words have slipped past the reader's eyes, it is the emotion that we get from a review, a kind word on our writing. Or the knowledge that long after we have departed that someone might find our thoughts and have those emotions evoked again. So I was keen this month to discuss with two more authors about what invoked their passion to write.
This month's authors:
Paul is a mixture of audial, visual, and written artist, which is why he loves to get stuck into film and scripts. I was interested to learn about his process of writing and what makes him tick.
Given your background as a filmmaker, and now an author, how do you feel film development such as scriptwriting differs from novel writing, and what strengths or weaknesses do you think each brings when you do your own writing?
A completed script sitting on a desk is still, by nature, incomplete, even with a cool custom title font and its pages tidily bound with those fancy spirally thingies. There is a multitude of holes to be filled in by a large team of creative people before it can suitably be recognized as a movie or a TV show. A completed novel sitting on a desk is... well... completed. Ready to dive into. Finito.
There's autonomy in writing books that are rarely present when writing for the screen. That's the part I like the most.
Working as a film and television composer, I was rarely given the opportunity to write music that wouldn't eventually be adulterated by another person, for one reason or another. When writing a book, there's nothing between the reader and me; I write "Sally barked at the mailman," and the reader reads "Sally barked at the mailman." And that's pretty cool.
They say a good author can make the page sing, so do you feel that your musical talents bring a unique writing style to your work?
Thankfully, musical structure and story structure are very similar. They even use the same terminology; exposition, development, recapitulation, coda; you can even find commas and periods in music notation to indicate pauses and duration. I've never been particularly good at planning structure out, in music or writing, so I try to let story momentum do all the work. I know that's like painting a picture without knowing the size of the canvas, but somehow things fall into place if enough elbow grease is applied. So, yes... I'm mean... sort of.
Why did you choose an apocalypse as your first novel? What was your inspiration?
I came up with an idea for a podcast, the premise being if the world ended, (no power, water, food, people, etc.) what would it realistically take to get from having nothing to being able to stream Netflix again. Each episode would be an in-depth procedural of how to find clean water or how to grow food or protect yourself from villains. Not long after I started, I realized I was writing the script for an audiobook and not a podcast.
How often do you write and where is your favorite place to do it?
I try to write something every day, even if it's only a couple of lines. Whenever I skip a day, the laptop screen gets a bit heavier to lift.
I seem to write better at night. I'm not sure if that's because I'm a bit of night owl, or it's quieter with fewer distractions, or if it's because that's when my pet possum Petey is awake to keep me company. I wish I could be a coffee shop writer, but there're too many noisy shiny things. I'm so distraction prone that I could find a way to lose focus in a sensory deprivation tank. Also, the water would electrocute me.
Paul loves to catch up with his readers via his range of social media accounts at:
or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope you can take a moment to offer support for him by checking it out, and I extend my thanks for being interviewed!
Robert J Sawyer
Robert is a lover of thoughts, ideas, and the bigger picture. So I was keen to see what picture he painted for his readers.
What would you consider as the starting point for your career as an author and how did you develop from it?
Way back in 1979, when I was nineteen, a nearby planetarium was having a science-fiction short-story writing contest judged by one of my writing heroes, Isaac Asimov. The mere thought that Asimov would read my story was incentive enough to write it. I didn’t win the contest, but the planetarium staff loved my story and produced a terrific dramatic star show based on my story.
After that, there was no stopping me. Although it took another eleven years to get my first novel published, I’ve managed close to a novel a year ever since then, and my twenty-fourth, The Oppenheimer Alternative, just came out.
In your books, you delve into a range of sci-fi genres. What is your favorite to write and what excites you about these genres?
I’ve never liked the term sci-fi, because I think it’s a misnomer, at least for the sort of books I write. My subgenre explores big ideas — where did we come from, where are we going, do we need privacy, what is consciousness, is there a god? I think of myself as more of a philosophical fiction writer — phi-fi rather than sci-fi!
My writing mentor Terence M. Green — a fellow Canadian but one who got his own start writing for an Australian anthology! — calls what he and I write “thoughtful entertainment,” and that’s what excites me: not just giving the reader a pleasant experience (although I do — in a field filled with dystopian voices, I’m known as a sunnily optimistic exception) but also giving them something to think about and to spark lively conversations with their friends and family.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned so far as an author and what do you define as your greatest achievement?
It’s a lesson that too few writers ever learn: your books are not for everyone. I’ve seen writers try to push their work on all sorts of people who will never enjoy it because that kind of book simply isn’t that person’s cup of tea. Any writer’s aspiration shouldn’t be being blandly acceptable to everyone but rather to be the favorite author of a very narrow segment of the reading public.
Once you accept that, you know which critics to listen to and which to ignore. Just yesterday, I stumbled across a one-star reader review of one of my older novels that basically said, well, this book (Starplex, the only novel of its year to be nominated for both of the SF world’s top awards, the Hugo and the Nebula, and the winner of Canada’s top SF award, the Aurora) sucks because the spaceship in it isn’t outfitted with any cool Star Wars-style weapons. Precisely: I’m a pacifist, and I offer something different. No one has ever yet taken a gun into space; let’s keep it that way.
As for my greatest achievement, well, I’m lucky enough to be a Member of the Order of Canada, which is my country’s counterpart of the Order of Australia. I was the first person ever admitted to the Order for work in the science-fiction. Although I’ve had lots of other successes, including a US network TV show based on my novel FlashForward, nothing will ever top this.
How do you create your key characters - do you like to plan them out or write as you go?
I’m a top-down writer: I start with a topic (in the case of my last book, Quantum Night, the science behind why people can be evil); develop a theme (in that case: the most pernicious lie humanity has ever told itself is that you can’t change human nature); and only then develop a character who lets me illuminate that theme (in Quantum Night, an experimental psychologist who discovers that he himself had committed atrocities as a result of an experiment he was part of years before as a young man).
But for my new novel, The Oppenheimer Alternative, it was a very different creative process. Every single character in the book is (a) real, (b) famous — the cast includes J. Robert Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Edward Teller, and Wernher von Braun, (c) still within living memory of some people, and (d) has had major biographies published about them.
For every previous novel, I’ve been able to say, as any author can, that I’m the world’s foremost expert on my made-up characters, but for The Oppenheimer Alternative there are historians who have devoted years or decades to studying these people. I was thrilled beyond belief when we got a cover blurb for my novel from Martin J. Sherwin, coauthor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Oppenheimer, American Prometheus, and another blurb from Gregory Benford who not only is a great science-fiction writer but was also Edward Teller’s graduate student.
Robert likes to stay in touch with his readers via:
https://sfwriter.com his amazing website or
I hope you can take a moment to offer support for him by checking out his book, and I extend my thanks for being interviewed!
I wish to thank you for taking the time to read and engage with me! Happy reading everyone! VK Tritschler
includes Vital Impetus by VK Tritschler
Lost between worlds, Jess is hunted. Fighting back using newfound powers the teen has yet to understand, her only help is an old childhood friend with secrets of his own. Will their reunion be her salvation or the end of her life?