I have a fascinating guest speaker today. Please join me welcoming John Rosenman.
Two of John’s science-fiction adventure novels recently became audiobooks and are available at http://www.audible.com. They are Beyond Those Distant Stars, winner of AllBooks Review Editor’s Choice Award for 2010 and his African deep-space epic A Senseless Act of Beauty. At Norfolk State University, John designed and taught a course in writing and publishing Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, and he is a former Chairman of HWA (Horror Writers Association). John and his wife Jane have been married 45 years, and they have two children. John likes to hear from his readers. You can email him at email@example.com and also visit his blog at http://johnrosenman.blogspot.com and web site at http://www.johnrosenman.com. He invites readers to check out one of his interviews at http://www.milscifi.com/files/inter-JBR-BS.htm.
1. How long have you been writing?
A long time. I started scribbling in the womb. No, not that long ago. Sixty-five years or so ago, when I was five or six, I scribbled stories in cartoon strips using crayon. I used to lie in bed at night and listen to the radio. The Shadow. Inner Sanctum. Lights Out. The Fat Man. No visuals to aid the imagination. Just sound. Basically your brain did it all. I’ve always been writing, making up stories. I remember my first sentence from an unfinished western novel, The Twisted Years: “Jeff Stancher didn’t pay any attention to the Abilene stage as it bumped and rattled into town.” Ironically, while I’ve always written fiction, it took me a long time to know it was something for a guy to do or to follow as a course in life. I mean, you couldn’t make a living at it, could you?
2. What made you finally decide to get serious about writing?
Hard to say. Perhaps the turning point was when I sold my law books and left Western Reserve Law School in Ohio without a moment’s notice to my parents and hopped a Greyhound bus for New Orleans. I slung hamburgers for a buck an hour, got a room there for $8 a week, and settled down to write the great American novel. Wearing a suit and carrying an attaché case just didn’t do it for me. And I hated writing legal briefs.
3. Describe what you consider your ideal writing conditions.
A computer and an Internet that works and my wife doing the cooking. Plus being retired and having a minimum of obligations except for playing tennis four or five times a week.
And good health for both of us. Otherwise, leave me alone!
4. Describe your rituals for preparing to write.
I sit down and turn on the computer. I try not to be seduced by all my email messages and by Facebook and Twitter and the Yahoo loops and all the rest going on UP THERE above my desktop and files. DOWN THERE is where I should be, either writing or editing a story or novel, but UP THERE is so seductive, especially if it’s the MUSE CHAT ROOM discussing promotion and there’s a dozen or so MUSE FEMALES and ME, THE LONE MALE, which is awfully good karma, if you ask me.
But if I resist the temptations of UP THERE and click on a fiction file, then I can write for hours. EXCEPT that more and more recently, I have to PROMOTE. Yes, verily, I find that promotion has become more and more a part of my ritual. As Lea, the wise MuseItUp publisher has said, at times promotion of your books can suck all the air out of your sails. Susan, right now in doing this interview, I am both promoting myself and my most recent novel Kingdom of the Jax. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy talking about myself, my books, and the writing process. It’s just that now that I’m retired, it seems there should be more time to actually write, but somehow . . . do you know what I mean?
5. How often do you write?
The easy answer is not enough. I try to do it every day. But some days I don’t do it at all. Yesterday I spent over two hours editing a novel I wrote over thirty years ago (it will be published later this year) and editing a chapter of my next Inspector novel. I’d like to just sit down and write my next novel. I probably write a couple hours a day but on different, scattered projects. Fact is, I have to do housekeeping and promoting of books I’ve written. Since I’m not good at promotion, I’d like to be able to hire a publicist and staff. But I can’t.
6. Are you a plotter, a pantser or some combination of both?
Basically a pantzer. When I used to go to cons, some writers on panels were meticulous planners, even constructing outlines hundreds of pages long with elaborate character sketches. Others got by on a shoeshine and a smile. I like to make it up as I go along. In my current novel, Defender of the Flame, the conclusion of what I call “The Turtan Trilogy,” I do have the basic conclusion in mind and even the last couple of sentences written, which is rare for me. Years ago, with Speaker of the Shakk, published by Mundania Press, I actually wrote out a complete outline. I was proud of myself. But then I changed the novel so much, the outline was little more than a springboard into something else. Still, it was helpful, and in general I’d recommend that writers use them. It’s just I like the freedom of marching forth into the wilderness without a map and a compass.
7. Describe one of your favorite characters and tell us who you patterned them after and why.
Well, since Kingdom of the Jax just came out, I’ve gotta talk about Turtan. I suppose a good part of his genesis lies in Joe Haldeman’s classic work of science fiction, The Forever War. He initially submitted it to over a dozen publishers without success. Its protagonist fights in a war that lasts over a thousand years. I wanted to explore that premise, only I took it further and focused almost solely on one person, an agent or Inspector who so far has fought in a war for four thousand years. He travels across space in “freeze ships” in a state of suspended animation. The journeys or missions last decades and centuries, and he seeks weapons that might possibly turn the tide against the Cen, vicious, seemingly invincible aliens who have brought humans to the brink of ruin. I wanted to explore what it must be like to be such a man, to live outside of time and normal human contact, to love and leave women and dozens of children he has fathered and will never see again. What terrible price must he pay in order to serve and attempt to save the human race, and what will be the effect upon him to have made such a prolonged sacrifice?
Turtan is the best, the best by far, and because of him, the human race has survived, though ultimately it seems even his transcendent gifts cannot save us. It is not just that the enemy is relentless and remorseless, but that like Christ, Turtan has not only been betrayed, but betrayed by his own leaders, and even with a kiss. While I am not a Christian, the concept of a cosmic savior who will give his all to save humanity has proved too potent for me to resist. Yet Turtan, a nonbeliever, would be the first to scoff at such a flattering comparison, and he would turn from such praise in disgust even as the parallels between him and Christ continue to mount. Despite Turtan’s flaws, he remains what the enemy emperor himself called humanity’s “greatest knight,” its most courageous and magnificent hero.
8. Where do you go for inspiration?
One place I used to go was a local Barnes & Noble. It was magical. I’d walk through the place, just chill, and let my eyes do the walking. It was important to relax and not force it. One time I saw a title, The Calm Technique. Bam! Just like that another title (complete with idea) leapt into my mind: The Death Technique. It was a horror story about . . . well, you don’t want to know, but I sold it to a pro hardback anthology. Another time at B & N, I opened a book and ran my eyes casually down a page. Without even seeing the letters . . . Bam! A dark fantasy story leapt virtually complete into my noggin. This must have happened to me nearly twenty times in that sacred store.
Often it’s been a minor, seemingly trivial thing that’s ignited a story idea. My inspiration has come from the most inconsequential of sources. And yes, some of the stories have been lousy and haven’t worked at all. Or they’ve had promise and have simply fallen apart in my clumsy hands. I even wrote one unpublished novel based on a single word: Dreamfarer.
My first novel, though, The Best Laugh Last, came as most first novels do, from my deep personal experience, and it was published by McPherson & Company. My second novel, The Merry-Go-Round Man, was also inspired by personal experience, and it will be published later this year. The three fictional boys from my childhood, of whom I am one, will live again.
9. Name an author or authors who never fail to inspire you.
Suzette Haden Elgin. “For the Sake of Grace.” Actually, this is the only story I recall reading by her, but I had to mention it.
Octavia E. Butler. Her inclusiveness of all kinds of people. She wrote the African-American epic.
Orson Scott Card.
George R. R. Martin.
10. Tell us about your current WIP.
Defender of the Flame is the conclusion (I THINK) to the Turtan trilogy, the first three books in the Inspector of the Cross series. I don’t want to give away too much. Can our hero defeat the cruel and ruthless Cen and end the five-thousand-year-old war at last? I introduce some new characters in this book, including Christopher Columbus Walker the Ninth and Christopher Columbus Walker the Tenth. In the previous book, Kingdom of the Jax, Sky Masterson made her debut. I named this fourteen-year-old girl Sky in honor of our twenty-year-old granddaughter. However, she’s lived at the bottom of a dark mine all her life and she’s dying of cancer. Some honor, huh? I’m not sure how my wife Jane would feel about it. But boy oh boy do I have big plans for Sky. She has always wanted to become an Inspector herself, and if she can just beat this cancer thing, she just might become an even greater Inspector than Turtan himself. Can you see a new series on the Event Horizon with Sky Masterson as the hero?
I better stop there. I have three other women in the novel, and they only have one body between them. Like Sky, they all love Turtan, who’s got a mess of other problems to worry about.
But that’s enough for now. Susan, thank you for swapping blogs with me. The best of good fortune with your writing!
I appreciate that and thanks so much for coming John. I have enjoyed every minute of this. You’ve given me a delightful, well-thought-out interview and left me with little more to do but post. That’s organized! And now I have another book to add to my TBR pile!!
Guys, you can find John at:
AN EXCERPT FROM KINGDOM OF THE JAX:
Galan broke free from Hatcher, who lunged and caught his robe, pulling him back. “Word’s got out. I can’t control them.”
Bullets were less likely to breach a space station’s walls, but they had a tendency to ricochet, which in personal terms could be more dangerous. Turtan felt this truth as a bullet spanged off the egress tube and burned a furrow along his shoulder. He crouched, trying to make himself as small a target as possible. He fired again and again, picking off guard after guard. Three targets fell—four, five. Marksmanship was something he excelled at, and he blanked out for the moment the fact they were comrades. Yaneta screamed. He saw her whirl, her glorious rainbow dress fanning out in the air. She’d been wounded; she was dead! It was only the dress, though, shredded by projectiles, and he saw her burn several guards across the chest fifty meters away, killing them instantly.
More guards were coming, though, an endless sea of them. Hatcher, Turtan saw, staggered from multiple wounds and was still struggling to hold on to the Emperor. Turtan rushed forward, seized Galan, and pulled him backward, leaving Hatcher behind as he entered the egress tube.
“Yaneta,” he screamed, “help me!”
She spun and ran into the tube. “What?”
“Take Galan in the ship. Don’t let him escape.”
“What about you?”
She hesitated then grabbed the Emperor, who protested.
Yaneta threw him down the tube toward the ship.
Turtan crawled back along the tube. He found Hatcher lying on her stomach near its entrance. Her body was a bloody mess—the price, he saw, of her heroism. She’d picked a strategic position to cover their retreat.
As he watched, she fired her laser. With her free hand, she wiped blood from her eyes.
“How many out there?” he asked.
“Too many.” Her face was white. “You should leave.”
He knew she was right. “Harriet, you’re the best damned soldier I ever met. A credit to the Cross.”
Hatcher seemed unimpressed. She fired her laser again and glanced up at him. “Tan, you’re hard on women, aren’t you?”
He remembered Stella’s words nearly four thousand years before. Don’t leave, Tan. Don’t do this to us!
Hatcher reached out and pulled his head down. He felt her lips press against his, hard and demanding. Ever so lightly, she bit his lip.
When she pulled back, her eyes burned into his. “At least I kissed you before I died,” she said.