I have been looking forward to this interview with great anticipation. I've known Stuart for several years and I respect him as a man and as a writer, who worked intelligently toward publication. Welcome, Stuart. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I think I write a bit of myself into my characters. Mostly through the fact that I infuse them with aspects of my own hopes and dreams. No single character will ever be a direct copy of me, but they all contain some portion of my strengths and weaknesses, my virtues and vices.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
At the 2005 American Christian Romance Writers Conference in Denver I wrote down a contest entry in Saurian. Little did I know that this would have me getting up in front of everyone and having to read: Dine lamto loktoe yenku joelodun rekoe dine keenual chae shenyoch glozm nim. (I deserve a free book because I created three words for this.)
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I think I first really discovered it in high school in my English classes. I’d been doing some fun little cartoons with my dinosaur characters since Jr. High, but it was in high school that I actually started writing stories for them and exploring that side of my creativity.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I mainly read fantasy and light science fiction. But I also enjoy any “weird” story or a good spy or action tale. While my reading tastes are fairly narrow I do get quite a bit more eclectic with movies, where I love everything from creature features to whimsical musicals and romantic comedies.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I haven’t been sane since I turned thirteen. These days I mostly ignore the fact that everyone else is running and just take things at my own pace…which varies wildly from day to day.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I usually start with a basic sketch of the character, or the basic idea for who they are and then just start sounding out names in my head that sound like what the culture the character would come from would name a kid. Then when I hit on one I like, that’s what I name the character. It helps that I’m doing all alien cultures. I do try to avoid any totally awkward names that are unpronounceable.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Getting married to my incredible and lovely wife, Tiffany, and becoming the father to our beautiful baby girl.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I’ll stick to Earth animals for this question. I would be a noble wolf, not one of those feral wolves that are always harassing travelers at night or stalking girls in little red capes, but the noble creature that roams his territory and cares for the forest, even if that means snacking on a bunny every now and then.
What is your favorite food?
Currently it is fried chicken, white meat please.
Tell us a little about your journey to publication.
It was a little bit like slogging across a desert where there were always clouds on the horizon but never any rain falling. I didn’t really start actively pursuing publishing until 2003 when I attended my first writer’s conference. I received some great feedback on my early start with Starfire at that conference from editors, which gave me the push I needed to finish the novel.
At the time I had bought into what the editors say when they talk about it all being about the story. That the genre didn’t matter if the story was good enough. However, I don’t think any of them really thought about the guy in the audience with a story about alien, computer-using dinosaurs.
One thing I didn’t do was flood the industry with my manuscript. I watched and listened carefully to what houses and agents were looking for science fiction and fantasy and only sent to those people. So I’m not one who has accumulated dozens of rejections (really only about seven or eight), but still I felt like there just wasn’t a place for the story of my heart.
By 2008, I had all but given up on my dream. Thankfully, my beautiful wife, Tiffany, wasn’t ready to let me. She has been a steady support in the year and a half we’ve been married and helped give me the confidence I needed to submit Starfire one last time to Marcher Lord Press. I sent the submission off and then left it in God’s hands. I had decided that if Starfire couldn’t even find a home there, then that particular story couldn’t find a home anywhere.
God blessed me, and Starfire was acquired.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Self-discipline. I am incredibly easily distracted and often go for the flashier and more immediate things than the grind of getting what’s in my head to paper. I often have short intense bursts of focus that last just long enough to get me in trouble, and then I’m distracted by the next shiny thing and I’m off in a different direction.
What helped me overcome that with Starfire was some incredible support by other authors in my critique group and in the American Christian Fiction Writers. Plus I had a clear goal and forced myself to make the writing a priority.
I’m working on getting back to that for my next book.
What advice would you give to others who are trying to get their first book published?
Give the results to God. I know that the book is as much a part of you as anything, and the desire to see it in print can burn in your soul like a bonfire, but you have to be able to give even that over to God. It will still hurt, but I think if I had fully done so sooner, my road would have been easier to travel. Starfire may not have been published any quicker, but I wouldn’t have fallen so far into writing depression over the fact.
And don’t limit yourself to just submitting to the big houses. They might not be the right place for your story. The publishing landscape is changing, and smaller houses and POD publishers aren’t the stigmas they once were. Just make sure you pray about any decision and go in with eyes and heart open.
Tell us about the featured book.
Starfire is a fun, action-packed science fiction novel set on the alien planet of Sauria. The story revolves around Rathe, a young warrior who is just starting his first tour of duty in the Karn Imperial Army and will soon be caught up in events that will force him to decide the fate of his empire and his world.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is the relationship that developed between Rathe and an engineer named Selae. Selae is only two feet tall, compared to Rathe’s eleven-foot height, and due to some unforeseen problems during an escort mission she ends up riding on Rathe’s head for the majority of the story. And she’s got quite a sharp tongue and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She really added a nice element of humor to the story.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Rough stone tore Rathe’s palms as he stumbled through the gaping maw of the cave. He tore away the makeshift leaf filter covering his mouth and sucked in the cool underground air, soothing his burning lungs. Pain lanced through his side as each breath tortured cracked ribs.
He turned to the entrance and gazed into the ash-clogged air outside. Grey blanketed the world like a shroud, quickly swallowing his large three-toed tracks, and obliterating any scent that would lead the trackers to him. Satisfied that he would be safe for the duration of the ash fall, Rathe staggered farther into the cave. His claws echoed hollowly on the stone floor, their quiet clack, clack, clack bouncing into the darkness.
The musical trickle of water sounded nearby, and Rathe angled toward it. Sudden wetness at his feet alerted him to the presence of a shallow pool. He lowered gingerly to the ground and stuck his snout into the chill liquid. The bitter taste of ash flowed over his tongue, but sweet relief filled his parched throat. Yet each swallow intensified the pain in his ribs.
The cool, moist rock felt good against his hot skin. He rolled onto his left side, away from the fire in his battered ribs, and stretched out to his full twelve-foot length. His tail-tip lazily slapped against the ground as drowsiness flowed over him. The water’s flow sung him to sleep.
A shrill cry jolted Rathe from soothing darkness. Pain seared through his right side and down his tail. Through the agony, the fading echo of the cry played at the edges of his mind. He groaned as he rolled onto his belly and forced down a few more swallows of water.
He pushed to his feet, swaying slightly as his stiff muscles adjusted to his weight. He cocked his head and listened.
Whatever had made the sound had gone silent. Or the cry had been only the vestige of a nightmare.
I love it. I can hardly wait until my book comes. Now, Stuart, how can the readers find you on the Internet?
They can visit my website at http://www.ritersbloc.com/.
Starfire is available from http://www.marcherlordpress.com/ or http://www.amazon.com/ and http://www.bn.com/.
Stuart, thank you for allowing me to be part of the release of your first book. I hope you'll come back with the second, and third, and all the rest.
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