Today, we only have Randy with us. Welcome, Randy. Tell us a little about your family.
I have a wife and three daughters. I’m currently trying to get my daughters all through college. My oldest just graduated with a degree in English Lit and my second daughter is in her fourth year at the University of Washington where she’s majoring in math and computer science. My youngest is due to graduate from high school this year.
We have three cats in the house, who basically run things. If you don’t have cats, you probably don’t understand this. If you do have cats, you also don’t understand it, but you at least believe that it’s possible for ten pounds of fur to rule all humans in the known universe.
Has your writing changed your reading habits? If so, how?
Yes, I don’t have nearly as much time as I’d like to read fiction, and I blame my writing habit. I also am a lot pickier about the books I read. When a book is poorly written, it’s hard for me to get past that. I think most writers run into this problem—learning to write causes us to have better taste in our reading which means that we refuse to read the mediocre stuff anymore. And our definition of mediocre keeps expanding.
I so agree. I really have to limit my reading, besides what I read for research. What are you working on right now?
I’m currently releasing all my out of print novels as e-books. This was supposed to take only a few months, but my coauthor John Olson and I find it hard to republish something that isn’t our best.
That’s why I haven’t tried to release my first book as an e-book. I’m not sure I want anyone to read that first one. It had a good story, but only knew how to tell a story, not write correctly. What outside interests do you have?
I’m a theoretical physicist, so of course I’m interested in physics. I work part time for a biotech company in San Diego. I’m director of software engineering and am responsible for all of our products. Lately I’ve been learning a lot about biology and image analysis.
I’ve also gotten quite interested in philosophy in the last few years. When I was in high school, I thought philosophy was pretty useless. Eventually I realized that the statement “Philosophy is useless” is itself a philosophical statement. Since it seems impossible to sneer at philosophy without committing an act of philosophy in the process, I finally decided that I might as well learn more about it.
I’ve always been interested in the history of the early church, so I’ve learned a lot over the years about the New Testament, Jewish history, and archaeology.
That last bit of info helped you write some intriguing books. I loved them.How do you choose your settings for each book?
I write two basic kinds of books—historical novels set in ancient
and slightly futuristic technological thrillers. The two Mars novels that I
wrote with John Olson are set partly in Houston and partly on Mars, for obvious
reasons. There just wasn’t any place else to set them. The only book where I’ve
had a real choice on the setting was my novel Double Vision, which was set in a high-tech company in San Diego,
much like the one I used to work for. In fact, I located it right next door to
the place where I actually worked for three years. Jerusalem
I loved Double Vision, too. I’ve since learned that many therapists who work with families with Aspergers syndrome use it to help the families understand their child. It helped my brother understand one of his grandsons. If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why?
Jesus of Nazareth, same as every other person in the known universe. It’s obvious why. Jesus had more impact on the world than anybody else in history. But we don’t actually have all that much information about him. So it’s just plain a no-brainer to want to hang out with him.
What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels?
It’s extremely hard to make a living writing fiction. You have to solve what I call “the money thing” before you start, or else it’s going to come back to bite you eventually. “The money thing” is all about figuring out how you’re going to make a living before you hit the big time (which might be never.) Writers who never solve “the money thing” either quit or go broke or get exceptionally lucky.
Some writers solve it by having a working spouse. Some solve it by being independently wealthy or by waiting until they retire to start writing, or by scraping along with a part time job. But if they don’t solve it, they aren’t going to be writing very long, because you can’t actually eat words and you can’t pay your mortgage with great dialogue.
Most newbies think they’ll solve “the money thing” by slamming out a novel and becoming the next John Grisham. This happens to maybe one or two new writers per year. The odds of this happening to you are much worse than the odds of winning the lottery. Most writers who succeed take ten years to become an overnight success. And those are the lucky ones.
What new lessons is the Lord teaching you right now?
I have no idea. Ask me in ten years what God was teaching me this year. I still won’t know, but I’ll have successfully evaded the question for a full ten years.
You are a hoot, Randy. What are the three best things you can tell other authors to do to be successful?
You only need three things in order to be successful: content, craft, and connections. Just about every writer ever born has good content. The hard part is getting great craft—the ability to tell a good story. This is what takes all the time. Once you have great craft, it’s a piece of cake to get the right connections.
The mistake I see a lot of writers make is to try to make the connections (with agents and editors) before they have any decent level of craft. You can’t sell what you haven’t got. Agents and editors are looking for great writing. Get the great writing in your pocket and the agents will be lining up at your door to represent you. If they aren’t lining up yet, then your writing isn’t great yet. It really is that simple.
Tell us about the featured book.
THE FIFTH MAN is the sequel to my novel OXYGEN, which I coauthored with John Olson. Both books were John’s idea. I came along for the ride. John hates working alone and I love working with smart people, so this was a partnership made in heaven.
Our heroes have come to Mars to look for signs of life. Their first problem is that they find it. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that you should be careful what you wish for because you might get it. Suddenly a few folks back on earth are asking some questions about the possibility of “back-contamination”—the danger of bringing a foreign life form to earth.
At first, our four astronauts think this is crazy. But then they start getting sick—with a dangerously high fever that shouldn’t be possible. Then they begin finding evidence that they’re not alone on Mars. Is it possible—remotely conceivable—that there is a “fifth man” on Mars who means them harm? Obviously not, and yet …
And yet how do you explain all the evidence?
I can hardly wait to get my copy. I wanted more at the end of Oxygen, which was marvelous. Please give us the first page of the book.
Monday, March 16, 2015, 3:45 p.m., Mars Local Time
Water. Valkerie Jansen forced one foot in front of the other, a weary survivor on a death march across a dry and barren planet. Water. Valkerie’s soul cried out for it. A patch of frost. A dark stain in the dust. Subterranean ice ...
Dry dust coated her visor—red streaks across a blur of powder‑white scuffs. The grit was everywhere. Valkerie could taste it, acrid and dry in the filtered air she breathed. She could feel it grinding in the joints of her EVA suit, eating deeper and deeper into the fragile seals that stood between her and death.
She plodded to the edge of a deep canyon and scanned the rocky walls below.
Heavily shadowed grooves started at a point a hundred meters below her and snaked their way down the rocky walls, dividing into smaller and smaller subbranches.
Weeping fissures. They looked so promising, so much like erosion gullies back on Earth. But where was the water? She and Lex had searched hundreds of fissures, but they were all dry. Dry as ... the rest of Mars.
“Okay, Lex. Here’s another one.” Valkerie bit into the butterfly valve of her water bag and took a reluctant swallow of sweat‑sock‑flavored water.
“How’s it look?” Geologist Alexis Ohta’s voice crackled over the comm speakers.
“Good enough. Pull the rover all the way up.” Valkerie pointed to a line two meters back from the four‑hundred‑meter drop‑off.
The six‑ton rover inched forward, climbing over rocks and small boulders like a monster truck at a redneck fair. Only in this case the rover was more of a monster minivan—with a laboratory, airlock, and bunks to sleep four.
“Okay, that’s good.” Valkerie waved at the rover’s gold‑tinted windshield.
The rover shuddered to a halt and sank down on its hydraulic suspension. “I’ve got this one.”
Lex’s voice sounded in Valkerie’s helmet, followed by bumpings and thumpings as she made her way to the back of the rover. “Out in a second.”
Valkerie flipped open an external storage hatch and pulled out a tool bag.
The puttering of the compressor motors faded to nothing as Lex evacuated the airlock.
Nine months on Mars and already the pump valves were wheezing. She’d have to mention that to Bob—
No. Valkerie took a deep breath. She could look at them herself. Bob had enough to worry about right now. The last thing he needed was more whining from her. She’d caused him enough pain already.
A gloved hand clasped Valkerie’s shoulder. “You okay?”
Valkerie rocked back and forth in a slow nod. “Want the MoleBot?”
Lex shrugged. “Let’s get it out, just in case.”
The two women hoisted the badgerlike digging robot from its bin and eased it to the ground. On Earth, it weighed almost sixty pounds. Here on Mars, barely twenty. Lex strapped the winch controller to her wrist while Valkerie attached the cable to Lex’s rappelling harness.
“Okay, go.” Lex backed toward the drop‑off, pulling the line from the rover’s winch taut.
Valkerie flipped a switch and watched Lex disappear backward over the edge. She stayed by the winch controls, not bothering to watch Lex’s progress. She would call if she needed anything.
Oh, yes. I can hardly wait. How can readers find you on the Internet?
You can find my personal web site at http://www.Ingermanson.com
You can also find my web site on how to write fiction at http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.comJohn’s web site is at http://www.litany.com
Thank you, Randy, for taking time out of your busy day to visit with us.
eave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)
The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.