Dan Melson

‘Aren’t there any adults on your planet?’

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I couldn’t not write.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Too many to mention them all individually.  Robert Heinlein was probably the strongest single influence, Poul Anderson, H. Beam Piper and many others. Outside of the genre, Rudyard Kipling.

Tell me about your book / series.

The technology is godlike, but the people are still human – or a little bit more.

The technology can move ships millions of light-years in quantum time, keep you young and healthy indefinitely, or destroy unshielded planets almost without noticing.  But it is still a fundamentally human society.  The rulers expect to be around long enough for mistakes to catch up to them personally, and the higher they go, the bigger the consequences of failure.  This forces them to hold each other responsible.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Right now, I have 3 that will probably remain forever unpublished, although events in them are referenced in published works.  I have one I’m actively working on, and 7 at the idea to plot and character creation stage.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

It is without exception pure cowardice.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

Graciela Juarez begins as a 28 year old college student with a troubled past who is trying to put her life on track.  She has an experience that without spoilers can best be described as a day and a half of massive repeated culture shocks, which break her out of her former mold.  But she retains a talent for finding trouble – or having it find her.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Indie – I was reading an interview with Christopher Stasheff, a multi New York Times bestseller when that really meant something, and he was talking about how he was no longer politically correct *enough* to land a publishing contract.  But the political gatekeepers can’t keep you from publishing Indie.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I think that’s pretty close to the truth – but you can’t just read things you agree with or that stroke your own ego and preferences.  You need to interact with things you disagree with, and play the devil’s advocate.  You need to be merciless about challenging your own comfort zone.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The best is when you get direct feedback from the end consumer.   That’s rare in other professions.  The worst is marketing – to try and get folks to pay attention to your work when there are a large and increasing number of very worthy competitors for that attention.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I’m a plotter, but not obsessive.  I want to know the main characters, the main opponent, the basic story I want to tell, and the principle gates I intend to go through in telling that story.  But particularly in the stories with connections to the Empire of Humanity, I’ve become used to the characters stepping up and telling me, “Wait, I thought of something better!” and them being correct.  This has happened in every one of my novels except the first.

I don’t understand how real ‘seat of the pants’ writing can really work.  That said, any opinions I would express have obviously been formed in ignorance.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Judging by the reviews, a lot more than I thought I did.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

History, particularly military and economic history.  I’ve been nuts for it since my teens.  Computer gaming, when I have the time. Math and physics and economics.

What are you writing at the moment?

Setting The Board, Book Three of Preparations for War.  The Empire discovered a planet (near Earth) where the fractal demons were breeding humans to have the same genetic augmentation that is propagating through the gene pool of the Empire.  This planet is useful for Imperial agents as an access point to the realms of the fractal demons, and it will be for the war that is eventually coming as well.  But in the meantime, the human inhabitants of the planet are demonic slaves, and there are some people who are determined to help them better their lot, which includes the main characters of the series, Joseph Bernard and his native wife Asina.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

It depends upon the Indie book.  Some are guilty of that, others are not.  It largely depends upon how much effort the author makes.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Science fiction.  It my favorite genre to read, and my mind seems to like asking the basic questions that define science fiction: What if, if this goes on, etcetera.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

Absolutely.  The Empire of Humanity is a wonderful place to be one of the common folk.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

I would tell myself to start self-publishing earlier, so I’d have more stories out by now.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

Not generally.  I’ll listen while I’m thinking about story ideas, which is generally while I’m driving or doing other chores.  My music collection can best be described as eclectic.  Rock, Pop, Country, musical soundtracks, and classical.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That the characters would stand up and give me better ideas once I spent a certain amount of time developing them, and that I’ve learned to enjoy the story being hijacked thus.  Petra in Fountains of Aescalon was originally a minor character, and she hijacked the story twice, becoming second in importance only to the main protagonist.  Grace has hijacked her stories any number of times.  Etcetera.

Tell me three unique things about you.

I try to write stories for people that think.

My first novel was published when I was 52.

I have far more ideas in the pipeline than I will ever have time to write.

Dan, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!