‘I began writing novels for publication because there weren’t enough novels being written in those genres that I wanted to read.’
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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and it’s always been a desire to tell the stories I wanted to hear that no one else was telling. As an adult, I began writing novels for publication because there weren’t enough novels being written in those genres that I wanted to read.
Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?
The first and always the most influential was Robert Heinlein. His juvenile novels introduced me to SF as a child and I still reread them all periodically. After that, William Gibson and his cyberpunk novels and Walter Jon Williams were also big influences on me when I was younger.
Tell me about your book / series.
I have four series in all.
The first was a military SF trilogy called “Duty, Honor, Planet:” i. Duty Honor Planet ii. Honor Bound iii. The Line of Duty
This series is about a pair of young military intelligence officers who wind up rising quickly through the ranks as they confront what initially appears to be an alien invasion but winds up being a conspiracy rooted deep in the fabric of their society.
The remaining series all take place in the universe of the Human Commonwealth, and they share a common history but focus on different characters and situations.
The “Birthright” series focuses on Caleb Mitchell, born into a society of pacifist technological simplists on a religious agro-colony. He winds up a biologically-enhanced Glory Boy commando fighting against the alien Tahni in a war that has dragged on for decades.
Glory Boy is a prequel that deals with his time in the military and service during the war.
Following that is the “Birthright” trilogy: i. Birthright ii. Northwest Passage iii. Enemy of My Enemy
The trilogy deals with Caleb and his friends, family and former Glory Boy teammates as they deal with a Corporate Council conspiracy to gain control of ancient alien technology.
After that is the “Recon” series, which is centers on Randall Munroe, the son and heir of a Corporate Council scion who abandons that life and changes his identity to enlist in the Recon Marines during the war with the Tahni in the first book. The rest of the series deals with his experience as a mercenary after the war, working initially for and then against the Corporate Council. i. Recon: A War to the Knife ii. Recon: A Wolf in the Fold iii. Recon: A Battle for the Gods iv. Recon: A Fight to the Death
My latest series began with a prequel that takes place during the war with the Tahni, a book called Last Flight of the Acheron, which tells the story of Sandi Hollande, the black-sheep daughter of a high-ranking Fleet Admiral, and Ash Carpenter, who chose the military over life as a low-level criminal in the Trans-Angeles slums. They form a close friendship in the Academy and wind up serving together in a new command of small, fast-attack starships
I am currently working on the first book in the series about them taking place after the war, called Tales of the Acheron.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
None. All the books I completed are published. I have about a dozen books with maybe 10-20,000 words done on them that I abandoned at that point, but I might go back and finish a couple of them.
What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?
Banning by who? By governments? In that case, I’m totally against it. If you mean anything else by the term, I would need it clarified.
Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?
Caleb Mitchell of Glory Boy and the “Birthright” series is memorable in that he goes from being a boy brought up in an insulated, pacifist, religious society far away from more advanced civilization to willingly becoming a high-tech commando, and in doing so is willing to be exiled and shunned by his own people. He repeatedly has to leave, perhaps forever, the home and people he loves in order to protect them.
Indie, or traditionally published – and why?
I tried to get traditionally published back in the mid to late 1990s. I had an agent and she was shopping the first “Duty, Honor, Planet” and “Birthright” novels. It didn’t work out and I basically gave up on writing for publication. Then self-publishing on Amazon became a thing and once I put those books out as e-books for Kindle and sold 30,000 copies the first year, I never even considered submitting a book to a traditional publisher again.
It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?
I totally agree. I read almost compulsively when I was a kid and I still try to read as much as I have time for. It’s more difficult now, since writing takes up so much of my time. But what I read as a child and a young adult shaped the writer I am now.
Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.
The best part is not having any set hours. The worst part is also not having any set hours. I write what feels like every spare moment and I do it till I reach my word count goal for the day and if that’s 1AM, then it’s 1AM. I’m my own boss, but my boss is a slave-driving jerk.
Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?
I used to be mostly a pantser until last year, when I made a total conversion to plotter. Prior to last year, I would plot maybe a chapter or three ahead at the most and generally let my characters guide me. I still love doing that, and think it’s a much more fun and fulfilling way to write, but it takes way too long. I averaged a book a year pantsing and they were invariably over 120,000 words each. With tight, high-detail plotting, I can finish a 70-80,000 word book in a month and a half or less.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Sometimes, I’ll name a set of characters after something specific, like NFL QBs from the early 2000s or a cast of actors from a certain film.
Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.
I have spent far too much money and a lot of time pursuing wildlife photography. I’ve been to the Yellowstone/Grand Teton area 17 times since 2006.
What are you writing at the moment?
I’m writing book number one in my new “Tales of the Acheron” space opera series. It’s about two former war hero Fleet pilots who wind up on the run from the law, the Pirate World cartels and a vengeful bounty hunter.
What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?
I think that a certain percentage of ALL books, indie or traditionally published, are badly edited and low quality. There are just MORE indie books than traditional ones so you get to see more of them. I think the most badly written and badly edited ones never get read by anyone anyway. But I’ve found typos and editing mistakes in books by Tom Clancy and Stephen King.
What is your favourite genre to write, and why?
Science fiction in general and military SF and/or space opera in particular.
If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?
I’d definitely live in my Commonwealth universe. It has its drawbacks, but it’s wild and wide open and has some cool worlds in it, like Demeter, where they’ve established a huge nature preserve for re-engineered extinct mammals.
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 have kept writing after the first two books, so that when the time came that I self published on Amazon and had amazing initial success, I could have followed it up with sequels immediately and not taken a year to get the first one out and lost all that momentum.
Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?
Sometimes. It varies, but I find Awesome Mix Volume 1 from the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie is very inspiring.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
How easy it is to write once you’ve established good writing habits and gotten practice at them.
Tell me three unique things about you.
1) I still have my wisdom teeth, my tonsils and my appendix.
2) I’ve been to all but 4 US states, but only two foreign countries.
3) I’ve run two marathons.
Rick, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!