Dan Melson, Galaxy of Authors

Dan Melson, Galaxy of Authors

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How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Right now, I have 3 that will probably remain forever unpublished, although events in them are referenced in published works.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!

Margret Treiber, Galaxy of Authors

Margret Treiber, Galaxy of Authors

Margret A. Treiber

‘I’ve done far worse than kill you. I’ve hurt you, and I wish to go on hurting you.’ – Khan

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

I don’t know.  I just started as a kid and that was that.  There was no decision one way or another.  It just kind of happened.  I read a lot, so that must have been what started it.  I did stop for years, before trying again.  I’ve been serious about it for a decade now.  I still have no idea what motivates me.

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

Douglas Adams.  I fell in love with SF books from reading Hitchhiker’s Guide as a teenager.  My mother thought I’d dig it and provided me the fuel.  Since then, I loved SF humor.

Tell me about your book / series.

I have two fairly recent books out.  One is Sleepy Time for Captain Eris.  Eris is pretty much a disgruntled powered individual with a crap attitude and a tendency to get killed a lot.

The second one is Japanese Robots Love to Dance, which is a collection of shorts about Gary Legal, attorney to the robots.  Despite how that sounds, it’s not that glamorous.  However, he does have a certain swagger and some interesting clients.  One of the main characters from Sleepy Time for Captain Eris has his origin in this collection, along with a couple of minor characters.  So it is kind of a prequel.

If you want something crude and irreverent, read my shit.

Maybe I shouldn’t describe my work with the word shit.  Maybe:  If you hate people as much as I do, you may want to read my books.

Eh, that may attract the wrong crowd.

Perhaps:  Yeah, fuckers, I got issues; read my dysfunction.

Because they really show up in my writing.  Some of my short stories really bleed.

Sleepy Time for Captain Eris: Captain Eris, AKA Death Engine, former military DNA tweak and mercenary, is unexpectedly pulled out of her retirement in Champion Acres and dragged back into the shit by an idiot in a mech suit.

Feeling pissed off and miserable about losing her retirement lifestyle and subsequently, her chances of dying of old age, she searches for the reasons why she was reactivated. With the help of her old friend Al, an incognito artificial intelligence; and Om, a twenty-something emo tweak-girl, she discovers a plot that goes a lot deeper than losing her death. And in doing so, she finds a reason to survive.

Japanese Robots Love to Dance: It’s tough being a robot – unrealistic expectations from humans, long hours, lack of social interaction. And what do you do when unscrupulous owners break the law? Humans have attorneys and so should you. Sometimes you just need a good lawyer to do what a robot can’t. I am that lawyer. Gary Legal, attorney at law.

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

Two.  I have a really serious one about the horrors of commercialism and technology.  I keep trying to get back to it.  But then, I start writing some crazy thing here or a short story there.  I never get back to it.  I also wrote an entire book that I hate.  I’m about to start re-crafting it into something irreverent and crude.

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

I want my books banned so I can get more readers.  Oh yeah, forbidden fruit.  I want to be that evil tainted thing that mustn’t be read.  Bwa-ha-ha.  Maybe I should write more cell phone porn.

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

Wow.  I think most of my characters are me on one level or another so it’s hard to choose.  Although, I’m kind of partial to Al the Robot.  Everyone and everything around him is complete chaos, yet he remains chilled out.  And it’s not because he is a robot, instead, it’s because of his strength of character which was given to him by good upbringing.  His father is a flawed man but still managed to give Al a strong moral compass and faith in humanity.  Al does have some self-worth issues, but who doesn’t from time to time?

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Oh.  Oh, that’s hard.  I would love to be traditionally published, but the waiting and the begging are so hard.  As much as I try, my skin is not as thick as it should be for a writer.  I have been traditionally published by a very small market and there were perks and some pain.  I’m not going to bitch about anything, but I think I’d like a market to publish me that will do some serious editing instead of leaving the typos in.

I’m not so great at marketing and editing to self-publish well.  I don’t really have the cash to pay for a good editor and cover.  So I’d have to do it all myself.  Then again, I could set my own prices and have giveaways, so it’s possible.  Maybe for my next book…

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

Yes and no.  I try not to read too much while I’m writing so I don’t accidentally copy someone else’s ideas.  However, I do read for magazines, so that keeps me sharp.

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

It sucks.  I’m miserable when I write.  I’m more miserable when I don’t.  I hate the rejection and wait on pins and needles whenever I submit.  I never felt more anxiety as I do waiting for a submission to be accepted or rejected.  I never felt more self-loathing than I do when I get a bad review.

However, if I could, I would do it full time and live inside my head.  Because I prefer my realities to the one I’m stuck in.  And no, I don’t want any meds.

Being judged by strangers sucks when you can’t even get out of the starting gate.  But being judged by strangers rocks when you have a book out and everyone is reading it.

I guess the worst is losing and the best is winning – like anything else.

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

I’m a pantser with some plotter tendencies.  I start with a  spark for wherever ideas come from, start going and then form an outline and notes.  I think how you write is a personal thing, like how you organize your closet.  Nobody can make you conform to their neatness.  You just have to go with what feels right.

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

I sometimes make references to things my friends would find funny. Like I’ve named characters after friends as a shout out.  I don’t put things in that a stranger wouldn’t get.  But I do put things in that some people will think “Oh crap, I remember that!”.  In fact, I have an entire short story that would probably make some people cringe if they read it, remembering some of the events within.

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

Pooping.  I am an excellent pooper.

What are you writing at the moment?

A rewrite of a serious story into humor.  It will be called Space Assholes.  Please, nobody steal the title.  I love it.

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

My last two “traditionally” published novels were very badly edited.  That’s what I have to say about that.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

I love to write snarky, dark superhero stuff.  I write serious SF but there is nothing more satisfying to me than writing a dysfunctional asshole with superpowers.

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

It depends on which one.  I kind of decimated the entire universe in one of my short stories, wouldn’t want to live there.  Maybe I’d dig one of my superpowered universes.  I mean, superpowers.  Yeah!

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

Try a writing career first, then if you fail, get a shitty cheese job.  Don’t screw up and do it backward.

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

I should, but I don’t.  Mostly because I have to write when I can find free time to do it.  So I don’t really plan my space so well.

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

I’m a very angry person and it all just flows out when I write.  Yup, angry.

Tell me three unique things about you.

I’m not the extrovert everyone thinks I am.  In fact, I prefer solitude to people these days.

One of my birds calls me by name.

I fear blue cheese.

Margret, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Lawrence Oliver, Galaxy of Authors

Lawrence Oliver, Galaxy of Authors

Lawrence N. Oliver

‘Fucking robots.’ -Ben Corbin

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

I’ve always loved fiction, especially science fiction and my imagination runs wild often to the point of distraction. Writing had always been something I enjoyed as a young person and I had wanted to pursue it as an adult but never made the time. One day I found myself unexpectedly off work for a few days so I was catching up on my reading (The Helmsman Series by Bill Baldwin). But as I tried to read I kept finding myself staring out of the window and thinking about another story, one I wanted to tell. So, I put down the book I was reading and I started writing.

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

Oh wow, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Tolkien, Burroughs, King, Koontz, McMurtry, Homer, Shakespeare (his stories, not the annoying Old English we were forced to read him in). Many more I’m sure …

Tell me about your book / series.

A soldier out of his time struggles to find closure at the loss of his wife. Earth’s new government presses him into service as an ambassador to our alien allies in a war against another alien species attacking Earth’s off world colonies and assets.

Having been replaced by robots and drones, veterans Ben Corbin and Sam Garrett go into business for themselves, towing derelict vessels and space junk out of the shipping lanes around Mars. Business was good, but a couple of malfunctioning service robots forced them to return to Earth for replacements. Aliens attacked the freighter they’d booked passage on, slaughtering and feeding on the crew and passengers. Only Corbin and Garrett managed to hold their own until they could hide in stasis pods. 200 years later Earth and her colonies, governed by the Commonwealth of Nations, are at war with a race of aliens known as the Nineteenth. Not with the Gar Rei Jhi who had attacked Corbin and Garrett so many years past. That war had been fought and humans lost. The Nineteenth is a new alien threat whose origins and motives are unknown. What information humans have on this new enemy comes from the uneasy alliance with the Gar Rei Jhi who’ve been fighting an even longer war with the Nineteenth. Though long ago, Corbin and Garrett’s history with the Gar Rei Jhi hasn’t been forgotten. They are to be ambassadors serving at the pleasure of the same aliens that attacked them. Thrust into a new age of engineered soldiers, interplanetary politics, and self-aware robots, Corbin has to quickly decide who he’s going to trust as he journeys back to the Mars colony. But his search for truth may come at the cost of his life, and the fate of the Commonwealth may rest on his decision.

WARNING: If you don’t like space battles, cyborgs, diverse flawed characters, aliens, AIs, mechs, robots or bad language this book may not be for you.

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

The sequel to The Last Marines is in the self editing/ revisions phase and will hopefully be available by the end of the year. And I’ve got another WIP on the back burner along with the third novel in The Last Marines series.

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

Banning books is wrong as long as the book doesn’t provide dangerous information. I don’t mean ideas or themes that aren’t mainstream or that challenge established cultural norms etc. …By dangerous information I mean Boris’s Meth Cook Book or Dirty Bombs for Dummies. America was founded on the principle of freedom. Even if I don’t agree with everyone’s views, I will fight for their freedom to express them.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s).

What makes them memorable? Norton. She’s a disabled Fleet Infantry veteran making her way as a VIP shuttle operator on Mars and making a few extra credits whenever she can even if she has to bend the law to get it done. Norton doesn’t take shit from the books’ MC or anyone except maybe her wife Eidnam.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Indie. I like the freedom of independent publishing but honestly, I did try to go the traditional route at first and couldn’t find an agent that felt my manuscript was right for their list …

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

I think everyone is different but that stimulation is often the father and mother of imagination. That said, I would stop short of saying you need to read in order to write well. As for myself if I had the time to read as much as I’d like I’d never get anything written. I still have a frick’n day job…

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

The worst probably the marketing and the expense of hiring good quality support people like editors, proofreaders, cover designers. Though they are certainly worth the investment. The best part, other than being able to express my imagination and let it run wild at times, I’d have to say it is when other people love your story.

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

If I had to pick one I’d say I’m a panster, just because I don’t really do an outline. I’m not afraid to use a rough draft like an outline and do major rewrites. I like to get it down and move on then come back and work out any details that may need ironing out. Again, everyone is different and sometimes I wish I was more of a planner where my writing is concerned. I may even explore trying to be just that in the near future. It’s funny really because in most other aspects of my life I always have a plan and a back up plan and a back up plan for the back up plan. Drives my wife nuts.

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

Yes, oh yes.

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

I love 3 gun competitions, drawing and art in general.

What are you writing at the moment?

Revisions to The Last Marines sequel, book 3 in the series, and a zombie western.

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

As an indie author that spent a considerable amount of money on editing, proofreading and cover design my knee jerk reaction to this question is pretty much “Who the hell said that? Get a rope.” Though in truth it is a fact but like most things this issue isn’t as black and white as some people claim. Of course, not all indie books are badly edited or low quality but many are. There are very few standards that have to be met to publish a book on Amazon but I’m pretty sure almost all traditionally published books have fairly high editing standards. Many indies don’t have the filters or financial resources that a traditionally published author has access to or lack the patience to save up to afford them. It’s the double edged sword that is Amazon, having come about as a result of the relatively cost effective print on demand technology that now exists. IMHO.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Science Fiction/ Space Opera hands down. I honestly can’t tell you why for certain. I grew up watching science fiction and fantasy movies and TV. The first novel I read was The Hobbit, followed by The Foundation. Maybe it’s just all of the possibilities available when you have the freedom to build not only characters within known environments, with all the rules that entails, but entire cultures and worlds. Or it could just be because I think aliens, blasters and space fighters are really cool.

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

Hmm… Damn. Certain aspects would be pretty cool, space flight, backwater terraformed frontier worlds, nanite healthcare plan, blasters, anti gravity (jetpacks), self aware robots … However, on the other hand, there would be the blood sucking aliens, cyborgs, AIs and self aware robots dominating the job market, compulsory military service to qualify for higher levels of citizenship and voting rights, government instituted nanite healthcare system, The Cutts (big thick aliens warriors with four arms and ten tentacles for legs) bent on destroying humans as they encounter them. Yeah… I’m gonna say yeah, I think I would.

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

Pay attention in English class, take some creative writing courses. Do more market research, make a better effort to spend more time writing.

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

I mostly listen to one of my Pandora radio stations (see links below if you want to give them a listen). Either “Ollie Radio” (mix of 80s and current indie music mostly) or most of all “Ollie’s Epic Movie Scores” (scores from movies like ‘Gladiator’, ‘The Last of the Mohicans’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, ‘Lord of the Rings’, etc… etc…) I find it is easier to concentrate without the lyrics but just as rousing.

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

That I didn’t know jack crap about writing a book … As I went on chapter length, fighting the urge to explain and info dumps were things I had to be mindful of and things my editor Amber Helt with Rooted in Writing help me with greatly.

Tell me three unique things about you.

I grew up in a small Texas town working on my grandfather’s ranch and for my father in the oil field.

I’ve been married for over 20 yrs, father to an autistic son (20) and a daughter (21).

I love art and worked closely with my cover designer to come up with cover that is pretty damn close to my own design sketches and ideas.

Lawrence, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

INTJs in an extroverted society

INTJs in an extroverted society

INTJs in an extroverted society

Maria R. Riegger & J. C. Steel

Meet the introverts

J.C. Steel and Maria Riegger are introverts, but not just any introverts. We’re INTJs. INTJs are the second-rarest Myers-Briggs personality type, at just over 2.1% of the population, and INTJ women are the rarest of all the Myers-Briggs personality types, at only about .3% of the population.

We’ve also both lived  in cultures that were quite extroverted, namely Spain and North America. J.C. (a self-described “ex-boatbum”) is from Gibraltar and currently lives in Canada. Maria is a native of the Washington, DC area and has lived there most of her life, and  lived in Barcelona for several years.

In Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Cain discusses how the United States is one of the most extroverted cultures in the world. Spain also has a terribly extroverted culture, where people never seem to do anything alone. There is constant pressure to go out and be with other people. It’s exhausting.

So we got to thinking. What’s it like for introverts to live in predominantly extroverted cultures? How do they manage?

Below we share our experiences. Please let us know yours in the comments!

How do you experience introversion in daily life?

J.C.: Having to cope with constant noise, peoples’ expectations, and the pressure to make meaningless conversation drains my energy and piles on the stress. I’m frequently tired, impatient, and depressed, because a full-time job means I’m surrounded by people five days out of seven. For me, recharging means time alone with my cats, with a good book in one hand and a mug of tea in the other. I’m an introvert to my bones, and alone time is like a long, hot bubble bath and massage for the brain.

Maria: I love being alone, and I enjoy my own company. Almost any type of stimulation, whether noise, touch, etc., saps my energy. The more people and/or the more noise, the more quickly my energy is drained. I constantly live with a headache of varying degree, and I have tinnitus 100% of the time.

Do you consider your current place of residence more introverted or extroverted? Is it a good fit for you?

J.C.: I’ve lived in a lot of places, and while Western Canada isn’t as inescapably social as some cultures, there’s still an expectation that if you’re in an elevator with someone, you’re going to come up with something to say about the weather, or the headlines, or what a pretty top they’re wearing. Going into a shop here can be quite a challenge for an introvert, as a number of stores train the staff to get right in your face as soon as you enter, ask what you’re looking for, can they bring you anything, and start small talk. The upside for me is that Canada, while cherishing the North American extroverted ideal, is also largely pretty tolerant. Canada also benefits from huge amounts of wild space; hikers and skiers are lost and never found within half an hour of my front door, so if I really need to escape for an hour or so, it’s not that hard. It’s a pretty good fit.

Maria: The location where I currently live, in northern Virginia right outside of Washington, DC, is certainly more of an extroverted culture. There is definitely a social pressure to “see and be seen” and to attend events, and also a strong “fear of missing out” (as opposed to my fear of social gatherings and small talk). People here seem to feel more important the busier they are, and that kind of frenetic activity is anathema to me. The idea of a happy hour at a loud bar makes me want to run away. For me, the activities that I do must have meaning, and “busy” does not necessarily equate to “meaningful.”

That being said, there are plenty of opportunities where I live to visit museums, parks, and historical events, which is fantastic. I do, however, make sure to visit the art galleries when they are the least crowded. The DC area is also well-situated for travel.

I’d say that this area is generally a good fit for me because of the cultural and travel opportunities, although ideally I would live a little further from a big city and have more space and engage with less people and traffic.

Do you find some types of extrovert, or culture, are more accepting of introversion than others?

J.C.: Yes, absolutely. There are a few incredibly extroverted people I know who are nonetheless able to get outside their own heads and understand that making their weird-ass introvert friend happy actually doesn’t mean dragging them out to a party, but can mean simply standing between them and the rest of the group and doing all the talking for two. I really appreciate that kind of person. Often, people willing to make that kind of leap of understanding can also often have the kinds of conversations introverts do like: zero small talk, and frequent dives down conversational rabbit holes about nature versus nurture, what decision you made in a parallel universe, and why no one put the writers of ‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’ out of our collective misery before they could inflict a crappy plot on the world.

Maria: Of all the places I’ve lived, I think the U.K. seemed to be the most accepting of introversion, where the idea of going out by yourself or sitting alone to read a book was not seen as unusual. In Spain, you were branded as “weird” or “anti-social” if you did things by yourself. In fact, the only people I knew in Barcelona who went sightseeing or to the movies by themselves were American ex-pats.

What is your go-to coping technique that helps you function among extroverts?

J.C.: I spent several educational years in a boarding school in the UK, so along with excellent signature-forging skills, a 90% proof liver, and some light breaking and entering, I gained a lot of coping mechanisms. My most socially acceptable favourites are a book in the wrong language for whichever country I’m in, which lets me play the “I don’t speak…” card; permanent headphones; and keeping a set of mental flash cards current with some excuses I can pull out of my hip pocket on the fly to get myself out of encounters.

Maria: Hide in the bathroom! Just kidding (but not really). If I can’t get home right away and crawl under the covers with a book, I’ll seek out a quiet corner and tune out for a bit. At work sometimes I’ll wear my earbuds or ear plugs.

At what age did you realise that you were introverted, and what brought it home to you?

J.C.: I realised pretty early on that I wasn’t like most other kids. Their idea of fun was to swim and run all over the harbour making extraordinary amounts of noise; mine was to hang out (literally, if the bosun’s chair was rigged) and read a book. While I could enjoy noise and group activity for an hour or so, a full afternoon would leave me so exhausted I would sleep-walk – not a great idea on a yacht.

Understanding that introversion was actually a thing, rather than ‘shyness’ or ‘laziness’ took a lot more time, and a lot more self-awareness, than I had in my teens and early twenties. I drank far too much in school and university, which let me camouflage just how difficult being out and surrounded by people was for me. These days, I preserve my mental health and produce a lie that extroverts can accept to avoid most social events.

Maria: I didn’t understand the chemical component to introversion until I was in my 30s. From the time I was around ten I knew that I was different in that I didn’t enjoy social gatherings as much as others seemed to, and I preferred to read alone in my room much of the time. I would “melt down” after too much stimulation, when others didn’t seem to. I remember being called anti-social and selfish by others. I would disappear from social events without saying anything because I could no longer handle it (and hated it when others pressured me to stay), and people thus branded me as “odd”.

I had an a-ha moment when I learned to tell people “I have plans” to decline their invitations instead of “I want to be home alone”. If you say, “I have plans”, they don’t question you, but if you say you prefer to stay at home, somehow that appears unacceptable and others will often pressure you to go out, and I hate feeling pressured.

What is your least favourite extrovert reaction to an introvert?

J.C.: I absolutely have to agree with Maria on this one. People trying to pressure or guilt me into entertaining them at the expense of making myself miserable is right up there. I’d love it if trying to force conversation on someone who clearly isn’t interested one day ended up in the same category as groping someone without consent. Frankly, it’s about what it feels like on a bad day, with the caveat that I’ve got 15 years’ martial arts training, and I’m allowed to break a groper’s fingers and call it self-defence, whereas it’s ‘rude’ not to submit to forced small talk.

Maria: When people try to pressure me into attending social gatherings or pressure me in general. Please accept my first response and leave me alone. Also, when I don’t respond to texts right away, some people appear to get antsy. I always have the volume on my phone off because receiving calls and texts (especially texts) invades my private space, and I will deal with them when I am ready. I’m not going to respond to calls and texts immediately. I absolutely hate that about texting, the idea that people expect immediate responses. If it’s not urgent, I may take days to respond because I need alone time.

What do you most wish society in general understood about introverts?

J.C.: I’m not shy. I don’t necessarily dislike you. I’m not afraid of you. I simply don’t have the need to make pointless noise with other people in order to be happy. My brain is wired differently to an extrovert’s, and it’s not something that being forced to spend more time being noisily sociable will ‘cure’. If you want to spend time with me, be intelligent, be interesting, give me civilised warning, bring pizza and beer, and my couch and movie collection are your couch and movie collection. Come riding with me. Come to open mat night at my dojo and spend an hour sparring if you have the cojones for it. If I find you interesting, I’ll happily spend time with you. It just won’t be noisy time spent talking about nothing important for the sheer sake of making noise.

Maria: I wish more people understood that introversion is not something that can be changed. Introverts are more sensitive to stimulation and, as such, require solitude and quiet to recharge. Our brains are built this way. It’s like having blue eyes or being six feet tall. You can’t change it!

Reading timeDo you feel there’s usually a direct correlation between introversion and the size of the book collection?

J.C.: *Cough* Over two thousand books in my house *cough* Um… I’m going with ‘very probably’ on that one. If I like a book, it stays with me and gets read and re-read, but I’m incapable of literary fidelity and tend to have two or three books open at once. Having a bookshop near enough to take my lunch break browsing for new bookshelf-fodder gives me spasms of glee.

Maria: Oh yes. I can’t speak for others, but I find myself rereading books out of familiarity. And I don’t like letting go of books; it makes me feel bad!

As an introvert, do you find the company of animals soothing?

J.C.: Very much so. I’ve had Siamese cats all my life, and while they aren’t most people’s definition of restful, I find that they’re actually a perfect offset for me; they’re perfectly happy to roost on top of me while I read, but if they want attention, or food, they’re loud, persistent, and irrepressible, which gets me off my rear to throw glittery balls for them and ensures they’re fed on time. I also love riding – horseback is my absolute favourite way to explore countryside, because horses, for the most part, are big, friendly, warm creatures that smell good and provide company without needing endless validation.

Maria: Mostly. I grew up with dogs, and I envy their carefree, seize-the-day attitude. Also, whatever horrible day you’ve had, they’re always happy to see you. And their goofiness is therapeutic. One of mine chased a leaf this morning!

Do you feel there’s any truth to the perception that INTJs simply don’t like people?

J.C.: Point of order: we don’t like dumbasses. We don’t like the helpless types that start the kettle and then come running in in a panic to tell you the water boiled and expect you to tell them what they should do next. Intelligent, non-needy people we can tolerate just fine (in limited amounts).

I’ve heard INTJs called the Sherlock Holmes personality type, and having watched the BBC remake, I can’t really argue. According to studies, there’s a strong correlation between INTJ and high IQ, where ‘high’ is defined as the 130 and over zone. Mind you, most of the population would say there’s also strong correlation between ‘INTJ’ and ‘asshole’, so there’s that. Since we’re a pretty rare type, it’s not usually a big problem.

Maria: Ooooo, maaayybe. INTJs like doing things our own way and we can’t stand incompetence or indecision. We also need a TON of alone time. When we don’t get to work on our own projects and be in “flow” state, we get very cranky. We also don’t see the point of “hanging out.” For us everything, even social activities, must have a purpose, such as seeing an interesting movie.

We also can’t stand wasting our time. It galls me when someone takes fifteen minutes to say something they could have said in thirty seconds (that’s why I can’t stand most work meetings). I’ve been told that extroverts need to voice a thought out loud in order to process it, so I try to be more understanding, but I can’t stand it when people waste my time.

What do you find the primary difference to be between someone who’s shy and an introvert?

J.C.: Tricky. In some ways an introvert and a shy person will present in a very similar way in a social setting. They’ll both tend to avoid big gatherings. In addition, there’s no restriction not on being a shy introvert; because you’re one doesn’t mean you aren’t the other. However, primarily I’d say it would probably present differently if there was some stress present in the setting: push an introvert far enough, and you may well get an earful. A shy person might have a greater tendency to stay quiet.

Maria: I’d say that a shy person may be afraid to speak up and may be cautious about meeting new people. An introvert will usually speak up only if he/she has something worthwhile to say (they typically won’t talk just to fill space), but they’re not necessarily afraid to speak up. Likewise, an introvert typically enjoys meaningful one-on-one conversations and, as such, would enjoy meeting new like-minded people.

Introversion is not something you can change. It has to do with your sensitivity to chemicals such as dopamine produced by the human body. This is something that Susan Cain really hits home in her  book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. When we’re overstimulated, and the body produces too much of these chemicals, we become irritable and start to melt down. What does an introvert meltdown look like for you?

J.C.: I get cranky as hell. Usually, if I’m forced to deal with groups of people when sober (work being the most common example) I pull up a fake personality and compartmentalise. If I run into someone who just is that irritating, or if the requirement to be sociable goes on too long, there’s a (very) short progression from exhausted to irritable, and shortly after that I start losing control of my reactions. That’s when my alone time gets crucially important for everyone’s safety.

Maria: When I’m overstimulated, I start to get frontal lobe pressure, then ear pain. If the overstimulation continues, I have trouble concentrating and become fatigued, jittery, and short of breath. My head feels heavy and, at that point, I need to lie down and have absolute quiet. If I don’t get to recharge at that point, then after a while my digestion shuts down. If I’m at that final point, then it takes about two to three days of alone, quiet time to calm the jitteriness, and it takes a few more days after that to recharge my batteries/catch up on sleep. That is why I plan my activities carefully. I have a difficult time doing back-to-back social activities.

Care and feeding of the INTJ in the wild

So, you think you might know someone who might be an INTJ, and for some masochistic reason, you want to make it onto their ‘tolerate’ list, or maybe even into their little black book? Interesting.

Introverts, and INTJs in particular, don’t have casual friends. You’re either in the acquaintance zone, or you’re competing for a spot on a very, very short list – usually two to five people – of those the introvert really trusts and likes.

Go slowly. An INTJ will push your buttons without even meaning to. Take a deep breath and apply logic before you assume the worst. INTJs are rational to a fault and make shitty ‘there, there’ types. They’ll problem-solve and state what they see as the obvious solution. It’s how they help, and it can be a bit Old Testament-style.

 If they’re being deliberately obscure, take the compliment; it means they assume you’re capable of keeping up.

If they don’t give you an opinion, take the hint; that’s the limit of INTJ social skills, in that they’ve realised you won’t want to hear what they have to say. Look on the bright side; they’re bothering to exercise them on you.

If you want to find out what your Myers-Briggs type is, there’s a free evaluation you can take here.

Character interview: Cristina Batista

Character interview: Cristina Batista

Interview with Cristina Batista

Sitting on a nice secluded end of a breakwater with a good view of the harbour

J C Steel: There are times I miss sunshine, wind, and palm trees.

Cristina Batista: I didn’t want to move to Europe in my teens, and having seen it, I still don’t want to move there.

JCS: Your family was originally from Spain. Which area?

CB: My father was from Cáceres, in Extremadura. I have no idea where my mother was from, she left after I was born.

JCS: And your father moved you all onto a yacht and sailed for the Caribbean. What was growing up on a yacht like?

CB: …when it’s how you grow up, and you have known nothing different, growing up on a yacht is very normal. I played in the harbour with the children from other boats, when there were any; I learnt to row and sail; I learnt to shop in the open markets, and how to tie up a dinghy so I didn’t end up swimming after it. I explored around the anchorages, I snorkelled. You must have been asked this one often enough.

JCS: Very, very often. Now I’m asking you. How about schooling?

CB: We had a basic set of material from a correspondence course. It wasn’t designed for complex thinkers, but it provided the basics.

JCS: Yeah, amen on the last part. Where did you spend most of your time?

CB: Mostly between Grenada and Martinique. We visited St. Eustatius once.

JCS: Do they still keep an elephant at Pitons?

CB: I think so. I haven’t been there in a few years. Papá liked the less touristy areas. Union Island was one of his favourites.

JCS: Least favourite aspect of living on a yacht?

CB: Water runs. For something that empties so quickly, it takes an amazing number of jerry-cans to fill a water tank.

JCS: Any opinions of living in a house?

CB: I have hardly lived in a house. Let’s say…they don’t move, and if you open the windows there are bugs everywhere.

JCS: You have Spanish citizenship. How do you respond if someone asks you where you come from?

CB: I tell them I spent most of my life in the Caribbean. My nationality is never very relevant to my life until I need to pass Customs.

JCS: Most people don’t believe in vampires. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing, from your perspective?

CB: I find that the facts remain the facts no matter your beliefs. It makes my job a little easier, in some ways. Vampires have a vested interest in human ignorance, so populated areas can provide good cover under the right circumstances.

JCS: Is it true that vampires can be driven away with a cross?

CB: No. Or any other type of religious symbol, either, unless you sharpen it.

JCS: Where do you think that belief originated from?

CB: I’ve noticed that people believe a lot of strange things when it comes to religion. Personally I prefer stakes and fighting knives if I need to kill a vampire.

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