Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
Most recently The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey. Before that Dune by Frank Herbert. I found in those fascinating stories that the characters were most interesting to me. In the case of Dune, the insights into their thinking were enlightening. In The Expanse I enjoyed the perspective or point-of-view, the reader having only the one character’s take on things, changing characters chapter by chapter, as the story unfolded. This most led to my imagination of characters and how I wanted to tell their story.
At what point do you think someone should call themselves a writer?
I hesitate to call myself that. What started as a hobby became a passion. To me, perhaps that’s more what it is about. If writing isn’t a career, that makes you no less a writer. If writing is a passion and a joy, an outlet for creativity, then you are a writer. I started writing with no illusions of becoming a known author, I didn’t even plan to publish when I started, yet I became a writer.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Strat with what interests you, your desires and joys. Do you ever imagine yourself doing things you’ve never done, perhaps never could? What would your friends and family members be doing in the same setting if there with you? I visualized scenes for quite a while before my fingers ever touched the keyboard to start writing them.
Do you prefer ebooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?
I am a tech-savvy guy working in the IT field for decades. I do most everything on either a tablet, computer, or my phone. I lingered over a few ePubs on my tablet and wrongfully concluded that I wasn’t much of a reader. My mind wanders too much with fiction audiobooks, but I do prefer those for biographies and non-fiction. When I decided to read printed books I rediscovered a love of reading, the feel of the paper in hand and the inability to touch a screen or be distracted by it helps me become more immersed in the story. Paperback is my preferred medium.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
I love to read, watch, and write imaginative stories of the future; the near and realistic as well as the distant and far-fetched. I start with a basic scenario, settings, situations, and I envision how these would present challenges to people living through them, and then I start adding people into those situations.
For Colony’s Dawn it started with the push some are making now to colonize Mars. I wondered how life would be for someone born in a colony before any terraforming success would make going outside possible. What would life be like for someone who only knew that enclosed environment? What challenges would they face and what would cause people to become dissatisfied or disillusioned with the realities of that life? Then I added characters into the setting so I could follow someone through their days and see what they might experience.
Many of my characters are combinations of real people from those I know well to casual acquaintances. I avoid patterning them too closely to any one person but find a blending of characteristics, quirks, and unique traits from a few people can make for a most interesting character. It also helps me to keep their actions consistent with who they are as people.
How long did it take you to write this book?
It is not easy to define the time of writing as it can be subjective. The first draft took just over seven months with the first chapter I wrote consuming the initial three of those. As a self-published author, the editing process was part of the writing as I rewrote key scenes, reduced cluttered detail, even shortened the finished product by over eighty pages. If we consider all of that as the writing process, then I spent ten months on Colony’s Dawn. Book two, Colony’s Fall, taking considerably less time as I found my creative process flow with less rewriting.
If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?
Colony’s Dawn was written as volume one from an outline of a trilogy. Without any spoilers for those who may be reading or would like to read it, book one completes a contained story while opening the way for the next volume in its final chapter. The epilogue teases how much the lives of our characters will change in the next volume.
If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?
In my musings over these characters, I pictured actors and others for each. Not with any ambitions for my work to be put to film but to help me picture them myself. While Gift began as a young Jessica Alba, I recently saw Kat Graham and thought she could fit the image my mind conjured up for the Nigerian-Italian young woman who is the central character of my stories.
Charlie could be played by someone like Alfred Enoch. I see Raffaella as Elena Santarelli and Mike fitting the image of Matt Bois. Marine Vacth would make a lovely Aimée and although I picture Tina more as Gina Torres, I think Sope Aluko would be a good match.
What are the essential characteristics of a hero you can root for?
I enjoy stories where the hero or main character is likeable, has redeemable qualities, and is someone whose actions and decisions I can believe and respect. They don’t have to be someone I could see myself having as a close friend, but they must be virtuous and care about others to make them someone I can be vested in and care about to make their story worth following.
What book (or books) are you currently reading?
After completing the nine volumes of The Expanse series I am reading the compilation of short stories in Memory’s Legion. I am also emersed in the murder-mystery thriller I Kill, the English translation of the best-seller by Giorgio Faletti.
What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
For how my mind works the plot comes before the characters. Once I see the general situation, the issues, and challenges, I can picture the people living through them and what reaction various personalities may have to each. I need to see the problem and solution clearly before I know who will rise to meet them as their character develops, becoming the person they will need to be to overcome whatever that scenario brings.
What was your hardest scene to write, and why?
To convey the raw emotion of a death proved the most personal and the greatest challenge for me. For it to be impactful to a reader I knew we needed to care a bit for the person first. Writing from one character’s perspective also meant that the reader needed to sympathize with the impact of it on her, how they would feel in her place.
What’s your writing software of choice?
While I am a Mac guy and use Pages for most word-processing tasks, I found that I need more for fiction writing. I enjoy typing and creating the story in Pages, but then use Word on Windows as my Editor. Once the first draft is completed, one chapter at a time I copy the text into Word and use the ProWritingAid plug-in as my main editing tool. Once I am happy with the chapter, I move it into a Word document that will be the entire book. It may be clumsy, but it works for me.
Would you and your main character get along?
I believe so, as some of her personality traits come from me, while others are drawn from people very close to me in my personal life. A goal of shaping Gift into a character was to create a person I could like and respect.