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Interview with Sci-Fi author, Alan Dean Foster (part 2)

With Tom Christian, great-great-great grandson of Fletcher Christian – Pitcairn Is.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

AF. In Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge comics, Scrooge has to travel to unusual, exotic places either to check on his vast array of businesses or to hunt for treasure. Very early on, these comics inculcated in a desire to emulate Scrooge. Before I could do so in reality, I did so in my imagination. That desire has continued to afflict me to the present. My parents also had an old book by Richard Halliburton. I remember very clearly a picture of Halliburton standing in front of the Taj Mahal. I thought it impossibly romantic (and yes, I got to the Taj eventually).

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

AF. Could be either one. If an interesting character occurs to me, or if I meet one in my travels, I might build a book or story around them. If a plot idea comes first, I’ll populate it with suitable characters. I never know which will come first.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

AF. Completely. I’m told my writing is very visual. This is because I “see” everything I’m writing about. I literally describe what I’m seeing. It’s as if I’m operating a video camera in my mind. I go to all the places I’m describing.

For example, this was taken of me in Tuareg headdress where the borders of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso meet. Not a safe place nowadays due to the depradations of Isis and Boko Haram. In life, you have to pick your spots.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

AF. I do a monthly column on art and science for a local monthly paper (5enses; you can read the column on-line. Book-wise, I’m in pause mode.

 

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

AF. My senior year at UCLA I discovered the film department. I’d always been a facile writer in high school. Film and TV writing courses offered an opportunity to acquire credits toward graduation that was very easy for me. I didn’t realize it was difficult for everyone else. To take a break from writing scripts, I started to write short fiction, and submit it. My first sale was to Arkham House. A long Lovecraftian letter that I thought might amuse the editor, August Dereleth. Imagine my surprise when he offered to buy it and publish it as a “story”. Payment was fifty bucks. I intended to frame the check…a resolution that lasted about ten minutes. The story, which is included in my first collection, was “Some Notes Concerning a Green Box”. It was set in the bowels of the UCLA library, an on-campus sanctuary for me.

Q. How long after that were you published?

Dog’s name is Zipper. Cat is Caesar.

AF. Although “Some Notes…” was my first sale, my first published fiction was the short story “With Friends Like These”, which appeared in Analog magazine in June, 1971.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

AF. Not in our lifetime. But eventually, mass market paper books will disappear as a consequence of cost and ecological concerns. I believe there will always be a market for those who love to collect “real” books.

Q. What makes a writer great?

AF. Find a new way to describe the human condition and how it interacts with is surroundings.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

AF. George Orwell once said that anyone who wants to be a writer is certifiable. It’s slow, agonizing, brain-wrenching work. And it never gets easier. As I tell students, page one is easy, page 400 is easy. It’s the 398 pages in between that’s hard. Ideas, characters, plots are easy enough. Turning them into stories that people want to read…that’s hard.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

A. My travels percolate all through my writing. Locations, characters, new ideas…they all show up sooner or later. Sometimes, like the aforementioned oriental gentleman, an acquaintance will become a character. Other times I’ll get an entire book out of a trip, such as SAGRAMANDA (India) or INTO THE OUT OF (Tanzania/Kenya). Or parts of a book, like CATALYST (Peru, Australia). I don’t know how writers can imagine or create other cultures without having explored those right here on Earth.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

Alan with Ronnie Dio

AF. I lift weights, now only twice a week. I spend too much time on the web surfing the planet. I read as often as my strained eyesight permits. I am not averse to television, everything from The Simpsons to American Experience (PBS). I enjoy spending time with our pets (currently six cats and one tolerant dog). I listen to a lot of classical music interspersed with heavy metal and interesting newcomers (Angelina Jordan, Courtney Hadwin, The Hu). Me and the late Ronnie Dio, of DIO…a big fan of Spellsinger. After a concert. I was perspiring more heavily than Ronnie was.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

AF. I’ve written science-fiction, fantasy, contemporary, historical, western, detective, and non-fiction. I’m very comfortable sliding between genres.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

AF. No matter how bad you think your situation is, it is undoubtedly a thousand times better than that of the person next to you.

Check out Part 1 of this Interview
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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