Interview with Sci-Fi Author, Alan Dean Foster

Alan Dean Foster

TS. His first attempt at a novel, The Tar-Aiym Krang, was published by Ballantine Books in 1972. Hence began close to a 40 year writing career. Since then, Foster’s sometimes humorous, occasionally poignant, but always entertaining short fiction has appeared in all the major SF magazines as well as in original anthologies and several “Best of the Year” compendiums. His published oeurve includes more than 120 books.His work to date includes excursions into hard science-fiction, fantasy, horror, detective, western, historical, and contemporary fiction. 

Though restricted (for now) to the exploration of one world, Foster’s love of the far-away and exotic has led him to travel extensively. After graduating from college he lived for a summer with the family of a Tahitian policeman and camped out in French Polynesia. He and his wife JoAnn  have traveled to Europe and throughout Asia and the Pacific in addition to exploring the back roads of Tanzania and Kenya. Foster has camped out in the “Green Hell” region of the Southeastern Peruvian jungle, photographing army ants and pan-frying piranha (lots of small bones; tastes a lot like trout); has ridden forty-foot whale sharks in the remote waters off Western Australia, and was one of three people on the first commercial air flight into Northern Australia’s Bungle Bungle National Park. He has rappelled into New Mexico’s fabled Lechugilla Cave, white-water rafted the length of the Zambezi’s Batoka Gorge, driven solo the length and breadth of Namibia, crossed the Andes by car, sifted the sands of unexplored archeological sites in Peru, gone swimming with giant otters in Brazil, surveyed remote Papua New Guinea and West Papua both above and below the water, and dived unexplored reefs throughout the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

The Fosters reside in Prescott, AZ in a house built of brick salvaged from a turn-of-the-century miners’ hotel/ brothel, along with assorted dogs, cats, fish, several hundred houseplants, visiting javelina, roadrunners, eagles, red-tailed hawks, skunks, coyotes, and bobcats. He is presently at work on several new novels and media projects.

Ready to work with help from Stubbs

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

AF. For years I worked in a tiny tack room attached to a large garage. When we had enough money saved, we pulled the roof and made a single room above the garage into my study. Since it’s a separate building, I’ve always had a sufficiency of peace and quiet.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

AF. I read news from around the world until I get tired of it. Then I enter my own world(s). I have (as you can tell from photos) possibly the most organized work space of any writer alive. It’s just…me.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

AF. In the 1965-69 198lb. class, I have a world record in competitive raw power lifting…and a bunch of state records. Healthy mind in a healthy body.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

AF. I prefer to work in the morning. My mind is clear and I have a lot to do around the house in the afternoon (my wife’s physical condition restricts what she is able to do). But if the muse strikes, I can write anytime.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

AF. Persistence. Internalized anger at your inability to set down words. Just tell yourself to write one page. Just one. Even if the content is goop. Usually I find that I end up writing two, three, or many more pages. It’s those first few words that get you started. Just like turning the crank to start a car in the old days. Keep cranking, as it were.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

AF. Some I invent out of whole cloth. Some I base on people I’ve encountered. As an example of the later, when I was writing the novel CACHALOT I needed a dignified gentleman of oriental extraction to fit a character. You never know how something like that will morph. Here’s a rather unusual example.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Check out Part II of this wonderful interview on September 27th.

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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Interview with author, Dylan Callens (conclusion)

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

DC. In Interpretation, the situation came first. That wasn’t the case in previous stories, but for this novel it was. I was on a bus listening to students talk about science fiction movies and I began to word-doodle a dystopian world. After that, I started reading about weird psychological experiments and came across the work of Dr. Jose Delgado. He did a great deal of research on mind control devices. From there, I started to wonder about the extreme ends of such an experiment. And that is the central situation in the novel.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

DC. Oh yes, absolutely. I get so lost, in fact, that if I read my work a day later, it’s like reading someone else’s work. I can only recall the ideas that I put on the page and to see what I’ve written, the specific words that I’ve strung together, it’s like I was never there. Sometimes that’s a good thing but sometimes I’m mystified at what I was trying to get at. That’s why I have a great editor.

Q. Who or what is your “Muse” at the moment?

DC. Right now, you’re my muse, Trish. These are great questions.

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

DC. Yes, my new novel, Interpretation, was just released on August 1st. It’s about hope in the most desperate of times. It’s my ode to dystopian classics like Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World with a very modern take. I’ve used Ray Kurzweil’s predictions about our technological progress, as well as Dr. Jose Delgado’s psychological experiments to create a world that I think forces us to consider our own humanity.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

DC. I think I started to take it seriously three years ago. After making slow progress on my first novel, I started to see that it could be finished. I only had a few chapters left so I pushed forward to finish it. After another year of editing, it was released.

Q. How long after that were you published?

DC. I self-published that novel in December 2015. Since then, I’ve written a collection of Fairy Tales, been in two anthologies, and I’m releasing my second novel. I’ve also started a small publishing company in that time as well. So, the last two years have been very busy.

Q. What makes a writer great?

DC. That’s difficult to answer. I think there are so many ways for a writer to be great. It could be something like the imagery Joseph Ferguson uses to tell his stories. Or the beautiful complexity found in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. There are so many things that can make a writer great.

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

DC. Wow – to answer that question fully would require several pages of explanation. And I don’t think there’s a normal process for me. While I have certain rituals in terms of when and where I write, I don’t really have a straight forward process. I might research some stuff then outline. And then write a chapter, then outline some more. And do more research in the middle of writing a chapter. Then I might toy with a cover idea for a little while. I really wish I had a better answer but I’m not organized enough to have a definite process.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

DC. I’m heavily influenced by my education in philosophy more than anything. My life experiences work their way into my writing in various ways but my imagination plays a bigger role. I’ve always been someone that sits around and thinks so I think that drives my storytelling more than any real experiences.

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

DC. I have written satire and parody in the past. Interpretation is dystopian science fiction, which isn’t something that I thought that I would do. If I continue the current project that I have in mind for my next novel, I will get into literary fiction. I know that career-wise, it would be smart to stay within one genre but I don’t have the focus to do that. My stories aren’t genre specific.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

DC. In Interpretation, there are inkblots at the top of each chapter. My kids made those inkblots specifically for the novel. We had a blast making them and I’d just like readers to know that. So, if you something strange in the blot, just remember: my kids did that to you.

Did you miss Part I?

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MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?     In August we say ‘hello’ to Cheryl Hollon.   September: Dylan Callens and October’s author is Donna Kauffman.
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A Chat with Author, MJ Moores (conclusion)

Q. How long after that were you published?MJ.Drama Queen

MJ. Nine years. I spent a lot of time working on my career and improving my craft. By 2009 I was a part of a great writers’ critique group and I started reworking my novel with them. Over the course of two years I remained with that group until it disbanded and then started my own group with a few of the interested members of the original group. That lasted another year and then I joined two larger regional writers’ groups and began attending not only workshops but writing conferences. Come 2012 I was trying to get a fledgling freelance writing and editing business started (that was a year after my son was born and I was in desperate need of some “me” time). Continue reading “A Chat with Author, MJ Moores (conclusion)”

More with Author, MJ Moores (part 2)

MJ.Melissa5 portraitQ. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

MJ. Know your tendencies, identify why you gravitate toward those things, be fully aware of what you are doing and when you are doing it, let yourself do these things for a set amount of time, and then push all that crap aside and simply let yourself write.
Personally, I need to procrastinate. It’s during those times when I’m scrubbing the toilet or baking a bunch of muffins that my mind does its best work regarding plotting and discovering things about my characters, their problems and the world they live in. If I don’t let myself get distracted by the mundane, I’m not productive 😉

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

MJ. My characters are born from plot ideas. I say to myself, “Who might this happen to?” or “Who does the conflict revolve around?” and then my imagination takes flight. Unintentionally, each of my main characters is a reflection of some aspect of my life. It might be something I always wished I could be/do or it might be some unresolved aspect of my past (or present!) that seeps its way into the story to inform the core nature of these characters. Continue reading “More with Author, MJ Moores (part 2)”