Author Interview with Steven Moore

Author Interview

In support of my fellow authors, I enjoy sharing author interviews with my blog readers.  Phalanges is the author Q/A section of Gina Fava’s Blog.  Here I seek to peel back the layers on up-and-coming and established authors to reveal what makes them tick, and also get to the heart of some of their literary creations. 

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I had the pleasure of meeting author Steve Moore recently, who’s had great success writing sci-fi thrillers, short stories, and book reviews.  He also has an active blog where he comments on current events and posts opinions about writing and the publishing business from the perspective of an indie author.  He had a previous life as a physicist.  He was born in California and spent time in Colombia before settling in the Northeast.  His wife and he now live in New Jersey.

Steve Moore is a talented author, and a kind hearted, funny bloke that I’m very happy to share with the awesome readers of Gina Fava’s Blog.  You can also find Steve on FaceBook, LinkedIn, GoodReads, Bookpleasures, and eFiction. Visit him at his website http://stevenmmoore.com.

20 QUESTIONS FOR STEVE MOORE

 1.      Why, how, and when did you start writing?

My motivation has always been that I love to write.  I wrote my first novel during the summer I turned 13.  It was terrible.  The plot was similar to the one in the movie City of Angels, although the male/female protagonists were inverted.  I’ve been writing ever since.  Along the way, day jobs needed to feed my family and put kids through college took priority, but now I’m writing full-time—and having a great time!

2.      Where do you get your ideas?

 It’s a bit like that scene where Dumbledore pulls the silver threads out of head.  The stories are in there—I just have to write them down for other people to enjoy.  I’ve been plotting them for years but never seem to have the time to write it all down.

3.      Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

My biggest problem is POV.  I tend to shift it a lot and often forget to indicate that with a change in chapter or separators like ***.  Coupled with a change from 3rd to 1st person (e.g. in Evil Agenda), I have to be careful that I don’t leave the reader confused.  If you mean the biggest chore, it’s editing and marketing.  I’m good at the first but don’t like it and I’m terrible at the second—and don’t like it.

4.      How do you name your characters?

 Very carefully.  Authors often don’t pay enough attention to this.  It’s hard to think of John Smith as a Latino, for example, or Susy Brown as Russian.  Naming characters sometimes borders on stereotyping, so you must be careful.  My suggestion is to choose them as carefully as you would choose the name of your son or daughter.  After all, you have more information about your character’s personality to work with than your new infant!  I’d make the same comment about choosing titles.  You want something catchy that relates to your plot or characters.  One word can say it all—for example, James Michener’s Hawaii.

5.  Who designed the cover of your book?  How did you find them?

My latest covers were designed by graphic artist Sara Carrick.  She is an excellent artist just starting out with Carrick Publishing.

6.  How do you approach reviewers?

With a bouquet of roses or a glass of Jameson’s?  I don’t have enough reviews, I know it, but I don’t know how to interest more people in reviewing my books.  I will gift any eBook available on Amazon or Smashwords to anyone who wants to write an honest review, up to a certain limit, of course (I’ve never hit that limit).  I also write reviews regularly and try to focus on indie authors, but authors are slow to reciprocate.  Maybe too many authors and not enough reviewers?

7.  How do you research your books? Have you ever traveled for your research?  Where?

Books I’ve written that take place in the near future (e.g. The Midas Bomb) often require background material for settings and characters; books that take place in the far future less so (e.g. Sing a Samba Galactica).  But even the ones in the far future require a reasonable extrapolation from what we know today (sci-fi has to be more “reasonable” than fantasy, of course).  For Full Medical, for example, I checked out everything known about human cloning at the time, did a bit of reasonable extrapolation, and wrote it into the text.  Often your best thrillers are characterized by the reader not knowing where facts stop and fiction begins.

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I’ve traveled a lot and I’m a people watcher.  The range of human behavior from country to country fascinates me.  Learning that a cousin died in 9/11 turned me against fundamentalist behavior of all kinds.  I have several novels that involve counter-terrorism and Soldiers of God treats all forms of fundamentalist thinking.  I wouldn’t call this research exactly, but life experiences.  The two mix.

In Evil Agenda, for example, I hop around the world, but I challenge anyone who doesn’t know me to figure out what places I really experienced and what places I researched.  Angels Need Not Apply, the sequel to The Midas Bomb, is partially set in Mexico, although I’ve only been there for a physics conference, yet the settings reflect some of the “local color” I experienced while living in Colombia.

8.  Which book/chapter/scene was your favorite one to write?  Why?

 The Midas Bomb was fun to write because in it I introduced NYPD detectives Chen and Castilblanco and the villain Vladimir Kalinin.  I’ve returned to them in following books.  The words flew onto the screen for Midas (because the plot is less complicated than Soldiers?).  The last scene in the soon-to-be-released Come Dance a Cumbia…with Stars in Your Hand! moved even this old curmudgeon (this is the third book in the trilogy that started with Survivors of the Chaos).

9.  Laptop, desktop, or paper?

Laptop, but curiously enough, the final step in my editing is to print out the whole MS and do an old-fashioned edit.  It always looks different on paper.  Moreover, because I only release in eBook format now, I don’t feel guilty about killing trees.  (I often wonder what all those toxics from discarded eReaders will do to the environment, though.)

10.  Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

For ideas that I jot down, anywhere (often on napkins in a coffee house, for example).  For the writing, I need absolute quiet in my study.

11.  Is there any particular author or book that influenced you, and what is it that really struck you about the work?

By the time I finished Junior High, I had read many of the “classic” dystopian sci-fi and many other sci-fi novels, all of James Bond, and a few of the “banned books” (Fanny Hill, Catcher in the Rye, Tom Jones, etc).  In High School, besides the required and boring assignments like Silas Marner, Giants in the Earth, and Jane Eyre, I had conquered the “classic classics” like Brave New World, 1984, and Darkness at Noon.  I can’t pick just one writer but, by now, I know a few that really turn me off!

12Do you use an agent?

No, and I suppose I should say why.  First, they’re not bad people, but they serve the Big Six publishers for the most part, who only want to put their money on the sure horse.  After hundreds of rejections to many manuscripts and a few agents who sat on a MS without doing anything (not willing to tell me about whom they approached, probably meaning no one), I gave up on agents.  Now I consider that anyone standing between a writer and his readers is superfluous because of the digital revolution in publishing.

13.  Do you self-publish, traditionally publish, or are you a hybrid?

I self-publish (exclusively eBooks now, originally trade paperbacks), for many of the same reasons as above.  Another reason is absolute control (yeah, I’m a control freak).

14.  What are your most effective marketing techniques?

There doesn’t seem to be a silver bullet here.  I’m not very good at marketing, but I think I’m doing what everyone recommends (website, interviews, reviews, social networking, etc).  I’ve been doing it long enough that I’ve decided that making a big splash with one of my books is a bit like winning the lottery.  There’s so much competition out there that it’s difficult to make a book rise above the noisy background.  (Maybe an author needs to write mommy porn like what’s in the Fifty Shades trilogy?)

15.  What project are you working on now?

I just finished Cumbia and sent it off to the formatter (the cover is included below). Cumbia will be released sometime in October. I’m 90% through writing The Golden Years of Virginia Morgan where character Ashley Scott, DHS agent from The Midas Bomb and Angels Need Not Apply, receives star billing.  In the works are a collection of sci-fi stories, another Chen and Castilblanco book, and a sequel to Evil Agenda.

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16.      Deserted on an island, who are 3 people, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom you’d share sun block?

I’d choose Genghis Khan, Hannibal, and Sofia Vergara.  The first two fellows are dead so they don’t need sun block.  Even if they weren’t dead, they’d kill each other, and I’d have Sofia all to myself, with all the sun block.  Just sayin’….

17.      Is there a movie that you preferred over the book version?

Some movies come close, but in general Hollywood does an abysmal job, unless they change the book so much that the movie is almost a different story.  The Bourne series, starring Matt Damon, is an example, where the name and memory loss are about the only thing in common with the book.  I, Robot, starring Will Smith, is another.

18.      Favorite TV show, ever?

Easily The Twilight Zone.  That series and most of the installments in the original Star Trek used real sci-fi writers, not Hollywood amateurs.  When Star Trek: The Next Generation started running, I sure could tell the difference.  The writers for Lost, for example, were just too cutesy with their flashbacks and flashforwards—terrible!

19.  Do you have any advice to give to aspiring authors?

I do not over-intellectualize the production process.  I try to keep it simple:  Tell the damned story.  – Tom Clancy.  Corollary:  That production process can be simplified by removing as much as possible between you and your readers.

20.  Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers?

 Read, read, read.  Follow your favorite writers but try some new ones, including indie authors.  (You’ll get more bang for the buck from the latter.)  Corollary:  Don’t be a cheapskate.  If you pay for the book and read it, don’t return it.  The author loses money and you acquire some bad karma.

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Any more questions for Steve Moore?  Check out his website at: http://stevenmmoore.com.

Message for authors and interested others: Contact Gina Fava at GinaFava1@gmail.com for more information on how to secure an author interview.

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“Real Deal” or Imposter?

Imposter:  In the news a few weeks ago, I learned that a man stole his friend’s physician credentials, and while his friend was traveling abroad, the man impersonated a doctor and treated nearly 500 patients over the course of a year in South Carolina.

Real DealPercy Spencer was a self-educated orphan whose formal education ended at 12 years old.  He worked with MIT physicists as an engineer to develop technology for WWII, and later discovered the microwave oven, by popping unpopped corn kernels in range of a magnetron on a whim while touring Raytheon.

Got me to thinking about some of the world’s most notorious imposters:

  • Clark Rockefeller (German national who claimed to be a famed Rockefeller for years)
  • Ferdinand “the Great Impersonator” Demara (lacked the credentials but not the gumption:  civil engineer, prison warden, teacher, lawyer, monk, doctor, etc.)
  • Frederic “the Chameleon” Bourdin (assumed over 40 identities before later settling on just one)

Got me to thinking about great books and movies featuring imposters, many of them based on true stories:

  • Catch Me If You Can, 2002 (film based on the autobiography of Frank Abagnale)
  • Anastasia, 1956 (Ingrid Bergman film based on Anna Anderson, who claimed to be the youngest daughter of Russian Czar Nicholas II)
  • Mrs. Doubtfire, 1993 (Robin Williams; based on the novel Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine)
  • Tootsie, 1982
  • Shakespeare in Love, 1998
  • Some Like It Hot, 1959

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Got me to thinking about people who are the real deal:

  • the doctor at the Lahey Clinic in Boston who fixed my husband’s hip so that he can run around with the kids like he used to
  • William Shakespeare
  • Jonas Salk
  • Charles Darwin
  • Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Leonardo Da Vinci
  • Henry Ford
  • Albert Einstein
  • Thomas Edison
  • Mother Teresa
  • etc.

I’m comforted by the fact that the real deal folks far outnumber the fakers.

Got me to thinking about books and movies depicting real deal individuals:

  • To Kill A Mockingbird, a 1962 film based on the 1960 novel by Harper Lee
  • Erin Brockovich, 2000
  • The Blind Side, a 2009 film based on the book by Michael Lewis
  • Silkwood, 1983
  • The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006

What’s your favorite movie or book based on an imposter?  What’s your favorite one featuring a “real deal” individual?  Is there someone in your life that you feel is the real deal?  Has your life been positively changed because of him or her?  Have you thanked them?

A Thriller Audiobook That Hits You Like Bleach

It’s audiobook month, and I must recommend Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants.  I implore you, vigilant reader, do not read the written word this time, but rather listen to the thriller master’s symphony of words via audiobook.

The first novel in Follett’s ‘Century’ trilogy, Fall of Giants, which debuted at #1 on The New York Times’ hardcover fiction bestseller list in 2010, follows the destinies of five interrelated families – one American, one Russian, one German, one English and one Welsh – through the First World War and the Russian Revolution.  Intense, fast-paced, rich in detail, mood, and setting, the novel traps you inside the web that these families intricately weave.

The lilt and cadence of every dialect and accent will transport you, whether to Wales, or to Buffalo, NY, or to the battlefields of Russia, or onward. This historical thriller audiobook hits you like bleach!  (After falling in love with the sing-song Welsh dialect, I couldn’t help but seek out some Welsh slang:  “hits you like bleach” means “stimulates your senses.”)

Hurry, because the second installment in the trilogy is due out in September.  Entitled, Winter of the World , the second book thrusts Follett’s five original families and their offspring into the intense drama of the Third Reich, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the beginning of the Cold War. Again, stick with the audiobook.

A best-selling author and a true master of suspense, Ken Follett, has been cranking out mega lush thrillers for decades, like Eye of the Needle, Code to Zero, and The Pillars of the Earth (also a TV mini-series), among many others.  Check out his website for a list of books, as well as excerpts and video clips.  Ken Follett аффтар жжот. (Russian for “the author rules!”)

Why not check out Follett’s “Masterclass” for lessons on outlining, researching, and writing your own novel, as well as tips for publishing it.  If you’ve always had an idea for your own thriller, it couldn’t hurt to be schooled by a master.

Any suggestions for favorite audiobooks?  Was it the author’s words or the performance that made it so great?  I’d love to hear what you think!

Fugitive Thrillers

     Today, a Massachusetts District Court Judge sentenced Catherine Grieg, the girlfriend of reputed mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger, to eight years in prison for her role in helping him evade arrest for sixteen years.

     Formerly listed in the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List, Bulger pleaded not guilty to a federal racketeering indictment charging him with the murders of nineteen people while allegedly running a South Boston gangster ring in the ’70’s through 1995 when he fled.  His case, which inspired Martin Scorcese’s 2006 film The Departed , is scheduled for later this year.

     Novels in every genre about fugitives abound.  Here are a couple great thrillers:

  1.  Sue Grafton’s “F” is for Fugitive, a 1989 mystery classic, is about Bailey Fowler, who’s convicted of murder and goes on the lam for sixteen years, ala Bulger.  Once found by the police, Fowler’s father hires Kinsey Millhone to clear his name.
  2. Phillip Margolin’s 2009 legal thriller entitled Fugitive features heroine Amanda Jaffe in this story of international intrigue and murder.  A con man, turns national hero, turns fugitive for killing a US Congressman, must face the death sentence while evading the wrath of a power-mad African dictator whose wife the fugitive bedded.

Have you read these thrillers?  Any suggestions for other novels with convicts on the run?  I’d love to hear them!