Guest Author Interview with Dan Melson!

Thank you so much to author, Dan Melson, for taking the time to answer some questions for us. We appreciate it, and we know that your readers will as well! 1. What inspired you to write this book? Answer: The Man From Empire was my first published book. I’d been building to it for decades. The universe it’s set in had been something I’d been developing for over thirty years. There is a huge and massive backstory, even the measurements have nothing to do with any Earth standard. I’d written two novels and some short stories in the eighties, realized the problems with them, and decided to wait a while. I think the critical element that made me start writing again was reading several books in a row that were absolute excrement but fit the agenda of the publishing industry’s gatekeepers. 2. Can you tell me about the book? Answer: From the viewpoint character, Grace, it’s really a coming of age story spurred by culture shock. She’s never really questioned anything in her life before, and suddenly someone calls it all into doubt. The main point of dramatic tension is a ‘needle in a haystack’ problem complicated by an intelligence duel as the two sides try to find information that will give them an advantage over the other. 3. What is your writing process like? Answer: My day job is one of those that eats your life without warning whenever it can, so I try to find time to write when I can. It generally takes me about six months to write a novel, as measured between completed books. While I’m usually working on several projects at once, it seems to be about six months between completions. I originally started out as a fairly meticulous planner, but after I had four books hijacked to one extent or another by characters who stood up in my head and thought of something better, I relaxed a little bit. I still plot – I know the characters, the starting point, the ending point, and the major gates we have to pass through between, but I’ve relaxed as to the degree of plotting I do beforehand. 4. Was the character inspired by a real person? If so, who? Answer: Grace isn’t really inspired by a single person, although her family situation is based upon things I’ve observed repeatedly within the culture she hails from. The other major character in the book, ScOsh, is from a long way away from Earth. When you read the story, you’ll know there cannot be any way he was inspired by a single person on Earth. It took years of effort to put together the society and culture he hails from. 5. What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended? Answer: You’re going to have to read Book Two, A Guardian From Earth, to get the answer to that question. Grace goes through some major changes in the last half of The Man From Empire, and A Guardian From Earth shows how she deals with them. 6. Does writing energize or exhaust you? Answer: It depends upon the session. Usually some of each. Interesting character inspired developments and ploy complications energize me. Writing a good climactic scene wrings me out. 7. What are common traps for aspiring writers? Answer: The worst is not starting. The second worst is not persisting. Calvin Coolidge was right about that. Nothing is more common than talented people who are failures. 8. What is your writing Kryptonite? Answer: Marketing and social media in general. I waste far too much time on the latter even when I genuinely need a break. And I’m desperately trying to improve my marketing effectiveness. 9. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? Answer: I am trying to be something other than flavor of the month. I try to write original stories that show you something from a different point of view. I want my characters and their antagonists to think, to have consequences and effective opposition. Baking those into the mix probably takes more time than anything else. 10. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? Answer: I tend to write series of three or four books. Eight of my nine published thus far are explicitly set within the same universe (Empire of Humanity), even though they are in three distinct series. The ninth has some minor points of contact. I’m just finishing my first book with no visible connections to the others. I tend to write at least one other novel between novels in the same series. As a result, right now I have three – soon to be four – series in progress. Rediscovery is complete as far as I know – I have no plans to expand it. Preparations for War has two books out and the third will probably be my next project. Whether there’s a fourth will depend upon whether I can make everything happen within the framework of the third. Politics of Empire has two books, and I’m planning two more. Connected Realms riffs off Moorcock’s Tanelorn and Zelazny’s Amber – it has one and I have at least two more planned, although one of them may end up being the start of yet another series. Gates to Faerie is an urban fantasy, and while I don’t have a second book planned yet, I’m pretty sure there will be more. 11. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Answer: Three and a half that will probably stay unpublished forever. Three more with significant writing done, another four or five with significant notes. Bare ideas, probably ten or fifteen 12. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? Answer: It varies. I’ve lived an interesting life at times, and have a lot of background information. I usually only have to research questions of special importance to make sure it’s right. 13. How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one? Answer: I’m still a part time writer. Going on six years now. 14. How many hours a day do you write? Answer: It varies from none sometimes when the day job is eating my life to eight hours or more when I have a day that I can do so. 15. What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult) Answer: I try not to write about my life. Most of the novels I write are centered on the lives of working adults. They might work in some highly unusual professions, but they are working adults. 16. What did you edit out of this book? Answer: About five thousand words of digression that wasn’t necessary for the plot or character development. A subplot with a now former boyfriend. 17. How do you select the names of your characters? Answer: I’m looking for something believable in context. I generally don’t embed messages in character names. If I want a Nigerian name, or a Mexican, or a Japanese, I find a list and pick. If it’s from a made up society, I try to have some sort of consistent format or style. 18. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work? Answer: I have two consumer guides out using information from my day job in real estate. 19. What was your hardest scene to write? Answer: In The Man From Empire, can’t tell you without spoiling the story. It’s at the end, you’ll know it when you get to it. In other stories, a nuclear exchange between China and Russia is the one I can tell you about. I just finished a scene in my newest work that might have been even worse, but again, I don’t want to spoil it. 20. How long on average does it take you to write a book? Answer: About six months between completions seems to be average. 21. Do you believe in writer’s block? Answer: I once had big name tell me real writers can’t afford writer’s block. If one project won’t come, switch to something else for a while. This advice has never failed me yet. 22. What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand? Answer: Computer. I revise so much I almost cannot fathom how different it must have been on a typewriter. I’m just old enough that I had to do some schoolwork on typewriter before word processors became common and usable. Once I bought my first PC with a word processor, I never looked back. 23. When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer? Answer: Some time in college. It took a long time before I really started to work at it though. 24. How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something? Answer: Once I’d made up my mind to do it, surprisingly easy. 25. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day? Answer: Fifteen hundred words per day is my goal. Given the way the day job works, I can’t be too upset when I miss it. 26. Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you? Answer: I plot. I’m willing to deviate from the planned course, especially when my characters come up with something better. 27. Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors? Answer: I used to read a minimum of 100 books per year, every year. These days due to time constraints it’s more like 20. Favorite authors of all time are Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson. Living favorites are David Brin, David Weber, and Jim Butcher. 28. What is the most important thing about a book, in your opinion? Answer: It needs to engage the reader in some way. The more ways it engages the reader, the better. Good plot, good characters, unusual situations – and consistent conditions within a universe or setting. 29. Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read? Answer: If we discard children’s books, there was a whole bunch of Arthurian legends my folks bought me when I was about four. I didn’t understand all of it at the time, but I grew into them. I truly am not certain about my first science fiction book, although it might have been one of Arthur C. Clarke’s. 30. How much of yourself do you put into your books? Answer: I’m a very logical person with a good technical background, and a lot of that shows. I try not to put too much of my personality or beliefs into them. 31. Who are your books mostly dedicated to? Answer: I don’t generally write dedications. 32. Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family? Answer: my wife, The World’s Only Perfect Woman 33. Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that? Answer: If I do, it’s heavily influenced by Monty Python 34. Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts? Answer: Not me. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve never heard any really successful writers make the claim. 35. Did any of your books get rejected by publishers? Answer: Technically, no. I’ve been aware of some cultural gatekeeping in most traditional publishers since at least the mid nineties, and it’s only gotten worse. I heard Christopher Stasheff – who had many New York Times bestsellers back when it meant something – lament he was no longer politically correct enough to get a publishing contract. He was far from the only one. Given that I’m incapable of being politically correct, I went the self-publishing route. 36. What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any? Answer: If it’s two or more equal collaborators a la Niven and Pournelle, great. More common these days, though, is a new writer being given a writing assignment in an established setting originally written by someone else. As a reader, I quickly caught on to the fact that these are not the same as the ones written by the original author, and stopped buying them. I haven’t bought one in decades. As an author, no thank you. 37. Is writing book series more challenging? Answer: Yes, in that you have to stay within the established canon and setting. However, it also gives you background and material you wouldn’t otherwise have to play off. Some of the best payoffs for some characters have been in second and third books in a series. 38. Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier? Answer: I can usually get what I call an internal idea (within a story) back by reading what I was working on. A basic idea is tougher, so I try to save those in a specific folder on my computer. 39. Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts? Answer: No. 40. Can you tell us about your current projects? Answer: Finishing up The Gates to Faerie, an urban fantasy crossover set in Los Angeles and a Southern California analog. I’d intended to include more about the nature of the other side but it ended up digressing too badly so it will have to wait for a future book. After that is tentatively Setting the Board, book 3 of Preparations for War. Behind that, I have two Connected Realms projects, Book 3 of Politics of Empire, and a new project inspired by the Kipling poem Sons of Martha – although I might end up putting that one in the Gates of Faerie setting. 41. Had any of your literary teachers ever tell you growing up that you were going to become a published writer one day? Answer: One college professor thought I was good enough to encourage me. I wish I’d followed his advice decades sooner. 42. Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid? Answer: Yes. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know how to read, certainly well before my first entry into school. I’ve always had books. 43. Do you enjoy discussing upcoming ideas with your partner? If yes, how much do you value their inputs? Answer: I don’t have a writing partner. The World’s Only Perfect Woman is just as dedicated a reader as I am, though, and a wonderful editor. Sometimes I’ll run stuff in development by her for early feedback. 44. Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece? Answer: The Empire of Humanity is partially based upon a dream of a government that figures out why it can’t do what it can’t do and stops trying. 45. How can readers find out more info about you and your books? Answer: I have a blog at http://www.danmelson.com I used to use it for my day job, but not for years now. It try to update it at least weekly. My Amazon author page is https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B00FSDT1MC My Books2Read author page is https://books2read.com/ap/n4aDG8/Dan-Melson My facebook author page is https://www.facebook.com/Dan.Melson.Author


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