Welcome to another author interview.
December’s most-read story was “Tears of the Android” by JR Hume, published on November 17, 2009.
A science fiction piece, as one might guess from the title, it drew particularly high praise from our readers (even those who don’t generally connect with sci-fi), and reached 4000 reads over the course of December.
EDF: What should people expect when they see a story with your byline under it?
JRH: I’ve never had a problem coming up with story ideas, but those ideas don’t follow any predictable pattern, so the kind of story a reader encounters under my byline will vary considerably. I would hope that people, seeing my name on a story, will expect to be entertained and possibly moved.
EDF: Your story “Tears of the Android” clearly generated a positive response from our readers, even among those who aren’t usually appreciative of science fiction. Do you have any suggestions for science fiction writers wanting to transcend the genre and connect with readers who don’t usually warm to speculative fiction?
JRH: Many people who read and commented favorably on “Tears of the Android”, did not completely understand my concept of an android, but they did understand that the “metal man” was a human being confronted and coping with a very human problem. This is the key for SF writers attempting to connect with non-SF readers. Tell a story and do not allow the characters to be overshadowed by the futuristic setting and technical gadgetry.
EDF: The bio on your website mentions that you’ve served in the military and indicates that you write military science fiction. Could you tell us a bit about how your real-life experiences have influenced and informed your writing?
JRH: I like military history, electronics, and mechanical gadgetry of all types. When I write military SF, I want the characters and military units described to “feel” right. That means portraying the equipment, organizations, and characters in ways that are true to real military settings. My time in the Army, in a combat zone, has helped me avoid the distracting mistakes often made by writers who don’t have that kind of background.
EDF: You’ve published two novels, Gehenna Station and Pawn’s Gambit, one through Lulu.com and one through Booklocker.com. What has that experience been like for you? Do you have any advice for authors who are considering either Lulu or Booklocker as a publishing option?
JRH: Because the publishing industry is in the throes of a major revolution in how creative material is conveyed to consumers, it is much more difficult for a new writer to attract the attention of publishing houses. Even a good story and good writing may not be enough.
I have read in several places that the average new novel published by a mainstream publisher sells less than 5,000 copies. Firms cannot dedicate adequate marketing dollars to new books unless they believe the author has come up with a blockbuster. Obviously, few new books fit that description.
Since the average new author will have to do most of the marketing for his or her new book anyway, I figured it might be best to self-publish via one of the more reputable POD publishers. Both Lulu.com and Booklocker.com do a good job of publishing and filling orders, but that’s all they do. The rest is up to you. I learned a great deal about how books are put together, how important copy-editing is, and about procuring artistic services for a cover. I also learned that marketing takes a great deal of time and work. So far, since I’m still working full time, I haven’t been able to do an adequate job of marketing my novels.
As the Kindle was introduced I produced a Kindle version of Gehenna Station, which is for sale on Amazon. That version has sold several times more copies than the trade paperback and my royalties from electronic publishing have become more important as time goes on. I have produced a Kindle version of Pawn’s Gambit and will make electronic versions for the Nook as soon as that becomes possible. Don’t overlook electronic sales!
EDF: Which authors do you feel have influenced your writing the most?
JRH: Jack Vance, David Drake, Elizabeth Moon, Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, Robert Heinlein, CJ Cherryh, Cordwainer Smith, W.E.B. Griffin, John Keegan, Glen Cook, Alan Eckert, and a host of others.
EDF: What has been your best moment as a writer so far?
JRH: Holding the finished copy of Gehenna Station in my hands for the first time was a good moment. Seeing the positive reaction to “Tears of the Android” was very good. My first sight of the final cover of Pawn’s Gambit was nice. It turned out much better than I thought it would.
EDF: What is next for you as a writer?
JRH: I keep on writing. My next book is a WW2 novel set in the Southwest Pacific in the early days (1941-42) when our forces were retreating toward Australia. Also in the wings is a prequel to Gehenna Station. Short stories keep appearing.
EDF: Thank you for your time.