Steven M. Moore, author of “Sing a Samba Galactica”

What are your books about?

I write sci-fi thrillers. In the chronology of my fictitious flow of future history, the first book is The Midas Bomb, more thriller than sci-fi, and the last (so far) is Sing a Samba Galactica, more sci-fi than thriller. The reader can read all of my books in any order, though, so he or she can read whatever they like first.

How long had the ideas for your books been developing before you began to write them?

Although all my books are can be read independently, some of them form a series as I returned to favorite characters and favorite themes. Full Medical (2006) was a reaction to the healthcare crisis in the U.S., although it turned out to be more a government conspiracy involving clones. The Midas Bomb (2009) was a reaction to the Wall Street financial implosion but was more about a terrorist plot. Survivors of the Chaos (2011) and Sing a Samba Galactica (2012) are about the coming social singularity and the end of human civilization as we know it.

Of course, I found more excitement in writing these stories than just treating the underlying themes. I write stories similar to the ones I like to read. Yes, they have a message, but my major goal is to entertain my readers. Some themes have been percolating for years; others are more reactive to current events.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

I’m a people watcher. I love to watch how people act, listen to what they say and their opinions, and so forth. Many of my characters are alloys of the precious metals gleaned from these observations. It’s improbable that a reader will see himself in a character, but he might see bits of himself and of people he has known.

How long did it take you to write your books?

This varies. Full Medical, the first in the “Clones and Mutants Series” and my first indie effort (Evil Agenda is its sequel), was written in fits and bits with time squeezed from my day job. The Midas Bomb, the first in the “Crime and Detectives Series” (Angels Need Not Apply is its sequel), written in the same circumstances, was finished in about two months (a change in POD publishers might have been a factor). I usually don’t have a goal for number of words or deadline to finish (the pleasures of being an indie author?).

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

I wish I could offer a new writer a successful algorithm for this, but I don’t think there is any. I have many stories bouncing around inside my head and choose some characters to populate the stories. They and my muses take over then—I don’t know if other authors “get in the zone” where their own characters often surprise them. Maybe they’re alter-egos; if so, I’m a very scary schizophrenic with multiple personalities.

It’s hard to choose a favorite character. I admire Zebediah, in Survivors of the Chaos, for example, for being a great example of a man who defies great odds and survives. The two NYPD homicide detectives Chen and Castilblanco, in Midas, Angels, and the new short story collection Pop Two Antacids and Have Some Java, have grown on me. And, of course, there’s Mr. Paws, the intelligent cat from my YA novel The Secret Lab, who is better at math than I ever was.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I have the general outline of the story in my mind (this often becomes the blurb associated with the novel). Nevertheless, because characters often grab the reins as I write, that outline often becomes blurred, sometimes beyond recognition. I specifically remember this happening in Soldiers of God with the priest, Juan Pablo Gomez (the muses are becoming more insistent that I tell the rest of his story, but, at first, the good man didn’t even exist!)

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

For a few books, I come to a point where I stop a moment and then write the ending. Sometimes it remains the ending; other times it morphs into something else. In any case, I always tell myself, “It’s done when it’s done.” Not that I’m in his league, but even Beethoven rewrote the finale of the first movement of the Fifth Symphony three times.

What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?

I’m going to answer this in an unexpected manner: I wrote my first novel the summer I turned thirteen. It was terrible and ended up in the circular file during the clean-up of my room when I left for college. The plot wasn’t bad (the movie City of Angels has a similar plot), but I knew I could do better. I have honed my writing skills considerably since then. In particular, I have many more stories to tell. I’ll never have writer’s block.

How has your background influenced your writing?

My scientific background helps but not as much as some readers might think. When I reach the far-futuristic regions of my sci-fi (Sing a Samba Galactica and beyond), current science gets left behind. Nevertheless, every scientist knows the dangers of extrapolation, so maybe my far-out stuff does make a bit more sense.

Living and traveling abroad probably helped me more. I’m blessed with some facility for languages—now mostly Spanish—and enjoy the mind-traveling I can do in my writing. I’m probably one of few American writers who have read Garcia Marquez in his native tongue—or, should I say the Spanish dialect spoken on the Colombian coast?—and was sad to hear recently that he no longer writes due to dementia. That can happen to any of us, of course, so we all should write as much as we can and as best we can.

What are you working on right now?

I have another sci-fi short story analogy almost ready, a sequel to Angels in progress, a stand-alone related to Angels focused on the DHS agent Ashley Scott planned (all my books are stand-alones, though), and another YA novel set around the end-time of Samba. The order of the release of these books is unpredictable.

What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?

Editing—I’m talking about the hard part of editing: cutting out crap, adding in non-crap, POV and characterization concerns, and story timelines. These are things you won’t get from your average editor-for-hire because—let’s face it—the author knows where he does or doesn’t do a good job better than anyone else!

Most people would say marketing here. That’s also difficult, but I find editing to be worse. You can go as easy as you want on the marketing, but you’re never through editing!

What is the easiest part of the writing process?

Telling the story. I just have to find the time to sit down and write it.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

Good plot, good characters, and good settings.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

I work hard on my titles and my characters’ names. I think too many writers neglect these aspects of writing. The name of a character has to reflect both his personality and his culture. John Smith doesn’t sound either villainous or Russian—Vladimir Kalinin does, at least to me. For first names, I often use a book of baby names from several languages. For last names, I either already know them or use the lists on the internet (these work for first names too). I often call a character X or Y until I have a good idea about his personality—I guess that means I put plot first.

Did you do any research for your books? If so, how did you do it?

I’ve had an adventurous life so far, living in Colombia for many years and traveling as a scientist, both contributing to my understanding of other cultures and exotic locales. I don’t think this is an absolute necessity with internet resources, but it certainly helps a writer achieve some maturity that a twenty-year-old MFA graduate might not have. Of course, my experiences as a scientist and my interests in science and technology, including scientific ethics, provide valuable background to my writing.

What are the goals for your books?

Perhaps it’s my Irish blood, but my first goal is to entertain, i.e. spin a good enough yarn to keep readers happy. Nevertheless, most of my books treat many current social themes from spousal abuse to international terrorism and from government conspiracies to capitalism out of control. Readers might not agree with my opinions on these issues, but if I can make them think about them while entertaining them, I’m happy with the result.

Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?

I tend to answer e-mails and write blog posts in the morning, do serious writing after lunch, and struggle through editing as late as possible (otherwise known as procrastination). I have fun with it all except for the editing—that’s often a brutal experience because I’m my own worst critic.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

My goal is to reach the intelligent reader who wants first-class entertainment. Books with this same goal are the books I love to read and review.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes, but first Sputnik and then providing for a family got in the way. Now I do it full-time and I’m having great fun doing it.

Have you ever had difficulty “killing off” a character in your story?

The character that best fits this description is my villain Vladimir Kalinin, present in The Midas Bomb, Full Medical, Evil Agenda, and Soldiers of God. In some sense, these books are more about him than the good people who fought him. He continually surprised me but I had to get rid of him—other villains were clamoring for attention!

What do you like to read? What is your favorite genre?

Surprise, surprise! I love sci-fi thrillers and thrillers in general. Lately, Donna Carrick and Carolyn J. Rose have rekindled my interest in mysteries (that’s a perk from reviewing)—they’re indie masters of the genre. I also read non-fiction as background for my novels.

What writer influenced you the most?

I can’t say there’s just one. All the classical sci-fi dystopian novelists, from Wells to Bradley and Kornbluth, for example; Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke; Lee Child, Barry Eisler, Jeffery Deaver, and Dean Koontz. N. Scott Momaday taught me about poetry and how to put poetry in my prose. This is only a partial list.

What do you think the most influential change in book publishing will come from?

Right now it’s eBooks. I suspect that the format of eBooks will change with the changes in computers and other devices. eBooks have a long way to go to realize their potential. In the future, I’m sure you’ll see them include both audio and imagery (3D or holographic?). Libraries will allow you to download them and experience them via wi-fi devices you plug into a socket behind one of your ears (this technology, an extension of cochlear implants, first appears in my book Full Medical and is carried through later books in the future chronology). Now we are right in the middle of a paradigm shift in publishing.

Where can people learn more about your books?

They can visit my website http://stevenmmoore.com. There they will find a complete list of my books, some freebies and contests, a complete bio, and an active blog containing op-ed posts, short stories, reviews, interviews, and mini-reviews. If they have any comments or questions, send me an e-mail: steve@stevenmmoore.com

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