General Q & A Session For The Authors

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Chrizmo, Sep 3, 2021.

  1. KRAD

    KRAD Keith R.A. DeCandido Admiral

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    I've always wanted to tell stories. My first "book" was written when I was six. It was on construction paper, it was called Reflections in My Mirror, and it was really terrible. (I mean, I was six....)

    My motivations have always been the same: to keep writing and to make a living at it. Thus far, I've succeeded.
     
  2. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Because I'm not fit for anything else? :)

    Seriously, in hindsight, it seems obvious that I was always meant to be a writer. As far back as I can remember, I entertained myself by making up stories about my favorite monsters and superheroes, writing and illustrating my own books, penning lots of fanfic, etc.

    But, to be honest, I never seriously thought about trying to do it for a living, or even submitting my stories to magazines, until I discovered organized SF fandom in college, started going to conventions, and seeing and meeting actual working writers and editors in person. Only then did it occur to me that, "oh, this is a thing that people do. This is an option."

    I mean, I knew, intellectually, that books didn't grow on trees and that there were things called "authors." But having never actually met one, I never even considered it as a career option. It took actually meeting them in the flesh to realize that maybe I could do this, too.

    So much for my chemistry degree . . .
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2022
  3. youngtrek

    youngtrek Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    To the authors:

    1) What occupation do you think you would be doing right now if you weren’t a writer?

    2) When you were finishing high school or college, were you already planning on being a writer or some other occupation?

    3) What is your preferred writing environment (both how you like to have the room set up but also is there any exterior location you find ideal, like in the mountains, on a beach, in the city)?

    4) Left to your own druthers (not accounting for familial responsibilities, etc.), do you prefer to do your writing during “regular work hours” (during the day) or are you, like me, a “night owl”?

    5) If you could tell a story teaming up any established tv series or movie captain along with a first officer from *another* one for just one story (not worrying about differences in where they come on the timeline), which combination sounds most interesting to you? Example: Picard and Saru. (Or, if that’s too limiting, any two characters in general, like Sisko and Tuvok, or Burnham and Janeway.)

    —David Young
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Most writers have other jobs already, since it's not a good way to make a living by itself. I don't have another job, which is not a good thing, since I could use another source of income. Ideally, I'd like to work in a library, but with COVID still running riot, I'd prefer something where I can work from home.


    Already answered -- I knew I was a writer at age 13.


    I often find the best way to figure out what to write next is to go for a walk in the park, around the neighborhood, or on campus. As far as the actual typing, I used to take my laptop out on my balcony or to one of the campus libraries for a change of scenery, but these days I mostly just work at my desk.


    I am left to my own druthers, but I hardly have a regular schedule. I'd be better off if I did. But I'm very much not a night person.
     
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  5. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Job-wise, I've gone through three phases.

    1) During my starving author days, when I just selling the occasional short story to magazines like AMAZING STORIES and MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, I worked the usual assortment of odd jobs: busing tables, washing dishes, draining blood from winos at a skid-row plasma center . . . . (Really.)

    2) Later, thanks to David Hartwell (who launched the STAR TREK book line at Pocket Books back in the eighties), I got a full-time, nine-to-five job as an editor for various NY publishers, while supplementing my income by writing both fiction and jacket copy.

    3) Eventually, I segued from being a full-time editor who did some writing on the side to being a full-time writer who still does some editing on the side. While still writing a fair amount of jacket copy as well.

    So, I guess if I wasn't a writer, I'd be an editor?
     
  6. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Rear Admiral

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    Living in a van, down by the river. Or maybe a chef.

    I'd set my sights on being a writer around age 11. Detoured into screenwriting at 15, which led me to film school. Did TV for a while. Then I came back around to my first aspiration, that of being a novelist.

    I like a tidy, private space. While I daydream about having a big office with a fancy desk, etc., I have written every professional word of my career at a desk my older brother built for me in 1991, from recovered wood. After 31 years, during which I've written 37 novels and lots of shorter works, I can't really imagine working at a different desk.

    The environment outside of my office is mostly of no concern to me, as long as it's quiet while I'm working.

    I have done nearly all of my writing in the night hours, between 9PM and 2AM. This is because I had full-time day jobs when I started as a freelance writer, so my only available time to write was at night, after all other tasks were done. Now that I'm a full-time author, I still keep this schedule; I handle business and household matters during the day, and do my writing at night.

    That's such an open-ended premise that I literally have no idea where to start. Maybe, given what we've seen in recent episodes of Star Trek: Picard, I could have fun writing a team-up of Traveler Wesley Crusher and Rain Robinson in a Doctor Who-style adventure.
     
  7. DrBeverly

    DrBeverly Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Do you choose the titles of your novels yourself, or are they chosen by the publisher?
    (I'm mainly wondering because I'm reading some of the Discovery novels at the moment, and several of them have quite similar and relatively generic titles, so I struggle to remember which is which!)
     
  8. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Rear Admiral

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    I have chosen all of my novels' titles (the original English versions, anyway).
     
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  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Never by the publisher; that's a creative decision, so it's the purview of either the writer or the editor. I've almost always chosen my own titles, but sometimes my editor rejected my preferred title and I had to come up with an alternate idea that my editor was okay with. They were still my ideas, though. The one time my editor has actually chosen the title was Mere Anarchy: The Darkness Drops Again, because editor Keith DeCandido wanted all six stories' titles to be quotes from the poem "The Second Coming."
     
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  10. KRAD

    KRAD Keith R.A. DeCandido Admiral

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    Editor, probably, since that's what I did as my full-time job from 1990-1998 working first for Library Journal and later for two different companies run by the late Byron Preiss.

    I was hoping to one day be able to write full-time, but I was already planning to look for work as an editor when I graduated college. Which is exactly how it worked out...

    Anywhere I can take my laptop. Having said that, my wife and I have a three-bedroom space, and one of the bedrooms is our joint office, where our computers are (as well as a couch and a TV and a ton of books). I really like the space I've created for myself there.

    But I've written in any number of places over the decades....


    I write when I write. The lack of a set schedule is part of the appeal of this lifestyle to me.


    Sisko and Pike having a cooking competition.


    Just looking at the Trek titles, I didn't choose the titles Demons of Air and Darkness, Horn and Ivory, or A Burning House -- all those were chosen by my editor Marco Palmieri. And The Klingon Art of War had that title before I was brought onto the project. I chose all the others.

    I chose most of the titles of my non-Trek work. Some exceptions: my editor/publisher changed the titles of my two Don Pendleton's Executioner novels, my Dungeons & Dragons, Command & Conquer, and StarCraft novels had the titles dictated to me when I contracted to do them, ditto my Orphan Black reference book.
     
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  11. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Titles. Honest answer: it depends. Sometimes my titles go through unchanged, sometimes the editor asks for another idea, sometimes we brainstorm them together. It's a collaborative process.

    The same applies when I'm working the other side of the desk. As an editor I can be pretty ruthless when it comes to rejecting titles and forcing an author to come up with a better one. The book is the author's, of course, but no way am I going to publish a book with a title that isn't going to help it find the right readers. That's not doing the book (or the author) any favors.

    All titles are working titles, IMO.

    Some specific examples on the Star Trek front:

    THE BLACK SHORE was originally (and unimaginatively) titled PARADISE, but John Ordover asked me to come up with another title because PARADISE sounded too similar to another Voyager novel, THE GARDEN by Melissa Scott, which was going to be published a few months before me.

    THE EUGENICS WARS went through a couple titles, including ASSIGNMENT: ARMAGEDDON and KHAN: THE NOVEL, before we settled on the final title

    More recently, A CONTEST OF PRINCIPLES started out as A STRIFE OF INTERESTS, but Margaret Clark suggested A CONTEST OF PRINCIPLES instead. (Both phrases come from the same quote by Ambrose Bierce.)

    And so it goes . . .
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2022
  12. DrBeverly

    DrBeverly Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Thanks very much for the insightful answers about the choosing of titles - some interesting bits of trivia there too!

    To clarify, the reason I asked was that I was surprised at the similarity of titles in the Discovery novels, with four of the first eight having two-word titles starting with D! Makes it a bit hard to keep them apart (especially since I would argue that 'Drastic Measures' could also be a good title for 'Desperate Hours'!). Nothing against each of the titles in isolation, they're all perfectly good titles, I just found it surprising.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, if anything, that just goes to show that they weren't all thought up by the same person, otherwise they wouldn't have been so similar. Indeed, I'm surprised the editor didn't suggest changing them to make them more distinctive.
     
  14. DrBeverly

    DrBeverly Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Sorry, yes, that's more or less what I meant (and assumed) - you just expressed it much better than me!
     
  15. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Sometimes the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

    I still remember the time Tor and its sister company, St. Martin's Press, both published novels titled PURGATORY in the same season. One was sci-fi, the other was a hard-boiled detective story, and, yes, there was some confusion: the SF book being mistakenly sent to mystery reviewers and vise versa, etc.

    And then there was the summer when two different SF publishers put out fantasy novels titled THE WHITE RAVEN, by two different authors!
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2022
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  16. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Commodore Commodore

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    Funny, the impression I got was that the similarity of titles was intentional, to create some sort of family resemblance, the same way ADF's Spellsinger novels mostly have titles in the form, "The ________ of the ________," usually with some chronological term in the first blank, and alliteration between the two. Or, say, various detective series, like the "Cat Who" or "_ is for ________" books, or Robert Asprin's "Myth" series.
    (I will confess that in my own novel-in-progress, all chapter titles have both alliteration and a musical term, e.g., "Prelude to a Prodigy," "An Organist's Overture," &c., and that is intentional. Not to mention hard to maintain.)
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Sure, but there's a difference between a recognizable pattern and something where different titles are just hard to tell apart.
     
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  18. youngtrek

    youngtrek Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    In regards to the titles question, I just now remember hearing Peter David say once (I think at a convention I went to back in the 2000s) that he didn’t like either the title The Captain’s Daughter (I think he said his preference had been “Demora”) nor the cover illustration it got, and that he believed those to be big reason for that book’s rather soft sales, which in turn made the powers that be cool to doing any further Captain Sulu novels for a lengthy time after that. (Me, I really liked The Captain’s Daughter. I put it in my top five Peter David Star Trek novels alongside Vendetta, Imzadi, and The Rift.)

    —David Young
     
  19. youngtrek

    youngtrek Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    This is more an editing question, I guess, but in regards to those passage breaks within a chapter why are they done sometimes with a line of asterisks while other times with just a double space line break?

    What brought this to my mind just now is, as I’m reading through the “Slings and Arrows” novels, I just realized that book 3 (The Insolence of Office) uses the double space line break while the previous book in the series (The Oppressor’s Wrong) used the asterisks. It struck me as a bit funny that there wouldn’t be a sense of formatting consistency even between eBooks in the same six book series. Keith, do you happen to recall if that was a conscious choice in this case? Was it that you simply preferred the look of one over the other depending on how often these breaks were going to be needed?)

    —David Young
     
  20. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Another anecdote about titles: I remember a Tor sales meeting when we realized, to our amusement, that pretty much every SFF title in our current catalog was structured the same way: NOUN OF NOUN.

    MOON OF DRAGONS. PLANET OF DOOM. SWORD OF FATE. PROPHECY OF STARS. BRIDE OF FORTUNE. KING OF GALAXIES. Etc.

    (Says the author of RINGS OF TIME and WEIGHT OF WORLDS.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2022
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