Friday, August 3, 2018
Interview With Science Fiction Author Blaze Ward
What got you interested writing Science Fiction books?
I grew up on sword and sorcery fantasy (Robert Howard, Tolkien, etc.) but discovered David Drake and Doc Smith in my teenage years. A friend of the family was in his 90's and going into a retirement home, and I snagged an amazing amount of old (rare, valuable) SF books after his kids cleaned out what little they wanted. (Like filled my blazer with boxes three times.)
SF let me go anywhere and explore any concept. Plus, I grew up on the American Space Age and old reruns of Star Trek TOS, so I was a space nerd from day one.
When my future wife (Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm)) convinced me I could make money writing and publishing in the modern era, I started in fantasy, but gravitated quickly to SF and have never really looked back.
Tell readers a little bit about The Science Officer series.
I had the idea for Javier years before I ever started writing, but didn't know I could write and publish stuff, so didn't do anything with him.
I grow lots of fruits, and wanted to put that on a starship. And make him an oddball hero: mouthy, nerdy, and not your traditional lantern-jawed hero. He's a clown, a former drunk, and an occasional screw-up, who has had to grow up over the course of the first eight novellas I classify as Season One. (There is a Season Two slowly making progress, so I'll have at least seventeen Javier books eventually. Maybe a Season Three, depending on how people react.)
They are pirates, but they skirt a lot of lines of legality, in an era where there are too many people and not enough jobs. Where governments are over-stretched and falling backwards. Where a lot of people are lost. They have to make decisions at times when legal, ethical, and moral do not agree. Which one do you pick? It makes them much deeper than standard shoot-em-up westerns in space, and my fans seem to appreciate the depth I try to write into the many people.
Also, tell us a little about the Jessica Keller Chronicles series.
I was in Powell's books in Beaverton, Oregon, for several hours, while my wife was getting ready to do a book signing. Had money in hand. And could not find a single book I wanted to buy. So I decided I needed to write it instead.
I have always liked strong female characters who are human. Believable, rather than bimbos or super-agents. Jessica Keller is based on a former boss, using many of her character traits, and scaling it into a distant future beyond The Science Officer, because I envisioned this grand sweep of history that is 8,000 years from Javier to John-Pierre, with several stops along the way (Lansdowne, Doyle, Henri, Jessica, Handsome Robb, etc.)
And Jessica was supposed to only be a trilogy, but in the middle of book 2 (Queen of the Pirates), one character asks another about founding myths, and writer-brain stops and says: "Oh, by the way, this one's going to be maybe nine novels long, not three. This line right here explains who, what, and why."
But she lets me explore grand ideas of family, faith, courage, and humanity, written against all of the galaxy, but at a personal level. Each of several characters get their own arcs, and you get to see these people grow up and change over the course of a decade and a half. One of the best compliments I have gotten so far was a reader's review along the lines of "rarely in a book five do you see this much character development." They got it, that we all grow up, and people want to see their heroes change.
Plus, huge space battles, assassins and spies, and a legion of cavalry (Hussars. Fourth Saxon Legion) invading an enemy planet. So much fun.
If you could live the life of one of your characters, would you?
I honestly don't know. I like me. But being able to explore some of those distant places and see those sights might be fun. Understand that I live with hundreds of people in my head every day, wanting to talk about the adventures they had had I should write down, and the places they would like to go in future books. Hand me a starship with a JumpSail and let me go explore everywhere.
Now that I think about it, it's like asking me which is my favorite flavor at Baskin/Robbins. I walk in and today try these two, and next time those two. I love Javier, and he probably has the most fun, but also the most pain. He might be the closest to me, in terms of personality and style, but then you get to other men and women who would be equally exciting.
What's your favorite character that you have created and why?
Suvi (an AI who is young in The Science Officer and 6000 years old in Jessica's time) is my favorite character, because she's such a goof, but at the same time a scholar and a warrior. But I just wrote a chapter where she has to explain to a human she knows how sad it can be to live forever, and watch men and women you love grow old and die. She wants to visit the planet where Javier died 6,000 years ago so she can at least stand under the same skies, knowing that she'll never find his tomb. But she keeps meeting people and loving them, in spite of the loneliness. And she binds the entire Alexandria Station universe together, because she knew all the major players in their lifetimes.
Do you have any real-life stories that you have incorporated into one of your books?
Lots. One good example are the events of the first Hive story: Myrmidons. I really did walk downstairs one Sunday morning and they had colonized my boots while ignoring the bird food they had walked by. I asked myself: "Why would they do that?" and told the story from Hive's point of view. The second story: Moonshot, takes place at my future wife's house and co-stars her cat, her library, and her back yard.
The first of my Cisco plays, "Strangers" was altered enough to protect the guilty, by making them all Irish instead of Italians. And the FBI never actually showed up on the doorstep, but the rest of it went down pretty much like that. Slept with a loaded gun close at hand for several years after that, but I'm the only one of the key players that I know of who is still alive and not in prison.
If you had to choose a different career other than writing, what would it be?
I just gave up a career as a Technical Project Manager in software, concentrating on Business Intelligence systems (big data ground up and transformed into meaningful information for the non-nerds). I enjoy Software Project Management, because it involves making people's lives easier. Might go back to that, but might do something entirely else. I have always described myself as a storyteller, and not an author.
What is your favorite book that you have ever written and why?
Fairchild, the first of the Dani books. I had to write it from the point of view of someone radically different from me, both in temperament and personality. And she's crash-landed on an alien planet and has to fight to survive, at a time when her own craziness has been amped up by monthly hormones to the point where she has to keep talking herself out of just ending it so the pain will go away. She's an accidental hero, who got thrust into a situation and had to chose to survive it. There will be more Dani stories. I have one short-story I submitted to a publisher friend that has inspired it. I intended to expand it into the second novel, but the message I got back was "I want to publish this" so I'm waiting to see how that all works out, to know what changes I need to incorporate for the second novel. Or if that actually happens.
The Fairchild books will be about technology, and how humans have to interact with it as they wander out into a larger galaxy and find that someone was already there and then left. What is it like to wander into an abandoned temple and try to guess what gods resided there?
What do you like to do with your time when you're not writing?
I own 6.5 acres of trees, out in the mountains SE of Seattle. My wife and I grow all manner of fruits and herbs right now, and I can like hell in the summer (like now). Just this week, 7 cups of blueberries, 6 cups of strawberries, and 8 cups of white currents as a jelly. It's a farm, and there's always work to be done. Lots of red huckleberry jam in June. Blackberries and salal coming ripe soon
I also am teaching myself to sew, and eventually want to graduate to a level where I can make my own clothes. My fans nod knowingly when I refer to some of my fiction as "fashion porn" because I like to collect pictures of various pieces, and then drape my characters in them. That's where Uniforms of the Fleet, Vol 1 came from. Working with my artist on Vol 2 right now, and eventually there will be a Vol 3.
What's a fun fact that your readers might not know about you?
I recently started a Speculative Fiction magazine. Boundary Shock Quarterly. The first three issues are out, and 004 comes out on Oct 10. Me and a fun group of weirdos exploring themes I have come up with. Always wanted to be a publisher, and now the technology makes it such that I can do it and not risk going broke.
What do you have in store for your readers next?
I quit the day job this last February, and started writing full-time. And sped up to Pulp Speed (84,000 words/month+).
I have the 7th Jessica book coming out in December, followed by a stand-alone novella about Yan Bedrov, and then a quick trilogy about one of Jessica's ships, CS-405. Plus I started a new novel series. The first one comes out as part of a Story Bundle Aug 1, "Awaken The Star Dragon" and it's campy pulp. There will be 6 eventually. Maybe more. Totally new universe. The rest will drop early next year.
Also writing lots of short stories. Each month, I must write a shorter story, as part of my original plan to publish something every month. Those will be novels in the future, as I sustain the higher speed, but also things that fit into the worlds I have created for Boundary Shock Quarterly.
It is all Science Fiction, as generally classified. Within that, there is some dystopian, some family, some exploration, more star dragons, more strawberry dragons, and a new cyberpunk world I'm building up slowly over the course of a bunch of origin stories for a group.
And that's just 2019. Bigger things coming in 2020. Stay tuned.
Buy Blaze Ward's Book right here