Frequently Asked Questions
How do you develop plots for your science fiction novels?
Like all authors, I read a lot. Because of my background in science (primarily astronomy and physics), I read a lot in these fields and jot down ideas that might serve for future science fiction novels. In my first novel, Inbound to Earth, I relied on my interest in astronomy to develop a plot based on an amateur astronomer’s discovery of a new object in the night sky. I’ve been an amateur astronomer since my teenage years, so I attempted to combine my experiences at the telescope eyepiece with my interest in alien intelligence, and how beings from another solar system might develop a mission to search for other forms of life, and discover earth in the process. As my first science fiction novel developed, I found the characters starting to take over the plot and give it direction. By the middle of the book, the two primary characters were telling me what they wanted to happen, and I simply let it occur. In my later books, this process of the characters telling the author which way the plot should turn became more pronounced. It’s an extremely enjoyable journey, as your characters sometimes wake you up in the middle of the night to give you ideas. Of course, it often isn’t quite that direct, but my characters do lead me in directions that both surprise and thrill me. I would want it no other way.
What is the most enjoyable part of writing science fiction?
Many of my books are based on my own experiences (minus the aliens), including locations I know well. Drawing out those experiences and locales into understandable encounters for my readers is part of the fun of writing. In Echo of a Distant Planet, I wanted to give readers an inside look into the world of military aviation, with an alien encounter twist. For that book, I relied on my Air Force experience with C-130 aircraft operations. Many of the chapters involving Shawna’s adventures were based on my experiences on the military flightline. Similarly, in Anomaly at Fortune Lake, I’ve attempted to draw my readers into the flavor of life in a floating cabin on a Canadian lake. Anyone who has visited Powell Lake (where I live) would easily recognize the physical features and atmosphere of fictional Fortune Lake. Common advice to authors is to write about what you know, and using locales and situations with which you are familiar is wise guidance.
What kind of science fiction do you write?
My novels are hard science fiction – stories based on realistic science of the future. One of the best-known masters of this genre is Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote many classic tales of alien encounters and travel throughout the universe. I prefer to write about the near-future rather than distant times, and all of my books have an astrophysics orientation, since it is the field of science that most attracts my interest. Echo of a Distant Planet falls into its own special niche, military aviation science fiction, while still following the hard science fiction genre. Across the Galactic Sea, while holding true to hard science fiction, is best-described as a space opera, a genre pioneered in recent times by author Elizabeth Moon. All the scenes (except the ending chapters) are set inside a spacecraft traveling across our spiral arm of the Milky Way, so all of the characters and action are in a single place. In this book, as in all of my novels, dialogue is used plentifully to create the scenes and develop the characters.
Have you ever seen a UFO?
As an avid amateur astronomer since childhood, I’ve observed the night sky for many hours in a variety of locations, including my current remote dark-sky location on Powell Lake in Canada. I’ve never seen a UFO. I believe there is alien intelligence in our galaxy, possibly nearby in the solar systems of the closest stars, but that doesn’t mean we have been visited (yet) by other beings. Our time will come, or maybe we will have to wait the thousands of years it will take for us to travel to other stars.
What is it like to live off the grid?
If you’ve camped in a tent for a few nights, you know what it’s like to live off the grid. Now extend that concept to a small cabin in a remote area for weeks, and you can properly imagine the joys of living off the grid. At my float cabin, the surrounding beauty of the mountains and the sea engulf my senses continually. Without TV or Internet, I’m engaged with my environment on a nearly continuous basis. I’m outside a lot more than during my days in the city. I am strongly linked to my surroundings and feel every shift in the weather. In a word, it’s “supernatural.”