Author Interview – James Moran

Today’s SciFi Interview 🙂

Jim is a random guy on the Internet who accidentally fell into this whole “writing” thing. He is terribly inexperienced in virtually every aspect of the writing endeavor, and is currently just making things up as he goes. What fun! He has a blog.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

In my current work, Focus, I’ve really got a party of four. But if I had to pick single main character, a first among equals, It’d probably be Adam. He and his companions, as an experiment, are press-ganged into learning how to wield an extra-dimensional power. (It’s a long story. Ha! And the story is called Focus.) In Adam’s case, he learns to focus this power in a way that nobody has ever seen before. Since he knew nothing of this power before the experiment, he’s as ignorant of this new aspect as everybody else. Learning what this new aspect of power is, wondering what it might be, fearing what it might be, is a major driver of Focus.


Along the way, Adam compensates for the ignorance of his potential abilities via the exploration of more mundane approaches to problem solving. This causes a stir all its own, and this “stir” becomes the driving force for the next story.


But of course he doesn’t do it by himself. His companions are as much a part of the story as he is. He just happens to be the source of conflict.

How much research do you do?

My research efforts are all over the place.


One of the great things about soft science fiction is that, to an extent, you can just make things up as you go, as long as you stick to the rules that you’ve defined. I don’t have to research my magic system, I just have to invent it.  On the other hand, I do have to follow those rules, and those rules have to make sense, or it’s just chaos. And really, I strive for at least a passing relationship with reality wherever I can’t avoid it.


And boy, do I try to avoid it. For instance, my spaceships need to travel interstellar distances, but the narrative requires consistent time scales between planets. So my ships need what I like to call LANGADAR drives. (Let’s All Not Give A Damn About Relativity.) Because I didn’t want to do all the research into the physics of light-speed travel, I eschewed faster than light travel (travelling the entire distance from A to B at some crazy-impossible velocity) for jump drives (disappearing from point A and appearing at point B instantaneously). Voila! No time dilation. No red-shifting. None of that.


On the other hand, for Focus, I needed a selection of naturally occurring, relatively basic molecules. H20 of course, and N2, but Fe2O3 also plays a part, and others will later. For Dissonance, I needed an imposing piece of heavy equipment that could reasonably walk on feet instead of roll on wheels. So I learned quite a bit more than I expected to about tunnel boring machines. Just a couple of examples among many.


So my research comes in fits and starts, and only as necessary. But it’s very much something that happens.

 How often do you write, and do you have a special time during the day to write?

They say that you should write a little each day, and they’re right about that. I write at least a little every day. It’s not always on my main work in progress; often it’s user documentation, or a critique of somebody else’s work, or a random blog post, or correspondence with somebody. But I approach every writing endeavor as something that should be done well, and that should hold at least a baseline interest for the reader. Proper punctuation, proper grammar, a decent progression of ideas. A narrative that holds together. Even if I’m texting someone, I do my best to observer proper grammar and punctuation. I loathe txtspk.


I’d estimate that I write at least three thousand words a day in various formats. Probably more, on most days.


If you want me to limit my answer strictly to my works in progress, I don’t write every day, but I do write multiple days a week. I don’t really have a special time of day, but I find that I can better accomplish different tasks at different times of day. I do a lot of plotting and troubleshooting during my commute to my day job, to the point where I rarely listen to the radio. On weekends, I find myself most motivated in the early morning or in the early afternoon. If I have a serious case of writer’s block, I’ve found that relaxing late in the evening with a laptop, a whiskey, and a comfortable chair can work wonders.


I don’t exactly have a significant depth of experience, but I’d say that when I seriously buckle down on a work-in-progress effort, I’ll get anywhere from five to fifteen thousand words a week. It mostly depends upon how much “free” time I have.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

This probably comes down to personal preference. For me, it doesn’t play an important part, because I’ve read any number of books now where the scene depicted on the cover doesn’t actually happen in the story. That’s annoying.


On the other hand, the cover art plays a part. It’ll (usually) at least tell me what kind of book I’m looking at. For instance, if I’m in an airport bookstore scanning the rack for a last-minute something for the flight, I’ll steer away from any covers sporting a fainting damsel clutching a shirtless Fabio. That scene may or may not happen in the book, but I don’t really care, because that’s not the book I’m looking for.


So, yeah. Judging a book by its cover plays a part in the initial winnowing process, at least for me. But only at that very high level. Otherwise, I could hardly care less. Good cover art is certainly fun to look at, but bad cover art just gets me reading the book’s blurb sooner.

What is your favourite motivational phrase?

Quit whining and do your job.

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