Hey Space Cadets, I hope everyone is doing great! I’ve had bit of technical difficulties this week – my editor (Mom) has been working on her house. Hurricane Matthew was not her friend. Due to this hiccup, I will not be doing World Building Wednesday this week. Instead, I’ll bring you the blog from yesterday which you didn’t get to see. Otherwise I have been busy writing, learning to tame my Dragon and watching out for the flames. Been singed a time or two, but they keep telling me you’ve got to sacrifice for your art. Anyway, let’s get right to the point of my latest blog posting! Yes, I’ve gotten bit by the interview bug! I’ve started the Warrior Weekend Series, the Family Friday Series, and now the ‘Sci-Fi Shenanigans’ series that only serves to talk with other authors of science fiction! Here goes nothing!
The plan here is to create a template to talk to authors about their latest books and their process. They’ll be able to pitch the other stuff too, of course, but when authors have deep back catalogues it’s hard to get into the weeds with them. Those weeds have grown too high, so I took a weed whacker to the mess. Here’s the final results! Now grab your popcorn and enjoy the ride!
Now that we’ve talked about what the series is, let’s jump into our first contender! S.F. Edwards is a new author who has always lived his life in the future, dreaming of spaceships, and alien worlds.
He is the creator of the Spiral Wars Military Sci-Fi Space Opera series and a recognized expert in aircraft night vision equipment for military and civilian operators. His writing has been praised as being “able to conjure up a world in just a few paragraphs and leave you wondering what will come.” (Peter F. Hamilton).
Edwards’s career of testing, evaluating and certifying military weapon systems and aircraft has given him an insight into military hardware and mindset that many science fiction authors do not. Years of teaching aerospace concepts and history, as well as simulated flight instruction combined with his background in engineering have also afforded him an understanding of physics that shows in his writing. He “does not overburden with the science, but makes a reader able to understand how the world works.” (Good Reads Reviewer, Dani Hoots)
A weaver of stories his whole life, SF Edwards crafts stories in alien worlds that still make the characters feel familiar. His characters, while often having exceptional qualities, also have human failings and issues that draw the reader in.
In addition to writing his own works, SF Edwards mentors other writers as a Veteran Reviewer on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Online Writer’s Workshop and at multiple local writer’s groups. His short stories have placed first in the Space Opera: Writers Summer 2016 Flash Fiction contest, as judged by Peter F. Hamilton, and second in the Spring 2016 contest as judged by David Farland.
SF Edwards now calls the Puget Sound area home with his wife and five sons, one of whom is afflicted with a severe lifelong disability. The boys are his greatest joy and he works hard to make sure that they will become responsible, capable young men.
Now that you know more about Edwards, let’s get down to it!
Obviously, we’re still in the “getting to know you” phase, but your bio caught my attention because we both have special needs children. How had dealing with at affected you writing?
When my son was first diagnosed with Lissencephaly I reacted the way many parents would when they find out that their child has a life-threatening condition. It caused me to make an emotionally driven decision to self-publish an early version of the book that was nowhere near ready under my real name. The book was a complete mess and a year later, after dedicating much of my time to family to get my son’s condition under control I pulled the book and completely rewrote it.
Since then he and the rest of my boys have been an inspiration to make sure that my writing is the best it can be. I tend to work my writing schedule around the kids’ schedule. With having to take him to physical therapy twice a week, I schedule my telework days for then, and my writing as well. Now that his condition is much more under control I can dedicate more time to my writing and everything that goes along with it.
And as a follow-on question to the last one, how do you manage working a demanding full time job, raising five kids, keeping your wife happy and still find time to write?
Time management is one of the hardest things to do. I have an hour plus drive and I try to use that for writing, either dictating books to later transcribe while I drive, or writing while in my vanpool. The Telework days help as well. My family comes first though, so when writing, designing, etc. updates seem sparse, the reason is because I am dedicating time to them. As my boys get older and need less hand holding I am able to find more time to write (and all that goes with it) though when we do things for them they seem to take even longer.
So, when I stalked you on Facebook I saw that your current book is On Daggers Wings. It’s out for pre-order for $0.99, and I’m looking forward to reading it. If your characters are sent into a gladiatorial death match who wins?
Gladiatorial Death Match? Well, that is a hard question, my first response would be Arion. He is a giant of man, muscular and smart and in unarmed combat he is quite formidable, plus, he carries the biggest gun when armed. But then Blazer, is much nimbler and as an energy gatherer can electrocute his enemies. But I would not discount Zithe, the Lycan, or Bichard, an insectoid Coretherian who stands over eight feet tall and can excrete resin blades from his forearms. In short, it would be a bloody, brutal battle, but if you put them all together, they would work together to fight their way out rather than kill one another.
Moving on, The Spiral War is obviously a series, where can we expect it to go?
What started as a planned seven book series has grown into ten. I have each book plotted out however and know where the series will go. Once the team graduates from the academy they will set out into their career in the space forces and they’ll discover, along with the reader, why they were so rigorously trained. They will face alien enemies that inspire fear in all around them, meet new species, and come upon enigmatic older races that will influence everything they do. Eventually even their saga will come to a close and those that survive the horrors of that await them will see the end of the centuries old conflict. One thing to keep in mind, no one is safe, and any character can be killed, or incapacitated at any time.
Now that we know more about this series, how has the series evolved over the years?
This is a good question. Spiral War evolved out of multiple sources, but two are the most key; my first written short story The Non-submersible Submersible (I wrote it in eight grade and titles have always been a pain for me) and my planned fantasy trilogy The Nocturnal Knights. Spiral War was originally Nocturnal Knights 2000, a sci-fi take on a straight fantasy story. I took the original fantasy characters and just pushed them forward in time. Later I started to flesh it out and took two of the main characters from the short story and based it around them, Blazer and Gokhead.
The next evolution came when I started to actually write the story. Still in high school, I had little idea where I wanted things go beyond a few major plot points and that I wanted to start the story with the team in the academy. As my knowledge of the world, science, people and the universe around us grew so did the story evolve. Characters came and went, all went through changes and then I discovered design. I started to not only draw little doodles of ships, weapons, aliens and equipment, but actually designed them. None of these designs were static and all have changed as I have established aesthetics and the physical principles around the universe in order to keep the designs as realistic as possible.
Through college things continued to evolve and I wrote out the first drafts of the first several books in the series. I wrote and rewrote things continually as I learned my craft, while at the same time becoming versed in the career path I set myself down. During that time I also discovered CAD and 3D design so many ships received their first redesigns to make them more realistic. Writing was not a huge priority through college however and I did not give writing serious time again until after I graduated and started working.
Life intervened at many occasions preventing me from dedicating the time I wanted towards writing and designing. Eventually the original first book had grown to a gargantuan epic, so I was left with either cutting out huge chunks of the story or splitting it up. I decided on the latter, splitting the book into two, and self-published the book out. This was a terrible idea, the book, and my writing were nowhere near ready to great the world. So I pulled the book back, re-evaluated it and then completely rewrote it. In the process I saw something else, it was still too long for a first book and the second book would still have been too long as well. So the book split again into three total books. Additional edits, advice from other writers, and another, more successful, go at independent publishing eventually led me to make the contacts I needed to meet my current publisher.
That’s fascinating, I’m not sure I would’ve stuck with just one story for that long. So, as an author who are your biggest writing influences?
My friends, family and my life in general have been a huge influence on my writing. I was raised in a family of engineers that also loved good stories. Even now, my boys love good stories, especially ones that make sense, which is something I’ve always strived for. Nothing bothers me more in a book, TV Show, Game, or Movie then story plot holes, inconsistencies, or bad designs.
Ultimately, I look at everyone I meet as a chance to influence my writing, be they inspiration for characters, stories, or just planting an idea in my head for dialogue.
Who are your favorite authors and books?
That’s a hard one to nail down. I’ve read and watched sci-fi since I was kid. I was all but raised on Star Wars in the theatres, and used to watch Star Trek and Doctor Who with my Parents and Grandparents. And of course, as any child of the 80s, I watched all the genre cartoons, GI-Joe (though I preferred the comics), Transformers, and of course Super Dimensional Fortress Macross and its sequels. Yes, I am a lying Macross purist, though I acknowledge that the compilation series Robotech introduced me to it.
Writing wise, I draw inspiration from many sources. From the classics like: HP Lovecraft, Heinlein, Asimov, EE “Doc” Smith, and Bradbury. Contemporaries that I hope to be counted amongst include: Timothy Zahn (whom I had the pleasure to meet at RustyCon 32 here in Seattle), Michael Stackpole, Larry Niven, and Ben Bova.
What other genres do you enjoy to read, and how have they affected your writing?
Outside of sci-fi, I love a well-crafted horror story. In fact my favorite modern horror writer is still Dean Koontz, though I do enjoy Stephen King’s short fiction. I also enjoy a good mystery, having read all of the original Hardy Boys books before I hit fourth grade before I moved on to Sherlock Holmes. BTW Benedict Cumberbatch is the best modern Holmes, period.
I don’t read mysteries much anymore though, as I find most of them too predictable, but then I have that problem with most movies too and love it when something hits me with a genuine surprise.
Military fiction is also a lot of fun, but five kids, a wife and full time job, I have a hard enough time finding time to write, thank god for Audiobooks and a long commute where I am now, so I am catching up.
What is your preferred writing style?
It really depends on the story. For short fiction I put together a general idea of what I want to write about and then just jump right in. For longer fiction, I feel that I have to plot and outline it out in order to avoid repetition and continuity errors. It might be a full up outline, instead I might just list the major plotlines I want to address in a chapter and go from there. When I first started writing, I was definitely a pantser though, but as things got longer and once the story evolved into a series I really had to plot things out.
How has your civilian service with various militaries affected your writing?
Even at work, where many of my co-workers are prior military, everyone assumes I was prior military as well, but I am not. I actually grew my beard while working for the navy so I didn’t get confused with shipboard personnel.
I was raised around the military, both my father and my grandfather were Civil Service overseeing military acquisitions. I grew up hearing about every weapon system, airplane and ship out there, reading about them voraciously. I was even AFROTC in college before some prior medical conditions made me ineligible. But most of my best friends are military, or prior.
My new job with the FAA is the first time in my professional career where I’m not working with and for our armed forces. Even in college, after I left ROTC, I worked at the Aviation Challenge program in Huntsville, AL, where most folks knew me best as either Link or Knight-26. It was the aviation/military offshoot of the Space Camp program. There I worked with even more folks in the military, most of which I still count as some of my best friends. A couple are even fellow writers.
Working with the military was a big influence. It helped me to ensure that I gave the characters the correct mind-set, that I have them speaking and acting properly, and that the militaries I have crafted are as believable as possible. One of the inconsistencies in sci-fi that annoys me most is when fictional militaries don’t make sense or the characters don’t act accordingly.
Finally, what advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?
Grow a thick skin. Learn to recognize when someone is truly offering advice on how to improve your writing, and when someone is just being a troll. Take every critique to heart, even harsh criticism may have nuggets you can use to improve your skills. Join writing groups, in person or online and accept critiques. Learn your craft, study what makes a writer and a story successful. Don’t be afraid to tell your story. It may not be what the market is asking for, but it is your story and if you are willing to put the hard work not only into it, but the promotion that comes afterwards you can still make it a success.
Hopefully you enjoyed this first foray into an non-themed interview series! If SF Edwards is your kinda guy, check him out. He seems like an awesome dude and he certainly designs some pretty awesome planes!
Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!
–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.
–> The images in the slide show were all designed by S.F. Edwards and are his intellectual property. Any desire to use these images should contact him directly.