Hey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing today? I’m doing fantastic, very busy though, between doctor appointments for the family; family time; and writing – there is very little day left. Fun times!
Let’s get right to the point of my latest blog post! The interview bug strikes again! I have another one for my SciFi Shenanigans Series. I’ll send out the interview form to any author that fits the broad niche category that Amazon calls Science Fiction. If you know anyone you want me to interview, contact me through my blog and I’ll give it a shot! I love giving everyone a chance to get personal with the names behind the books they love, so here goes nothing!
I wanted to help you get to know these wordsmiths, so I created this interview for the authors to talk about their latest book and their creative process. They’ll be able to pitch the other stuff too, of course, but many authors have deep backlists. It’s hard not to get into the weeds with those prolific literary giants, so I took a weed whacker to the mess. Here are the final results! The questions are in no particular order, so grab your seat while your minion makes your popcorn and enjoy the ride!
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Children of All Ages……
Let’s meet Ian J. Malone!
First, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Greetings, y’all! My name’s Ian, and I write sci-fi adventure/space opera stories, though that’s not at all the career I envisioned for myself coming out of college. To date, I’ve been a radio disc jockey, a government PR guy, a sportswriter, a military contractor, and even a barn worker on a tobacco farm (man, those were long summers). Still, I firmly believe that, as people, we’re the sum of our experiences — hence why so many of those areas turn up in my books.
Beyond writing, I’m an avid fan of audiobooks, college football, NASCAR, cooking, music, and movies. I’ve also got an awesome family at home, tons of great friends, and two dogs who are completely spoiled rotten (as they should be).
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Probably that I’m legally blind. I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa during early childhood, and have lived exclusively with peripheral vision ever since. This requires me to write on my PC using a screen magnifier at 900x while consuming most of my content (be that novels, news, social media, or emails) via some form of audio.
I’ll go out on a limb and assume that if you write books, then you also enjoy reading them. What other genres do you enjoy, and how have they affected your writing?
Naturally, most of what I read is SF, in part because I love it and in part to stay apprised of trends in the genre. I also enjoy westerns (I grew up on Louis L’Amour), crime thrillers, mysteries, and the occasional urban fantasy.
As for how this impacts my writing, I think the fun of being an author is blending elements of the things we like as readers into our genre of choice. For example, the book I’m working on now (titled, Colonies Lost) is a sci-fi adventure read, through and through. It also centers on a detective protagonist, which is to say it has elements of a mystery. Said detective also wears a Stetson cowboy hat, meaning he has something of a western swagger to him. Are there spaceships and aliens in this piece? Sure. But there are also tropes from the other genres above because, as a reader, I enjoy those, too.
Call it the “chocolate in my peanut butter” effect.
Who are your biggest writing influences?
Hard to go wrong with Stephen King for characters. His ability to write complex, nuanced characters that suck in readers for 500 pages of story is beyond amazing.
Orson Scott Card is a great one for worldbuilding (see Ender’s Game), as is Jim Bucher (see The Dresden Files).
Finally, nobody writes snarky dialogue and rock ‘em, sock ‘em action like Jonathan Maberry. As newer stuff goes, his The Joe Ledger Series is hands-down one of my favorites.
Who are your favorite authors and books?
That’s a toughy, but here goes:
- Stephen King – The Dead Zone
- Louis L’Amour – To the Far Blue Mountains
- Jack Campbell — Dauntless
- John Steakley – Armor
- Jonathan Maberry – Code Zero
How did that love of reading lead you deep into the trenches of the writer’s life?
Believe it or not, I didn’t become a voracious reader until my early-thirties. Audiobooks were a bear to use growing up. I remember owning a massive cassette deck with a giant set of can-headphones — not exactly leisurely reading on the beach if you catch my drift. There also wasn’t much title selection back then. The few books that I could get (i.e., L’Amour or the Star Trek TNG tie-in novels) tended to be abridged; and who wants to read those?
Fast-forward to the early-2000s, and the iPod changed everything. Now, audiobooks weren’t CDs or cassettes that had to be loaded into bags and lugged around with bulky players. They were files which could be downloaded onto a device that fits into your pocket. Pair that with the rise of Audible, which blew open selections with gobs of unabridged titles, and I’ve been a bookworm since.
By 2008, I was burning through 4-5 novels per month, everything from space operas to spy novels. That’s when the economy tanked and I, like a lot of folks, became unemployed. I spent most of the next year buried to my eyeballs in cover letters and resumes, and eventually, I hit a point when I either needed a creative outlet or a rubber room.
Fiction writing became that outlet. The rest, as they say, is history.
What is your preferred writing style? Do you have a favorite point of view; first person, third person, etc.? Feel free to answer as both a reader and as an author!
I typically write in third person. There’s really no reason for that, except that most of what I read is in third person. Maybe one day I’ll tackle a first person POV, but for now, I do what’s comfortable.
When did you get serious about your writing as a career, instead of writing as a hobby?
Probably in 2013 when I indie published my first novel, Mako. By all rights, I’d treated that project as what it was — a glorified hobby with some editing cash behind it. Then I released Mako for sale on Amazon and watched it rocket into the top five for Kindle’s military sci-fi category.
This told me two things:
- “Holy crap, I don’t suck at this!”
- “Holy crap, I can make extra money on this!”
Couple these epiphanies with the fact that I’d really enjoyed the publishing process, and it only made sense to keep going.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I write first thing in the morning when I’m freshest. For one, I’ve always been an early riser. For another, I utilize public transit to get to and from work each day. The earlier I board the bus, the shorter my commute time by way of there being fewer riders.
Typically, I’m at my day-job desk between 5:30 and 6:00 am. That’s when I do most of my creative writing until I clock in. I then use my night hours to edit or handle admin stuff for my publishing business (return emails, update my website, social media, etc.).
Do you aim for a set number of words/pages per day?
This may be taboo for an author to say, but no, not really. Some days I’m more productive than others. There are mornings when I bang out 3,000 words in two hours. Others, I’m lucky to get 500.
The time, on the other hand, is finite. I know I can carve out at least two hours of my day to be used exclusively for writing, so I commit to doing that. Thus far, it’s been my experience that if I do this six days per week, the word count comes on its own.
What do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer the sound of silence?
Silence sucks. As someone who scarcely spent a moment without a radio on growing up, I can’t stand it.
As for what I listen to, that varies based on what I’m writing. Here are some examples of my favorite Pandora stations.
- Fast-paced action, such as combat scenes or starfighter battles (The Crystal Method, The Dropkick Murphys, AC/DC)
- Romance Scenes (Howie Day, Michal Buble, Gladys Knight, The Goo Goo Dolls)
- General exposition (film scores, video game soundtracks)
In the case of Colonies Lost, which follows a U.S. Marshal from the American Deep South, I gorged myself on Waylon Jennings and Charlie Daniels.
Again, it varies based on what or who I’m writing.
Okay, time for another random question. What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think landed you on the government watch list for?
Probably the FBI’s Most Wanted list. I did some research there to write a villain for one of my books. To this day, I glance skyward and cringe when I hear a helicopter overhead.
What is your current novel? Can you tell us a little bit about the premise?
I have two. The first is a second edition of my debut novel, Mako, which follows the adventures of five college buddies who drink beer and play video games on Friday nights, only to be recruited into an interstellar civil war because of their successes in gaming. Think The Last Starfighter meets The Italian Job.
The other project I’m working on is Colonies Lost. That one is presently in the editing phase with a publisher and should be out next spring/early-summer.
Mako is apparently a series, where can we expect it to go?
Where did you find the inspiration for Mako?
I’d had the story idea for some time, stemming from the movies of my youth and the rise of games like Halo which were far more complex than I’d played growing up (Contra, Tiger Heli, Pit Fighter, and so forth). I also had a fairly clear vision of the main characters, as three of them were modeled after my closest friends.
As an aside, many of the characters’ struggles in those early chapters (i.e., unemployment, divorce, financial hardships, etc.) were real-life problems I was coping with at the time. That also made them easy to write.
The characters from Mako are sent into a gladiatorial death match. Who wins?
Hamish Lunley, all day long. My man is six feet two inches tall, two hundred and eighty pounds, covered in tattoos, and carries a magnetically-charged minigun called The Harbinger. He’s also an ex-biker and my starship’s chief engineer from Scotland… and he’s black.
What was your favorite part of writing Mako?
Without question, it was the comradery among the main characters. That apparently resonated with readers, too, as it’s easily the common thread among Mako’s Amazon reviews.
Which actors/actresses would you like to see playing your main characters from Mako?
LOL. I actually wrote a blog post about this once.
- Lee — Jensen Ackles (Supernatural)
- Mac — Rosario Dawson (Clerks 2)
- Danny — Stephen Amell (Arrow)
- Hamish — a young Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction)
- Link — Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are, or do you let them develop as you go? The age-old plotter versus pantser, character edition.
I was totally a pantser in the early part of my career. At best, I’d sketch out a rough character bio to get started, but then I’d let the process grow them organically.
These days, I’m more of a planner. I map out the stories and characters beforehand to cut down on production time, though I allow myself room to deviate from that when and if my imagination strikes with something new.
I heard it said once that an outline is like a roadmap. If you’re driving to Florida and you see a sign for the world’s biggest ball of yarn, nothing says you can’t detour to check that out. All the roadmap does is help you get back on course to your ultimate destination once you’re done sightseeing. That’s it.
If Mako had a theme song, what would it be?
Renegades from Styx with Top of the World from Van Halen as a close second.
Mako is full of many amazingly talented characters, and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?
Dude, that’s like asking a parent to choose their favorite kid. You love them all.
And to bring us home, what advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?
Read, read, read (in your genre and beyond) then write, write, write. You can attend all the conferences, workshops, and writing groups you want. In the end, seeing how others do it then continually practicing that yourself is the only way to become a better writer.
Finally, where can readers and future stalkers find you?
I hope you enjoy this little conversation, and if you want to find out more about Ian J. Malone, then follow the rabbit trail to their den of insanity! If they don’t like it, beat ‘em with a carrot and keep on truckin’!
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 shots taken by JR Handley and used under the Fair Use Doctrine.
–> Some of these interview questions were inspired by my good friend TeacherofYA, and are used with her permission. If you have kids who love to read, she’s the girl who’ll make the literary introductions! You should check her out, after a lifetime of reading, your kids will thank you.