Authors, if you would like an interview, please leave a comment below. I am happy to coordinate the interview post to coincide with your book launch, giveaway or any other promotional event. – Regards, Shawn
Luther Siler Author Interview
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I live (and grew up) in northern Indiana with my wife and my son, who is going to be four in August. My day job has been “teacher” for the last fourteen years, but that’s sort of in flux right now so who knows if it will still be true this fall. I spend most of my free time typing something or another.
What were you like at school?
I graduated… thirteenth? in my class, I think? Out of about 300 kids. I probably could have been valedictorian if I had wanted to but I didn’t really learn how to work until I was in college. I was definitely one of the geekier/nerdier kids but my school wasn’t really that cliquish. I was much much much better at college; once my Hebrew professor taught me how to study I ended up triple majoring.
Were you good at English?
I was one of the head editors of my school newspaper senior year. I was good at English but entered college thinking I wanted to be a journalist; writing nonfiction was always my focus.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Worldwide fame and fortune, obviously. And a Hugo. And a movie deal.
Which writers inspire you?
Oh, man, that’s a long list. The two biggest influences on my writing style are both journalists– Mike Royko and Hunter Thompson, although I can’t hold a candle to their talent. Fiction writers? John Scalzi and Warren Ellis are probably the two biggest.
So, tell me about what have you written.
I have three books available right now. My novel SKYLIGHTS is a near-future story set on Mars, and tells the story of the second human expedition to Mars. They’re there to find out what happened to the first. I’m working on the sequel now, which will be called STARLIGHT or STARLIGHTS and has changed between the two about six times. My other series is called THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES, which is more space opera-ish and is heavily influenced by Star Wars and Brian K. Vaughan. The elevator pitch is D&D characters in space; my aliens are gnomes and ogres and elves and dwarves but they shoot lasers. It’s fun.
BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES vol. 1 is a short story collection and the second book is a novel called THE SANCTUM OF THE SPHERE. Both are available in an omnibus print edition.
Where can we buy or see them?
BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES, VOL. 1 is free everywhere except for Amazon, where it’s 99 cents because I can’t make it free. SKYLIGHTS and SANCTUM are both Amazon exclusives for the time being but that won’t last a lot longer. They’re both $4.95 as ebooks and available in print as well.
- BA 1: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/459287
- SANCTUM ebook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TNTM2NC
- SANCTUM omnibus print edition: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0990625346
- SKYLIGHTS: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O14EO9E
Give us an insight into your main (or favorite) character . What does s/he do that is so special?
The main non-POV character of SKYLIGHTS is a mad scientist named Ezekiel ben Zahav. He goes by “Zub,” which is a reference to Robert Zubrin, an actual scientist who has done a lot of work about human exploration of Mars. He is a literal certified mad genius. He has an actual certificate. He’ll show it to you.
Zub is the most fun to write of all of my characters because he is a genius and he is extraordinarily rich and so he has absolutely no filters of any kind on what he says and does. In some ways it makes him childish and irresponsible (he brought a monkey with him to Mars and didn’t tell anyone he was doing it– after all, he owned the ship) and at the same time he’s brought all of these people on what should be an impossible rescue trip because he refuses to accept that there’s nothing he can do about losing his people on Mars.
Writing someone smarter than me is always a fun challenge, too.
What new projects do you have in the works?
I’m working on several right now. I will be releasing a compilation of my writing about teaching this fall sometime; it will be called SEARCHING FOR MALUMBA. I’ve already mentioned the SKYLIGHTS sequel, which will be out in early 2016 sometime. After that is another BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES short story collection, called TALES FROM THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES. That’s late 2016, although I’m gonna write one of the stories in the next couple of weeks and submit it to a magazine. If it gets rejected I’ll just put it in the book.
Why do you write?
Actual biological compulsion. I am simply happier when I write every day. Granted, much more of my writing is on my blog than fiction writing– writing fiction is pure pain and yet I still have to do it. I’m better at nonfiction/blog-style short pieces, and I update my blog every single day.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I won a grant last year that basically paid for me to do nothing but write over the summer. Normally I have a summer job that keeps me close to full-time and the grant let my full-time job be “writer.” Oddly, applying for the grant motivated me enough to get BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES Vol. 1 available even before I’d received the funds, and then I spent the summer writing SANCTUM and getting SKYLIGHTS, which was originally a NaNoWriMo project, ready for print. And now I’m stuck with it. Forever, hopefully.
Tell us about your writing habits, favorite tools, etc. Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
I blog every day, even if it’s only a few sentences. When I’m working on a book I try to aim for 1500 words a day although frequently I don’t hit that goal, just because writing fiction is so much harder for me than posting. I can write a functional 2000 word blog post in an hour; that sort of pace is completely impossible for fiction.
As far as the physical requirements? Computer. SANCTUM was written in FocusWriter. I’m going to try and do MALUMBA and STARLIGHT in Scrivener. I tend to have to have music on while I’m writing and if I’m really having trouble focusing I have this Jackass wristband that I’m very superstitious about.
Where do your ideas come from?
SKYLIGHTS in particular is Warren Ellis’ fault. The skylights themselves are actually real, and I found out about them when he mentioned them in a newsletter and said that it would be a neat story to find out what was in them. I waited patiently for a year and he didn’t write it, so I did. That said, I had the book half written before I figured out what was actually in there!
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I am verrrry seat-of-my-pants, although I like the idea of an outline. I’m just not disciplined enough. It leads to a lot of false starts, unfortunately.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Honestly, I don’t really know how to answer this yet. BA 1 came out in May of 2014 so I’ve only really thought of myself as a fiction author for a bit over a year. Ask me again in another year or so when I have a bit more perspective on my work. 🙂
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Starting. Dear God, starting. The first sentence of anything fictional will take sometimes up to several hours of staring. The next 1499 words will take as long as the first sentence did.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
Blogging– just talking about my life, current events, the news, teaching. Fun and easy. If I was as prolific at fiction as I was at blogging I’d be Stephen King by now.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I have, so far, managed to keep up a two-books-a-year pace, and I’m planned out through May or so of 2016 right now. We’ll see how long I can keep that up.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.
Constantly, as I can’t sleep without reading for a bit beforehand. I have a long list of favorite authors, mostly but not exclusively in fantasy and science fiction: John Scalzi, Warren Ellis, Saladin Ahmed, N.K. Jemisin, Mira Grant, Ken Liu, Stephen King, Nnedi Okorafor, Helene Wecker, John Irving, Salman Rushdie, Michael Martinez, Cherie Priest, Neal Stephenson, Brandon Sanderson. And that’s just the ones off the top of my head.
What books are you reading at present?
Right now, Adam Dreece’s ALL THE KING’S-MEN: http://www.amazon.com/dp/098810136X/ I just finished Ian Tregillis’ THE MECHANICAL, which was wonderful.
Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
Mostly me, although my wife gets a crack at everything before it goes out too. She spent years working as a newspaper editor so she’s got better chops than I do in that regard.
Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
Yep. Once my first drafts are done I refuse to look at the book again for a month before I do any editing. Editing generally takes another four to six weeks after that regardless of how long it took to write the book.
Who edits your books and how did you select him/her?
My wife and I. Sooner or later I probably ought to find an external editor who isn’t married to me but that hasn’t happened yet. On the plus side, I haven’t seen any complaints about the editing of my books yet, although that may just be because people have been quietly setting them aside and mocking me from a distance. You never know.
Tell us about the covers and how they came about. Who designed your book covers?
The cover for BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES 1 was selected from stock covers at SelfPubBookCovers.com. I literally wrote an entire story in that book after seeing the cover, but the cover image came before the story did. I went back to the same artist, who goes by DiversePixel, for the cover to SANCTUM, and the cover for that book was her taking my basic idea and running with it.
The cover for SKYLIGHTS was done by Casey Heying, who owns my local comic shop and is an actual professional comic book artist. The same grant that paid for my summer of writing also paid for him to do the cover. I would love to have him for the second book too but I’m not sure I can afford him again. We’ll see.
Diverse Pixel’s website: diversepixel.com
Casey Heying’s website: http://ozwonderland.deviantart.com
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Oh, hell yes. I’ve been very fortunate to have gotten such striking covers for my books. It’s the first thing anyone sees when they look for your book and it’s essential that it look professional and “real.” If your cover looks half-assed, that’s as far as you’re going to get with a whole lot of people.
What are your thoughts on publishing? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or hybrid)
I’m an independent author because when I tried to sell SKYLIGHTS no one wanted it and I realized that I could sell it myself. It’s a decision of necessity, not politics. I support indie authors whenever I get a chance to (which is frequently) but if I were to get offered a traditional contract tomorrow I’d jump at it. That said, that’s how it’s going to have to work at this point– someone’s going to have to find me. I have no plans to search for an agent or a traditional publisher anytime soon.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors on any aspect of writing, publishing, marketing, etc.?
Watch people who seem to be Doing It Right and steal shamelessly from what they’re doing. Remember to plan for the long game and don’t be surprised or frightened when your first book sells eight copies on the first day and then goes dormant for a month. And I think there’s a lot of wisdom to having a free book out there to overcome the barrier of having to throw money at an independent– although I don’t think you need to have MORE than one.
How do you relax?
(I read. I have a PS4, although I don’t play when my son is awake and it’ll lie dormant for weeks at a time sometimes. Honestly, blogging is my main form of relaxation, although I also enjoy cooking and I’m getting into astronomy.)
What is your favourite motivational phrase.
This is the only question I’m flat-out skipping because I don’t have an answer for it. 🙂
What is your favourite book and why?
I have the inscription on the One Ring tattooed around my left calf. My uncle David gave me the Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy when I was in second grade and I’ve read them just about every year since then.
Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
In an ideal universe, THE MARTIAN has been fantastically successful, leading for Hollywood to scramble for more Mars-based science fiction books to turn into movies, and the SKYLIGHTS series has been optioned for film, leaving me fantastically wealthy and able to write full-time. Hey, you never know. It could happen.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Lay off the credit cards. And the fried rice. I have spent much of my thirties paying off the mistakes I made in my twenties. 🙂
Where do you see publishing going in the future?
I actually think we’re entering a period of relative stability for a bit. I don’t think bookstores are going away, and I think the balance between traditionally published authors and independent authors is going to stay about where it is for a while. People who read on paper– and I’m one of them, despite deriving the bulk of my writing income from ebooks– are not going to stop anytime soon, and unlike digital music, most of the kids who are readers ALSO prefer to read on paper. I’ve never seen a middle school student with an e-reader. I’ve seen hundreds who are always carrying books around. Paper books aren’t going away.
I feel like it’s a good time to be a writer, honestly.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
The two best sources are my website, infinitefreetime.com , and my Twitter, @nfinitefreetime. Twitter is by far my favorite of the social networks. I also have a Facebook page where you can like me (and I accept all friend requests to my account) but honestly I don’t use Facebook much other than as a reblogger for posts. I also write at a website called Sourcerer (sourcererblog.wordpress.com) that you may have heard of and FB is where we do a lot of our collaborating and planning.
- Blog: http://www.infinitefreetime.com
- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nfinitefreetime
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Luther-Siler/723690860984668
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8197103.Luther_M_Siler
If you enjoyed this post, Luther Siler Author interview, please leave a comment below. And of course buy his books 🙂 (no I’m not an affiliate, just a fan.)