Monday, February 20, 2012

The Same Six Questions - E. Stoops

Welcome to this President's Day Holiday version of The Same Six Questions! My guest today is E. Stoops!

Hello Andy, I’m a geek from the Pacific Northwest. I work for a small business in the software industry up here and own a fixer-upper house, with a fixer-upper yard. I’m not sure it’s ever going to make it to “fixed up” – maybe just “working condition” – I get distracted by everything else I need to do. Like writing.

The Same SixQuestions

1. Have youpublished a book yet?

Yes. I’m the house author for a tiny start-up called Small Tomatoes Press. The lead editor calls their vision a “confederacy of authors.” That means I also work for them as an editor/reviewer, theoretically. Right now, however, we’re not to that point. They have two of my books, but today I was going to talk mostly about Pocket in the Sea (Pretense of a Paranormal Present) which is a piece of speculative fiction I wrote in 2010. This book stemmed from a conversation I had with a submariner, and then had a lot of later input from my friend who is a retired marine. The book imagines a world where The Great War (WWI) was ended when the allies invaded Germany and brutally broke the country, at about that same time paranormal abilities like telepathy had become a measurable talent in a very small pool of the population. Then it asks, over a hundred years later, where are we? Well, we’re on the verge of a naval war with China and we’re already losing. The book focuses on the events that befall only a few characters, on a single submarine. They are recently sprung from prison, specifically to man this ship that has been hauled out of who-knows-where-the-Navy-stashed-it. They don’t really trust each other except for a few connections, they are utterly lacking confidence in their boat and they universally despise the captain. It’s not a recipe for success. And then it gets worse when the character in charge of keeping everything in order loses it after his best friend dies. It’s a powder keg, and the Navy lights the fuse when they send a seer out to keep a physical and metaphorical eye on things. The characters of course, are cursing their luck, but after the seer arrives, they find the will to power through and save themselves.


2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I always enjoyed telling stories. I knew in high school that I eventually would write something that would be too good to keep to myself. I didn’t know what it was going to be, but it was going to hit the page and take off running. Then I wrote Being Emelle in college. It lived in my bottom drawer for a long time, but my friend and my mother eventually got to me. “You want to be a writer, you have a book, what are you waiting for?” So I threw it out there. I guess that was the moment I confirmed that, yep, I definitely wanted to be a writer. I don’t think I could say, looking back, that I was a writer until I hurled my work into the universe and prayed.


3. What was yourfirst lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? Whendid you write it? Do you still have it?

The first lengthy piece that I finished was about a modified Nintendo Powerglove that took the users to a digital arena that felt, looked, and even smelled real. I wrote it for a freshman English class, so I actually had to keep it much lighter than I think the story was meant to be. It was really dark now that I think about it. The main character is in what she thinks is a battle to the death with a bully of a classmate, and thinks that he is cheating, because he has more controls than her. Only at the end did she find out that, like all video games, she would have re-spawned if she’d “died.” Unfortunately, I lost my copy in a computer crash, but I do remember it vividly. At the time, it was a reasonable novel idea, but the story seems stale now, so I don’t think I’d rewrite it.


4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

I don’t think that I ever had a moment where I thought I couldn’t write. But it was always in the future that I would write a magnum opus. When I was growing up, the fantasy/sci-fi market was pretty well saturated with manly men, corseted, more-or-less mannered women and a lot of magical beasts. Even in Star Trek novels, which were better than most, there were a lot of clichés, and a lot of overused tropes. It came to a head when all I was reading was L.E. Modessit and Robert Jordan because there was just so much junk out there and I was getting bored. That’s when I realized that the market needed new voices, and it looked like it was going to be up to me to write it. Fortunately, other people got the same vibe as I did and did something about it. But it’s up to everyone to make sure it doesn't get moribund again.


5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

From Pocket in the Sea, I'd choose Jensen. I think if I could convince him to talk to me, he’d have wonderful stories to tell me. He’s not a very extroverted character, and that means, in the book, he doesn’t drive the story much, and he’s also a very private individual, which means his background is murky. But I have this feeling that he’d be very interesting and with the right encouragement, very funny. He’s very much a rare breed – a frontier doctor. And I do have some questions, even having written him – why would a talented trauma surgeon go into the Navy? And, why does he have such a lousy relationship with his family? I’d also like to know how he landed himself in prison. He’s the only character I’ve dealt with that is deliberately an unreliable narrator. Usually, if a character tells me their story, they tell me the truth as best they know it. Not Jensen. I think he needs to be nailed to the floor and interrogated.


6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

Well, we’d have to assume I was waiting for someone, because I don’t generally answer the door unless I am. But say I was, so I would answer the door. I think the zombified remains of a much beloved pet would definitely do it. Especially if they were happy to see me. You know, in all ways acting just like themselves, but mold-coated and rotting away. Ugh, and maggots. Don’t forget the maggots. That would thoroughly terrify me more than any demon, monster, or alien.

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Oh my! That's a vivid image. Thanks for sharing with us today, E! For more of E. Stoops' writing, check out his publisher's blog

See you on Thursday, when my guest will be John Mefford!