Steven Moore is a sci-fi and thriller writer with several books under his belt. In chronological order, his novels are The Midas Bomb, Full Medical, Soldiers of God, Survivors of the Chaos and Sing a Samba Galactica. He’s also written a sci-fi thriller for young adults called The Secret Lab, and a collection of short murder mysteries called Pop Two Antacids and Have Some Java. Trained as a mathematician and physicist, this ex-Californian has also been a teacher and researcher in Colombia, and currently travels the world both in real life and in his wide-ranging fiction. We had a chance to ask him a few questions about his many and varied interests and influences, and it turns out he’s a complicated fellow with lots to say! Here’s what we learned:
Since my genre is sci-fi thriller, I’ll probably fail to include many authors and influences, but here goes: My reading life started with comic books. At the time, there was no pre-kinder, so Tarzan, Superman, Batman and so forth sparked my imagination and my love for stories and story-telling. An older brother became addicted to SF and I followed his lead—I began reading the books he collected and then the SF books in the public library when those ran out. The comic book era led naturally into a space opera era, but soon my interest in dystopian SF as a commentary on social and political problems refocused me. As I read more, the thriller genre, which often considers these same problems, led me to other titles and authors that both entertained and taught me how to write in my genre.
Specific SF authors that were a big influence are H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Arthur Koestler, John Christopher, C.M. Kornbluth, William Golding, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. I could add Margaret Atwood, but she’s influenced more my prose than serious sci- in sci-fi. Specific thriller authors are Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, Dean Koontz, Barry Eisler, David Baldacci and John Land. Another writer I admire and often emulate in my blog is Kurt Vonnegut—again, more for his prose style than his stories.
Do you have a favorite quote about the writing process?
There are many. One you probably won’t find in any list is: “I simply kept my goal in mind and persisted. Persistence is a large part of writing”— N. Scott Momaday. I had Momaday as an English professor. He received the Pulitzer in 1969 for House Made of Dawn.
How does your geographic location influence your writing?
There are many homicides, robberies, beatings and other criminal activities in the tri-state area to keep my characters Chen and Castilblanco busy (The Midas Bomb, Angels Need Not Apply, and Pop Two Antacids and Have Some Java). Past travels and living in South America provided me with many other locations. Oddly enough, all the years I spent living in the Boston area had very little influence (Full Medical). With Google Maps, it’s difficult to determine where an author has been, of course. In Evil Agenda, for example, I bounce around all over the place. Some I’ve visited, others not.
Has your past influenced your writing at all, and if so, how?
Definitely. I wrote my first novel at thirteen—it was terrible. I didn’t have any life experiences yet. You need them for maturity in your writing, not for the scenes or characters necessarily. The first rule MFA programs should teach is “Go out and live life a bit!” While the adage “write what you know about” is often stated, it’s absurd, especially for sci-fi and thriller authors. Barry Eisler is the only thriller writer I know who practices martial arts, for example. (There might be others—I just don’t know about them.) A fiction writer’s greatest tool is his imagination, but it needs to be the imagination of an adult, not a child.
When I’m choosing my next story ideas from my often cluttered mind, some good hooch helps clear away the clutter—not too much but just enough. I’m a Goldilocks-writer. Just a finger of Jameson’s or Bushmill’s works fine. And plenty of quiet. For editing, plenty of coffee… and antacids.
Do you have any special writing routines, exercises or superstitions when starting a new project?
Besides the above, I try to resist the tug of my previous characters to write more about them. Sometimes I can. Other times, readers get a series. Sometimes the tug comes from readers too. It’s a strange business.
What are your hobbies, outside of writing?
Right now, not many. I’m an avid reader, even of non-fiction (I’m interested in physics, math, forensics, robotics, genetics and scientific ethics). My favorite publication is Science News. Lately, eFiction has drawn me back into short-story land, and not just because I have two stories in it—the other stories there, and the poetry, are also interesting. Maybe Black Heart is another short story venue to explore?
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Dead? Seriously, I can’t imagine doing anything else now. Maybe travel more? But then I would have to increase my exposure to all those TSA procedures. (These are frankly a waste of time. Plans for the next terrorist strikes in the U.S. will be taken from a thriller novel, not a DHS policy manual.)
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Anywhere not downwind from the next nuclear exchange. I can guess where that might occur, but I’m not telling. Real estate prices would go sky high. I couldn’t afford to buy.
As a self-published author, do you have any advice specifically for self-publishers?
Don’t get discouraged (see the Momaday quote). Enjoy your writing and be nice to your readers. You probably won’t get rich, especially with today’s competition, but if you have fun writing and entertain some readers while you’re at it, life is good! Above all, know your genre by being an avid reader.
What are you currently working on, or what’s next for you?
Ashley Scott, one of the minor characters in The Midas Bomb and Angels Need Not Apply, was on my case for top billing in a novel. I’m also sketching out ideas for another novel with her friends Chen and Castilblanco. I’m in the editing process (ugh!) for the sequel to Sing A Samba Galactica. Same for another short story collection (sci-fi, this time). You can tell I like to have several projects going at the same time—I like to think it keeps the writing in each one fresh. All of these plans presuppose that I won’t be hit by a semi in a New Jersey crosswalk, of course. I’m clearly outnumbered by the semis, something like a wildebeest in a huge herd of lions.