What was your favourite childhood book? I loved HG Wells, especially THE TIME MACHINE and THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. Also, DUNE and THE LORD OF THE RINGS had a huge impact on me when I was 11-12 years old.
Which book has made you laugh? Larry McMurtry’s LONESOME DOVE
Which book has made you cry? Hmmm, same one!
Which book would you give to a friend as a present? It would depend on their tastes. I give a lot of books to people whose interests I know, and I try to get them to try something one small step outside their envelope.
Which other writers do you admire? Since I am writing my own sprawling space opera, I read the wonderfully vast series of Alastair Reynolds and Peter F. Hamilton, and I am constantly intimidated by the things they do that I don’t believe I could ever pull off.
Which classic have you always meant to read and never got round to it? ANNA KARENINA or WAR AND PEACE. I’d like to have those in my mental background, but I’ve never quite felt ready for it.
What are your top five books of all time, in order or otherwise? DUNE by Frank Herbert LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry THE GODFATHER by Mario Puzo THE LORD OF THE RINGS by JRR Tolkien (I know, it’s cheating...but the three books are really one long novel) GORKY PARK by Martin Cruz Smith
Is there a particular book or author that inspired you to be a writer? Frank Herbert was a gigantic influence on me, as was HG Wells, as I mentioned above. I saw the original STAR WARS when I was 15 years old and already wanting to be a science fiction writer. That film crystallized for me how vast and wonderful the canvas of science fiction could be.
What is your favourite time of day to write? Mornings, after I’ve had a good night’s sleep and with a fresh cup of coffee in me. But realistically, I write all day long, any chance I can get. I’m doing this interview late at night.
And favourite place? Out on a beautiful hiking trail in the wilderness, preferably the mountains or the desert (both of which are within driving distance for me).
Longhand or word processor? None of the above. I prefer to write with a hand-held tape recorder, dictating my prose as I go on long hikes.
Which fictional character would you most like to have met? Duke Leto Atreides. He was always my favorite hero (and he’s not even the main character!)
Who, in your opinion, is the greatest writer of all time? I couldn’t venture to say — my college background was in physics and astronomy, with a minor in Russian History!
Which book have you found yourself unable to finish? Quite a few of them, alas. My reading time is limited and very precious. If the author cannot make his work comprehensible and engaging, then I feel no obligation to keep reading.
What is your favourite word? Ummm (I seem to use it a lot when asked difficult questions.)
Other than writing, what other jobs or professions have you undertaken or considered? I’ve been a technical editor for a research laboratory; I’ve worked as a graphic designer, waiter, bartender, vitamin salesman. I’ve baled hay on a farm, tended 40,000 white lab rats in a facility that raised them for research, worked maintaining trails in the county parks. All of which, of course, added to my repertoire of experiences from which I draw when writing stories or creating characters.
What was the first piece you ever had in print? A bit in a “high school writings” magazine, a very short story about a melted glass bottle that washes up on the shore of a radioactive devastated sea following a nuclear war, and in blackened letters the paint still says “COKE ADDS LIFE.” Very lame humor, but I was only twelve years old at the time.
Can you think of a question that we didn’t ask you? Yes