Fred Warren retired from the Air Force after 24 years of service, and still serves proudly as a defense contractor. His first novel, The Muse, a modern fantasy tale of inspiration both divine and diabolical, hit the streets in November 2009. A short-story anthology called Odd Little Miracles followed in July 2011, and his latest book, The Seer, a sequel to The Muse, was published in November 2011.
Interview with Author Fred Warren author of The Seer 4/25/2013
Fred, I loved The Muse, so I am so looking forward to reading The Seer. The Muse was unlike other speculative fiction that I had read before, so I was wondering where you get your story ideas?
Anywhere and everywhere. At one time or another, I’ve used memories, pictures, music, poetry, dreams, movies, scripture, or a snippet of conversation as my starting point. I find a lot of inspiration from things I see or random thoughts that run through my head when I’m traveling to and from work. I was driving along a lonely stretch of Kansas highway one day and saw a railroad track that paralleled the road at the base of some rolling hills. I imagined a circus train stalled on that track and wondered what the passengers might find hidden from view on the other side of those hills. That was the beginning of a short story called “Rubes.” What they found was very strange and wonderful, and it wasn’t something I’d expected to find in the middle of nowhere on the Kansas prairie.
What is the usual process for your fiction writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I avoid plots, and I always wear pants. 🙂 Seriously, I like to leave the door to creativity as wide-open as I can, but sometimes I’ve needed to lay out some milestones in a story’s plot to keep myself on track. So, I’d say I’m a pantser by instinct and a plotter as necessary.
Once you have an idea that sparks your imagination do you research your idea or do any world-building exercises, or do you just begin to write and see where the Muse takes you?
It depends on the story. If it involves a setting and characters with which I’m familiar, I’ll usually just begin writing and let the story develop organically. That was my approach to The Muse. I enjoy writing that way because it’s full of surprises and the characters often take on a life of their own, which helps steer the story in interesting directions. I write better when I’m having fun. For longer or more complex stories, I’ll sometimes sketch out a rough outline, compile some character summaries, and do some outside reading to get my bearings, but I still prefer to let details emerge rather than determine them beforehand. If I was defining a very alien world completely from scratch, I’d spend more time laying out the geography, flora, fauna, physics, culture, etc., at the beginning because I’ll need to bring my reader into that unfamiliar world very quickly without much help from our common experience of life.
What is your daily writing like?
Irregular. Since I’m working around my work and family schedule, which is turbulent, I usually write when the time and inspiration coincide, though I try to write something every day, whether it’s simply jotting down some story ideas or dashing out a blog post. I travel frequently with my job, and that often provides the opportunity for uninterrupted writing in a quiet setting.
Are you a full time writer? Is your plan to one day become a full time writer?
No, I have three children, two dogs, and a mortgage, so I don’t anticipate giving up my day job any time soon. I might consider it if my books were selling well enough, but I can’t plan on hope. The current scope of my writing fits within my available free time, so that’s good enough for now.
Can you tell us about your experience working with your current publisher?
Grace Bridges of Splashdown Books is a joy to work with. She’s all about taking risks and innovating, and she has a unique creative vision. Grace is an Irish lass who’s worked in Germany and lives in New Zealand–her travels have broadened her perspective on life and literature. Since she runs a small, independent press, there’s opportunity for lots of personal contact and exchange of ideas, which I find very helpful. I didn’t actually find Grace, she found me. She reads broadly, and if she finds a writer she likes, she’ll invite them to submit a manuscript, rather than having writers seek her out with their stories. I’d been circulating my first draft of The Muse among some friends and colleagues for critique, and a copy found its way into her hands. She liked it and asked if she might publish it. The Muse was my first novel. Before that, I’d written a variety of short stories that were published in print and online magazines, and I still consider myself primarily a short story writer.
What is your current release, and (without spoilers) tell us about the new book or series.
The Seer is a sequel to The Muse that takes up the story several years later. Where The Muse was a story about inspiration, imagination, and the love between a husband and wife, The Seer is about dreams, destiny, and the love between a father and daughter. There’s another adventure in the world of imagination, but it’s a little darker and more personal this time.
Can you tell us about some of your other writing and any appearances or signings that you have planned?
Splashdown Books has published a collection of my short stories called Odd Little Miracles, which includes a mix of science fiction, fantasy, and even a little horror. Extreme plastic surgery, alien invasions, magical beekeepers, gravity-defying English teachers, monster hunts, lost colonies, side shows, divine intervention, deals with the devil, genius, and madness…it’s all there.
I’m also writing within an ongoing shared-world microfiction project sponsored by Splashdown Books called Avenir Eclectia. It’s the epic tale of a lost space colony struggling to survive on and around a hostile world. The colony consists of the Avenir, a generational spaceship turned orbital habitat, circling Eclectia, a barely-habitable planet subject to violent seismic forces. We’re building the world and the culture of this colony as we go, in vignettes of between 500 and 1000 words or so, with a dozen different authors. It’s been fascinating to watch the story develop. You can find it online at http://www.avenireclectia.com .
As an author, what inspiration or advice would you give to a writer who is working to make the transition to Author?
Focus on writing the best stories you can. Don’t be distracted by pressures to write according to the prevailing fashion or in lockstep with a particular message. Engage the reader. Stimulate their emotions, intelligence, and imagination. Give them an opportunity to laugh now and then. Create characters worth knowing, places worth visiting, and adventures worth living. The rest will follow.
Who is your favorite author, and can you recommend a book by that author?
Thank you Fred!
If you would like more information about Fred Warren you can find his books on Amazon, and updates about his writing on Twitter, Facebook and on his website.