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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

INTERVIEW: DAVID LEE SUMMERS

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome David Lee Summers. Like a lot of authors, David has a "day" job—only his day job takes place almost exclusively at night. He operates telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory with a typical shift running between twelve and sixteen hours.


"Because of that, I don't get a lot of writing done during my work shifts. Fortunately, I get long breaks between shifts and that's when I do most of my writing," he explained. "When I'm home and have a day devoted to writing, I tend to get up early in the morning, have my coffee and breakfast as the kids are getting out the door for school. Once the house is quiet, I write intensively from about eight in the morning until about one or two in the afternoon. After that, the kids get home and it can be hard to focus on writing, so I turn my attention to mail and email, taking care of household chores and so forth. If I'm on a hard deadline and need to write more, I'll return to the computer in the evening between about eight and ten at night. However, I like to reserve that space as family time when possible. I also have a long drive between home and the observatory where I work. I use that driving time to think about plots and characters. It's pretty common for me to have worked out a lot on the road, so my time behind the keyboard is as productive as possible."


When David was about nine years old, he bought a book called The Trouble with Tribbles by David Gerrold, which explained how Gerrold conceived the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles."


"He discussed the different drafts of the script and how the producers worked with him to improve the story. I thought the process sounded like a lot of fun and I announced to my parents soon afterward that I wanted to be a writer," he remembered. "They said I should think of some other career because writers never make any money. Despite their concerns, I've been writing ever since. Still, when I went to college, I got a degree in physics so I could support myself."


In 1990, David got truly serious about his craft, after leaving grad school and getting married. He began a regular writing regimen and started submitting to magazines. One of his short stories was published in a small press magazine in 1996. His first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro was released the following year by a small Canadian press. His next big milestone was selling "The Slayers" to Realms of Fantasy magazine in 2001.


David has written seven novels so far. Because he writes in different sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy, it's difficult for him to pick a favorite book. A lot depends on the mood he's in when he's asked.


"That said, The Solar Sea stands out because it's the book I wrote to inspire my kids to think about the future," he told me. "It's also the book where I was most able to bring my love of physics and astronomy into my writing. I actually plotted out orbits and figured out how long it would take for the space ship to make the journey described. I also got to describe the planets the characters visit in detail. I loved using my writing as a tool to visit places I have only looked at with a telescope."


"What do you see as the difference between science fiction and fantasy?" I asked.


"To my mind, science fiction is that branch of literature that explores stories in a world that is different from ours because of a change in the level of science or technology. Fantasy explores stories in a world that is different from ours because of the involvement of magic. Clarke's Law gives us the intersection of these two genres. The law states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. As a result, it's possible to write a science fictional world that looks very fantastic. It's also possible to write a fantasy world that looks very science fictional."


For David, characters come first. He told me that he needed to know and care about the people who will be living the story.


"If I don't know the people, it's impossible to know what actions they'll take in a given set of circumstances," he explained. "I typically build plots by asking, what would this character do in a given situation? What would character A do when they meet character B? As I write, I do get to know my characters better than I did at the start, but I do like to have a good idea about what kind of people they are, where they came from, and what motivates them before I start writing."


I asked David what he was working on.


"I recently turned in the final draft of a vampire novel called Dragon's Fall. It tells the story of Alexandra, a slave from Ancient Greece who gains her freedom by becoming a vampire. She meets Draco, a contemporary of King Arthur from Britain who seeks forgiveness from the sins he's been forced to commit as a vampire. They form a team of vampire mercenaries who use their powers to fight for the crowned heads of Europe.


"In addition to that, I'm outlining a Wild West Steampunk series that tells the story of what happens after Russia invades America in the 1870s and conquers the West Coast of the United States. A Sheriff from New Mexico and a healer from Persia work to discover the force behind the invasion and bring peace to the war-torn land."


When David's not writing, he likes to read. He also enjoys walking and hiking.


"I love to travel when time permits," he told me. "I'm a history buff and I love going to places that have a strong sense of history and immersing myself in those places. So far, most of my travel has been in the United States, but there are lots of great places ranging from Seattle's Underground to Tombstone, Arizona. I enjoy building models. I especially like building models of machines similar to those that appear in my science fiction or fantasy. For example, building a submarine model can help me visualize the cramped spaces inside a space vessel. Building a model ship can give me a better sense of the areas a pirate might need to capture to gain control of a vessel. Of course, I also work at observatory. I love astronomy and looking up at the night sky, imagining what things lie beyond the Earth."


About the Author:
David Lee Summers is the author of seven novels and over one hundred short stories and poems. His writing spans a wide range of the imaginative from science fiction to fantasy to horror. David’s novels include The Solar Sea, which was selected as a Flamingnet Young Adult Top Choice, and Vampires of the Scarlet Order, which tells the story of a band of vampire mercenaries who fight evil. His short stories and poems have appeared in such magazines and anthologies as Realms of Fantasy, Human Tales, Six-Guns Straight From Hell, and Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory. In 2010, he was nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Rhysling Award and he currently serves as the SFPA’s vice president. In addition to writing, David edits the quarterly science fiction and fantasy magazine Tales of the Talisman and has edited two science fiction anthologies, Space Pirates and Space Horrors. When not working with the written word, David operates telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory.


Find the author online at:


Website: www.davidleesummers.com


Blog: http://davidleesummers.wordpress.com


Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/davidleesummers


Twitter: @davidleesummers


About The Solar Sea: Humans settled the Moon and satellites orbiting the Earth were a common sight, but with the abolition of NASA, humans had no desire to go further and space exploration died. Then, a technician from the Very Large Array, a radio telescope in New Mexico, discovers powerful particles orbiting Saturn’s moon, Titan, which could be a new energy source. Strangely enough, following the discovery’s announcement, whales around the Earth changed their songs overnight. As scion of the powerful Quinn Corporation, Thomas Quinn builds a solar sail—a vessel pushed by sunlight itself—to find the source of these particles in Titan’s orbit. He gathers the best and brightest team to pilot his craft: Jonathan Jefferson, an aging astronaut known as the last man on Mars; Natalie Freeman, a distinguished Navy captain; Myra Lee, a biologist, specializing in whale communication; and John O’Connell, the technician who first discovered the particles. All together they make a grand tour of the solar system and discover not only wonders but dangers beyond their imagination.
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