Hello, my friends, and welcome. I’d like to introduce a very interesting person today, Don Martin. Don is a reviewer, an editor and an author, and today he has agreed to answer some questions for me, and then tell us more about Sol, his soon to be released novel. The book will be sold on Amazon at first.
Don, I know you write, edit and review. Your opinions are highly valued. Could you tell us more about where, what and for how long you’ve been doing these?
I’ve been writing since 1994. The newspaper at the time was holding collaborative fiction events/contests on its website. That’s where one person writes part of a story, then another person writes part, and so on. I entered one and got some good responses to my writing. So I started writing short stories. In those days there were no places like Amazon to publish things, so I’d just distribute them to family and friends. About three years ago a music magazine was looking for writers, so I started writing feature articles for them. Another magazine noticed my work and asked me to write for them as well. That was the first professionally published work I did.
I’ve been editing for about 25 years. At work I was known to be a good technical editor so I did a lot of that. When I started to beta read books I’d usually do a light edit on them. Word spread, and before long authors were asking me to edit their books. I’ve only been reviewing for about a year. I had done some music reviews for the magazines, so books seemed to be similar.
Can I be cheeky and ask you which would you choose, if you could only do one of them full-time?
Definitely writing. That’s where the creativity is. Editing is essentially a job. Reviewing is fun, but not real creative. You can’t develop characters and a plot in a review.
So what about the other two? Would you be tempted to sneak them into your schedule here and there?
Absolutely. Especially reviewing. When I review something I work closely with the author on it. It’s fun to get to know the authors. They are a special breed of people.
I’m going to ask a little about each. Let’s talk about reviewing first. How difficult is it to stay objective when you review and not succumb to own preferences?
It’s not hard for me. I only review certain things. For example, I don’t review epic fantasy. I don’t like the genre. It would be hard for me to do an honest review on it because I am so biased against it. The same is true with erotica. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s that I just don’t know enough about it to do a fair review. I review a lot of paranormal romance. I am comfortable with the genre, and know how it works. That stuff is easy to review. I also only do positive reviews. It’s easier to be objective if you are being positive.
When editing, and concentrating on content, are you ever tempted to change the story to suit your ideas? What do you feel when the author ignores your suggestions?
When editing, my take on it is that the story belongs to the author. As I sometimes tell them, it is their name on the cover, not mine. Now, I will tell them if I think something isn’t working, or things are going in the wrong direction. But I never change content, other than a few words here and there. That being said if I tell an author something needs to be rewritten I do give my ideas on how it should be done. Recently I edited a short story which had no ending to it. I told the author how I’d end it. He did write an ending, and followed my ideas. So yeah, in cases like that I can influence what the story looks like.
And now it’s time we talked about your writing. Before Sol, was there something else?
Sol is my first novel. Before that were the short stories I mentioned. And of course the magazine articles, and the book reviews were all published.
You are about to publish Sol. How did you come up with the end-of-world idea?
About 5 or 6 years ago I was watching a show on TV which said one day, like in a few billion years, the sun would expand and the earth would heat up. Everything would go extinct. I wondered how people, humanity, would react if that happened today. So I’d been toying with the idea for quite a while. But I was hesitant to write a book about it because I knew books were a lot of hard work. But early this year I decided to give it a shot.
What was writing Sol like?
Actually it was a lot of fun. I had done character sketches for my main characters and had a rough plot outline before I started writing it. The book just wrote itself. Sometimes there were things about characters I didn’t expect and I had to step in and fix things up. But there weren’t any major problems. Except the book got too big. I had aimed it for 86,000 words. It got there and wasn’t done. So I figured I’d let it go to 96,000 words. Still wasn’t done. It came in at 117,000 words.
And a more prying question – do you follow the rules as you write, or do you ‘wing it’?
There are rules when you write? I never knew that. Of course there are rules about spelling and grammar, and you have to follow those. There are also rules, if you will, about things like how characters should introduced and developed, and what your continuity should look like. I follow those. So, no, I don’t just “wing it.”
What is the one element critical to writing a good book, in your opinion?
Good character development. Solid characters can survive a weak plot. I see a lot of books which have a very good strong plot, but very weak undeveloped characters.
Hot topic – social media. Better with or without?
Interesting question. I’d say better, with reservations. There are a lot of good resources for writers on social media, Facebook groups and the like. But I think the downside is that writers, some of them, become overly reliant on them. The other thing is you can’t really promote your book solely on social media. It can play a part, but it’s actually a fairly small part. To promote a book you need reviews, interviews, blog and book tours, things like that.
Mankind is facing the biggest challenge he has ever faced. The human race will be extinct in 5 – 7 years. And this is not just a theory. It is a scientific fact. And it has already started. All humans will die. As will all animals, and all plants.
The sun is expanding. And the earth is getting warmer. The computer models say temperatures in the desert southwest in the United States will top 380 degrees. Temperatures above 400 degrees are a possibility in some areas. The oceans will literally boil.
Two men are given the job of saving humanity. Dr. Alan Wheaton is considered the best solar physicist in the world. Lucas Wills is a 24 year old kid who only wants to be a pro skateboarder. But Lucas is a genius, and is thought to be the smartest man alive. Alan and Lucas surround themselves with an unconventional cast of characters, all geniuses themselves. Will their Human Lifeboat concept work?
And if it works is it the right thing to do? Is saving a handful of humans justification for releasing them back to a barren planet they can do nothing with?
An excerpt from SOL
Alan walked into his office at a quarter to 10. Lucas was sitting in the waiting room. Anna motioned him over and whispered, “They are in your office sir. Just wait until you see them!”
“Thanks, Anna. Did you get lunch worked out?”
“Sure did. Just sandwiches. No grilled lizards or anything.”
“Great. Hold all my calls today.” He walked over to Lucas. The kid at least made an effort to look presentable. His hair was combed, and no sign of the ever-present mp3 player. But a plaid shirt and a sport jacket? Really? “You ready kid?”
“Aside being so nervous I could puke?” Alan patted him on the shoulder and said, “You’ll do fine, kid, let’s go knock ’em dead!” For some reason Alan really liked the young man. He felt better when he was around.
Alan and Lucas entered the office. Alan did a quick scan and confirmed the coffee, sodas, fruit and pastries were there. Seated at the table were two men who were sort of a yen and yang pair. Closest to the front was a very muscular black man, perhaps about 50. Probably six foot five, 280 pounds. He looked like he had probably played some football in his younger days. Next to him was a tall skinny guy. Maybe six three, six four. But no more than 140 pounds dripping wet. He looked like you could easily snap him in half. Alan put him in his mid-60’s. Strange thing was, they were both dressed identically. Tan shorts, a khaki shirt, snakeskin boots, and a safari helmet. It was all Alan could do to keep from laughing. He had Indiana Jones in his office, two of them. He wondered if either had a whip stashed away, or a pistol.
Alan crossed in front of the conference table and shook the black man’s hand. “Very pleased to meet you, Dr. Wheaton. I am Dr. Napoleon Bonaparte.” Alan gave him a second look. “Actually, Napoleon is not my real first name, it is George. But the real Napoleon is my fifth cousin on my mother’s side.” Alan took another look at the man. He was coal black. No way was he related a white European, even five generations removed. He moved on to the skinny man, and shook hands. “Very pleased to meet you as well, Mr. Director. I am Dr. Fred Rogers.”
“And I suppose you have a choo-choo train?”
Fred laughed. “No of course not. The one you are thinking of, he was on TV. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and all. He was my second cousin on my father’s side.”
Alan saw what was going on. “Gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to Lucas. He runs our underground black-market data analysis business. We make more money on that than we ever could make with astronomy. We gave up the sky thing years ago.” Alan walked to the head of the table and motioned for the men to sit down. Alan also sat. “Gentlemen, welcome to the Observatorio Solar de la Argentina. We are honored by your presence.” Alan looked at them. “I only have a few questions before we start. First, are you gentlemen really geologists? The black man answered in a low baritone, “We are, sir, yes we certainly are. We have degrees and certificates which say so. At least I do. I can’t vouch for Fred here. Fred?”
“I took a geology elective in college. Does that count?”
In a strange way Alan was warming up to the odd pair. He could see working with them. “On another subject gentlemen, is it your usual habit to dress up as if it were Halloween and go around giving fake names to people?” Both men burst into hardy laughter. It took them a few minutes to settle down. Finally the black man turned to Alan, with tears in his eyes. “Of course not, sir. We just wanted to make a good first impression. I am Dr. Henry Davis and my partner in crime here is Dr. Tom Smythe.” Alan recognized both names immediately. Smythe had been nominated for a Nobel Prize. Davis had won pretty much all of the big awards in the environmental and physical sciences. These were not men to be trivialized.
“Thank you gentlemen. Now that I know who you really are, would you care for a short tour of our facility?”
10 Quick-fire Questions with Don Martin
1. Alaska or the Seychelles?
2. Steak or lobster?
3. Cat or dog?
4. Lark or owl?
5. Pen or sword?
6. Snowboard or sleigh?
7. Tent or penthouse?
8. Book or movie?
9. Bicycle or spaceship?
10. Beethoven or birdsong?
I hope you have enjoyed reading about Don and his writing. I know I can’t wait to get my hands on SOL. Here’s the link to its Amazon page.