Here’s another interview in my series on how to become a writer. This time, I asked a couple questions to Steve Perry. I first learned of him via the Net Force series and later on by reading his blog, which has great info for both authors and martial artists. Steve’s written a gazillion novels in a wide range of franchises: Star Wars, Tom Clancy, Aliens, Conan and much, much more. So let’s just say he’s a pretty experienced writer. Enjoy the interview!
Q: How did you start out writing your first book?
A: I was looking for an agent, and I’d been writing short stories, which weren’t going to get me one. So I pitched a novel. The potential agent wanted to see chapters and an outline, and I didn’t really know how to do that, so I wrote the book in a hurry, then used that as a basis for the outline.
Q: When did you decide to write full-time and how did you reach that decision?
A: When we moved from Louisiana to Oregon, my wife’s new job paid pretty well, enough so she encouraged me to take a shot at writing full-time. Worked out okay.
Q: Have you ever had writer’s block and how do you deal with it?
A: Not yet. I usually have more than one project going at once, so if I get tired of one, I can go play with the others. Been lots of times when I didn’t want to work, but if I sat down, I could produce something.
Q: What does your average day as a writer look like? Do you have a specific routine?
A: Typically, I tend to get up late, nine o’clock or so. Have coffee, play online, do blog stuff and email, then work until noon. Walk the dogs, come back, work until three or four p.m. After that, I’ll work out, martial arts stuff, play the guitar, like that, until my wife gets home from work. Mostly I try to keep weekends free.
Q: Have you experienced negative reactions from people when they know you’re a writer? If so, how do you deal with them?
A: No real negative reactions. Sometimes people ask me what name I write under. I usually tell them “Stephen King,” or “Tom Clancy …”
Q: Is there anything you would do differently in your writing career?
A: Sure. Make more money … I can’t complain.
Q: Have there been fundamental changes to your writing style since you started or did you find your “voice” early on?
A: I didn’t realize I had a voice until somebody did a satirical pastiche of my stuff at at science fiction convention once. It was hilarious. I remember the lines: “He was ready for anything.
“Anything began to happen …”
Mostly, I just try to tell the story as cleanly as I can. Style evolves as you go. There are things I can pick out now that I tend to do, but I don’t think about them while I’ writing.
Q: You’ve written many novels in which your characters study martial arts and self-defense systems. Is there a difference in how you write their fight scenes as opposed to the other parts of the novels? How do you go about writing these scenes?
A: I try to write a sequence that is based on something I’ve seen or done, and that might be possible. Sometimes I venture into trampoline-fu, but mostly I try to keep them relatively realistic, though for the sake of drama, they sometimes get a little showy.
Q: What advice could you give beginning writers who want to get their first book published?
A: Learn the craft and do the best book you can. Sometimes even a good book will have trouble finding a publisher — the market isn’t always about how well-written a story might be — timing, subject matter, how an editor’s day is going all can make a difference. But a well-written, well-told story that will hold a reader’s interest is your best shot. If you can hook an agent or an editor on the first page and keep them hooked, you’ll do okay.
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects you can talk about?
A: Couple weeks, there’s a novel coming out, Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead. I’ve got a couple manuscripts circulating, an urban fantasy and a collaboration with Michael Reaves, that is a more traditional fantasy. I’m working on a novel about a couple who are retired assassins dragged back into the business I’m calling Bristlecone. Always something new in the pipe.
Thanks to Steve for taking the time to do this interview!