Roger Floyd Interview

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Roger Floyd is a science fiction novelist who is currently working on his Anthanian Imperative trilogy.
Author’s blog: http://rogerfloyd.wordpress.com/
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What motivates you to write and how did you get started?

I got started one August day in 1998 when the first few sentences of a science-fiction novel suddenly appeared in my head. I went upstairs to the little office I had in our house in Cincinnati and began to put down on a computer screen what I’d conceived. That was the first time I’d ever written fiction (other than a few stabs at writing an Air Force novel in junior high). For most of my life I’d been writing scientific papers that detailed the results of my research into the obscure workings of viruses. Dry, logical, precise stuff, designed only to report to other virologists what we’d been doing in the lab. Nothing you’d want to read for entertainment while waiting for your flight to be called. Writing that first chapter, however, wasn’t the first thing I’d thought about as the basis for a novel. The basic concept of the novel had been floating around in my head for several years, and the first few lines I wrote that August day was the culmination of my thought processes. That particular chapter is no longer a part of the novel; it was deleted when I began the revision process several years later as I learned more and more about how to write fiction. (I’m still learning how to write, by the way.) But I still have copies of it, and it remains my first attempt to write fiction.
As for motivation, that’s a much more difficult question to answer. I’ve never been able to explain “motivation.” I only know I have it. I was motivated that day and I wrote. I still write, and the motivation has never left. I write because I want to finish the piece I’m working on, and I want to start more. There are too many stories in my head to ever finish all of them, but I’ve got to keep writing as much as I can.

What’s most rewarding about writing?

Part of what’s most rewarding is simply seeing my words down on paper. But most of it is knowing that those words form a story, a coherent whole. It’s not that it’s just any story, it’s a story I wrote. It’s a story others can read, and that story works for them and they can perhaps get a little enjoyment from it and learn something about me and about how I view the universe of human emotions.

What’s your favorite genre and why?

The first part is easy: science fiction. The second part, not so much. I guess it has to do with the fact that I’m trained as a scientist and I feel comfortable within its realm. I don’t shy away from time travel or faster-than-light spacecraft, or any other type of super-duper-scientific device or concept an author may use in his work. I enjoy looking into the future to try to discern the reasons behind human activity of the present.

Where do your characters come from?

Generally, not from myself. There may be a few personality aspects of some of my characters which might be familiar to readers who know me, but I don’t consciously try to put myself into my characters. They don’t come from others, either. I’m not trying to reproduce on the page people I’ve known, though that may happen unconsciously too. I bring to my characters aspects of personality that are needed to fill out the details of the plot, and if they resemble me or others I’ve known, well, so be it.

Who is an author who inspires you, and why?

I got my first taste of science fiction reading Robert Heinlein. I read several of his novels in high school and college, and later, his epic novel, Stranger In A Strange Land. I’ve also liked Ursula K. LeGuin, especially The Left Hand Of Darkness. Her writing is so beautifully evocative, so smooth and effortless to read. I’ve always enjoyed her works. I loved Dune by Frank Herbert, though the rest of his Dune books never lived up to the brilliance of the first one.

What do you look for in other people’s books?

I want a good story well told. I want to get lost in the story and find my way around and out the other end. I don’t want a lot of detail; I can fill in the blanks myself. I like a book that doesn’t dwell on minutiae, a book where the story continues in a straight-forward manner without too many side trips into extraneous detail. A few flashbacks that illuminate character or contribute to the plot are okay, even interesting, but too many diversions can be distracting.

What are you writing now?

I’ve taken time off from completing the rough draft of the third of my science-fiction novels to participate in this interview. I’ve completed the first two installments of my Anthanian Imperative trilogy. The first is The Anthanian Imperative—Blue, the second The Anthanian Imperative—Green, and the third is —Red (you get the idea). I’ll probably hold the rough draft for a few weeks, then begin the long process of revising it. In the meantime, I may go back to some short stories I’ve been trying to sell, and perhaps even start more short stories.

What kind of book would you like to be known for?

Science fiction isn’t known for its great writing. (I’ve read some really terrible sci-fi in my day.) Ask yourself: how many sci-fi novels win literary awards (outside of awards specific to the genre) or appear on lists of best novels of the last “whatever” time frame? Other than Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and possibly Frank Herbert’s Dune, not many. I’m certainly not going to change that perception in the short run, but I’m going to try. I like to think that my novels will be known for their high-concept story line and well-written and well-developed characters, but that may be a bar a little too high for me to cross just yet.

What has writing taught you about yourself?

That’s a toughie. Let’s see. How about this: I can do it. I can write a novel or a short story. I can learn the art and craft of writing. And I can put everything together and get it done. If that doesn’t sound like much to you, it’s a lot to me.

How has your life experience influenced your writing?

I’ve identified two major influences of my life that, so far, at least, have crept into my writing. One, I grew up in a military family. My father was a career Army officer, and I absorbed the military manner almost subconsciously. Second, as a scientist, I look at anything and everything with an eye toward discovering the reason behind it. I look at process and technique, at action and mechanism. Both those have affected my writing to a major extent. Especially in my current project, The Anthanian Imperative—Red.

What encouraging advice can you offer new writers?

It’s hard for me to offer advice to a new writer because, with the exception of one poem, I’ve never been published by an independent press. I do have a blog [here’s the link: http://rogerfloyd.wordpress.com/] which contains excerpts from two of my novels as well as a short story, but that’s self-publishing and doesn’t count. What I can do is set down some rules that work for me, at least so far, and perhaps someone reading this will gain at least a small glimmer of helpful knowledge. (1) Don’t let anyone else tell you how to write. And that includes me. Do it your own way. (2) Learn the craft of writing. Read other books in your genre, as well as outside. Read magazines and books about writing, go to lectures, join a critique group, go to writer’s conferences, talk to other writers, interact and network with writers, agents, and editors, and most of all, bring chocolate fudge to the meeting. (3) Never tell your reader what to think. Let him make up his own mind. Just write the damn story. (4) If you don’t want to write every day, don’t. However, writing takes practice, so do as much as you can. The more you do, the better you’ll get. (5) Plot is not everything. Characters count. So does setting.

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