Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today: Blaze Ward writes science fiction in the Alexandria Station universe (Jessica Keller, The Science Officer, The Story Road, etc.) as well as several other science fiction universes, such as Star Dragon, the Collective, and more. He also writes odd bits of high fantasy with swords and orcs. In addition, he is the Editor and Publisher of Boundary Shock Quarterly Magazine. You can find out more at his website www.blazeward.com, as well as Facebook, Goodreads, and other places.
Blaze’s works are available as ebooks, paper, and audio, and can be found at a variety of online vendors. His newsletter comes out monthly, and you can also follow his blog on his website. He really enjoys interacting with fans, and looks forward to any and all questions—even ones about his books!
Thanks so much, Blaze, for joining me!
JSC: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
BW: I write about 4,000 words per day, most days of the month, with a target of writing at Pulp Speed Three (116,667 words). Since a novel is anything longer than 40,000 words, I generally create 1.5 novels in an average month, plus half a dozen newsletters and a variety of short fiction for my Patreon (https://patreon.com/blazeward), my science fiction magazine Boundary Shock Quarterly (https://www.boundaryshockquarterly.com/), and my occasional projects like Blaze Ward Presents (https://blazewardpresents.com/). I’m just about to finish novel #78, which is #12 in The Science Officer series and will come out in December.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
BW: We call them architects and gardeners. I fall in the middle, in that I follow the Lester Dent/Seven Point Plot Structure style writing. Have a strong set of Characters. Put them in a well-built Setting. Give them a Problem. I’m not [usually] completely writing into the dark, but maybe into dimly lit hallways, where I know roughly where I’m going, and how long it will take to get there, but not detailed out very tightly until I get there. I trust myself that I can tell a great story. That it will be different. That it will drag the reader to the bottom of the lake and hold them there until they read the whole thing in one go. (My Brother-in-Law bitches that he sits down to read “one more chapter” and suddenly it’s two in the morning.)
JSC: What does success mean to you?
BW: I consider myself successful because I don’t ever have to put on pants again. We celebrate Feb 24 as “No Pants Day” around here because I retired from having a day job 2018/02/24. Now, I get to stand around and people pay me to make shit up. Better, I can make a living at it, without having to rely on Traditional Publishing (New York Publishers). It’s a running joke around here, because I’ve never had an actual professional-qualifying sale of any kind. Best I’ve done was an invitation to an anthology a few years ago which was paying five cents per word. However, I can make a living from my fiction, without doing editing, workshops, or anything else. Just the fiction. No individual book makes me that much, but every day I sell a few of this and that, and all those nickels add up by the end of the month. And I will never have to go back into some else’s world and work (Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise), so I won’t ever actually ‘retire.’ Instead, I’ll keep writing as long as I’m having fun. Or whatever art form it takes by then. Maybe my music will take off. Maybe I’ll do some voices for my buddy who should start his own radio show. Dunno. Art, for art’s sake, instead of pants. You can’t beat it.
JSC: What inspired you to write Inhuman? What were the challenges in bringing it to life?
BW: I had the whole setting from Book One (Mirrors). The next one (Latency) helped finish off number one, kind of a duology, telling a longer arc. In Book Three (Pleasure Model), I had someone who thought they had committed the perfect crime, only to run into cops who weren’t what they seemed. Book Three ended in such a way that the obvious step was to head out into the wider galaxy and learn who the aliens were that had come down to ‘save’ humanity from itself. However, the aliens brought all their problems with them, even as our problems started spilling out onto them. The hardest part of aliens in science fiction is making them both alien and still relatable. You have to be able to understand their motivation and thoughts. At the end of the day, generally I think that sentience will be more important than shape. We are all just people. So once we can past the language and culture barriers, we can become one.
JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write and why?
BW: Greyson Leigh is the main detective character in this series. He’s abrasive and opinionated, but means well. Just a complete hardass who has his life largely settled and would be fine if everyone would leave him alone. Even when he was retired, before they brought him back, he had his thing. However, they brought him back. Returned his badge to him and told him to clean things up. So he does. Whether you like it or not. He has a line in this book about how you don’t ever want him in charge of punishment, because he has no flexibility on the matter and would ruin a lot of lives.
JSC: Let’s talk to your characters for a minute – what’s it like to work for such a demanding writer?
[Greyson]: I was fine without the badge. Only came back so I can train the kid and make sure she’s better than I am, one of these days. Then I’ll quietly walk into the sunset and you’ll never find me again. Until then, this punk captain keeps putting crap in front of me, thinking that I won’t shoot somebody if I have to, in order to solve whatever crime the next dumbass thinks he can get away with.
[Rachel]: I never know where we’re going. He keeps making Greyson seem Human and friendly, when we all know that’s a lie. Well, I know the truth about the Human part and nobody else does except the readers. World’s ugliest, most dangerous conspiracy, because we’re walking a tightrope here. And I always planned to do London after this, but now that son of a bitch has me thinking bigger gigs. Like maybe I need to drag Greyson’s skinny butt out there to the stars, because the aliens will need somebody like Leigh to protect them from the rest of us.
[Ethen]: If I gotta show up, I will. I’ve done enough evil in my time. I’d like to be done. One of these days Rachel will tell me to die, and Greyson and I can be done. Until then, nobody else can do what we do. As long as no witnesses survive.
JSC: What other artistic pursuits (it any) do you indulge in apart from writing?
BW: In my standard spiel when being interviewed, I talk about wanting to be Bernie Taupin. (Extremely few people know who he is, but he’s one of the biggest songwriters in the history of rock and roll.) One day, a local composer (like extremely local) saw that and found me, asking if I wanted to write lyrics for his music. Sometime in March 2022 (or a little later), Ward and Rogers will be releasing their first single. I wrote the lyrics. He did the music. Then he convinced me to sing it. Working on the next several songs right now. And having fun, which is the key part.
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
BW: Iceland’s holiday tradition where everyone gives books at Christmas, then stays up all night reading them. American culture has lost a lot of reading in favor of visuals. All well and good, and some amazing things have been done, but creating even a simple cartoon or graphic novel is a team and corporate effort, and there are a lot of storytellers out there who could keep you riveted, just with words on a page.
JSC: If you could choose three authors to invite for a dinner party, who would they be, and why?
BW: Homer. Shakespeare. E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith. All of them created literary genres, largely by themselves by the impact that they had. I took a copy of Fagles’ translation of The Iliad with me when I traveled to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1991 (we got home only a few weeks before the revolution that toppled Gorbachev). In some of the places we got to visit on that trip, we were the first foreigners ever allowed. (I traveled with Dr. Nathaniel Davis and his wife Elizabeth, who took groups every summer in the 80s.) Homer talked about going new places and brought an amazing lyricism to everything. Shakespeare invented a significant number of words in the everyday English vernacular. And created rich, complex, flawed, and interesting characters. Strip away the stilted language and he told universal stories about love, hatred, and revenge. Doc Smith largely invented Space Opera (my primary genre) as a literary thing, because the Skylark and Lensmen books were some of the very first in what they did. The Skylark of Space might be the first novel to actually travel beyond our solar system and explore the galaxy (at least as limited as everyone’s knowledge of such things was at the time.) Lensmen was (and is) breathtaking in scope, and I still go back and look at some of the concepts he ‘invented’ for his books that later became standards. Doc’s social awareness was bad by current standards, but well advanced when you consider that he was writing largely in the 1920s. And he steadfastly tried to get better over his 40-year career.
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
BW: Next up is Hegemony at Dalou, the third of the ‘First Centurion Kosnett’ books (six in the series, sequel to the Auberon/Jessica Keller series). In this series, #3 will come out in April, with #4 in May, then #5 and #6 (the last of this series) come out in October and November. In between will be a quick cyberpunk trilogy over the summer. Then I’ll have my usual next Science Officer novel coming out in December.
And now for Blaze’s newest book: Inhuman:
Greyson solved the murder of the clone. Now a bigger conspiracy awaits.
Out there, among the stars.
Greyson and Rachel must travel to the homeworld of the Illymus Merchant Guild itself in pursuit of someone able to clone and replace anyone.
Who can they trust, when anyone might be a copy and no longer the original?
The Hunter Bureau, a series about a cop working in a world fifteen years after aliens make first contact, and bring all their troubles to a world that already had plenty of its own. Be sure to read the other novels in the series, available at all reputable outlets, and a few disreputable ones.
Get It On Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | B&N
Greyson Leigh considered his reflection in the bathroom mirror. Skinny man, just past middle-aged or something. Fifty, but in better shape than most men half his age. Being an alien impersonating a Human helped. The Phrenic could live for centuries if nobody shot them dead with a nerve scrambler first.
He figured his day was coming.
Still, the mirror was just a reflection. He hadn’t bought himself a sympathetic mirror, like some folks did. Greyson wanted to know what he looked like, not how he could be made to look better with a little technological magic. You got what you got.