Could you tell us a little bit about your novel?
Well, it’s basically a character study; how would people react, in this day and age of instant information (moved slightly ahead in time to Sometime Next Tuesday) if they were faced with something as earth-shattering as the discovery of an ancient alien ship, buried here on Earth.
I started working on the book back in 1997 – scary to think about how long it’s been – we’d already lived through the first real nonstop medial blitzes with the Iraq War and the sieges at Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian compound – not to mention the fall of Sarajevo.
Also, at the time the Internet was gaining speed. We were a decade away from the iPhone, the iPad, and music mobility meant a backpack full of CDs and a Sony Discman. But already I saw where the tech was going, and where media would take us.
But The Unearthing is also just the first part of a tremendous story I feel compelled to write. See, back in 1997 when I started the thing, I was alone in my apartment one night when the story...after all this time the best way to describe it is still to say that the story of The Omniverse downloaded itself into me. I experienced it all, as only a writer can, in the span of a few seconds; I liken the experience to what Captain Picard went through in the fantastic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Inner Light”, written by Morgan Gendel. Since that night, I’ve been compelled to write the damn thing.
The story of The Omniverse will go well beyond Mankind’s cradle Earth... I only hope I’m a good enough storyteller to take you all there!
How did you juggle so many plot aspects – political, religious, personal – when writing this book?
Oddly enough it was all pretty organic; I wrote an outline – which I then radically departed from, along some major points – and just let everything write itself as it was meant to progress.
I’ve gone back to write and rewrite this thing a number of times over the years, too; fixing what didn’t work, correcting details, and “fudging” certain aspects of reality that weren’t convenient to me.
What drew you to write a sci-fi novel?
I’ve always been a huge sci-fi fan; I was 6 when Star Wars first came out, and when it did I fell in love with the genre. I think George Lucas is probably the reason I started writing, because I wanted – even then – to tell sci-fi stories of my own. The Unearthing just happened to be, truly, the best of what I’d written (though if it sells well, I’ll be revisiting a lot of old material I have lying around!) and the story I most wanted to tell.
But...it wasn’t supposed to be a novel.
Originally, back in the mid 1990’s – and prior to The Download – I’d actually given up on writing. I’d tried and failed to pitch a few stories, both novels and TV series over the last few years, and their failures to launch pretty much put me off writing.
Then, not the Download, but inspiration and the desire to start writing again struck. I saw the movie Contact and was moved by the screenplay. I started watching Babylon 5 and was inspired – not by the space opera, but by the journey that writer/creator J. Michael Straczynski undertook to see his dream given form. Over and over again Straczynski told his fans how hard it had been to get the show on the air and keep it there, and most especially to tell the story he wanted to tell, the way he wanted to tell it. Fighting against it all, it was his faith in the story that saw him through.
That, more than anything, inspired me to start writing again.
After Babylon 5 ended in 1997, just as I was toying with a few other writing project ideas, The Download struck. I was compelled to write The Omniverse, but I was going to write it for television.
The first 4 chapters of The Unearthing were written as a 2-hour television pilot, with much more action – and a much less complicated string of subplots. The rest of the novel – the first season of the show – was outlined episode-by-episode... I later split the episodes into chapters, resequencing things for continuity of storytelling in the novel.
The reason I quit The Unearthing as a teleplay was what I like to call The Great Science Fiction Television Crash. In 1998 and 1999 there were a lot of sci-fi shows launched... and cancelled... a trend that continued well into the double-oh’s.
I took those first 10 or 12 episodes that I had written and started reworking them into the beginning of the novel that eventually became The Unearthing. Little bit of trivia: In those opening chapters, they keep referring to the object as “The artifact” because that was the original title of the novel.
What authors inspire you?
Oddly enough, I can’t abide reading genre fiction anymore. But among the authors who inspired me to write and fired my imagination:
Irvine Welsh, Hunter S. Thompson, Robert A. Heinlein, Alan Dean Foster, Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, Sir Arthur C. Clarke (Which is no doubt why I get so many Rama comparisons), Stephen King, and Thomas Harris, but not just authors, but storytellers: George Lucas, Ridley Scott, the Waichowskis, David Lynch, Richard Kelly, Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan... there are some brilliant storytellers out there.
Do you have more novels in the works?
Through Darkness and Stars, the follow-up to The Unearthing is nearly ready to launch. Then, as I’m still deep in the writing, the third volume of The Omniverse should come out in a couple of years.
I’ve also got another novel out, Oh Well, Whatever, Never Mind which is literary fiction, as opposed to sci-fi. I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as a genre writer... I have MANY stories to tell!
Thanks for sharing about your novel, Steve! I like the point you make about being "compelled" to write. Come on, writers - tell me about a story or article that just wouldn't leave you alone until you started writing it!
Check out The Unearthing for a contemplative sci-fi thriller. It's available in paperback and on Kindle!
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