R. PETER UBTRENT
- Guest Author -
Welcome to an interview conducted with a science fiction author and military historian - R. Peter Ubtrent.
Welcome, Mr Ubtrent ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I was born in New York City, Queens to be specific, at the age of 0. We moved to Long Island shortly after that and that was awesome because there was a forest right behind our house and as a kid…. Well, that was awesome. Then the family moved to Albuquerque, NM when I was 8 and I haven’t forgiven them for it since. I have degrees in Astrophyics, History, Military History, and Secondary Education. Was a teacher for some time but found that no one wanted to learn anything anyway so I joined my Dad’s business repairing watches and clocks and have been stuck there ever since. I was in the US Naval Reserve for 12 years as a sonar technician. That was rather fun and interesting. I’m married with three dogs and lots of trees that I’ve painsakenly planted for the rabbits and deer to consume at their leisure. As for my writing journey…. I wrote my first book in seventh grade. At that time, Star Wars was the big thing and my book, written on the back of green flyers for my Dad’s business, was a shameless copy of Star Wars. But it was a start, sort of. In high school, I began writing a two-book space saga that I thought, at the time, was pretty cool. When I finally showed it to someone to read, they told me that it was good but that it was a shameless copy of Lord of the Rings, Dune, The Thomas Covenant Chronicles, and, of course, Star Wars. This was when I realized that I needed to stop reading sci-fi books. When I finally started to write again after several years of clearing my head, I created Eternity’s Handmaiden and realized that it was an original, if that even exists these days, piece of work and from there the books just started to flow out of my head.
- WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? SO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OF JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
Whenever I tell this, I get the funniest looks…. But maybe that has nothing to do with what I’m saying. Hmmmm…. Anyway, all the ideas for my books come from dreams. I’ll have a dream wherein the entire beginning of the book is laid out for me and even sometimes the ending. When I start putting it all to paper, I feel as if there is a muse standing behind me whispering into my ear because I’ll write and write and then finish a chapter and stare at it wondering where all that came from. Many times the characters themselves will surprise me with what they do or say and several times I’ve been shocked at the plot-twists created, as if I had nothing to do with it and was just a vehicle for the muse to relay her tale. The Dark Pilgrim series was only supposed to be three books and that one expanded into six exponentially. All of the nine books I currently have on the market took about six months to write, each. I was a mad-man back then, typing away furiously to get them out of my head. I do write things down as I progress, however, like clothes wore and hair and eye color to make certain that I don’t mess it up later when I describe that character, but for the most part I guess you can say that I shoot from the hip. There is no story-line plotted out before hand. I find that far too constricting. As for research, I do have a degree in astrophysics, so the science is rather easy and with my advanced degrees in military history, incorporating intrigue into the mix is also rather straight-forward.
- WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The writing process and the feeling I get when I finish a chapter and sit back and say to myself (because saying it out loud would be considered a sign of mental instability by most) “wow, I didn’t see that coming.” I also like it when I’m told that someone has enjoyed reading my books. That’s always nice to hear.
- WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Selling the damn things. Marketing sucks.
- WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
I’m very proud of the Dark Pilgrim series. I’m truly believe that some of my best writing is contained within the pages of those books and I really like the characters. I’ve always tried to write like J.R.R. Tolkien, with the way he describes things, and I think that I might have achieved a semblance of that in those books.
- WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
This interview. Oh, you mean in terms of books. I’ve started a three book (ha ha) series about magic and sci-fi colliding when a planet that is of the age and tech of Middle Earth is attacked and basically destroyed, save for eight children, by an advanced civilization and the aftermath as the eight survivors, who all have special powers, integrating into the new society. I have the first book done and the second one three-fourths of the way done, but I’ve found that I don’t have the time anymore to sit down and write like I used to… and then there is the whole thing about my books not selling and why read anything else doldrums….
- WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I wish I knew. I haven’t been inspired lately so whatever it is, I think it went for a walk.
- WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I write sci-fi mostly. I’ve thought about writing paranormal romances, but then the feeling passes with a slight release of gas and I’m back to normal.
- DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
No. When I want to write, I’m always been able to sit down and write a chapter or two.
- DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
RUN!!! No, seriously…. Just keep writing. Eventually you’ll develop your own style. And don’t try to copy the current trend of junk that pours out of the big publishing houses and Hollywood. Find your own niche and flavor and go with that. Reading current fiction is great, but it tends to sub-consciously enter into your writing and then you’ll just be like everyone else. Find yourself and write that. It will make a world of difference. And if that doesn’t work, then go on a drug-fueled driving rage, insult the media, push around a few camera-men and/or fans, go to rehab, drop out, do it all over again, go back to rehab and then the big publishing houses will be drooling over whatever junk you write for them because you’ll be a …. Celebrity.
- WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Do I have to have just one? I think that J.R.R. Tolkein is the best writer of his generation and possibly of all time. The story and characters he created is phenomenal. And he wrote his own languages for pete’s sake! Created his own universe and pantheon. Who else does that? Frank Herbert is great also. The Dune series is so vastly under-rated.
- WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
A large guy in a kilt read the opening part of Dark Pilgrim Rising while I was selling at a sci-fi con many, many years ago and when he was done, his eyes opened wide and this big smile came to his face and he said, “Dude, that is so awesome!”
- WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
It actually came from a lady who owned a publishing house. She told me that no one will want to read my books because I don’t introduce the main character in the first ten lines and my writing was mediocre and I should try to write more like romance novels. What?!
- WRITER’S ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES? ARE YOU?
Yes. But that’s as far as that will go.
- OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Does my wife count? I love my dogs and gardening and reading real books that I can hold in my hands, building models, and traveling to Europe.
- DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
No. I looked into it and the amount of money wanted was too much of an investment. Then, I was told to look at a website that listed all the things that a book should have and when I was done reading that, I realized that they wanted all the books to look and read like paranormal romances and that wasn’t going to happen. Sorry Cullen.
- DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY?
Hmmmm….Does it include Taylor Swift?
- WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Get a job. Let’s see… I’d tell them that they had better start working together instead of at cross-purposes because when the aliens come to take over the planet, we’d better have a plan in place…. And get rid of all the groups who want nothing more than to make problems for others… we all know who they are.
- WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Sell the movie rights for at least one of my books and become wealthy enough so that I can retire…. Hahahahaha…. That’s funny. You were asking about reality, right? Work until I die. Isn’t that the new way it works in America?
- WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU WANT ON A DESERT ISLAND?
The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. (that counts as one – booked set) Dangerous plants and how to avoid them. 1001 ways to cook coconuts. How to navigate by the stars. How to build a ship
- DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Ah come on, who does that?….. Yes. I usually make myself one of the characters in the book. Makes it easier to figure out how he/she will react to different situations.
- DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
What publishing industry? Unless you have connections, you aren’t going to get your book published by them. J.K. Rowlings was a million in one shot and I think it was great that she was published, but even then, the mainstream publishers wouldn’t know a good book if it kicked them in the face. All they want are names that will sell books. They don’t care much about what’s inside the book or how well it is written.
- ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
Yes. Because there isn’t a real publishing industry.
- HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
It should be a lot. Covers sell books, regardless what others say. A good cover will engage the reader and if he picks up you book or clicks on it, then the chances of selling it to him just shot through the roof. A cover needs to sell the book as much as the back-cover blurb does.
- DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS?
Hmmmm…. Wait, that’s not a word. Conservative, modest, competent, relaxed, intelligent
- WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? WAS IT GOOD?
James Stewart: Bomber Pilot by Starr Smith. Not the great American novel but vastly interesting and a good read.
- WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
Listen honey, put the gun down and listen to reason…. There’s nothing going on between me and Taylor Swift, honestly….
All the books can be found and purchased at Smashwords.com. Those are the best copies and the best prices.
(Dark Pilgrim Rising) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/174041
(Seed of Power) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/176108
(Dark Throne) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/176521
(Dark Enlightenment) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/176526
(Dark Redemption) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/176529
(Dark Pilgrim Fallen) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/176530
(Eternity's Handmaiden) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/176105
(Sacrilege: Book One of the Sslithax Heresy) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/176536
(The Chaos of Unity: Book Two of the Sslithax Heresy) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/176538
Video blurp for Dark Pilgrim Rising.
Clancy's comment: Thank you, Mr Ubtrent. Yep, marketing sucks, but it is vital. Taylor Swift? Mm ...
Think about this!