... Steve Myers
1. Tell me about your book Nowhere Nowhen and where you got your inspiration for it?
The book is dystopian science fiction. It takes place in a city state run by a giant corporation with a very stratified society: lords at the top, then professionals, then workers, and outcasts confined to a large area called the Cage. The hero called Lo is an outsider with powers he doesn’t understand. I got the idea for it when I was trying to imagine what life would be like under such a system. Often I think our country is moving that way because money seems to be the real power and value. The callous attitude of those in power toward the poor, the sick, and children is an indictment. I got the title from Bertrand Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy.
2. If you could interview anyone from your life, living or dead, but not a celebrity, who would it be and why?
It would be my grandmother. She came to America when she was 16. As a child I never paid enough attention to her stories about her life in Slovakia and her early life here. Now it’s too late to listen.
3. Ninjas or Pirates?
Pirates. They’re more interesting. I’d like to write a novel about a crew of pirates. It would be interesting to make the head of the crew an escaped slave. He would be after revenge and attack the Spanish ships.
4. Do you have a writing process? If so describe it.
First I get a vague idea of a story, then I let it worry me for a while. Sometimes that can last several years. I had a story published in January (Captain Boylan’s Raiders) that I thought about for 20 years. Then next step is to take a sheet of plain paper, fold it in two and write down the key events. After that I name characters. Then I make a detailed scene by scene sketch in a steno spiral notebook with dialog notes. After that I need to hear the story, especially the people, before I begin. Then I write on my laptop fairly quickly. Nowhere Nowhen took 3 weeks. I just finished a thriller in 2 weeks. I like to have at least one scene where the themes of the story are dramatized. In Nowhere Nowhen that happens at a boar hunt. The difference in status of the people and the brutality of the society are made clear.
5. If someone came up to you and wanted to tell you about an idea or a book they were writing, what would you do? Or what advice would you give?
I’d tell them to get black on white, put it down on paper. Then not to show it to anyone for at least a week so you can see it cold.
6. How do you react to a bad interview/review of one of your books?
I don’t react to interviews but to a bad review…? I no longer read reviews. The first story I had published won a prize but was slammed badly in a review—it even had a personal attack. My first book got good reviews (in NY Times & Publishers Weekly, etc.) but attacks too. So I decided not to read them anymore. After all, what can a reviewer tell you that you don’t know yourself? Reviews are for readers. A good critic is different. My wife is an excellent critic and has a good BS detector and will point out where I’m trying to slip something by.
7. Are the names of characters in your novels important?
Yes. I try to match names with characters. I often use first names of the bad guys from bad guys I have known. In Nowhere Nowhen the girl is called Julia Setz (a Julia set is a math term that refers to a kind of controlled chaos). In the novel to be published by Damnation Books in September I named the girl Esther Marie from the name of a local street. I often use mathematicians’ names: Wronski, Riccati, and so on. I have notes for a novel where all the women have flower names: Lily, Rose, Heather, Violet, and so on. I won’t use a person’s actual name if he or she is a model for a character but I will use the body and face. I guess I’m a body snatcher. I also steal voices, diction, word choice. I had trouble with a story until I heard it as if told by my dad or one of his Scotch-Irish relatives.
8. Would you rather write for children or adults?
I have written for both. My children’s book The Enchanted Sticks is still around in the Junior Great Books series. Lately my stuff has been too adult for kids.
9. Which do you find more embarrassing to write, violence or sex?
Violence is much easier to write than sex. It is nearly impossible to get the feeling right with sex. Most of the time I get the couple to the bedroom and usually shut the door before the action gets serious. There is a virtual sex scene in Nowhere Nowhen but it’s to show the lack of human feeling in the society. Even as great a writer as D. H. Lawrence made a mess of it. In Lady Chatterley’s Lover the best scenes are of Mellors making tea rather than sex. In Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers the description of the changes in Potiphar’s wife Mut are more sensual than you’ll find in explicit pornography. The most impressive sex scene I’ve come across is the one in the movie All Quiet on the Western Front. A young German soldier goes to bed with a French girl. The room is dark and we only hear their voices. It’s moving, gentle, and effective. I do use the words people use and some have refused my stuff because it was too crude or raw.
10. Do you research your novels?
Somewhat. In Nowhere Nowhen I invented it all so I didn’t have to research and the math and technical stuff used I know. In Garden of the Falling Moon (the Damnation Books novel) I had to look up clothes, money values, cars, etc., for 1909. I also found a detailed description of how to make a bomb. There are anarchists in the story who build one. I left out the exact details because I was afraid someone would try it. I also try to get clothes, food, guns, and such exact. I realize it isn’t critical to a story but I want to know what a character is wearing and eating. I see and hear the people in my stories.
11. What are books for?
Books are for reading if they are not textbooks. Also literature deals with human values, which is outside the realm of science. Nabokov said the writer’s duty is to enchant. I agree. All art is play. It can lead to expanding our minds, giving us experience (rather than just having things happen to us), but its main purpose is pleasure. If you don’t enjoy my story, don’t read it. Remember that just because you enjoy something that doesn’t make it great, but the key is to enjoy it. Just as there is no measure of the quality of a day or a kiss or a smile, there is no ruler to measure the quality of a story.
12. Do you believe in love at first sight? Have you ever experienced it?
Yes, I believe in love at first sight. As Don Juan says, it happens every time. To be serious, I fell in love with my wife the first time I saw her. Luckily her vision is not as good as mine, so she agreed to marry me.
13. What’s your favourite book and why?
Hasek’s The Good Soldier Shvejk. First off, it’s hilarious. Then it’s full of crazy characters and incidents. I can pick it up at any place and start reading and I’ll be laughing within minutes. Try to get a good translation, not one that calls the soldier Schweik (which is an insult to a Czech).
14. Is Elvis really dead?
Elvis is not dead. He appears in a play of mine called “3 Kings” along with Bobby Fischer and a child heir to a throne in the mythical country of Northern Poldovia.
15. What is your favourite quote?
My favourite quote is from the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova: “No ia preduprezhdaiu vas, / Chto ia zhivu poslednii raz…” which I translate as: I warn you / That I live for the last time.
16. What three things would you save from a fire at your house? (assume that all your family get out safe.)
Old photographs, the laptop with my latest story, and the file with all the tax and financial records.
17. What are your current projects?
The edit of Garden, checking the spelling and grammar of the last novel I finished, gathering together a book of short stories to be called Apples & Oranges, and researching a story on the battle of Saratoga in the Revolutionary war.
18. Do you recall how your interest in writing occurred?
My mother read to me when I was very young. By the time I was 9 I was making up stories. When I was 14 I started reading seriously in an attempt to discover how the very best did it. I’ve been at it for some time. I’m still not good enough. I am an old man mad about writing.
19. If you couldn’t be an author, what career would you chose?
I graduated summa cum laude in math. I very nearly went on for a PhD. I did go to grad school at NYU on a fellowship but I dropped out after one semester. Academia wasn’t a good fit for me. I ended up making a living as an electrician and eventually in data analysis and acquisition. But I always considered myself a writer since I was 14.
20. Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks or hardcovers?
When I look at the shelves of books I have it looks like it must be paperbacks, though there are several hardcovers. I suppose it’s a matter of economics.
Fall to your knees or...fight back.
After a devastating blue lightning storm a child comes out of the Wasteland to become an untouchable feared by everyone, even the cruel Overlords who control the city. When his caregiver is killed he thinks only of himself… until he meets a lovely young woman and a cult that see him as their savior. Will events force him to leap into life or play it safe? How much can he risk in a world where the Lords have all the power?
She shrugs. Then she pulls her knit top over her head and tosses it aside. She removes her slippers and then her skirt. Her breasts are high and firm; her waist small; her hips flare out slightly and then curve into slender thighs. Naked, she raises both arms and turns around very slowly. When she faces me again she says, “Even the Director calls me a perfect specimen. And you?”
“What does it matter what I think? I’m not buying your eggs.”
“We—my eggs and I—are not amused. Now take off your clothes. I want to see if I won my bet.”
“Your bet?”“With the other Ladies. Some say you don’t have one and some say you have more than one and some say it’s like a snake with eyes and a tongue and some say it’s blue. I bet on blue.”
(in his own words)
Early life in the low mountains of western PA; from 8 on lived in northeastern Ohio. I served in USAF in Southeast Asia during Vietnam War, went to Kent State and graduated summa cum laude with BA in math. I was on the field when the National Guard killed four students and wounded nine. I went one semester to NYU on a fellowship and after that worked as an electrician and in data acquisition and analysis. I’ve had several stories and poems published in various magazines and a children’s book that is still in print in an anthology. NOWHERE NOWHEN, published by Eternal Press, is my first published novel. My second novel, GARDEN OF THE FALLING MOON, is scheduled to be released in September by Damnation Books.