Wednesday, February 8, 2012

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR, PAUL GUTHRIE

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR OF "THE WRONG GOD" PAUL GUTHRIE

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Thank you, Paul for allowing us to interview you. Reading your biography I can tell you are a very bright man! Tell us a bit about working for NASA and some of the things you saw and did while there.

Thanks for inviting me. One of the things that I think many people don’t know about NASA is that there are quite a few scientists working there who don’t have much to do with space. Even though my title was “Space Scientist” I spent my time working on atmospheric science questions. For those scientists it was always a struggle to get funding for projects; the people who manage NASA have traditionally seen the agency as the SPACE agency…if it didn’t go into orbit it wasn’t as high a priority. What kept our group going was a quirk in the federal interagency turf wars. NASA was officially responsible for understanding the depletion of ozone in the stratosphere. We used that as a hook for as much atmospheric research as we could.

The biggest event that I remember was the destruction of the Challenger. My office mate and I came in from lunch one day and everybody was crowded around the closed circuit TV outside the library. A friend of mine just said “We lost one.” And then there was the investigation, culminating when Richard Feynman, already one of the heroes of my generation of physics students, showed what happened to a rubber ring when it was chilled in ice water. His essay about the investigation is great. The moral was (and is), do not let the PR guys overrule the engineers.

Have you found working in the area of climate changes and air pollution has made you more aware of the predicament of the Earth and would you describe yourself as something of a conservationist?

Conservationist may not be exactly the right term. The predicament of the Earth is another example of letting the PR guys overrule the engineers. The idea of CO2-driven climate change is not new. I remember a cocktail party conversation in DC during spring 1979, right after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. The people there were mostly government policy people and they generally conceded that nuclear power was now dead. Nobody else in the room had ever heard about the greenhouse effect, even though it was well-known in astronomy and meteorology.

I tend to think about things in terms of interconnected systems, and people are part of the systems on this planet. A great many of those people are more concerned about accumulating wealth in the short term than about anything else. Understandable if you are facing starvation, but terribly short-sighted if you are already wealthy. A relatively small number of very wealthy people have decided that PR is more important than good science. Climate change is a political problem. When I was teaching astronomy we used to tell students about something called the Drake equation. It’s a way of estimating the number of technologically advanced civilizations you would expect to find in our neighborhood of the universe. This is a question that astronomers take quite seriously, by the way. The answer comes down to the last item in the equation, which is the average length of time during which a civilization maintains an advanced technology, its lifetime. There were two schools of thought. If the lifetime is long, there should be many such civilizations. “Where is everybody?” as Enrico Fermi once asked. If the lifetime is short, we may be the only one and we are not likely to last. Climate change may be what gets us, if we don’t solve the political problem.

You have worked in so many scientific areas have you found this has had an impact on some of your ideas with your writing?

Working across disciplines reinforces the idea that science is a process for discovery, not just a collection of knowledge. This has certainly affected the characters I invent. The ones who are scientists, obviously, but also the characters who don’t understand, or accept, the way science works. I’ve had to figure out how those characters approach the world, how they decide what to believe. I think that’s why I chose to write about magic. How do different people react to this mysterious thing?

Tell us a bit about your typical writing process and whether you have to have total silence or if you deal well with distractions.

My writing process is an undisciplined mess, I’m afraid. In the pre-writing phase I get easily distracted. I will drop everything to do research on a time and place, or some detail of a story. Once I get the basic story straight in my head and start the first draft, I’m good for about three hours at a time when I won’t answer the phone.

You have been married for thirty-seven years! That is quite a wonderful thing, especially today. Tell us your secrets.

Actually, it’s up to forty now. And it is a wonderful thing. Our secrets are just the usual stuff. Pay attention. Forgive each other. Share. We also attribute our success to both being terrified of ever having to go through the dating process again.

Do you allow your wife and children to read and critique your writing?

I don’t let anyone read the first draft. Once I start on the second, my wife is my first reader. Her reactions to the characters and tone of the story tell me whether it’s working or not.

What is next on your agenda as far as writing?

I was planning on a sequel to “The Wrong God” but lately I have began to work on a series of short stories. They are set in the same “universe” as the novel, in terms of how magic works, but they are going to be scattered in place and time. They will be available for Kindle and Nook as digital shorts. I plan to do three or four of them and then get back to the sequel.

Who are some of your literary inspirations?

There are so many. Of those working now in speculative fiction, William Gibson and George R.R. Martin. Completely different, but I enjoy both. And the classic writers of SF; Asimov, Bradbury, on alphabetically to Niven, Dan Simmons and eventually Zelazny. Other genres – John LeCarre, Michael Shaara. Steinbeck. I’ll stop there or I’ll be reading off everything on my shelves.

When you are able to read what genre do you like most?

It rotates. High fantasy followed by non-fiction about science would be typical. Something literary followed by a political thriller.

Do you have any advice you'd like to share with other authors, and give us your links so we can read more about you and your novel.

Advice…just the usual. Keep the day job. Rewrite. Join a writers group and get feedback. Learn to write dialog without saying “John said.”

Links – There is the web site atwww.thewronggod.comand there is an email link there. There are facebook pages,https://www.facebook.com/pages/Paul-Guthrie/281974805171527 and https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Wrong-God-by-Paul-Guthrie/191187440919039

All of my work is available in ebook format only at this point, and likely to remain that way. It seems to be the way things are going. The novel is available for kindle at Amazon.com: The Wrong God eBook: Paul Guthrie: Kindle Store or by search on your device. For Nook it is at BARNES & NOBLE | The Wrong God by Paul Guthrie, Paul Guthrie | NOOK Book (eBook)
or by searching. It is also available at Smashwords - The Wrong God - A book by Paul Guthrie and via search at the ibook store for Apple, the Kobo store, and the Sony ebook store.

Thank you again for allowing us to interview you Paul, we do hope to do so again in the near future!


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