Sunday, April 8, 2012

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR, STEPHEN H. KING

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR, "CATACLYSM: THE RETURN OF THE GODS", STEPHEN H. KING

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Hello Stephen, and thank you so much for allowing this interview. First of all... your name. Everyone knows Stephen King, was this just a happy coincidence that you were named so closely or is it at times a nightmare?

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you! I know, my name is the elephant in the room that has to be dealt with before anything else. Truth be told, I just started writing last year. I spent much of my life, then, hating my own name. Well--hating the name isn't quite accurate; it's my father's name, too. What I actually despised was that it seemed as though every person I ever met felt the need to make a name joke. "Were you named after him?" was the second-silliest, since I was born five years before the other guy became well-known. "No, I was named after my father," I'd explain, and then one person went on to ask, "Was he named after him?" That is the silliest one. In any event, it turns out that Stephen King quite a common name. Every school I've ever attended has had another Stephen King (or Steven King) on its rolls. There's a Congressman from Iowa who shares the name. There even is another author named Stephen H. King who published books about little-known pioneers in the aviation world.

I started using a pseudonym, regardless, out of fear that people would buy my books thinking they were the other, much more famous, author's books. But it's hard, in today's world of social media, to divorce yourself from one identity and craft another. I already had several hundred friends on Facebook, and none of them knew who this Evan Koenig guy was. I finally went to a couple of agents and a self-titled Book Doctor at a writers conference last year and asked about it--their advice was just to be myself. So I am. Myself. And I trust my readers to be smart enough to figure out who is who.

Now you have held many positions in your time, as in work. Do you believe this was because you were searching for your one true calling or is it because you simply moved around so much?

Neither, really. I mean, I made a couple of really dumb choices early on where the outcome was affected by the clear fact that the field wasn't my "one true calling," but it wasn't like I went a'searching. It's mostly been a case of life happens, and I've ended up where I've ended up. I've crafted wonderful plans, but rarely has life taken me the way I've planned for it to.

All that said, it was pretty funny that I pegged my field of greatest success early on. My band director asked me in high school what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said the first thing that occurred to me--teacher. My mother dragged me out of the conference by my ear and threatened to disinherit me if I continued speaking in such nasty terms. She and my dad had both been teachers out of college, and even doing it full-time with two salaries and tutoring on the side they couldn't make a living at it. Granted, that was in Mississippi in the 60's, well before the days when teachers formed unions and said "hey, we think we should be paid reasonable wages." But back then both of them together made just over $4K, she explained once. That's per year, not per month. It was natural, then, that she pushed me toward engineering, electrical specifically. EE was, after all, the sexy field to go into in the 80's, and it's impossible to spell "geek" without a double-e.

Anyway, fate played a strange hand. We couldn't afford to send me to college where I had to pay for it, so I decided to go to a service academy and then go into the Air Force to work with missiles like my uncle had. Only, I wore glasses, and the USAFA only allows something like 10% of its incoming class to be non-pilot-qualified. West Point wanted me, though, so I went. When it came time to choose majors, I picked EE faithfully to my mother's wishes, but I tested out of several classes and, by loading up the electives with physics courses, was able to major in physics also. Enjoyed physics. Hated EE. Should've learned from that, but I didn't. When it came time to pick branches, I bought into the reasoning that combat arms was the place to go if you wanted a career, and so off to the Infantry I trudged despite receiving some really strong advisement that my personality wasn't really best-suited for the Infantry life. There I was, having developed a love of physics with my two actual favorite courses of the whole time being writing classes, and off I went to join a career field which focused most of its energy on control of terrain and efficiently killing or wounding people.

Life just kind of continued like that for a while. A few years after I left the Army I got into a program that paid my full tuition for any science or engineering masters program offered at Arizona State University, and thus I sailed right into a master's degree program in electrical engineering. Apparently it didn't take me long to forget that I'd hated every EE course I'd taken at West Point. I hated every course I took in graduate school, too--especially the one where the guy talked into his podium as he performed Fourier transforms on the overhead for an hour a day, three days a week. Oh, and I also hated the one where the 20-something-year-old professor told us that every day in our jobs as electrical engineers we'd be asked to do the Z transform, which was funny because by that point I'd been an electrical engineer for a couple of years and had completely forgotten what a Z transform was in that time. It was so funny that I laughed out loud (this was before the days when we could just LOL), and that really, absolutely, was not the appropriate response. Still, that failure got me into doing computer stuff on the side, which then turned into a contracting opportunity. That also gave me a background to let me be a--you guessed it--teacher. And that I did for a wonderful decade of my life.

You are without a doubt a talented author, and though your name is close to a predominate horror writer you lean more toward the fantasy and science fiction genres. What or who are your chief inspirations for this choice?

Thank you for the kind words. All the time when I was learning that I wasn't really cut out for my career choice in the Army, and that being happily married apparently wasn't my thang either, I used fantasy and sci fi to escape from reality for a while. It was then that I went through nearly every Dragonlance book there was, and came to love the writing of Isaac Asimov and Piers Anthony and David Eddings and RA Salvatore and other giants of the genre. I just want to be able to do for others what they were able to do for me.

Having two Chihuahua's I do know what it can be like when food time comes. When they turn into miniature dragons is this transformation complete with scales and horns or just the ravenous sounds of teeth gnashing and fire breathing? ;)

Well, luckily for us mere humans they don't have scales, and the only fire breath is a result of the older one's gingivitis. But they sure are persistent, aren't they? And smart, too. My strong advice: don't get between the younger one and her food bowl. Or a piece of ham. Or a bowl of potato salad. She knows what she wants, and she's not afraid to tell us. I just wish sometimes that I had dragon scales on the tips of my fingers.

Now you have traveled around quite a bit. If you had to choose a place besides Virginia where you live now that would have been your favorite where would that be and why?

I'm actually in my favorite spot. As I said numerous times when interviewing around to move, every place has its "buts." Alaska is amazingly beautiful, BUT it's cold and, this winter at least, quite deep in snow. Mississippi had some great people and really tasty food, BUT the summers were awfully hot and wet. Oh, and earthquakes and tornadoes are up there on the "but" list. Richmond is mostly sheltered from most of that. I also love, love, love history, which was one of the biggest "buts" about Alaska--in Anchorage, a building is extremely old if it was constructed prior to 1964. Here, a couple of hours drive will take us to some of the most intriguing historical sites in the United States.

All that said, I do plan some day to retire to a beach house to write. I'm not entirely stupid.

Tell us more about "Cataclysm: Return of the Gods" and what is next in the series.

Imagine if you were to wake up one day, go through a cataclysm event in which you lose pretty much everything that's important to you other than your family, and then find out that your husband is actually the God of War. Oh, yeah, and his servant is a stunningly beautiful woman who's been with him for thousands--or is it millions?--of years. Oh, yeah, and his ex-wife is the Goddess of Love, and she wants him back. Many people would have a tough time dealing with all that. Crystal finds it difficult too, but she's a tough lady who isn't about to give up what's hers.

That's Cataclysm in a nutshell, and it ends with most of the conflicts resolved, but Crystal (the wife of Mars) still doesn't have what she wants by the last page. She knows that she's going to live out her normal human life span with her husband, who she now knows will never grow old. She'll die, and she has the word of Venus that once Crystal is gone, Venus will be back anyway. So Crystal's next quest is pretty obvious--she's got to find a way to become a goddess, herself. It's possible, but it requires some really intense growth on her part. The next book, Ascension: Return of the Gods, tells the story of Crystal's quest to become immortal. I hope to have it out by the end of Spring this year.

What was the inspiration behind this novel series?

Oh, it started as one of those standard fantasies wrapped around the "what if I could just go in to work today and tell them to bite me because I'm actually a ____." Once long ago I had a couple of jobs that brought those kind of fantasies in spades, trust me. But then I turned it around and started looking at it from the wife's point of view, and the story was born.

If you did ever think about writing in another genre what would it be and why?

Well, to answer sci fi would be cheating, because they're such similar genres. I did, however, write a prequel that's sci fi. I'm also entertaining a historical time travel romance kinda story based on a really interesting historical site that's local to this area. Think Conrad Stargard meets the Powhatan American Indian--that sort of thing.

Off the mark question. Tell us about one of the most embarrassing things you've ever done.

Embarrassing? Me? Whatchoo talkin' about, Willis?

Okay, truly, my trouble here is picking just one. I mean, high school was one embarrassing moment after another. I remember talking to a pretty girl in my swim class about my time on the water polo team. Well, honestly, I was hitting on her. And I was bragging. Not many girls thought that water polo was sexy, but she seemed to, and I was letting all my sexiness flow in my stories. Then I told her about the physical--we all had to get one to play sports for the school, and since many of us were poor one of the guys on the team had his dad open his office in the evening and run us all through for a seriously discounted rate. I hadn't looked closely enough at the decorations, though..."so I was at Brian's dad's getting examined...." "Brian's dad's? Brian's dad is a gynecologist." Oops.

College, of course, had a whole new set of potentially embarrassing circumstances. I figured Russian would be more fun to take than the Spanish I'd studied for three years in high school. It wasn't. Did you know that in Russian, they conjugate their nouns, too? Technically, it's called declension when you do it with a noun, but same diff, right? At West Point every classroom, by the way, was surrounded in black boards that were sectioned off, just large enough for one student's work, so that when the professors wanted to publicly humiliate us they could say "Take boards!" and we'd have to go to our little spot of shame on the wall and pretend like we knew what we were doing--while hoping that somebody else in the class was worse at the pretense than we were. One day the assignment was to conjugate the noun for girl. Only, I couldn't recall the Russian word for girl, so instead of leaving the board blank, I started conjugating "muchacha," which is the Spanish noun for girl. Muchachi, Muchacho, Muchacheh.... Hell, I thought it was kinda clever. The professor wasn't as amused as I had hoped he'd be, though.

Do you have any advice you'd care to share with other authors? Please leave us your links so we can get to know more about you and your works!

Develop a thick skin. You can't write for others without taking some criticism. Some of it will be founded, and some won't; some will be meant to help you, and some won't. It's all part of the writer's life, though. Oh, and don't quit your day job.

Thankyou again Stephen for taking the time to allow us this interview. We look forward to hearing more from you soon!

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