How has sci/fi writing influenced your mystery fiction writing OR: do you find the structure of both similar?
I don’t think there’s been an influence one way or the other, except for the art of simple storytelling. All writing is similar. Story structure, character development, it is always the same for any genre – the rules are all there. The tricks, the techniques, all those ways to make it stand out, make it difficult, to try to be the next big thing – all those stunts will work regardless of the genre. Of course, that’s just my opinion.
And if the stunt is to cross or mix genre, as has been the trend for a couple decades now, that’s really just shuffling the cards, right? Another trick, but you still have to follow the rules, complete the structure, and color inside the lines.
You have to learn the rules, before you start breaking them. You taught me that, Fran. You may be able to fly if you get a running start – but you have to learn to walk before you can run. Learn the basics first.
After so many years of sci/fi writing do you find mystery fiction writing satisfying?
Satisfying? Again, I don’t think there’s any real difference between the genres from my point of view as a writer. The difference may well be only with the reader, in what he or she prefers. I think it’s all about telling a good story. As far as satisfying, there’s nothing better than completing a work in progress, regardless of genre, now that is satisfying.
What is your process and how was the transformation of genres?
My process depends on the inspiration. Sometimes I will get an idea in my head and work from there. For instance, my short story, “Live to Write, Write to Live” in the Strange World anthology was inspired by my habit of writing on my iPhone, which being so small and portable allowed me to write anywhere, including the bathroom. The main character begins the tale doing just that and rolls from there. When I started with that one, it should be noted, I had no idea where it was going, but there you go.
So I’m a bit of a pantser as far as process goes. For those not in the know, pantsing is a writing term for those of us who write by the seat of our pants, as opposed to planning and outlining. That said, when I do know where the story is going, I will stop and plan out the rest of the tale as I work toward the light at the end of the tunnel, so I’m a pantser and a planner, just from two different ends.
That’s my schizophrenic process. As far as transformation of genre, as I said, it’s about storytelling, and the story and the characters go where they go. I just follow, observe, and report.
Do you envision writing more general fiction from now on?
I envision writing whatever comes into my head. There are no plans, only the notions that put my butt in the seat, fingers on the keys, and words on the page. I can’t predict such things. However, mainstream fiction is where most of the money is, so I would hope that’s what my mind gives me to work with.
Isn’t it Stephen King that said once that what you write can not be controlled? I think so. I recall him saying somewhere if he tried writing about children on a playground, there would always be a kid killer hiding in the nearby woods. But then again, he has broken his own given rules. Look at “The Body” from which Stand by Me is taken, and the award-winning Shawshank Redemption, not to mention those great non-fiction books he wrote about the Red Sox. No monsters there, at least not obvious ones.
Which genre intrigues you more?
Between science fiction and mystery? Depends on what the story I’m working is, or the day. I think more in line with ideas, stories, or concepts that staying inside the lines of any one genre.
As far as what intrigues me, I’d like to write pulp. That said, it’s pretty much a dead art and a dead genre. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a strong new pulp movement, and some amazingly talented authors in that field, fine folks like Derrick Ferguson, Barry Reese, and Will Murray, but the mainstream literary machine hasn’t so much as even noticed its existence in decades. Let’s face it, the days of Doc Savage and The Shadow are long gone, no matter how much fun they’d be to both read and write. As far as I’m concerned, the powers that be at the book publishers need to wake up to that fun.
I would also like to write comic books, but seeing how the writing format for those are the same as screenplays, and when I’ve tried my hand at scripts, I am a complete disaster… that ain’t gonna happen. I suppose there’s always the sub-sub-genre of superhero fiction, but it’s a very small target.
Although, you can’t tell me that our current popular protagonists aren’t a perfect evolution from superheroes just as superheroes are an obvious evolution from mythology. Don Draper from “Mad Men,” Olivia Pope from “Scandal,” and Alicia Florrick from “The Good Wife” are the same archetypes as the superheroes of decades past, and the myths of legend. Don Draper isn’t doing anything new that Iron Man or Perseus hasn’t already dealt with.
Where do you draw inspiration for your work?
Well, as you can tell from the genesis of “Live to Write, Write to Live” above, I can pretty much take inspiration from almost anything, no matter how bizarre or mundane. It depends though. Sometimes a thought, an image, a turn of phrase will get stuck in my head, and will nag and nag until I do something with it. The desire to write sometimes becomes a compulsion, but then again, as a great man once said, “A writer writes."
What influence has pop culture had on your writing?
Over and above that most of my writing is about pop culture, it offers a barometer for what is popular at any given moment. One can look at it as a window into what audiences are into now, or a crystal ball predicting what will be hot in the near future. I have always been one of those people who look for the new, the next big thing, so writing about pop culture is comfort food to me. It’s only naturally that it instructs my fiction.
Where do you see your writing going in the near future?
Where do I see my writing going in the future? Hopefully to the published page, whether it be online, in e-format, or on the printed page. After all, that’s what we’re all after. As far as what I’ll write about, I couldn’t say. In the fiction arena, whatever grabs me, I suppose. I will certainly continue writing about pop culture, as that’s my bread and butter, but beyond that, who knows.
Glenn Walker is the Associate Editor of Biff Bam Pop!, Membership Director of the South Jersey Writers Group, he blogs about pop culture, writing, comics, videogames, and French fries, and is also a podcaster and a vidcaster, besides attempting a multi-genre pursuit in fiction. You can check out his work at GlennEWalker.com