This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:
First, a little something about Stephanie.
Stephanie is a retired rocket scientist turned writer who likes to mingle science fiction and mystery with a strong element of action thriller and a touch of romance. Her style has been described as, “Hard-edged SF that wraps a compelling mystery around ‘this is the real thing’ space science…tight, tense, and gripping. Osborn tells a damn good story, and tells it well.”
At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?
Wow. I started writing when I was a kid. I think I wrote my first poems in 3rd grade. I know I wrote a play when I was in 4th grade. It was horribly derivative of the television I was watching, but evidently my English teacher saw something in it, because she let me cast and produce it for the class. By grades 5-6, I was writing short stories, and when I was in high school I wrote a Sherlock Holmes short story and submitted it to the school literary magazine. They were blind-judged, and the English lit teacher threw it out for a plagiarism. She thought someone had copied down one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories and submitted it.
Where do your ideas come from?
If I knew that, I’d really have something going. I could even sell it! Closest I’ve ever been able to come is the half-formulated idea from the Displaced Detective books that writers record events from alternate universes. It’s as good an idea as any, I suppose.
Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities?
When I first started writing professionally, I used to mentally “cast” the characters. The leads would be actors/actresses, and the secondary characters might be based on people I knew. But now they are pretty much sprung whole-cloth from my imagination. I have to be reminded to Tuckerize people who have asked for it.
Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?
Oh heavens, a little of both, actually. Since I write some fairly hardcore mysteries, you pretty much got to do a LITTLE plotting, just to make sure you get your clues in the right places, and they point in the right direction. But my general inclination is to pants it.
Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen to?
I used to. There were a couple of cable stations on TV that would play the local National Public Radio stations, and I’d listen to that, because it was largely classical or jazz. Then they took those off, and I find playing stuff on my laptop slows it down too much. If I do, it has to be something that is purely instrumental, otherwise I get distracted, singing along.
Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person? Which character of another author would you want to meet?
I think I’d really love to meet Sherlock Holmes. We might not get along very well, but it would be interesting!
Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?
Now, now. That’s like asking a parent which child is their favorite.
How much do you write each day/week?
It varies. Depends on how much inspiration I have, and how much energy. My physical condition is a huge factor. If I’m sick or worn out, I haven’t the energy to create. When I’m in peak condition, with some real inspiration on, 5000 words a day is not unreasonable. The last couple-three years have been rough for me medically, though, so I’ve slowed down a bit.
What is your latest project/release?
That would be Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, book 1 of the Gentleman Aegis series. It’s a prequel series to my Displaced Detective series, about the adventures of “my” alternate-universe version of Sherlock Holmes, only it’s set long before he transitions to the modern day in our universe.
So think Holmes and Watson as very young men, still trying to find their way in the world. Their famous reputations are still in the future, cases are few and far between, so when one of Holmes’ old university professors invites them along on his Egyptian expedition to find the tomb of the first Pharaoh – a paying gig – they eagerly accept. But what they find is something quite different.
Do you have any signings or appearances coming up?
I have the Killer Nashville mystery convention on Halloween weekend, and I’ll be at CONjuration in Atlanta in mid-November. After that, I tend to back off on conventions and such, and enjoy the holidays with family and friends. I’ll pick back up again in January. And I’ll certainly be doing interviews whenever anyone wants one.
Who were your inspirations? Favorite authors?
I’m going to lump these two questions together, because it’s kind of the same for me. Doyle, Tolkien, Bradbury, Asimov, Pournelle, Niven, Shakespeare, H.G. Wells, Dickens, Thoreau, Twain…I think you see the pattern there. I’ve also read Thomas Mallory, Dante, Aristotle, Plato, Stoker, Mary Shelley, Whitman, Sandburg, Sophocles, Euripedes, Aristophanes, Chaucer, and many more. Somewhat eclectic, and all classic. And yes, I’m an omnivorous reader.
What book do you read over and over the most?
Oh geez. I’m thinking it’s a toss-up between Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and Wells’ War of the Worlds, though I read Doyle and Tolkien an awful lot too, especially Doyle. But I nearly always read War of the Worlds at Halloween, and A Christmas Carol at Christmas.
How much of you is in your characters?
Very little, actually. It’s kind of funny; I have been accused of writing Dr. Skye Chadwick-Holmes, the wife of Sherlock Holmes in the Displaced Detective series, as my own personal Mary Sue – because she’s a world-class hyperspatial physicist, and I’m an astrophysicist, so it apparently seems obvious to some people that she MUST be me. But she’s not me, and hyperspatial physics is most assuredly NOT astrophysics. I can do astrophysics, but had to work hard and do a lot of research to ensure I got the description of the hyperspatial elements in the stories correct. I would really hate to have to sit down and work out the kinds of tensor analysis that I have Chadwick doing in the books.
In fact, any time I take one of those “What Literary Character Are You?” quizzes, I always come up as Sherlock Holmes. I was talking to a publisher friend about that dichotomy, and his response shocked me. He said, “Well, of course! You ARE Holmes! Your HUSBAND is Skye Chadwick!” And I had to admit, after thinking about it for a bit, that he was in many respects correct. And certainly Holmes is actually very easy for me to write. But I didn’t model either character upon myself OR my husband.
What genre do you prefer to write? To read?
I’m pretty much an omnivorous reader. About the only thing I don’t read is horror, because I have a vivid imagination, anxiety disorder, and dream in color.
But I tend to write genre-crossing stories. I’m particularly fond of mixing science fiction and mystery, often throwing in strong romance and thriller elements. I just like that sort of story.
Do you prefer writing short stories or novels? And why?
Novels, actually. I can and have done both, but it’s actually hard for me to write short stories. I do nearly the same amount of research for both, anyway. And somehow the story concepts seem to always blow up into novel-length!
Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you? If so, how do you deal with it?
Oh yeah. I get stuck every so often. I’ve even been known to write myself into corners. (Easier to do than you might think, when you write mysteries.) Brainstorming is my best solution. My husband is my best co-brainstormer, because he “gets” me and he’s probably more creative than I am. But if he’s not available, I have several friends that I check with, and will brainstorm with them. I’m planning a short story collection that ties into both the Displaced Detective and Gentleman Aegis series, and it’ll be titled Project Tesseract: The Holmes Files. The concept is to chronicle alternate versions of Holmes – where he did NOT become a detective as such. And I had lots of help brainstorming all those short stories! I have the basic plots all sketched out for myself now; I just need the energy and time to write them.
What are you working on now?
I generally have several projects going at any one time. Right now those projects are:
- Heritage, book 4 of the Cresperian Saga, with Dan Hollifield,
- Fear in the French Quarter, book 6 of the Displaced Detective series,
- Project Tesseract: The Holmes Files.
And I’m brainstorming several more, including:
- Escape Velocity, the sequel to Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281 (I do have some written on this)
- Sherlock Holmes in the Wild Hunt, book 2 of the Gentleman Aegis series
- A Little Matter of Earthquakes, book 7 of the Displaced Detective series (I’ve got some written on this too) and a few other things besides. I also have the first book of a new series that is being shopped around. The series is The Adventures of Aemelia Gearheart, and the book is The Bellerophon Club. It’s a steampunk series.
What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?
- It’s harder than you think. Writing and creating takes a lot of energy. If you’ve never done it, you’d be surprised. My writing mentor, Travis S. Taylor, described it to me as like running a mental marathon. And when your mind is envisioning all these action scenes, your body reacts, tensing, releasing adrenaline, preparing for fight or flight – whether you realize it or not.
- It’s slower than you’d like. You’re not going to knock out the Great American Novel in a couple weeks. And once you start submitting it – to publishers, to agents – you have to give it more than two weeks for whoever you’ve submitted it to, to respond. I know some would-be authors who seriously expected a response inside a month, and got pissed when it didn’t happen, pulling the submission and going elsewhere, only to repeat the process. And yes, you guessed it – they’re still trying to get published. Look – if you’ve made an unsolicited submission, your manuscript goes on the “slush pile,” and an editor or professional reader will get to it…just as soon as s/he has worked down through all the stuff that was submitted before yours. Even if you have a solicited manuscript, you have to remember that editors have lives, and they have other projects, some of which might be due in the next few weeks, which puts those at the top of the priority list. (Don’t you want ‘em to devote so much attention to ensuring your baby is ready to hit the bookstore shelves? Then don’t denigrate ‘em doing so for other writers too.)
- Don’t stop reading just because you’ve started to write. Now is the second most important time to read – the first being when you were younger, and absorbing everything you read. Now is the time to ensure you’ve read what I call “the good stuff” – the classics of literature. Why? There are multiple reasons why they’re classics, and you want to absorb all of that – because then, when you sit down to write, it’s going to distil out into your writing, and make it that much better. Now is the time to read what’s really popular, and try to analyze what makes it so popular – then try to apply that to your own writing. Now is the time to read your preferred genres, and figure out what makes them different – then sit down and try to put a new spin on it.
These are the things that can make a good writer great.
What is your funniest/ awkward moment at a convention/signing event?
Oh, well you see, since I write science fiction, and have used UFOs, Area 51, Roswell, Rendlesham, and aliens, and because I’m a friendly, open sort, I tend to get a lot of the, ah, well…I’ve been told all about people’s alien abductions, including details such as the probing and stuff. Very much TMI, and I could really do without all those details…
Thanks Stephanie! To find her books, click here: