Over on his blog, Sputnick's Orbit, fellow Writers of the Future contest winner C. Stuart Hardwick has been running an interview series with the other writers who'll be published in vol. 30 of the yearly anthology series.  (Visit his site to see the other interviews) I was interviewed a few weeks ago and, in the middle of answering Stuart's questions, it occurred to me that Stuart was putting all this effort into giving the rest of us some publicity, so it only seemed right that someone do the same for him.

I volunteered, and now we're here.

I left Stuart some of the same question pool that he'd been passing around to the rest of us, but I also threw in some other, random questions to see if I could stump him.  (Just kidding -- it's an interview, not a game show).

With no further ado, let's jump right in and get started.


Me: Welcome, Stuart, and thanks again for helping introduce the rest of us to each other and to the readers of your blog.  Let's start with one of the more fundamental questions: What got you into writing in the first place?

Stuart:  Too much unsupervised time in the basement. When I was a kid, my sister and I were always sending stuffed animals down the amazon or injecting the art table into lunar orbit. I appropriated the family Smith Corona and banged out stories with hunt & peck typing. One even made it into the school magazine. But I guess it was one of those pipe dreams you leave behind as you grow up. I did technical writing at Softdisk and later for TechTarget, and I enjoyed it and worked on a few projects on and off. Then one day at lunch, I started writing a scene--really trying to write it the way I had it in my head. That start grew to 30,000 words and then into a novel. Then I threw it all out and started over. I was hooked.

Me:  I know what you mean.  Some people get an endorphin rush from running, but for me it's the thrill of completing a story. After you finished that first novel, what did you do to continue your forward progress?

Stuart:  After that first stab, I went back to school--literally. I enrolled at UC Berkeley and learned how to write lean and focus on telling details. I joined a critique group and started writing shorts and essays. Slowly, I honed my craft. Now I'm learning how to architect larger works. That's really hard, but it's the next logical step on my path.

Me: Very nice. There really is a learnable craft behind all of this storytelling, but it does take the work and effort to figure out what will work best for you.  What keeps you going? Which writers or books have inspired you the most?

Stuart: I grew up with only two TV channels and a house full of books, but the first story I remember reading was at my aunt's. She was a den mother, and clearing out three generation's worth of Boy's Life magazine. I found Heinlein's “A Tenderfoot in Space” about a boy and his dog starting the first scout troupe on Venus. This wasn't the vapid scifi of the old black & white movies, it was about love and loss and sacrifice. I loved that, and I strive for that in my own writing.

Me:  Ooo! I loved Heinlein's SF adventure stories, but I never read A Tenderfoot in Space.  Now I have to add that to my To Be Read pile (as if it wasn't already big enough).  Who do you read for fun? 

Stuart: I'm pretty eclectic. I loved Anna Karenina, Robinson Caruso, and The Hunger Games. I just read Andrew Weir's “The Martian,” and it's a hoot.

Me: You are a better man than I.  I couldn't get through the variations on everyone's Russian names in Anna Karenina  so you've already earned my respect.

One thing I've noticed from reading your interview series is that your personality really shines through in your questions and responses to the rest of us writers, but I'm always curious as to how well my impressions match up with reality.  Which fictional character would you say has a personality most like yours?

Stuart:  I don't know, maybe Woody from Toy Story. I don't worry as much as he does though.

Me:  Pantser or plotter?

Stuart:  I am, at my heart, a plotter. I just haven't quite figured out how to do it right. Some try to plan the work, some to wing it. I like to plan and then wing it.

Me: Whatever you're doing, it must be working pretty well for you.  Besides, I'm not convinced there really is a "right" or "wrong" to this whole writing thing--at least as far as the writer's approach to actually getting words on paper.

I've always been amazed by the number of writers and editors who seem to have cats; sometimes it almost seems disproportionate.  How about you? Are you a cat person or a dog person?

Stuart:  I used to like cats because they're crazy soft and cuddly and you never have to walk them. Then I got a miniature Australian Shepherd, and she's crazy soft and cuddly, and you have to walk her and play with her and teach her calculus or she starts stealing parts from the refrigerator to build a particle accelerator behind the couch or stuff like that. And by “stuff like that,” I mean she can do tricks and knows the names of all her toys.

Me:  Smart dog.  For your interviews with the rest of us, you always asked if we preferred Star Trek or Star Wars.  Let's riff on that for a sec:  Han Solo and Lieutenant Worf get into a fight. Who wins?

Stuart: Worf could easily rip Han's arms off. That's why Han would distract him with some sarcastic banter and blast him through the table. Han's real practical that way, and that's part of why we love him, just sayin.

Me:  In other words, Han shoots first?  Wait... what am I saying? Of course Han shoots first. <grin>  And speaking of movies, with the WotF workshop taking place in Tinsel Town, are there any Hollywood-types you'd like to accidentally bump into?

Stuart:  I'd probably rather go to the La Brea Tar Pits. Does Neil Degrasse Tyson count? Or Stephen Fry? Probably not. I'd love to meet the writers for “The Big Bang Theory.”  I know Jim Parson's cousin in real life, so I probably have a better shot of meeting him here.

Me:  Okay, let's pick on the Big Bang writers for a minute.  If you did bump into them, and they could give you a single hour of their time, what would you do or talk about with them?

Stuart: I'd make them crazy asking about how they write humor so well and how they crank out content fast enough to produce a hit TV show. That seems like elfin magic to me.

Me: Yeah, humor is one of those things that's really hard to pull of in writing.  I wouldn't mind hearing their answer, either.  How about if you ran into Jim Parsons himself?

Stuart:  I'd ask him if he knows that the Galileo VII is on display at Space Center Houston, and I'd totally spring for the tickets if he wants to go.

Me:  There you go.  Now we just have to get him to read this so that he knows there's a standing offer.  Tell me a little about your writing habits.  Where does the magic happen? 

Stuart: My writer's cave is out back behind the force field and the radioisotope thermoelectric generator. Well, it's not a cave so much as a swing, and the force field is actually a Mosquito Magnet on at the end of an extension cord. I actually write mostly at a treadmill desk in my home office. It's really cool and there are photos of it on my blog. I keep a trilobite nearby for inspiration and an antique Geiger counter on the shelf because, well, it's a Geiger counter! It's all yellow and retro and stuff.

Me:  Sounds like a wonderful environment for speculative fiction. How about inspiration? Are there any quotes or mantras that you use to keep pushing yourself?

Stuart: I was privileged to attend Christopher Hitchens's last public appearance, during which he related an oft-repeated remark that continually inspires me to stretch myself: 

     “Everyone has a book inside them, which is exactly where I think it should, in most cases, remain.”

Me:  Heh. I like it.  While we're back on the subject of writing, would you mind sharing a brief sample of your writing with us?

Stuart:  Certainly. This is the provisional opening from my current novel, a sort of Hunger Games meets City of Ember. I like it because it does everything an opening should: sets tone and mood, suggests the world, introduces the main character, and makes a promise the story must keep:

"The first morning of my sixteenth year, and it stinks of licorice and camphor. The living room rug is cold beside me. Loura's bedroll sits unused in its cubby. Light streams in from the kitchen nook, and the old saucepan--the one Momma uses for poultices--is belching fumes from the stove. Loura's taken a turn, and she can't go to the medics. She's already classified surplus."

Me: I like it; thanks for sharing that with us.  Is there any advice about writing you wish you'd been given 10 years ago?

Stuart:  Oh man. That's hard. My mistakes helped make me who I am and I wouldn't dare change them. But if I could go back...if I could share just one thing, it would be that it's not a pipe dream--this writing thing--but it's a long, long road, and I should get cracking!

Me: Well said. And with that, we should both probably get back to it.  Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to chat with you. I'll give you the final word, Stuart.  Any last thoughts before we close up for the night?

Stuart: That's a question I ask all my victims---er interviewees, and no one ever answers it. I think most people are probably thinking “whew, that's over!” So my final thought is this: It ain't over. I'm just getting started!


You can follow-up on Stuart's successes by visiting his website at http://www.cstuarthardwick.com



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05/08/2017 12:45am

I see that the interview went very well. I must congratulate you for doing such an amazing job of interviewing an author like C. Stuart Hardwick. You really did an awesome way of talking about things that I really want to know about him. I admire how you didn't ask about some of the most common questions that an author is probably tired of answering. Thank you so much for making this interview happen and I hope you could do more interviews of some of my favorite authors soon. I would love to provide questions that you could probably ask them in an interview. Perhaps, let us know who's author would you interview for your next blog.

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