Today my guest is science fiction author Horton Deakins who released his first novel through 4RV Publishing.
AUTHOR: HORTON DEAKINS
BOOK TITLE: TIME PULLERS
PUBLISHER: 4RV, LLC
BUY LINK: You can find Time Pullers at your favorite online bookseller. There are links to four of the many online sources on my website: www.hortondeakins.com
Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?
With the exception of a few short stories I’ve written for contests, including one that was a murder mystery, it was clear to me from the beginning that I would write science fiction. Although my degree was ultimately in computer science, I paid for my first three years of college with a physics scholarship. Time Pullers is a hard sci-fi, so it gave me an outlet for my continuing interest in science. Most sci-fi today is more fantasy than science, and I was saddened when I learned that the two genres had been merged.
Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.
Time Pullers is my first book. Although it contains a lot of science, I included some characters who had little or nothing to do with the science. These characters are down-to-earth types with whom many non-sci-fi readers can identify. Time Pullers spins a tale of an alternate reality that is not all that different from our own but which never should have happened, a continuum gone wrong.
How long have you been writing?
I began writing on July 1, 2007. I submitted my manuscript to 4RV in December of 2009, and Time Pullers was released in May of 2011.
What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?
I found myself with very little time to read anything beyond software reference manuals and other nonfiction, but I still longed to read many of the classics that I had managed to sidestep in school. I have a rather long drive to work each day, so a few years before I began writing I “discovered” books on CD and tape. I went through quite a number of them in short order, including one of my favorites, Moby Dick, which I have completed twice now. I began to think, “I could write as well as that,” so I cranked out the beginning of what later became Time Pullers. I never planned to write an entire book, but I sent what I had to my sister for her opinion. She said she really liked what I had written and encouraged me to continue. Unbeknownst to me at that time, my sister had worked briefly as a literary agent about twenty years earlier. After she told me that, I came to the conclusion she wasn’t just blowing smoke with her compliments, and that gave me the confidence and determination to write the complete story, which, before formatting for print, spread well over four hundred standard manuscript pages.
Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?
I always laugh at this one. I’ve been a software engineer for thirty-three years, so how could I not outline? But I discovered it to be impossible to control the entire process in a merely mechanical manner — sometimes the story just writes itself, and I am often pleasantly surprised by the direction it takes.
What comes first: the plot or the characters?
The outline of the plot is, to me, like a forest at a distance. The characters are children of the forest, hiding behind the trees, but until I enter the forest I can’t see any of the characters clearly. When I come close enough to get a good look at them, I write down all their particulars in a character dictionary. The plot gives birth to the characters, but the characters give life to the story.
Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
I think FBI Agent Craig Brewer is my favorite character because he is a native Okie with a heritage of farming, as am I. He’s a pragmatic man with a great mind for details, but he’s also a bit of a country hick. My grandfather came to Oklahoma from the southern Appalachians, so my biggest challenge was not to make Craig too much of a hick. But I also pity Craig, since he is approaching fifty and he’s only ever been married to his job.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I committed myself to finishing my book, although it was very difficult for me to find time to work on it. Additionally, I struggled with the fear that no one would ever read my book, or no one would like my book, and all my efforts would be in vain. I had to learn so much about this strange occupation called “writing” that it was like going back to college for another degree.
Did your book require a lot of research? How long does it take to write a book for you?
Yes, I had to do quite a bit of research. I knew basically what I wanted to do, and I knew a fair amount of the science already, but I wanted to ensure I had the details of the science and the elements of history down pat. I knew any true science fiction fan would tear me to pieces in a review if I didn’t. Even my editor thought I was wrong on a number of the scientific facts, so I had to take additional time to prove to him I knew whereof I spoke. For instance, I had to prove that a sloop is not necessarily just a boat with one mast; it can be a three-masted ship, such as the sloop of war that appears in my book.
What are some of the challenges in your writing process?
Periodically getting some distance between oneself and one’s manuscript is imperative, but when there’s precious little time to write, that becomes a difficult thing to allow yourself to do. Also, since this was my first book, it was tough to continually find reasons to keep going, to convince myself that I could actually finish it. One can never actually finish a book, however — one can only quit it.
Describe your writing space.
It is said that home is where you hang your hat. My writing space is wherever my computer happens to be. It could be a full desk, a lap desk, or my little rollaway desk that looks like it belongs next to a hospital bed. I’ve also been known to drive out to the lake and sit in my truck to write. Unfortunately, my thesaurus never seems to be in the same room where I’m writing.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I find that I don’t have much spare time. I maintain my own website, I’m constantly having to retrain myself on software and computer technology, and currently I’m having to study to take a test for a very difficult computer security certification. A couple of months ago, however, I changed the theme of my blog to focus on photos and descriptions of places that I’ve visited around the world, and I’m finding it fun to re-experience those places. I’ve recently begun posting photos I took when I lived in Japan over two decades ago, photos that I am having to scan from negatives. It’s been a long time since I have seen either those sights, and I’m having a lot of fun discovering details in the photos that I never saw when I was there.
What books or authors have influenced your writing?
For the science fiction, I’d say primarily From the Earth to the Moon, by Jules Verne. I really respect his attention to detail. But for writing style, I learned a lot from the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. I would also have to include generalized books on writing, as well, such as Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print, by Renni Browne and Dave King.
What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?
Getting published by a major publisher has already become a virtual catch 22 — one can’t get a (major) publisher without an agent, and one can’t get a competent, reputable agent before being published. J.K. Rowling got a tremendous break, by today’s standards, when she sent to her agent, Christopher Little, her full manuscript, unsolicited. Try that today, and the thud you will hear is the sound of your precious package colliding with the cylindrical file. Electronic self publishing and today’s economy has forced publishers and agents to tighten their belts and raise the bar exceedingly high. E-books are here to stay (until the text can be fed directly into one’s brain), and the smart publishers are making hay from that fact. It’s easy for anyone to self publish with an e-book, but consumers are also smart, and they will quickly figure out whose writing is not up to par. Between the big wigs and self publishing are the small and mid-sized publishers, who offer a bit less resistance. This is the route I chose by submitting to a small publisher, but you can expect advances from small publishers to be little, if anything, and you probably won’t have an agent to go to bat for you when negotiating a contract.
What are your current books out right now and what are the books coming up for release?
Time Pullers is my first and only book, released May 10, 2011. At this time I have no plans for another, and there would have to be a compelling reason for me to spend the time to write another book.
What is your marketing plan?
I have a blog that has a permanent ad for my book, and it also directs you to my website. I also have a two-minute trailer on YouTube for which I did all the filming, editing, special effects, vocals, titles, lighting, props, and composed the music. After four months, it has a 3/10 rating on Google, and there are links to it on both my blog and my website. I try to get my book into people’s hands when I can, I’ve done a couple of signings, and I hand out business cards when the opportunity presents itself. I had a half-page interview in a local entertainment paper, and an old friend has promised me an interview on his local cable channel. My wife has her own public relations company, so she gives me free advice from time to time, but, unfortunately, her past experience hasn’t included working with authors. I continue to do marketing research, since all this is new to me.
What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
I’d say just keep pecking out that story, nonstop, letting the creative juices flow, until you finish your first draft, and then set it aside. While you are getting some distance, start researching everything you can about sharpening your writing skills, editing, publishing, and agents. When you finally come back to your draft (if your newfound knowledge of the publishing industry hasn’t scared you off), keep a copy of it for future reference. Whether you are later able to sit around, having a glass of wine with your agent, laughing at that first draft or not, make a habit of numbering and recording your configuration item release versions, uh, sorry, I mean, drafts (I’m also a software configuration manager) on a spreadsheet. During the editing process, you will be cutting out elements that just may be perfect for that future tome. If you want to go the traditional way and get an agent, do your homework on all agents you try to query, and make darn sure you don’t drop the letter in the mailbox and then turn around and look at your copy and realize you misspelled the agent’s name three times in your excitement ... I’m just saying. And in case you were wondering, no, I don’t have an agent.
Where can people learn more about you and your work?
Just go to my website, www.hortondeakins.com , or my blog, www.hortondeakins.com/survivors . I have some of my short stories posted on there, and you can read the first chapter (about 20 pages) of Time Pullers for free.
Time Pullers, by Horton Deakins
Time Pullers turns your reality upside down as you discover the history you are so familiar with should never have happened. A mysterious, hairless visitor is thwarted by guards in an attempt to use a double semi-trailer truck to run a gate at a US Air Force base. The man insists upon seeing the base commander, and he spins an incredible tale of how his own continuum, his future reality, has been destroyed by sabotage to a point in the continuum of your own past.
The mysterious stranger, known only as “Mr. G,” pleads with his captors to help restore the damage done to the continuum by their common enemy. He alone has survived, of his entire civilization, to escape to your own present time to solicit help, bringing with him the means to make one, and one only attempt to bring his civilization back. If you help him, you will lose everything and everyone in your life, but if you do not, you face inevitable devastation in your own reality.
Time Pullers takes you on a ride through history that will not only make you wonder if we are really safe on our little blue orb, but it will also forever change your perspective about what we call “unidentified flying objects.”