Noms de Plume: Robert Baron (post-nuke action), Richard Austin (post-nuke action), Keith Jarrod (Western), J.O. Hardin (Western), Jake Logan (Western), Mark Ellis (post-nuke action), S.L. Hunter (techno-thriller)
Key Book Titles: The Cybernetic Samurai and like 90 others.
Years in New Mexico: More than 40
How long does it take you to write a book?
It depends on the book. On one of the action-adventure series books I do, it can take as little as a couple months. I try to do as good a job as I possibly can with any writing that I can find. At the same time [laughs] they're not terribly demanding. I'm working on a project now that I've been working at for about five years and I'm looking to finish in a couple of months. It's a big fantasy novel on my own.
Are you able to write full-time, or do you have to also supplement your income with another job?
For my entire adult life, it's pretty much the only job I've ever had. Back in 2000 I had to get employed out for a while, for about 10 months. It's surprisingly difficult to get employed when you haven't been formally employed for about 25 years. Don't try that. But then I was able to start writing again. Various catastrophes in my personal life had knocked me off the writing course for a while, but I seem to be back.
Why do you write from New Mexico?
I probably need to get out more and travel more, but that's a different issue. I like it here. New Mexico's the science fiction capital of the known universe. There are more science fiction writers here per capita than any place in the world. It's a different sort of place. New Mexico just has an odd combination of apparently contradictory things. You hear this tourist brochure stuff about the old and the new, the blending of cultures, but that's also perfectly true. There's a lot of transition zones here, a lot of borders, between cultures, between outlooks, between groups. That always leads to a lot of ferment. I live in the North Valley. I love it, and one of the reasons I love it is that a few minutes walk from a ditch will take me to a very rural setting, and then we have some really kind of weird disreputable, semi-rundown light industrial areas. I find the contrast refreshing. I'm probably the only one.
Why are there so many sci-fi writers here?
Now there's simply an attractor effect. There's a large community here, and we tend to be fairly incestuous. I don't know all of the other sci-fi writers here, but we tend to hang around one another. We've also got the Los Alamos and Sandia Laboratories. There's the high-tech, leading edge aspect to the state and yet we have fairly palpable evidence of ancient cultures. The ditches I walk on in the North Valley, some of them pre-date the coming of the Spanish five centuries ago.
What do you read?
I have read—obsessively would be the best word for it—since I was a kid. Like a lot of writers, I found myself escaping into my own world a lot when I was very young and books were one of my preferred escapes. I've read a wide variety of authors. Everything I read leaves an imprint on me.
What do you think of the Harry Potter series?
J.K. Rowling is the world's first billionaire author. She's done more single-handedly to rescue reading than any other person in ages.
Did you read the last book?
I'm a couple behind, I've got to admit. What I need to do now is just start at the beginning and go right through to the end.
Tell me about the state of sci-fi publishing right now?
Science fiction and possibly mysteries enjoy a certain advantage over other areas of publishing because we're a recognized niche market. We at least have publishers and editors who have some idea of what the genre's about. They at least do what they can—which is limited in the corporate structure—to do right by the authors and the readers. But it is difficult. There's a lot of friction imposed by the hierarchical structure. Everything has to be a committee. Actually, anyone looking to break into science fiction today shouldn't be afraid to do things like write stories and put them up on their website for people to read. A lot of people have been afraid. You can probably read until the sun burns out of stuff for free on the Net, but I've never felt challenged by that. I think it's hard to find stuff that's worth reading still. It makes the people who have skills at expressing themselves stand out more. I'm not the sort to feel threatened by competition anyway, because I can't find enough stuff that's interesting for me to read. I figure other people have the same problem.