Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Author Interview with Stephen Fender

Believe it or not, this is still my blog; I just happen to have a lot to say about Stephen Fender lately. Contrary to rumor, he has not instigated a hostile (or friendly) takeover. He has his own blog, and it's nicer than mine, so if anyone is going to seize anything, I'm going over there and taking his, as soon as I figure out how to change the photo of him to a photo of me. But that's not why I've brought you here today.

Today, I'm happy to tell you a little more about Stephen Fender. Stephen is the author of The Kestrel Saga, a space military science fiction series, and has published three books in the series so far: The Army of Light, Icarus, and now Second Earth, which was released on December 1st. All are available through Amazon, in print form as well as electronic.

ER: Give us a brief rundown of the series.
SF: To be brief, the series follows Shawn Kestrel as he searches for his former commanding officer, Admiral William Graves. Along for the ride is William's beautiful but enigmatic daughter, Melissa. In the process of finding the whereabouts of William, Shawn and Melissa stumble upon a well-guarded secret the government has been trying desperately to keep under wraps.

ER: Tell us a little bit about when you caught the writing bug.
SF: I think it started when I joined the journalism staff for my high school newspaper. When I was offered the opinion page, I don't think I ever looked back.

ER: As a child, did you have a favorite book or genre, and did that influence your writing today?
SF: I've been a big fan of science fiction since I was a small boy. Growing up with amazing shows like Star Trek, Doctor Who, and The Twilight Zone, I was always enamored with other worlds and alien points of view.

ER: What cemented your decision to publish? Was it a natural progression for you, a life-altering Big Deal, or did you flip a coin?
SF: Well, I think it was from the family and friends' reviews of my work. The old "Hey, you should put this out there. I think people will buy it."  I recall being nervous about putting it out there, but considering I'd already pseudo-published some fan fiction work a few years earlier, I was only a bit hesitant. I think once I started getting positive reviews, it cemented the fact that I would continue to publish this series.

ER: So, the pseudo-published fan fiction . . . have you ever entertained the idea of going back and rewriting that someday, or do you just consider it to have been good practice?
SF: As far as the fan fiction is concerned, I found myself going back to it a few weeks ago. It'd been over a year since I'd done anything with that, and it was fun to get back into it. It was a lot like re-watching your favorite TV show from when you were a child. It's still on my plate, as I had committed myself to writing a series of four novels. Book 3 is halfway done, so I may finish it at some point. As far as practice, I found that it was extremely helpful. I'd recommend it [fan fic] to anyone who wants to pursue writing as a career. It's a good way to break your personal ice, considering you probably know enough about the established story to create your own interpretation.

ER: What type of atmosphere do you prefer when writing? Do you need peace and quiet? An empty house?
SF: When it comes to atmosphere, I've found that I can write just about anywhere. The first three novels of The Kestrel Saga were written while I commuted on a ferry to and from work. It's much like trying to write a novel while riding a city bus. You get the screaming children, the people who talk entirely too loud on their cell phones, and the rowdy football fans heading to and from the stadium. If you can write in a place like that, I'd think you can write anywhere. Lately I've been looking for more solitude, but since it's fleeting, I shrug it off and write wherever I can find the time.

ER: Do you play the Star Trek theme song when you're writing battle scenes? And do you have a playlist (mental or physical) that helps to put you in the right frame of mind for writing?
SF: I don't have a playlist in my mind—a musical one, anyway. I tend to think of epic scenes from movies, like the battle scenes in The Last of the Mohicans.

[ER pauses for two hours to run off and watch The Last of the Mohicans before continuing to type.]

SF: If I need to draw inspiration in the form of banter, I tend to think of movies like Lethal Weapon. Basically, the concept of every scene in my book has been played out in a movie somewhere. I think it's that way for almost anyone who writes a book, whether they know it or not. I draw upon the creations of others, sort of like standing on the shoulders of giants, and inject my own story into memorable scenes from various motion pictures.

ER: Have you ever had a terrific scene in your head with no possible way to adequately describe it so others can "see" it as you do?
SF: I don't think I've ever not been able to describe a scene to my readers. Sometimes I can falter on specific details of my own imagination, however. Usually it's like, "I know what I want to describe, but it hasn't been invented yet. How do I cross that bridge? I'm not an engineer or a designer." That's usually when I turn to Internet research. Chances are, someone has gotten close to what I want in the form of artwork. I blend their image with my imagination, and the scene is born.

ER: Who is the first person to ever read your work? Were you nervous about having someone read it in case they hated it, or did you choose someone safe who would be supportive no matter what?
SF: My wife has always been my first reader. She's my sounding board. Since she knows me, then I trust that she knows where I'm coming from in relation to certain scenes or characters. Her honesty, while sometimes brutal, is gloriously helpful.

ER: Do you use beta readers, and if so, how did you find people whose opinion you'd trust?
SF: The only beta readers I've gotten so far are family and the very closest of friends. I trust their opinions implicitly. Having said that, now that more of my work is out there and I have a fan base, I may begin to pull from my own readers for upcoming titles . . . if they're interested.

ER: How many times would you estimate you end up reading through your manuscript before you decide it's as good as you're going to get it on your own?
SF: I give it at least two reads before I make my editor suffer through all my missed mistakes.

ER: When people find out you're an author, do they treat you differently? Ask what your "real" job is? Fawn over you and ask for free books? Try to sell you their "sure thing" idea for your next book?
SF: When I tell people I'm an author, they have always assumed it's my primary job. Their next question is, "What have you written?" which is followed by, "Can I get it on Amazon?"

ER: Has anyone you know ever seen themselves in one of your characters, and been flattered (or accused you of maligning their character)?
SF: I'm not sure if people can see parts of themselves. At least, they've never told me so. I would hope that they do, if even just a little. As far as my characters are concerned, I've already put people I know in my novels; they just don't know it.

ER: Has self-publishing been a big learning curve for you, or fairly simple?
SF: Self-publishing has definitely been a learning curve. I'm constantly learning something new about owning my own business. 

ER: Where do you see your writing headed? I know you have a few books in the works right now, so this would be the place to get us psyched about those.
SF: I have a new novel planned which falls outside of this series. It deals with an alternate version of history and the events leading up to World War II. I'm hoping to have it done by mid-2014, but we'll see. I've also got a few more novels planned for The Kestrel Saga, both in terms of continuing the story as well as a few prequel-types.

ER: Do you have plans for novels outside your favorite genre, or does it all keep coming back to science fiction for you? 
SF: I don't plan on going outside of science fiction at this point. It's what I love to write. 

ER: What's the one question you wish an interviewer would ask, but they never do?
SF: Most interviewers never ask about my hobbies outside of writing. I have a few, but I can't currently think of them without placing them in some sort of science fiction setting. 

ER: Do you ever wish your editor would go back to calling you Mr. Fender and finally give you the respect you deserve?
SF: I like my editor just the way she is, and I'm glad she's still calling me anything . . . just as long as she keeps calling. 

You can find Stephen Fender at his website:
He's also on Twitter @StephenAFender
Amazon author page:


  1. Awesome interview, you two! I taught you well… okay, maybe not.

    It's great that you receive such great support from family and friends. And hey, I say if you are good at writing science fiction and you love it, stick with it. Also, stick with your editor. Very important to do that last part. Next time, we do expect to learn about those hobbies, so come prepared, Stephen.

    It's always great to learn more about authors, their process, and inspirations :)

    1. I heard a rumor that he's a kick-butt bass player, but I have yet to find him on youtube. He might be under a different name, though...I think he secretly wants to form a band with me.


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