Exclusive Interview with

Donald Firesmith

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When did you start writing?

I began writing science fiction short stories in high school. I started writing software and system engineering, non-fiction books in 1993. And I started writing speculative fiction (science fiction, paranormal, fantasy, and horror) novels and anthologies of short stories in 2000.

Donald Firesmith
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What makes writing your passion?

I write speculative fiction (i.e., science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, steampunk, and horror) because I love to read it. I wrote engineering books for software and systems engineers to spread the lessons I learned developing large, complex, software-intensive, military systems. Finally, I wrote a book on consciousness, neuroscience, and AI because I love the topic.

Donald Firesmith
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How long have you been writing?

I've been writing for over 5o years, having started writing science fiction short stories in high school.

Donald Firesmith
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What was the feeling when you published your first book?

It was absolutely fantastic to hold my first book, some 23 years after I first started writing.

Donald Firesmith
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What’s the story behind your choice of characters?

Many of my books are driven by the situation I initially put my characters in. Often, that drives my choice of main characters. For example, in my Hell Holes series, the overnight appearance of huge holes in the Arctic led to my selection of a geology professor and climatologist as two of my main characters.

Donald Firesmith
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What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?

Marketing and advertising. You can write a book that doesn’t sell well despite getting fantastic reviews and winning various book contests. It is difficult to compete as an indie author against authors backed by publishing companies willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to market and advertise a single book.

Donald Firesmith
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How do you get over the “writer’s block”?

I combat writer’s block by having multiple projects. I might work on another book or on a different chapter of the current book. Sometimes, I write a short story.

Donald Firesmith
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We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?

Sadly, the vast majority of authors do not sell sufficient books to make a decent living. Writers often write because they have stories to tell. We primarily write because we enjoy writing, the sense of accomplishment, and how good reviews make them feel.

Keep writing and reading. Writing is a skill that improves with practice.

Donald Firesmith
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If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?

It is never word doing something for which you will later feel embarrassment or guilt. And don’t fail to do things which you will later regret not doing.

Donald Firesmith
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Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?

Absolutely. I read every review, both good and bad. I look for specific complaints (especially when multiple bad reviews mention the same problem) so that I can fix them. I remember that even famous books get some bad reviews because everyone does not like the same things. Finally, I also look at the distribution of the reviews. For example, if I get lots of four- and five-star reviews and only a very small percentage of one- and two-star reviews, then I know I can be proud of what I accomplished.

Donald Firesmith
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What is the feeling when you get a good review?

I absolutely love the great reviews, especially if the reviewer takes the time to be specific about what they liked. A great review can be a wonderful motivation for working on the current book or story.

Donald Firesmith
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Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

Absolutely. For example, my fourth and fifth Hell Holes book involved gladiatorial combat. I used to fight in armor as a member of the Society of Creative Anachronism. This enabled me to make the combat in the books more realistic. Similarly, I have been in numerous meetings on military bases, so I know how they go.

Donald Firesmith
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Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?

I am probably closest to Dr. Jack Oswald, the geologist who is the main protagonist of Hell Holes 1: What Lurks Below.

Donald Firesmith
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What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?

Very important, but not as much as the actual story. The cover and title may sell a single book, but a great story will create a fan who will read many books.

Donald Firesmith
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Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?

I love talking with my readers via email and in person at book fairs and conventions. Some of my fans have become beta readers and Facebook friends.

Donald Firesmith
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How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?

Absolutely great. We authors put a huge amount of work into our books, and it’s wonderful when your readers show their appreciation.

Donald Firesmith
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Who is your favorite author? Why?

It’s hard to pick a single author. As a teenager, I read every book that Isaac Asimov wrote: science fiction, science, basically everything. In college, it was JRR Tolkien. When I spent a year abroad, studying at the university in Munich, the only English language books I took with me were his trilogy. They were books I could read over and over again.

Donald Firesmith
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What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?

I would love to have my Hell Holes novels made into movies. I did have a couple of producers commission a spec script for my first book in the series, but nothing ever came of it. Sigh.

I don’t really think in terms of comparing myself with any other author.

Donald Firesmith
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Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?

No. While I happily make minor fixes for anything that slips by my editor and beta readers, I would much rather write something new than rewrite something that already exists.