I am pleased to share with you a fantastic interview with an incredible sci-fi author, Diann Thornley Read. I’ve met Diann in my writers group online, the Authors’ Think Tank, and later in person at the LTUE Writers Conference. She has been a great source of information and is truly a good friend.
Diann wrote her first story at the age of five and never stopped writing. She taught herself to type on her father's ancient manual typewriter at the age of six because that was faster than pushing a pencil. After winning a statewide writing contest, junior high division, at the age of fourteen, she began her first novel, which was based on the Arthurian legends. This endeavor filled most of her high school years and freshman year of college--until a handful of friends introduced her to science fiction. There she stayed writing numerous books. And here is the interview:
The Sergey Chronicles were originally published by Tor in the late 1990’s but it was then called The Unified Worlds Saga. How do you feel about the name change?
Diann Read: I made the name change myself. The books are, after all, about the Sergey family, not about the interplanetary alliance called the Unified Worlds (which is similar to our NATO). Admiral Lujan Sergey (Commander-in-Chief of the special forces group called the Spherzah), his combat surgeon wife, Captain Darcie Dartmuth, and their teenage son, Tristan Sergey, get caught in the political/military intrigue leftover from an old war, and discover it's up to them to stop an impending new threat.
There are currently four titles in The Sergey Chronicles, do you plan on continuing the saga now that you have the books available as an eBook?
Diann Read: Actually, there are three books--Ganwold's Child, Echoes of Issel, and Dominion's Reach--but for the Kindle (and soon-to-be Nook) editions I also created an omnibus version: All three books in one download--and there are two covers for the omnibus! But back to your question. I've had a few requests from readers about my age for more stories about Lujan and Darcie and what they do after Dominion's Reach. I'd had no idea there was a market for middle-aged action heroes! I have loads of ideas filed away, so I may eventually go back and write some of those stories, but they'll likely be novelettes or novels rather than full-fledged books. (I'm currently working on a new YA series that's got my full attention.)
Orson Scott Card has said about book one, Ganwold's Child, “This novel is exemplary for showing how the effective military mind really works—you’ll find no romantic military nonsense here.” Can you share tips on how you created such a fantastic space military? Was there anything you used as a reference guide?
Diann Read: Well, I spent 23 years in the USAF, both on the active duty and reservist sides, and did a few deployments to "interesting" parts of the world, so a lot of the military stuff was drawn from personal experience. I wasn't a pilot but I did work around some, so I picked their brains for the pilot-specific details. When I brought back the first draft of Tristan's pilot training to one of my fellow officers, he went off into a corner to read it and next thing I knew he was laughing out loud. I thought, "Oh no, I'm never going to live this down!" but I gritted my teeth and asked him, "Okay, what did I do wrong?" He said, "Nothing! It's exactly right. I just can't believe you went into so much detail." Well, he'd given me all that detail!
What do you like most about writing Sci-Fi?
Diann Read: World-building, including climates different than ours, and coming up with strange (and sometimes violent) plants and unusual animals. I enjoy anthropology, so I really enjoy creating new cultures. I'm especially having fun with that in my Seventh Shaman series.
If you could be any planet in our solar system, besides Earth, which you be and why?
Hmmm, I've never thought about that. Saturn, probably. If you've ever seen NASA photos of Saturn (my husband, Jon, is a rocket scientist at NASA), those rings are breathtaking!
Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? What about them do you like best?
Diann Read: That's like asking which is your favorite child! And by the time you've written a book or three about your characters, you do feel like you've brought them up! I was madly in love with Lujan while writing the Sergey books--that was before Jon came into my life--but Tristan and Akuleh (protagonist of the Seventh Shaman series) are my boys. They have enough in common that they'd probably become buds if they met--after some initial mutual misgivings--but there are some distinct difference between them, too.
What have you learned the most as a published author?
Diann Read: To take the bad with the good, accept it, and move on. In other words: Keep Writing!!! Not everyone is going to love everything you produce. After Ganwold's Child first came out from Tor Books in 1995, one critic said it was only good as a script for a video game. But all three Sergey books were out by the time I deployed to Bosnia in late 1997, and a handful of SpecOps guys liked them so much they made me an honorary member of their support team and took me along on one of their weekly runs up a local mountain. (Only time I've ever seen human bodies steam the way a horse does when you take off the saddle after a hard ride in winter! Watch for that in a future book.)
What advice can you give to a writer just starting out? Are there any mistakes to avoid?
Diann Read: Do your homework (research) on your subject so you really know what you're talking about. That's a lot easier now with the Internet than when I was researching all the medical stuff for Dominion's Reach. Don't be afraid to try new things--within reason, of course!--just for the experience. Wherever you go, always have some way to take notes--you never know when you're going to get that blockbuster idea! Most important, write SOMETHING every day, even if it's just a few sentences. You're not really a writer if you don't really write.
What book, besides your own, do you recommend every writer have on their bookshelf? This can be anything from crafting tips to a novel you just love to pieces.
Diann Read: Here are two must-haves for my professional library: Hooked, by Les Edgerton. He focuses on gripping openings but also talks about story structure, and ratcheting up the tension and conflict. Hands down the most useful how-to book I've ever read! And Painless Grammar, by Rebecca Elliott. A very clear, concise, and even slightly comical approach to all those pesky issues like lay/lie, was/were, and who/whom.
Is there anything else about your books that you’d like to share, or anything you’d like to shout out?
Diann Read: We haven't talked much about my current project. The Seventh Shaman series is similar to the Sergey books, except aimed at the YA audience. My protagonist, Akuleh (the name means "Looks Up," which he has to learn to do on a few levels, but he goes by Ku), would be American Indian if the books were set on Earth. Having a non-Anglo protagonist was a very deliberate choice; I see far too few non-Anglo, especially American Indian, kids in YA fiction.
Ku is an orphan being brought up by an abusive stepmother. He knows a prophecy was made about him at his birth but he doesn't know what it said, so when his stepmother starts calling him Death Bringer he believes the worst. Time to leave before anyone else he cares about is killed! So he runs away from home, lies about his age, and joins the military. Ku also has a snarky streak, which is a lot of fun to write.
Like Lujan, Ku is a natural combat pilot, but that's as much curse as blessing during pilot training. He also has to deal with cultural issues--his latent shaman capabilities, which adds a fantasy element, his clan's traditions, and that prophecy--on top of facing prejudice and the usual teen challenges of boy-girl relationships and heartbreak. In the end Ku will hear the contents of the prophecy and learn that his life does have worth and purpose--a great purpose. And that's the message I want to get across to kids, especially at-risk kids.
Where can we find more about you and your books?
Diann Read: My website is at www.diannthornleyread.com, my Amazon author page is www.Amazon.com/author/diann.t.read, and my blog, Hero Journeys, is at www.diannread.wordpress.com. Please Like my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Diann-T-Read/291193624316145?ref=hl, and follow me on Twitter @DiannTRead. I'm also on LinkedIn and Goodreads.
Thank you so much for letting me interview you for the blog.
Diann Read: You're very welcome, Mikey. Thanks for letting me interview you, too!
Diann Read: You're very welcome, Mikey. Thanks for letting me interview you, too!