Bio: Stephen was born in Los Angeles, California. The son of a second generation deputy sheriff, he spent several hours each week after school (both grade and middle) at the local library. In high school, he was highly active in art, sometimes taking as many as three art classes per year. During his junior year he enrolled in journalism, where he produced a great many articles for the Opinion page.
After high school Stephen joined the US Navy as a computer technology specialist, working on the west coast with an anti-submarine and scouting squadron, and later on the east coast onboard a guided missile cruiser as part of the Enterprise battle group, where he wrote his first science fiction novel while on deployment to the Persian Gulf.
Afterwards, life got busy—as it usually does—and he didn’t pick up the pen for nearly a decade. He began to delve into fan fiction to practice his skills, producing several complete novels which were well received. He took the skills leaned in those exploits and produced his first published novel, The Army of Light, in June of 2013.
Stephen continues to work with the Navy, now as a civilian. When not working he divides his time between hanging out with his wife Jamie, writing, or tinkering out in the garage. Unless otherwise noted, Stephen does all of his own graphic design work.
What all have you written? Include everything: I’ve written three novels, all belonging to the same series. The first, The Army of Light, was published in June. The followup nove, Icarus, was published in September. The third novel, Second Earth, was just released on December 1st.
Where can we buy or see them?: You can get all of my novels, both in print and electronically, on Amazon.com. Just do a search for “Kestrel Saga”.
Tell us a little bit about your main character: There are actually two main characters. The hero is Shawn Kestrel, and the heroine is Melissa Graves. Shawn is a former fighter pilot, having fought in the Great Galactic War several years ago. He’s since founded his own logistics business, which he flies his own Mark-IV transport, his beloved Sylvia’s Delight. Shawn is fiercely loyal, but somewhat jaded. He’s suffering from a personal loss during the war, but he’s making the best of a life that has been afforded to him. Business at The Old Flamingo has been down lately, and he’s got a stack of unpaid bills staring at him daily. Enter Melissa Graves, the mysterious and beautiful daughter of Shawn’s former commanding officer, William. Her father was the center of her life, and was a role model for her in everything she’d done up to this point. William has since disappeared, and she manages to enlist Shawn in the clandestine search.
What are you working on at the minute?: Currently I’m working on three novels. The first, Origins: Traitor Winds, is a novel that takes place six years prior to The Army of Light. It follows Angelica, a covert agent with the Office of Special Intelligence, as she attempts to stop a renegade Admiral from unleashing a fleet of warships intent on destroying the Unified Collaboration of Systems. The second novel in the works is the fourth installment in the Kestrel Saga, tentatively titled In The Presence Of My Enemy, in which Shawn and Melissa must enlist the aid of a former enemy of the Unified Collaboration in an attempt to save the galaxy from spiraling into another bloody war. The third in-progress novel, Undone, is a standalone novel that is not affiliated with the Kestrel Saga. It’s a science fiction story, dealing with an altered version of history around the time of World War II.
What is it about?: The Kestrel Saga is a space opera in the classic sense. While searching for the missing Admiral William Graves, Shawn and Melissa—along with an assortment of clever characters—realize that the galaxy is once again standing on the brink of all-out war. The mystery unravels at each stop on their journey, finally culminating in a battle consisting of both old and new enemies. The characters must search each other, and within themselves, to find a common ground in order to save humanity.
What genre are your books?: They are all science fiction.
What draws you to this genre?: 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.
Do you have to do research for your books?: Yes and no. Most of my work is pulled straight from my imagination, as only a very sparse outline is all I need to get started. Occasionally I need something that is just on the time of my consciousness, but stubbornly refuses to materialize. That’s when I rely on images from sites like Deviant Art (www.DeviantArt.com). There are so many extraordinary artists out there, and I can usually find inspiration from their work. That being said, when it comes to Undone, I’ve found that I’ve been doing an extraordinary amount of factual historical research up to and including the POD (point of divergence) from what we consider normal history. I’m exceedingly excited about how this new work is coming together.
When did you decide to become a writer?: 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.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?: No. I try not to compartmentalize my imagination. Sometimes I write whole chapters in a day, and sometimes only a paragraph. Sometimes I just do research and write next to nothing.
Do you work on an outline or plot before you start writing?: Yes. For me, it’s essential. I need a map, even if it’s the most basic of outlines. For each of my novels they have never been more than a few pages. I find it helps keeps me on track, considering my stories tend to go in two or three directions at once.
What is the hardest thing about writing?: Currently it’s pacing. I’m trying to find a good balance between action and character interaction.
What is the easiest thing about writing?: Dialogue. I love being able to flesh out characters by getting them into conversation.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?: I’d say about three months, from first rough draft to finished product. Of course, it would be a lot longer if it weren’t for my editor.
Do you edit your book right after you finish or let it sit for awhile?: After I’m done with the rough draft, I immediately go back to the beginning. Since the story is still fresh in my mind, I’m able to go about making any additions to the novel. It makes it easier to get the reader to follow my ideas. Then, as soon as that’s done, it goes off to the editor.
Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?: Lynda Dietz is my amazing editor. She actually found me. When I published my first book, it was only edited by myself. She offered to make some corrections after reading it. I gave her a shot, and my sales doubled as a result of her hard work. The rest is history.
How are you publishing this book and why?: I’m self-publishing my novels through my own publishing company, Jolly Rogers Productions, which I established here in Washington state. I sent my novels out to a handful of publishers, but I didn’t receive any positive responses from it. I was told by several friends and family that my work was still worthy of getting out to the public, so I gave self-publishing a shot. It’s been an amazing, if not eye-opening, experience.
How do you market your books?: I place my books on my website, with links to their counterparts on Amazon. I also send a lot of time on social media, mainly Facebook and Twitter. I also maintain a blog that I’ve linked with my author profile on Amazon.
What do you do to get book reviews?: All of my reviews have come from Amazon and GoodReads.com.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?: I would say to them “Firstly, tell to the story you want to be told, not the one people want you to tell. Your adventure is as unique as you are, so don’t ever think “been there, done that.” Don’t be afraid of what’s inside you. Secondly, make sure you’re passionate about your soap-box. We’ve all seen people on the street, shouting from a podium at the top of their lungs about something that is important to them. Make sure that you are passionate about your topic, and that you command the soap-box you’re standing on. You’ll find that people will listen to you if your love of the craft is there. Finally, and most importantly, don’t be afraid of negative reviews. They are your best tool for improving the quality of your work.”
I would like to thank Stephen for his time in completing the interview.