Friday, February 21, 2020

Inside John's Brain: an author interview

Welcome John D. Payne to my blog, author of 
Joined in Silence a story from the steampunk anthology, A Mighty Fortress!

Let's see what's in his brain and what he reveals about his writerly antics. Ready? Here we go!

1) Tell us a little about yourself. 

I'm a full-time dad to four small children, including a newborn who recently won Best in Show at the county fair. My previous job was assistant professor of security studies, for which I taught classes on terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and homeland security. One of the big surprises of the last few years has been discovering the small, but non-zero, overlap between those two knowledge bases. 

I grew up on the prairie, but now live with my wife and family in southern New Mexico, where I’m learning all about the wonders of the desert. (Did you know there are cactus that will shoot needles at you? Ever hear about werewolf mice?) I’m also learning to appreciate how lovely, green, and temperate our town is compared to our nearest neighboring city, El Paso. 

I know what you mean, John--I grew up in El Paso and it is very brown there. Very brown.

2) What started you on the writing path? 

I've always had creative outlets of various kinds. When I was in elementary school, I did a lot of creative writing, played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons, and made a bunch of delightfully violent comic books with my best buddy. Also a Garfield / Star Wars mashup that I think Disney will be optioning any day now. 

For one semester in college, I was an English major. Then Orson Scott Card said writers should learn to write by writing, and should study something else so they have something to say about the world. So I changed majors, but kept writing. 

That's smart advice, John! Thanks for sharing that.

When I started my doctoral program, I thought I had better focus, and so I gave up fiction writing completely. But that made me miserable, and didn’t help me get my degree faster, so I returned to writing, like a dog to his yummy and very appetizing snack that is definitely not vomit. 

Lovely visual, John. Thanks.

So that’s where I am now, writing fantasy fiction and role-playing games. Hooray! 

3) Do you believe personal experience has influence over your writing? If yes, in what way has it manifested? 

Well, I write a lot more stories with babies in them than I used to. 

4) How was writing this story different from what you typically write? What challenges did you face as you did? 

This was a weird one. I thought it would be a two or 300 word coda at the end of another story (“Strange Pilgrims,” published in the first Mormon steampunk collection, All Made of Hinges). But then the story just kept growing and growing. 

Hey, I have a story in All Made of Hinges as well! It's "Avenger's Angel". Glad to have you join me in A Mighty Fortress as well!

One challenge for me in writing this piece was that the viewpoint character is a real person who lived and wrote hymns and had descendents who might read this book. I didn’t want to do him an unkindness, so I read as much as I could about him. In the end, though, the real Hans Henry didn’t live in a world of Juggernauts and Automatons, so I hope his progeny can forgive me for taking a few liberties with their honored ancestor. 

5) Have you written steampunk before? What do you like best about it? Least?

I’ve published one other steampunk story (see above), and I really enjoyed creating the world. I certainly hope I get the chance to revisit it in the future. I love my Helvetic machines! 

6) What is the title of your story in which anthology? In a few lines, what is your story about? 

My story is called “Joined in Silence,” and it’s about the secret origins of a hymn. It features an escaped labor robot, two Danes, and a mystery guest, debating in the middle of the night about who can be a child of God. Also, there is a baby that at first is crying and later is not crying anymore. 

Ooh, this is fascinating. Delving into the human mind in relation to the mechanical man. I wonder what he has to say about it as well?

7) What factors influenced the plot, characters, and setting?

 Well, basically the whole story is a re-telling-- or, re-imagining, if you will-- of Die Hard, mixed with the creation myth found in the Popol Vuh. So every element had to be chosen carefully to fit the source material. 

Just kidding. I don’t know how to answer this question. 


8) Who is your favorite character and why? 

My favorite character is actually never seen in the story, at least by the protagonist. He’s a house-gnome named Mr. White, and like all his kind he hides from humans. He’s actually the one who wrote the words to the hymn, and he’s lurking under the floorboards during the whole conversation. The little sneak! 

Um, not sure if I can believe you on this one. I suppose I'd just have to read the book to find out! 

9) If you got sucked into your story, what would be the first thing you’d do? Be honest: do you really think you’d do well with your current skillset? Explain. 

First off, I think I’d have to explain how I got into Hans Henry’s house, and that would be a tough job because it’s the middle of the night and he’s already got uninvited guests. But if I could talk him out of showing me to the curb, I think I could help him work out some harmonies for the song, at least for the men’s parts. 

10) What is it you hope your readers will take away from your story? 

A desire to sit down at the piano and sing a few hymns with someone you love. 

11) What’s your favorite quote? Any last words? 

Well, here’s a little passage from the story that I like: 

The mechanical man’s face remained fixed in a calm, mildly pleasant expression. Because that was its only expression. “True, my body was created by human beings. But so was yours. After a fashion.” 

Hans Henry shook his head vigorously. “You cannot compare the sacred act of procreation between man and wife to, to…” he spluttered with indignation, “factory workers assembling a machine, no matter how sophisticated.” 

“The process is very different, I will admit…” 

Thanks, everybody! Buy the book!

Clever clever, indeed, John. Thank you for humoring me and answering my questions no matter how odd they might have felt to you. I look forward to reading your story! 

Here are author John D. Payne's links so you can stalk him to your heart's desire! Muahahaha!

"Hans Henry did not expect the knock in the night, or the self-emancipated labor automaton, Brother Pilgram. A simple request to have a song written has Brother Pilgram, Hans and his wife at odds about what life means."


Monday, February 17, 2020

A Mighty Fortress Anthology!

A Mighty Fortress Steampunk Anthology! The title alone left to the interpretation of 17 different authors. A walking temple gets away, women vanish, time-traveling, and more!

*My story, Eternal Round, is featured in this teaser with David West! 

Releases tomorrow. WhEeEeEeEeeeeee!

It's on pre-order right now Amazon.

*post has been updated

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

IWSG: NaNoWriMo no?

IWSG: a place where writers and friends share woes or hugs.
Welcome to mine!

Who's heard of a cowboy who doesn't like the outdoors? Or a swimmer who's afraid of water? What about a teacher who's scared of students? 

aerial photo of pine trees
Christopher Rusev on

I love my writerly friends. I love designing book covers and editing and brainstorming. I enjoy helping out my author friends and connecting with them. I adore writing as it's my only way of escapism in a home of homeschooled kids. I've been at it since I was in 4th grade (I'm 40 something), and have taken a creative class, and entered contests. It got serious in 2011 with my first published book. To this day, I have a few things out in the publishing industry--book covers, illustrations, and short stories. You can safely say that writing is in my blood. With this in mind, I feel like I'm blaspheming when I say this: I really don't like NaNo.

I tried it once and was excited to see that I can write 50k words within that timeframe. While I enjoyed challenging myself, the weight of pushing myself hard felt like a hard race against others and myself. I don't like boxing myself in. I'm a free-thinker when it comes to creativeness (you should have seen me in my high school art class when my classmates told me I was doing it all wrong when I started with the lips and not the eyes). I was like, "Excuse me? In my opinion, there should be no rules when it comes to making art, it's all heart!"

But I'm thinking that I could view NaNo differently--a time to bond with other writers, right?

What are your thoughts?