Today we're talking with Sandy Samson, author of Red Dust and Bones.
FQ: Who are your literary influences?
I grew up devouring the Grand Masters of Science Fiction: Asimov, Heinlein, Norton, and many others. Their work inspired my love of the genre. I particularly liked the way their novels dealt with problems that are common to humanity and are thus timeless: greed, violence for profit, self-sacrifice for the common good, and the quest to venture into unknown realms for the sake of expanding knowledge. These are the features that I wanted to emphasize in my own writing.
FQ: What do you like to read for pleasure?
I'm sad to say that I read less and less science fiction these days. The modern trend is toward wildly imaginative scenarios that are far removed from reality. To me, this departure from the universal travails of humanity makes novels less enjoyable. Even though I love reading about advanced science, first and foremost I want to read about people. Lately, I've come to love Dan Simmons and the incredible collaboration of Preston and Child. These authors have a mind-bending ability to lead real characters into page-ripping adventures. Finally, I recently discovered Laurence Shames. Although his crime-caper genre is not my favorite, I don't think I've ever encountered an author with more skill at wordsmithing. When I read his novels, I keep a highlighter handy so that I can mark passages to enjoy later. In fact, about a year ago I wrote a short story that shamelessly imitates his style, and the story won a national contest! Anyone who wishes to become a published author should study his fabulous work.
FQ: What inspired you to write Red Dust and Bones? Is there a particular message you'd like readers to take away from this book?
Red Dust and Bones was my first full-length novel, and I wrote it only to fulfill my dream of writing a novel that captures the essence of the Grand Masters that I mentioned earlier. I wanted to take real people and create circumstances that force them into heroic behavior. As far as leaving readers with a message, I did not write the book with any such intent. I hate preachy books, and I did not want to write one. My goal was purely to entertain the reader. If it turns out that readers see any messages in my writing, then so be it. I suppose it's impossible to write a novel without imparting the author's feelings into the work.
FQ: You seem to be making a statement on humanís overconfidence in their superiority over other planetary life. Are you thinking about specific issues of our time in this regard?
Not deliberately, although overconfidence in anything is the first step on the road to disaster. I've learned this the hard way in my own life!
FQ: In the same way, the war machine becomes even more powerful and nefarious in the future world you created in Red Dust and Bones. Is that a statement on where you see the future (or present) of America?
It was not my intention to write a book on this theme. But it happened anyway. Gee, I guess my own personal feelings on this issue must have made their way into the novel!
FQ: You chose not to make the setting highly futuristic technologically. Though the action certainly takes place at some point in the future, the setting seems fairly contemporary. Was that a conscious decision on your part? If so, what was your motivation?
This was a conscious decision. For my first novel, I wanted to keep its world as close as possible to the world that I live in and know. All of my work tends to be driven by characters and personalities, not environments. The time and place in which my work is set serves as nothing more than a vehicle for carrying my characters on their journey.
FQ: Tell our readers what you're working on now. Any more page-turning sci-fi adventures for us?
Yes! I have nearly completed a very different sort of SciFi adventure. In sharp contrast to the world of Red Dust and Bones, this novel is set in the far distant future, though again it is character driven. In this new work, a paunchy, bored intergalactic cab driver finds himself thrust by circumstance into an unwanted partnership with an uber-tough female special forces agent. Together, they must evade the space navies of two civilizations in a quest to stop a war that could destroy humanity. This novel is a lot lighter and more fun than Red Dust and Bones, and is meant to be read in a hammock with a beer in hand.