Interview with with Author John E. Stith

You’re re-releasing nine of your novels in just under a year! Can you share what inspired this decision?

Since originally published by Tor Books and Ace Books, most of these books were available in ebook form, but some haven’t been available in paper for more than a decade, so I felt it was time to correct that. ReAnimus Press specializes in bringing back SF that has been unavailable for a while (e.g. Jerry Sohl) and re-releasing works that have been in print all along (e.g. Ben Bova).

You write both sci-fi and mystery – do you have a preference for one over the other?

I love both. Some of my work even blends the two. Deep Quarry features a private eye. The protagonist in Death Tolls is an investigative reporter. Naught for Hire is a futuristic private eye tale, Reckoning Infinity is a space exploration and Manhattan Transfer  deals with a very unusual form of first contact– kidnapping.

What are your initial thoughts when thinking about your book(s)?

I often start a book with a trio of concerns. First, is an emotional issue that’s currently important to me. Next is the kind of story I want to tell and then finally, I pick a setting that interests me and supports the first two elements.

For example, while writing Death Tolls, personal responsibility was an important issue for me. I had been on a Dick Francis kick and thought it would be fun to use a mystery plot that echoed some of his plots. And finally, a lightly terraformed Mars seemed an interesting backdrop. Redshift Rendezvous centers on a hijacking. Reunion on Neverend is set at a high school reunion in a space-equivalent of a small-town environment.

Any special research you had to do for these various titles?

I almost always wind up picking projects that require more knowledge than I already have, partly because I enjoy constantly expanding my horizons. Memory Blank necessitated knowing more about Gerard O’Neil-inspired L5 orbital colonies and Death Tolls required media and reporting research. Redshift Rendezvous also required research into relativity because most of the novel takes place aboard a hyperspace craft where the speed of light is ten meters per second. That means relativistic effects like redshift happen when people run. Flipping a light switch causes a room to slowly fill with light.

What fascinates you most about writing?

That it seems almost universal. When I worked in software engineering, people would ask what I did for a living.  I’d run into some people already in the business, but many of the others had zero interest in the field. When I mention to strangers that I’m a writer, it seems like half the time I find they’ve written stories or want to write, and in many cases,  have sold their work already.

Do you have a favorite author?

Robert Heinlein is really high on my list for several reasons–fun characters, interesting ideas, thoughtful speculation, and pure storytelling power.

How has your education, profession or background helped you in your writing career?

My degree is in physics, and part of what drives my efforts to make my stories convincing, not with quite the nuts and bolts aspects of The Martian, but closer to the Ender’s Game portion of the spectrum.

What do you hope readers most get out of your books?

Enjoyment, excitement, entertainment, insights and information. I love appealing to all the senses, including the sense of wonder and the sense of humor. I want readers to care about my characters and constantly wonder what’s on the next page.

How has writing your novels changed your life?

It’s brought me into a wonderful and diverse group of other writers, a few a bit cantankerous, but many generous, thoughtful people who have written more astonishing and uplifting books than I can hope to read in a lifetime.

Can you pinpoint your biggest influence?

My parents. They gave me values and a love of reading that eventually became a love of writing. And my brother, Richard, who is a fountain of love, support and good humor.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

My then wife of many years battled with cancer over a four-year period, during which I was her rock and made her final years as bearable as possible.

I also did that for my mother’s last couple of years. When I suddenly found myself with a teenage stepson, I did my best to be a father figure to a young man who’s since grown up (either with or without my help) to be an outstanding adult.

Have you received any awards for your work? Book related and not book related?

My work includes a Nebula Award finalist, a Seiun Award finalist, a La Tour Eiffel Science Fiction Book Prize finalist, a Hugo Award Honorable Mention, Colorado Authors’ League Top Hand Award winners, HOMer Award winners, and Science Fiction Book Club selections.

My work has also appeared on the New York Public Library Best Books for Young Adults list, Science Fiction Chronicle’s List of Year’s Best Novels, and the yearly Locus Recommended Reading Lists.

Any organizations you are involved in (in the literary world, or others that you are passionate about?)

I’m a past contracts committee chair for Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. I’m a past regional VP of Mystery Writers of America. I’m also a member of International Thriller Writers, Colorado Author’s League, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

Any other new projects on the horizon after these re-releases?

I have a psychological thriller that should be out in 2017. A web series based on Naught for Hire  is in development with Ben Browder to star. Another producer hopes to film a pilot of Manhattan Transfer to use to sell the series. In parallel, a number of audiobooks and short stories are in the pipeline, as well. “Simon Sidekick” and “One Giant Step,” both short stories, should be available in ebook and audio form by July 1, 2016.

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