Today I’m hosting Day 2 of a 5-day virtual tour for Michael Selden’s new book, The Balance. This tour is sponsored by the National Writing for Children Center, where Michael and his book are showcased all this month.
In today’s post, Michael tells about his life as a writer.
The Writing Life with Author Michael Selden
When I’m writing, I go through intervals of mostly writing or mostly reading or doing other things.
I generally write 3 to 6 hours per day, although I consider reading almost as valuable as writing when it comes to the learning process.
I’m constantly inundated with stories, themes, and plots to write about.
I have to make a conscious effort to not allow myself to be unduly distracted, although sometimes a plot will come to me that I decide is too valuable (as a learning experience) to put off.
At any one time, I have ten or twelve plots waiting to be addressed.
Some require extensive research, while others either don’t need this or take advantage of my knowledge of science from my almost 30-year career as a research physicist.
The book Disobedience, a story I’ve been pondering for some time, is one that does need research and I’ve only done a portion of it, so I’ve been delaying the writing.
The Balance, which I published in June 2015, didn’t require a lot of research, but did require a lot of thought.
I consider both The Balance and I Am (a book I wil publish in the near future) to be within a sub-genre I call ‘Rational Speculative Fiction.’
This allows pure speculative elements, but demands that these comply with rules, most of which are derived from science but may be organic to the book.
For example, in The Balance I speculate about how genetic engineering might be used to create characteristics in humans that might well be deemed supernatural, although they aren’t ‘magic’.
Phoebe is telepathic and in the story her abilities had been developed over a period of almost 250 years by an organization called The Order.
They began three parallel genetic engineering efforts centuries before in an effort to improve the human race by making us more empathic to others (the Sensitives Program), improved intelligence and foresight (The Prescient Program), and to improve health (The Healer Program).
The ultimate goal was to spread these newly created and improved genes back into the population.
Their goal was to make war unthinkable.
Their methodologies, however, were not always consistent with these goals and an intervening nuclear war threw everything off for a while.
In the book (and during planning for the book), I speculated about HOW they might have amplified the Senstives’ ability over time, and about how the Prescients’ visions of the future might work.
I spent a lot of time on this.
Phoebe is the end product of the 250 years of development, and I’ve done development in a lot of areas myself, including communications and circuit design.
I speculated how they might have improved the purely-speculative innate ability from which the Sensitive’s capabilities originated to produce a more potent telepath and the story follows the scientific rules that would govern these.
The same applied to the healer and prescient programs.
All of this is backstory and not really at the heart of the story itself, but I think it’s important to understand the worlds you create and to be consistent.
It takes more effort, but is also more satisfying for those stories linked with this sub-genre, and it makes them more useful as teaching tools, as well.
Anyway, in the end, the most important part of writing is to have and tell a good story – it’s not about writing a textbook, it’s about having a great story that holds together.
My life as a writer is, perhaps, a it different from others.
I read, I write, of course, but I plot while doing other things: hiking, building a stone wall for my house, cutting firewood, and just sitting still, my mind doesn’t turn off.
I’m officially retired – I retired at 54 – so I can do whatever I like (within reason), and I like to learn new things.
As I’m learning news skills or traveling or anything at all, new stories pop into my head and I’ll plot things out in my mind and then jot down a few notes for future use.
When I feel like writing, I write for extended periods and over months, and when I feel like pausing, I’ll do something else to refresh the batteries.
Of course, since I’m also the publisher, I spend a lot of time on the business side of the work, including marketing and finding the right people to help me with editing, or design, or images for the covers.
The photos, below, are images I took while hiking and thinking about story plots. Sometimes dramatic scenes help spark new ideas.
This was from a project of mine in the past, an astronomical observatory we designed and built in southern Italy.
Part of the book I Am takes place in an observatory, which is a mixture of several places I worked at one time or another.
This was taken during a hike down at the base of the mountain pass that leads to my house It’s an image from the Garden of the Gods.
Another hiking image.
I hike alone most of the time, which lets me think about stories and plots.
This image was taken as I hiked toward “The Devil’s Playground”, climbing the back side of Pike’s Peak.
Another project I led.
I was preparing for the writing of The Balance during this flight test period, mainly by reading a lot of (220) YA books written by women with a strong female protagonist.
Follow each day of Michael’s tour this week – just click here. Leave a comment at each post to be registered to win a free month’s showcase for your children’s book at the National Writing for Children Center.