Virginia Carraway Stark next interviews Gary Renshaw, notable Calgary author and Renaissance man, author of The Vacation, winner of StarkLight Press’ Third Short Story Contest.
1. What was the first thing that you remember writing?
In grade seven I wrote a book by hand that would now be classified as
Star Trek fanfic. I think I still have it somewhere. From what I
remember it was utterly horrible.
Yes, by hand. This was before I got my first typewriter, and long before
we had computers that fit inside a house and cost less than the GNP of a
2. What is your main inspiration to write?
Ideas pop into my head, and doctors look at you oddly when you ask them
to cut the ideas out. Writing is a safe, effective, alternative treatment.
I frequently get ideas from a small detail in something unrelated. I
write speculative fiction, so for me it’s all about the “what if” and
the “wait a minute.”
For example, “wait a minute, the Ent Wives in Lord of the Rings
disappeared how long ago and nobody’s seen them since? Why? Where? How?
Was this enemy action by Sauron, or is something else going on? What if
they were kidnapped by aliens?”
If anybody wants that idea they can have it. Just mention me at your
3. What is your story for Starklight press about?
A science fiction author is on his way to Earth for an SF convention
when Bad Things happen and Hilarity Ensures.
Readers who want a Theme, Deep Symbolism, Comments on the Human
Condition, and Biting Allegory won’t like it. Those who remember the
days when we were allowed to write Ripping Adventures will probably love it.
4. Why did you choose this story/genre?
One morning, the only thing I could remember of what must have been a
really good dream was the line “I really hate the onions and snakes.”
Every bit of context vanished back into the dark recesses of the night.
Obviously the line has to be related to science fiction, so I wrote a
story around it. The story is fun, it gave me a chance to include some
Esperanto, and it’s sort of early Heinlein-ish.
What more could one want?
5. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
1. Don’t be lazy. Learn how to put together a real sentence. Learn the
mechanics of story construction. Research those details that you don’t
know. If you are lazy, somebody will call you on it. You do not want a
doctor reviewing your first novel and saying “the medical details are
all completely rubbish and completely ruined it for me.”
2. Learn to speak in public. I guarantee that you’ll need it when you
read at a bookstore. I was terrified at first. I got over it. You
probably can too. Acting classes help.
3. Learn marketing. No, that big publisher won’t do all your marketing
for you. You need to know what to do for yourself. I highly recommend
that you start with Kate Larking’s “Novel Marketing: Making Your Author
Brand Work for You and Your Books” (http://katelarking.com/). And no, I
don’t get anything for recommending this e-book.
4. Learn that this is a business. There are tax breaks you can use if
you are an author. There are records you must keep. Ask people who
really know what they are doing. It’s not difficult.
5. At first you will suck. Everybody does. Friends and family almost
never give you honest assessments. If they say your writing is
wonderful, it almost never is. That’s why a good writing group that
specializes in giving critiques is useful. Painful, but useful. You will
learn a lot in a good writers group.
6. Instead of paying thousands of dollars for the latest computer and
fancy writing software, I bought a second-hand laptop. I installed
Ubuntu Linux, LibreOffice, Gimp, and some other programs to make my life
comfortable. The total cost was zero, apart from the computer. I can
write, research, and do my own cover art. Why pay more?
6. What are some of your other hobbies?
I’ve had an injury for several years, so I’m a bit boring at the moment,
but I’m rather fond of cave exploration, mountain climbing, and martial
arts. I have a black belt in aikido and a blue belt in Chito Ryu karate.
I also have a young padawan who started out as my aikido student. We’re
now friends and practice aikido, Krav Maga, baton, sword, and tradecraft
together. We’d done some man tracking (I was taught by Terry Grant, the
original TV Mantracker). We’re also planning a joint novel project.
Cooking is a lot of fun. People keep asking why I don’t become a
professional chef. It’s simple. I can live without that kind of stress.
It’s much better to cook for friends and family.
My big hobby is learning things. I’ll happily soak up just about
anything from anthropology to zoology.
7. How do your hobbies infiltrate your writing?
Continuously, like an artesian well. As one subject bubbles up, I learn
another to take its place.
Writers are often told to write what they know, so the only reasonable
way to be a writer is to never stop learning. Otherwise you are just
writing the same story and people over and over.
8. How has your own past influenced your writing?
Oh, great. Nobody told me I’d have to be introspective. Now I’ll be
having serious thoughts all day.
Back when I was a little tyke, in the days of The Honeymooners and The
Flintstones in black and white, it bothered me the way Ralph and Fred
treated their wives. I didn’t really know why, but it just seemed wrong.
Although there was no term for it at the time, I was a feminist.
Fast forward several decades. If I write a story, there’s at least an
80% chance that it has a female protagonist. Almost 100% of those are
strong, competent women.
9. Any final thoughts?
Tell my wife that I love her.
Oh, not that final?
Okay, everybody should buy this anthology. And my books. And everybody
else’s books. Yeah, I think that covers it.
G. W. Renshaw is a speculative fiction author, Linux druid and martial
artist whose day job involves playing with the brains of medical
students. His current project is The Chandler Affairs, a series of
contemporary mythology/mystery novels about a normal Canadian private
investigator and her decidedly abnormal cases.
You can find him online at http://www.gwrenshaw.ca and on Facebook by the same name.
-Virginia Carraway Stark,