Interview with Les Abernathy, author of The Variant War

Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?

Bad grammar can led to a bad experience for the reader, and no one wants that. Especially the author. So a good writer will double and triple check their work for errors. Your grammar doesn’t have to be perfect, but it helps.

What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

Science fiction allows for the most flexibility in plot and imagination. You can be a writer in romance, mystery, or comedy, and all it takes is an uncommon element to include it under the umbrella of science fiction.

How important is research to you when writing a book?

Really depends on what you’re writing. Subjects like science and history will often involve the most background in factual information. Something more emotional would come more from the heart than the head.

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

When I was seven. I love stories and decided to make my own.

What inspires you to write?

Everything that is right and wrong with the world simultaneously.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

Inspiration is only a very small part of writing. The rest is a massive amount of work. Routines, even in pleasure writing, are a must if you want to get anything done.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Reading it and being unable to tell if it’s actually any good or not.

What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

Taking a coffee break.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I read almost every single day. Robert A. Heinlein stands out as my absolute favorite. There’s also Harlan Ellison to point to.

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

It goes through several cycles of editing it on my own before it’s ready for another person’s eyes. Sooner or later though, you’re going to have to break down and pay someone who isn’t a friend/family member to tell you what is right and wrong with it.

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?

The ending. It’s like sticking a landing. You need to have a good flight, but if you crash on the runway, it was all for not.

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

Very important if you want it to actually sell. People really do judge books by their covers.

Do you attend literary lunches or events?

Writing is very much a business. You need to rub elbows like in any other field.

Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne when I was about eight or nine. It had dinosaurs on the cover.

Did you ever think you would be unable to finish your first novel?

There is always that moment when you’ll bend. But you must not break.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

More than I probably should.

Have any new writers grasped your interest recently?

Andy Weir. He’s awesome.

When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?

Indeed I did. It would mean I wouldn’t have to get a real job.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?

Yes and no. Respectively.

Is it true that anyone can be a writer?

Technically. But that’s true of almost any profession. The question is if they’re any good at it. The big difference being is that a bad writer can still find success. A terrible cook is much harder to accommodate.

People believe that being a published author is glamorous, is that true?

Who told you that?

Do you like traveling or do you prefer staying indoors?

Both. Both is good.

Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?

Rejection is the name of the game. It’s impossible to pitch without at least a small number of strike outs.

Do you enjoy book signings?

I enjoy meeting people who like my work. The signing is just a means to an end.

Do you believe attractive book covers help in its sales?

They can’t hurt.

Is writing book series more challenging?

There’s just more writing to do. The only big difference is how you control the pacing. Cliffhangers in books are the worst.

What do you do in your free time?

Edit. There’s also adult card games with friends.

What does the word ‘retirement’ mean to you? Do writers ever retire?

A true artist never retires. The day may come when the labor becomes too much, but a writer keeps on until then.

Do writers become narcissists once their book starts to sell?

No, but their heads stop fitting through doorway.

Do you pen down revelations and ideas as you get them, right then and there?

I have some mental retention, but I do try to keep track of ideas soon after I get them.

Although all books say that all the characters in the book aren’t real or related, but are they really all fictional and made up?

There is one character in The Variant War that is completely based on a real person. I won’t say which though.

Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts?

Nothing far enough along. If you’re going to bail, do so early. The same rule applies to relationships.

Are you working on something new at the moment?

Always.

Fiction or non-fiction? Which is easier?

Fiction. When you make something up, no one gets mad at you for it.

Have you ever written a character with an actor in mind?

Yes, but often as just a base model for the their features.

How possessive are you about your work?

Like it’s my child.

Is privacy an issue for you?

It’s an issue for everyone. It’s just a matter of where you draw the line.

How liberal are you in term of expressing ideas in your books?

If your book isn’t fit to burn for it’s ideas, then you aren’t doing it right.

Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece?

They’ve inspired entire books.