Please welcome Author Terry R. Hill to THE KATY today!
Terry R. Hill is a Texas native, educated with two degrees in aerospace engineering. He has worked for NASA since 1997 as an engineer and project manager spanning programs from the international space station’s navigation software, next generation space suit design, exploration mission planning, to mitigating the health effects of space on astronauts. While supporting the human space program has been a lifetime passion, writing of different worlds, alternate futures, and the human condition is what gives his soul meaning.
How did you decide to become an author? Any books, movie, or people that inspired you to pursue your dream?
Good question, but a hard one to answer. Like most of us, I am the result of a lifetime of experiences. Becoming an author was a culmination of practicing my writing over the years through my private journals, school assignments, work products, etc. Also realizing in my fourth decade on this little planet that I have always been a creative individual, and for recent history, I had been denying that creative spirit. I have accomplished many things in my personal and private lives, but none quite provided the satisfaction as writing. While being a writer had never been part of my life plans, I am quite comfortable now with the idea of being a full-time writer and am putting wheels in motion that will hopefully lead to that being a reality.
Are you self-published or traditionally published? Why did you choose to go that route?
For the time being I am self-published. This was a very conscious decision I made at the onset of beginning the writing of my first novel. Writing takes time, and with a full-time day job, a young family, and being a husband, my plate was already pretty full. Even though I freed up some time in my schedule by not watching TV any longer, writing after the kids went to bed, getting up early and writing before work and sometimes during lunch, inevitably there would be other times where I would have to take time away from the family.
Now, couple the day-to- day constraints with the rather protracted and unpredictable timeline of most writers trying to secure an agent and/or ultimately a contract with a traditional publishing house, then my decision to Indie publish was quite clear.
The publishing market is in the process of turning over and redefining itself. Starting five to six years ago, the market revenue share going to Indy authors began to be noticeable and started impacting the bottom line of the traditional publishing houses. They began to merge and were not taking as many risks with unknown, unproven authors, and stuck with proven formulas. Additionally the publishing house are using agents to work as extensions of themselves to screen the manuscripts coming in.
So it could take anywhere from 6 months to a year and a half to secure an agent. Then it could take as long or longer for them to sell your book to a traditional publishing house of decent size. Add in the year, to year and a half to actually write the novel, and you have a time line of 3-5 years from when you start writing to when it is published traditionally. And given I was taking time away from the family, I needed a much quicker validation that I had the skills and chops to pursue the writing gig. I couldn’t impact my family for five years, only to potentially find out I was a horrible writer.
Indie publishing has allowed me a much faster validation of my skills, allowed me to refine them and explore ideas of my own interest and timeline that I might not have via the traditional route.
Additionally, I own my books and can continue to make money off of them for the rest of my life. Whereas signing bonuses to new authors is barely worth mentioning and you get a smaller percentage from the publishing houses compared to self-publishing AND they own your book for the next 30+ years!
Are you a plotter or a panster? Or a planster?
Oh, definitely a plotter! There is no way being an engineer for almost two decades would ever permit me to do it any other way. 🙂 Plus I find that by outlining (plotting) I can get it broken all the way down to the scene level. This is additionally helpful as it allows me to avoid writer’s block and to jump around and write the scenes which inspire me at the moment.
Do you prefer writing short stories or full length novels?
Hmmm. I’m not sure how to answer as both have their pros and cons. Short stories are nice in that they can be written and published in a relatively short period of time. But shorts very narrowly confine you to what you can address in the story’s plot, and takes quite a bit of discipline to treat the plot appropriately and provide an enjoyable experience to the reader. However, shorts these days sell best in anthologies and in publications, and not so much as stand-alone self-publishing units.
Novels on the other hand, take much longer to write, but do give you a large latitude to explore and expound the plot lines and characters to your heart’s content. Additionally, serlized novels, novellas, and novels as part of a series, all sell quite well.
How did you get involved with the Future Chronicles anthologies?
I ran across an ad for Xenophobia by a talented Australian author Peter Cawdron (you can see my review of the book on my website). I was impressed by his work and contacted him which developed into a professional friendship. He in turn read my book Third Exodus and recommended me to the coordinator of the Future Chronicles (FC), Samuel Peralta. Samuel has turned the Future Chronicles into a multi-volume titan on Amazon, with ever title release toping the charts in their respective categories and has been extremely influential in introducing the world to large selection of the talented up-and- coming authors.
My first story in FC was in the Doomsday Chronicles published in March of this year. I have another two slated for tentative release this year as well. One in the Chronicle Worlds: Half Way Home based in the universe created by Huge Howey’s best selling book by the same name, due out this fall. And Martian Chronicles, which will be a collection of stories centered around Mars, to be published toward the every end of the calendar year or beginning of the next. Stay tuned!
How does your time at NASA and your aerospace degrees help spur your writing?
One of my original goals was to provide science fiction to the masses that was firmly grounded in real physics, real space flight operations, real experiences of being in space and using the hardware, etc. It sounds odd to say that one would want to maintain realism in their fiction, but that is exactly what I desired to do. In some way I thought it would make for a more enjoyable and relatable experience for the reader. We have learned a lot about living and working in space since the greats – even Asimov – started writing. Some things they got right, some they didn’t. So now I want to offer up stories and themes that are re-anchored and extrapolated from today’s reality of space travel and science.
Part of my job at NASA is to participate in public outreach and go out into the public, schools, businesses, and organizations to communicate exactly what their tax dollars are funding in human exploration. As part of these activities, I talk to people ranging in age from kindergarten all the way up to senior citizens; from all walks of life and education. Through these experiences I have learned to communicate highly technical information in easily digestible verbiage that I believe has carried over into my writing, as I have heard from a wide range of readers that they all found my books not only entertaining, but educational and very easy to read.
Why do you think people feel drawn to the Science Fiction genre?
Funny you should ask this as I addressed this exact topic in an Author Takeover article on the Leighgendarium. My treatment of this question admittedly was pretty heady, but I guess that’s just how I roll. I will borrow a clip from it:
“Science Fiction/Dystopian Fiction (SF/DF) – SF/DF provides the ability to define a universe that extrapolates an idea or situation in our world to logical, and not so glamorous, conclusions. SF/DF is our crystal ball allowing us to see into the future and examine the consequences or benefits of our decisions. And it helps us as a society conceptualize why we might not want to pursue a particular course of action, or more importantly, the consequences of ignoring some aspect of our current lives.
What does this all mean? To take it a little deeper down this trail, I’ll go farther and claim we’re a culmination of our experiences. It includes what we experience in our day-to- day interactions and experiences with others, via music, news, conversations, events, movies, and books; this is the ’nature’ side of ’nature vs. nurture’ debate. To take it up one level of abstraction of commonality and state that we are influenced and shaped by the different information that is pushed inside our brains, willingly or otherwise. Equally so, the different genres of media that we consume help shape our thought processes, how we view the world, the way in which we resolve things that weigh both on the conscious and subconscious mind.”
What scientific advancement do you feel is right around the corner?
Be it good, bad, or indifferent, I feel the areas of “omics” (genetics, genomics, proteomics, etc.) and genetic manipulation are right around the corner. And despite people’s concerns about the possible moral and ethical dilemmas with the research, I believe the genie is already out of the bottle and there will be no putting it back in.
Now, I’m not saying that it will all be bad, I actually think a lot of good will come out of it. However, I will say, it will come with unexpected changes and complications, and even if things work out great, humanity will be definitively and irreversibly changed.
Do any of your characters represent you as a whole or someone you know? Or are they qualities you admire in others?
Oh wow! With the risk of exposing too much of my inner psyche I’ll try and answer this question. I would say that we are all multifaceted individuals. We all have small parts of ourselves that we reach out to, to deal with the different situations in our lives, but we are not defined by any one of those facets.
As a writer I draw upon these different parts of my own personality and then extrapolate them into a character who does have this personality trait as their defining element. This allows me to get inside of their heads and hear their thoughts. I know other authors have different approaches at creating their characters, but this works for me. Of course inevitably some of the characters represent other people and relationships in my life, but I would say those are in the minority.
Are there any genres of literature or movies that you won’t read or watch? What’s your favorite genre to read/watch?
I had best tread carefully with this question so as not to offend any potential readers out there. I think most all genres have something to offer. However, the one qualifying caveat is that they must be done well.
While I am not a young adult, I do occasionally enjoy the well-done YA novel. Greg Wilkey’s “Growing Up Dead” being a superb example. While I am a romantic at heart, I don’t often gravitate toward books or movies where that is the sole and central element. I can appreciate the horror genre, but I prefer that it be of the cerebral variety and not the thrasher / gore ilk, because the monsters created in my mind are by far more scary than those they might splash across the screen.
Okay, I’m not a fan of zombies. Particularly fast-moving zombies. Those really do freak me out!
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
(Deep breath) Yes. No. Maybe.
This will probably sound canned, but it is true. Do it because it makes your life a better place. Some will get rich and famous, most will not. Most will probably not make enough to support a family on. However, if you enjoy it you are more likely to stick with it and thus you are more likely to push through the disappointment, setbacks, challenges, criticism, and long hours that it will take to became a success.
Ironically, if you had asked me for advice for aspiring engineers, or parents, I would probably answer the exact same way. 🙂
Any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
For the first time in a few years, having completed the sci-fi series “In the Days of Humans,” I am at a place where I have a little breathing room to decide on my next project. I have several ideas in the cue, but the rest of this year will be spent finishing and polishing a short story for FC: Martian Chronicles to ensure I provide the highest quality story to the collection. After that I will finish fleshing out the outlines for a possible follow-on series to “In the Days of Humans”. Another project is writing a novel passed upon my story “The Journal” in the FC: Doomsday Chronicle. I originally had planned on writing the novel, but when approached by Samuel, I decided to first do a short story treatment of it to test the waters.
I have a zombie short story I want to finish writing. Yes, I know that I said earlier that I don’t like zombies, but this is a personal exercise to expand my creative envelope. The tentative tile is “Dr. Zombie”. Yes, it sounds a bit campy, but I promise you it is anything but that! There is another novel centered around Mars in the works. And I am also toying with an idea for a religious novel, but it is too immature to talk of at any great length at this time. Lot’s to come!
Thank you for joining me on THE KATY today, Terry!
That you very much for the opportunity to share a little time with you at THE KATY! It has been quite fun and I encourage anyone who might want to know more about my writing or have additional questions, to track me down at my author FB page, Twitter, or website. Thanks again and look forward to speaking with you again in the future!