Interview With Glenn E. Smith

Glenn E. Smith was born in Bar Harbor, Maine and raised in Malvern, Pennsylvania. He joined the United States Army Military Police in 1980 and served on active duty for approximately ten years, then served in the Army Reserve for one year. He served at several posts in the U.S., and at two separate posts in the Republic of South Korea over a total of four years. He served as a Patrolman, an Investigator, and a C.I.D. Special Agent before leaving the Army in 1990 with the rank of Staff Sergeant.

In 1998 Sergeant Smith joined the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and was assigned to the 111th Security Forces Squadron, Willow Grove, just north of Philadelphia. He deployed overseas twice during Operation Enduring Freedom following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, first to the Portuguese islands of the Azores and then to the small nation of Qatar in the Persian Gulf. He transferred to the Delaware Air National Guard in 2003, where he served with the 166th Security Forces Squadron, New Castle, as the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the Combat Arms Training and Maintenance section until he retired from military service in March 2008.

Glenn’s first novel, Solfleet: Call of Duty was published in April 2007.  The second book in the series, Solfleet: Beyond the Call, as well as several other projects are currently in the works.

1) You spent a decade in the Army and then a decade in the Air National Guard.  Had you always wanted to pursue a career in the military?

Actually, no. While growing up I had never really thought about serving in the military. Then one Saturday during the summer after eleventh grade, a friend of mine invited me to go shooting with him. I liked to shoot, so I accepted his invitation. He had recently enlisted in the Army’s delayed entry program and needed to make a stop at the recruiting office on the way to the range. I went inside with him when we got there and got to talking to the head recruiter. Although I hadn’t ever thought about enlisting, I had always honored our country’s soldiers, so I went into that conversation with an open mind. The rest is history.

2) During your military service, did you do any writing?

I started writing stories when I was fourteen years old, so yes, I did a lot of writing. I never tried to get the earlier stuff—the stuff I wrote during the first half of the 1980s—published, though. Looking back, I realize that had I tried, I would not have succeeded. It was not very good, to say the least. I consider that time to have been my last few years of “practicing” to be a writer.

Somewhere along the line I had…I guess I would call it an epiphany. I started thinking about trying to get published while I was stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1986. I decided that I wanted to try to create an epic science-fiction adventure that told a huge story encompassing multiple worlds, while at the same time telling compelling characters stories that readers could relate to. The ideas I started having and the notes I started making at that time eventually became The Call of Duty.

3) What did you do in the years between the Army and the Air National Guard?

For the first five years I worked for a relatively small cable TV company as an installer and then a technician. Then I worked for a voice and data cabling company as an installer, but I got laid off after having been there for nine or ten months. Then it was desktop publishing work for a company that manufactured CD-ROM catalogs for numerous commercial clients—e-commerce over the Internet had not yet taken off at that point in time. I got laid off from that job as well and it was at that time that I decided I had to do something to ensure that I would have some kind of retirement income from somewhere someday. I had been missing being in the service, so I joined the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. But I was only a traditional guardsman serving one weekend per month. I still needed another job.

I quickly found another job working for an appliance store as a home theater, whole-house audio, and home telephone system installer. I helped our clients design what they wanted when their homes were only a set of blueprints, installed all the wiring when the house was framed, and completed the installation of all equipment what the house was finished. I eventually quit that job over disagreements I had with my employer and moved on to another company doing similar work, but without the retail storefront. Things went well for a little while, but then they started assigning me jobs in northern New Jersey and Baltimore, sometimes on the same day. I’m talking north Jersey as in looking over at Manhattan as I continued driving farther north up the turnpike. After a few weeks of that nonsense I left and went to yet another company in that industry. During all those years I never stopped writing.

Then came September 11, 2001. My Guard unit was activated and the deployments began, and I came to realize that still belonged in uniform full time. When my unit’s deployments ended and I returned to my civilian job, that realization quickly became determination to make it happen. I found an opportunity to go full time with the Air National Guard unit in Delaware, so I transferred. I retired from military service while assigned to that unit.

4) How long did it take you to write Solfleet: The Call of Duty?

As I stated earlier, I started making notes that eventually became The Call of Duty back in 1986, but I can’t say that was when I started it. Back then I didn’t know whether I wanted to write it as a Star Trek story or as an original work, and if as an original work, whether I wanted to write it about Earth humans or humans living in some far off place like had been done in Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica in the 1970s. I eventually decided to write it as a Star Trek story and submitted it to Pocket Books. It was only when Pocket Books rejected it unread in 1997 that I finally decided to create Solfleet. From that point in time it took me about five years to develop the world in which the story takes place and to rewrite it. It was during that rewrite that the story I originally set out to tell grew from one book into three.

5) What was your editing process?  How many people were involved?

My editing process was to rewrite every sentence if necessary until I was completely happy with everything. As any author can tell you, that’s a good way to never finish a book. So I got a few friends involved by having them read the manuscript and give me honest feedback. I made sure to stress the importance of being brutally honest. They were, and with their help I was able to bring the manuscript to a point where I could call it finished.

6) What path did you take to publication?  What problems arose?

I did not have an agent, and finding a reputable one has been a near impossible task. I went to a bookstore and wrote down the names of those publishing companies that had science-fiction books on the shelves. Then I went home and looked them up on the Internet. I identified those that would accept submissions without an agent’s involvement and submitted to them. I received two outright rejections and one letter of initial rejection with interest. That company didn’t want it as it was, but made three recommendations for changes—all three were actually  pretty minor and wouldn’t change the story—and invited me to resubmit if I made those changes. Needless to say I did exactly that.

After having been waiting for more than a year after the second submission, I got impatient and started looking for alternatives. I found one. That company offered me a publishing contract, so I signed with them. Little did I know that they would overprice the book and fail to meet their obligations as outlined in the contract. After three years of that, I started contacting them and requesting to be released from the contract due to their failures. They ignored repeated communications. I finally decided to sue them for breach of contract and was taking steps to do so when they offered to return all rights to me. I now have those rights again and I am looking at various alternatives as I approach having it republished.

7) Is there a big difference between the way you wrote the first Solfleet book and the way you are now writing the second?

Not really, except that the setting has already been created and developed. I don’t have to create from scratch such things as the technology and the history the way I did for the first one. I still sit for hours—fourteen to sixteen hours straight on some Saturdays—and immerse myself in the Solfleet universe when I’m working on it. I suppose the biggest difference this time around is the fact that I am working on multiple projects at the same time. When I wrote The Call of Duty it was the only project I was working on.

8) What will be different in the publishing process between Solflee: The Call of Duty and Solfleet: Beyond the Call?

I will be more patient. Beyond that, I don’t really know at this point. I certainly will not consider returning to the same publishing company that published The Call of Duty, and I would warn anyone trying to get their work published to avoid that company at all costs.

9) For any readers who aren’t familiar with the genre, could you explain what “fan fiction” is?

Fan fiction is any written work of fiction that is based on a property that the writer does not own. For example, many Star Trek fans have original story ideas. They write their stories and then offer them for free to anyone who might want to read them. They do it simply for the fun of doing it and for the love of the original property. In decades past that was pretty much the end of it, but advances in video and film technology combined with the growing power of personal computers and software have made it easier for fans to produce fan films as well as to write fan fiction. That is why you can go online and find programs such as Star Trek: Phase-II.

10) When and how did you get involved with Star Trek: Phase-II?  In what ways have you been involved with Phase II over the years?

Sometime after they released their proof of concept episode Come What May, I stumbled across their website by accident. I watched the episode and thought that some of the writing was a little too fan-boyish for my personal taste, but I was pretty impressed with the episode’s production values—particularly the fact that real sets were used. Later, after watchingIn Harm’s Way and being much more impressed by it, I decided that I wanted to be a part of the production team, if that was even possible. I contacted one of the producers and forwarded my resume to him with an offer to help out in any way that might be of value to them. We communicated back and forth for a little while and at some point in time he invited me to attend the next shoot, which turned out to be for the episode World Enough and Time, starring George Takei. To Serve All My Days, starring Walter Koenig, had recently wrapped.

Unfortunately, real life interfered and I was unable to attend that shoot—a fact that I still regret to this day. My luck changed for the better, however, when the time came to shoot David Gerrold’s Blood and Fire. I joined the crew as a general Production Assistant, but ended up working as a boom mike operator, a set construction worker, a temporary member of the Grip and Electric crew, a one evening temporary fill-in for the set security team, and even a bit player appearing in a few scenes with one line of dialogue delivered on the bridge of the Enterprise—thank you for that, David. Apparently I impressed someone because by the time I returned the following year for the filming of Enemy: Starfleet, I had been selected to serve as the Unit Production Manager and Second Assistant Director for that episode.

Since that time, real life has again temporarily prevented me from returning to Retro Films Studios, but I continue to participate in every production by serving as the Assistant to the Line Producer—a job that I can perform from home since the Line Producer and I live only an hour’s drive away from each other.

Beyond all that I write a comic book version of the show called Star Trek Phase-II: The Illustrated Adventures and have written a live-action episode for the show that may or may not be accepted for production someday. I say that because my episode looks back at Kirk’s first mission as captain of the Enterprise and that is not the kind of story that (Executive Producer and star) James Cawley is looking for right now. He is looking forward toward the new. Nevertheless, it is a very good story—not that I am anything but totally objective, of course—and it remains in his hands for consideration.

11) I’m jealous of your knowledge of Trek canon!  How do you keep facts straight with so many details?  Do you even consider the JJ Abrams version when you’re thinking “canon”?  There’s a great quote from your Star Trek Soldiers of Pawns partner in writing, Geoffrey Alan Holliday, on your blog comments.  “Inspired by a TV program in the 1960′s, Star Trek is now no longer just a pop culture phenomenon. Our beloved characters are now mythic heroes that belong to the ages.”  So, who decides what is canon and what is not?

Repetition. I grew up on the original Star Trek series. Like millions of other fans, I have seen each of the episodes dozens of times over the years. I probably know those characters and their lives as well as I know those of my own family.

As for Abrams’ reboot, I do consider everything prior to the Romulans’ arrival in the past to be part of canon, with the exception of the look. That said, if Abrams and his people had taken the look of the 1960s TV show and put it up on the big screen in 2009, the film likely would have been laughed right out of theaters. I personally do not like everything they did—changing the look of the Enterprise so drastically, using a brewery for the ship’s engineering section, and hanging meat locker plastic in the shuttlecraft, for example—but they had to change the look to appeal to a modern audience. So I choose to ignore those relatively minor details and concentrate on the story. Original series canon never stated that George and Winona Kirk were not stationed aboard the U.S.S. Kelvin together, or that Winona was not pregnant with James at the time, so why not? That ship and her crew’s uniforms might not look right from an original series point of view, but that look was changed for good reason. I choose to look past it.

Who decides what is canon and what is not? Every fan can decide for him- or herself. Officially, it is only canon if it has been presented in the TV shows or the movies. For Star Trek Soldiers of Pawns, Geoff and I have decided together what is canon to suit our storytelling needs. In our case, the Kelvin encountered the temporal rift presented in the 2009 film, but neither the Romulans nor older Spock came through it, so our universe is much more like that of the original series. Many fans of Star Trek: Phase-II chose to accept our episodes as canon. I believe that is what Geoff meant. The Abrams film opened a world of possibilities and freed those who write Star Trek to do so anywhere in the multiverse that they choose.

12) You are writing the Solfleet books alone, but Soldiers of Pawns with a partner, Geoffrey Alan Holliday.  What are the benefits and troubles of each method?

The most obvious benefit of writing alone is that I get to do whatever I want to do without having to listen to any argument or get someone else to agree with my decision. There is a downside to that, however. As the creator and sole writer of the Solfleet series, I am obviously very close to every word that goes into it. Have you ever held an object directly in front of your eyes, closer than your nose, and then tried to focus on it? You can’t. No matter how hard you try it remains blurry. Being that close to a project is the same. A writer can miss things that jump right out to others. That is how working with Geoff has been and continues to be. He will write something and I will tell him that it doesn’t work because…or I will write something and he will tell me that cannot happen because… We work as each others’ checks and balances. In addition, collaboration between two writers doubles the amount of creativity being applied to the project. In our case, that collaboration has led to some really good stuff.

13) In your blog you talk about pacing issues while writing chapter 10 of Soldiers of Pawns: War and Peace.  How does a writer know when more words are adding depth, and when more words are just making it longer than it needs to be?

I’m not sure I can answer that question for anyone other than myself. In my case I see the action part of the work as a film in my head. If that “plays” well in my head when a read back what I wrote, then I’m happy with it. If it starts to drag, then I have probably gotten too wordy. The exception to that rule is when I get into the characters’ heads. Depending on what is on his or her mind, it can take one of my characters two or three pages just to wake up and roll out of bed. I like deep, multi-faceted plots, but I always try to make my characters real and let them drive the story.

14) Many writers admit to going through a phase when they hate their Work In Progress.  Have you experienced that?  If so, how did you get past it?

In that sense I think writers are just like every other kind of artist. They are never completely satisfied with their own work. I have never actually hated anything I was writing, but I have dealt with moments of extreme dissatisfaction. Whenever that happens I step away from the project for a little while and work on something else. Then I go back and reread whatever I didn’t like and usually find that it was okay after all, or I find a way to make it better without too much effort, relatively speaking. If I go back to it and find that I still don’t like it and can’t figure out how to improve it…well, that hasn’t happened yet, so I don’t know.

15) You began Omniverse Productions, LCC in February with another partner, William Lutz.  How did that come about, and where is it headed?

Bill is illustrator and inker for Star Trek Phase-II: The Illustrated Adventures. We have both found that we enjoy working on that project together very much. I have to write. I can’t not write or my head will explode, as I have a lot of stories floating around in there. In addition, I am currently working on earning a bachelor’s degree in Business Management. Bill has told me that he would love to do nothing but draw for the rest of his life if that opportunity ever presented itself. The combination made forming a production company together seem like a no-brainer.

We are going to start by offering several digital comic book serials and graphic novels for sale over the Internet from our website, which is not yet online. Once we have a number of issues completed, we are going to look at moving into printing and hardcopy sales. Eventually, if things go well, we will look into novel publishing as well.

Obviously, we are not going to be able to do everything ourselves. I will write what I can and look at bringing in other writers when needed. Bill will illustrate one or two titles—maybe three—but more than that is just plain unrealistic. The artwork takes a lot of time. As art director, Bill takes the lead in looking for and contracting with other illustrators, inkers, and colorists to work with us.

16) How is Starship Endeavour related to Solfleet?  Is it related to Trek in any way?

Starship Endeavour is not related to Solfleet in any way. Nor is Solfleet related to Star Trek in any way. Solfleet is much darker and more realistic than Star Trek ever was. Starship Endeavour is one of those fan-fiction projects we talked about earlier. It is a Star Trek comic book series that I am developing and will eventually offer to readers for free. No profit will be made by anyone involved in its creation or distribution. As the title indicates, it will follow the adventures of the crew of the starship Endeavour, beginning at some point during the fourth year of the original series Enterprise’s famous five-year mission.

17) What can you tell us about Recon 7?  When and where will fans get a taste?

Recon 7 is another prospective property of Omniverse Productions, LLC—one that at this point has barely entered the development phase. In short, it is far too early to talk about it.

18) The Legend of Khi-Mara represents a shift from Science Fiction to Fantasy.  What inspired this?

A desire to expand my horizons. Most of what I read and nearly all that I write is science fiction, but there is a whole world of possibilities out there. Worlds of fantasy and magic, the paranormal, superheroes, the present day real world that we live in—all of those areas offer great storytelling potential. I don’t want to limit myself to just one of them, and with Omniverse Productions, LLC I will have ample opportunity to explore them all.

19) What motivated you to return to school?  What are your educational goals?

A little thing called the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. About seven years after I served in the Persian Gulf under Operation Enduring Freedom, Uncle Sam told me that he wanted to help me pay for my continuing education. When I originally joined the service there was no G.I. Bill being offered. Instead, there was something called the Veterans’ Education Assistance Program that soldiers had to pay into in order to benefit from. Having just graduated high school and sworn never to go to school again, I declined to participate in that. When the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill became available, I determined not to repeat that mistake.

Right now I am about a year shy of completing the requirements for my bachelor’s degree in Business Management. I am still attending classes and I will earn that degree. I am tentatively planning to transition directly into the MBA program upon completion.

20) You have a lot on your plate!  How do you juggle all your projects with the demands of school and life in general?  In what ways does your family support all that you do?

When it gets to be too much, I go get a bigger plate.

Actually, I am extremely blessed to have a job that allows for a substantial amount of time to work on homework while on the job and to be working for a company that permits me to do that. The fact that the company reimburses me for a portion of the tuition might have something to do with that, but whatever the reason it is a huge help. As for family, my son is grown and out on his own. My wife and I have no children in the home. She works full time as well and has always been supportive of my need and desire to write. In fact, like some of my readers, she has started asking me why certain projects are taking so long. Apparently she thinks I need to spend more time writing than I already do.

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About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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5 Responses to Interview With Glenn E. Smith

  1. Geoffrey Alan Holliday says:

    Great interview there. AmyBeth asked some really good questions and was obviously well versed in the projects. It was nice to see myself quoted too–haha. One is always surprised when quoted and it’s never the one you expect–but in this case a good one nonetheless.

    I believe Abrams’, Orci’s and Kurtzman’s most important contribution to Star Trek was to open up and validate the ”multi-verse”, providing new opportunities to tell fresh and compelling stories around the campfire about heroes we all know, and in a new age with new sensibilities.

    • Hi Geoffrey!
      I’m glad you made an appearance! I do try to make sure my interview questions are well researched. Glenn’s got so much on his plate, I had a hard time narrowing the interview to 20 questions, and I just threw away some of my more generic questions. I’m preparing questions for Patty Wright now, and that’s just as much a challenge, if not more! Her interview should appear on Friday April 15th.
      Abram’s Trek was a good sci-fi flick. I really hated some of the changes (like the planet Vulcan) but it did, as you say, “open up and validate the multi-verse”. (There, I quoted you again!) I think of it like the Arthurian Legends… it is a great world with certain familiar characters and characteristics, and there’s room for many creator to present their own “spin” on the story. Of course, many stories might be pretty crappy (Guenevere was NOT a warrior princess, nor was Robin Hood’s maid Marian!) but we can still enjoy them.

      Geoffrey… I should interview you later on, at some point that would be timely with Omniverse’s schedule. I’ll have my people call your people and we’ll do lunch. What time zone are you in?

  2. Pingback: Interview With Bill Lutz and Glenn Smith of Omniverse | AmyBeth Inverness

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