By day Dave is a computer “geek” who gets paid to build servers, administrate networks, yada yada yada. But in the evenings and on the weekends, he devotes his time to his writing and spending time with his lovely wife and their cats.
Dave used to collaborate with Greg Brodeur, the husband and collaborator of author Diane Carey, and some of his past books were written with Greg doing major plot and characterization. Now, however, Dave is a solo act, with recent works being short stories in the Tales of the Dominion War anthology, and the Star Trek: Constellations anthology. He also wrote his first Classic Trek novel in 2009, called Troublesome Minds and an episode of the Web series “Star Trek Phase II.” His books can be found in bookstores and on-line.
1. How much Star Trek canon do you have to absorb in order to write about characters that were not only created by someone else, but are well known and well loved by millions of fans?
It depends on how one defines canon. If we’re talking about the
minutia of the medals Kirk received or what age he was when he graduated the Academy, or the exact circumstance in which Picard was stabbed through the heart, probably casual viewing is enough. I think where one has to be an avid fan is when dealing with characters and their manner. Spock has to sound like Spock and Worf like Worf and if one hasn’t seen enough Trek to know how each would speak, and act, and move, then the experience isn’t going to play right in a reader’s head. Assuming that reader is a fan. So one has to be a fan, and
that’s enough. How much canon does the average Trek fan know? On average, a lot, but not everything, I think, so one need not be Memory Alpha (the Trek online Wiki).
2. Is there a particular authority who has to approve any story lines set in the Star Trek universe?
Yes, CBS has a licensing department and they approve stories to make sure that their licensed property is protected. You’re unlikely to see Picard phaser Riker in the head. CBS pays attention to such things.
3. Have you ever been told you had to change something because it was not in line with what someone else thought did or would happen in the Trekverse?
In the Maximum Warp books we had developed a political back story for some of the Romulans that was in line with the end of the Dominion War. Licensing asked us to change some of that because the next movie had Romulans (Nemesis) and was going to take a different political tack. We changed it, leaving the characters in place, but being vague about the Federation/Romulan politics of the time. Other than that, only little things, basically to minimize something they found too gory or too dark, but such instances were very rare. Usually they
asked questions which were bright and helpful and in answering their concerns we wrote better stories.
4. You’ve written stories set in TOS (The Original Series) Voyager,
The Corps of Engineers and more. What guided the decisions regarding which
setting and characters you used?
Generally, I would ask the editors what they needed. Or they might come to me and ask for something for this series or that. With the exception of “Troublesome Minds” which was very much my desire to write a Classic Trek novel. As for the setting of the individual books, we were left to pitch the story we wanted to tell. The concept of “Troublesome Minds” was actually turned down at first in the form of a TNG novel, and I reworked it when I realized how it could–and should–work as a TOS book. It was much better, I thought, that way, and the editor at the time agreed.
5. Would you consider writing a story set in the J.J. Abrams version of
Most certainly. I enjoyed the movie and felt the characters were mostly the same, if a bit changed, and it would be fun to write. People who think they didn’t get the characters right haven’t paid enough attention to early TOS.
6. Several of your stories were co-authored by Greg Brodeur. How did
that collaboration work?
Greg and I would plot, and he really taught me HOW to plot and do characterization, and then I would write a chapter and he’d read it and may suggestions about what to keep, what to add, and help chip away what wasn’t part of the story. It was always fun working with him, and I miss it, but he became busy and he taught me enough that he schooled himself out of a gig. (Though, I’m always better after running ideas by him and I still do that. He’s amazing at seeing just where a story can go.)
7. What kind of involvement have you had with Star Trek Phase II?
They produced a Trek story I co-wrote (“Enemy: Starfleet”) and it was an amazing experience. Sometimes it was aggravating and sometimes exhilarating and I suspect that’s pretty much like it would be working in Hollywood. I consider myself a friend of the show, and if and when I can help them with something, I try my best to do so. They’re good folks doing some amazing work in keeping Trek alive for the fans.
8. What other Trek related activities do you pursue?
Currently my wife and I are about to start blogging about Classic Trek. (http://pt-pt.facebook.com/pages/Sam-and-Dave-Blog-Classic-Trek/114825741945032?v=info)
While she’s a science fiction and fantasy fan (and a prolific reader), she more grew up with TNG and while she likes Trek, she wouldn’t call herself a Trekker. We wanted to watch the original show, and see if it holds up–to see if she sees in it what I do, having grown up with it. So, soon we’ll start watching an episode or two a week and talking about it on a Facebook blog.
9. Does your wife support your Trek habit? Are the cats OK with it?
She’d not have been right for me if she didn’t let me have my Trek! The cats care more about naps in the sun and wet noms than Star Trek, but I respect their decisions in that regard.
10. What social media do you use? Are you still actively involved in
promoting book sales?
I’m on Twitter (but more to follow than tweet) and on Facebook and now Google+. I’ve never been a big promoter of myself so I don’t really use it for self promotion, but because I like to chat with people and see what they’re saying.
11. What was your path to publication? Did you use an agent?
I didn’t use an agent, as I slipped write under the wire when the
office was still accepting work without one, and I had a good word in from Diane Carey who’d written Trek books for them. Because I was working with her husband, that got me in the door. Kinda lucky, I know. I am working on a book now and will likely get an agent to push it when I’m done.
12. What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
Believe it or not, I use email (sending an email to myself) to jot
down notes, then I use MS Word when I want to write them up. I used to use WordStar. That’s how old I am. And the first thing I wrote and finished, when I was age 18, was written on a typewriter.
13. What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
What is this non-electronic tool you speak of? I will jot notes with pen and paper too, but it’s far more rare.
14. What is the most persistent distraction from writing?
Life. Spending time with my wife is often far more desirable than writing. Because it’s not my day job, I don’t HAVE to write, so I do so when I want to, and often I want to be with her more than I want to write. She’s very good at directing me and supporting me as she knows I enjoy writing too.
15. What is your ideal writing environment? Have you ever been able to create it?
Sure, my ideal writing environment is easy: comfortable chair, TV on and tuned to something I can easily ignore (or if writing Trek, to a rerun so I can study mannerism and pattern of voice and such), and a computer to type on. More and more it’s a laptop on a TV table in the living room. I can’t write in quiet and I can’t write with music on (or lyrics seep into the prose).
16. Have you considered writing something that wasn’t set in the Trekverse?
All the time, but Trek is fun and people like it so it has always been a draw for me. But, I am currently working on a detective novel, set in the late 1950s, but with a science fiction conceit. No Trek characters will be harmed in the making of this novel.
17. Many writers go through a stage when they hate what they’re writing.
Do you ever feel this way? How do you get through it?
No, I never have hated writing. If anything, I’ve felt antsy if I’ve
NOT had a project to at least be thinking about. Several years ago, after my mother died, I had a short story I had to write and didn’t quite feel like getting started because I thought my feelings were morose. Interestingly, I wrote anyway, and my feelings helped the tone of the story at the start, and I was feeling better (more hopeful) at the end (as was the main character). (The story was “Eleven Hours Out” in “Tales of the Dominion War.”)
18. Do you consider yourself to be a writer who has a day-job? Or are you
a computer geek who writes a little on the side?
A little of both, I guess, for now. I say “for now” because if I won the lottery and could retire, I’d still write. I’d not be working as a server admin or system admin if I had millions in the bank. So, given that I’d always write, I think that makes me a writer with a day job. I never wanted to give up a steady pay-check and the benefits that come with a day-job, and given that many writers I know have had to find day-jobs of late, I think I made the right decision.
19. When the day comes that you are on stage, accepting some prestigious
award, who are you most likely to forget to thank?
My psychologist and the nurses on the ward in which I’m kept, because if I think I’m getting an award then something in my head has most definitely cracked. While I think I am a competent writer, and sometimes even a good writer, I don’t see myself as a great writer. I can, at times, write things I really love and think is a good scene but such things are woven together with threads of writing that are usually only serviceable. If I’m rushed, they can even make me cringe
a little. So I don’t think there are awards in my future, and I also
don’t think I need one. I’m happy if I can entertain someone, even on a fleeting level. If someone reads my work and says “that was good, I liked that” then I feel I’ve done my job.
20. Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
Han. Duh. I think it damages Han’s character arc from rogue to hero when it’s redone to make Greedo shoot first. Just my opinion. And my wife’s–she’s more of a Star Wars fan than I, and she agrees. Take that, George Lucas!
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