What inspired you to write your first book?
A lack of usable documentation. Software companies, particularly those who develop large scale libraries for computer programmers, are very good at producing large volumes of detailed documentation and a pile of hokey little examples. What I mean by that is the documentation tends to be expert friendly reference material. They provide a lot of “call this function with these parameters and it does this” type of documentation. Where they fail miserably is in providing complete examples. There was no documentation out there which told someone new to the product/library “here is how you create a data entry screen which adds record to a database.”
Nearly everyone reading this has went to a Web site and filled out an order form, or has gotten some form of computer generated bill/invoice in the mail. What most reading this won’t know is the “how” behind creating all of the less than sexy programs behind that isn’t really taught. Designers, artists, and management simply say “We want these graphics with those fonts to have this look and feel while doing this.” Developers are left twisting in the breeze when it comes to the “how” portion of actually achieving that.
What made you want to be a writer?
“Word Processor of the Gods.” It is a Stephen King story which first appeared in an issue of Playboy during my teenage years when Playboy was still considered cool. It later appeared again in “Skeleton Crew” and was the primary reason I got my hands on a copy of that book. The story was written early on in what later became known as “The Computer Age” and it sucked the reader in from the beginning. Those scant few paragraphs (compared to a novel) really pulled the reader in and took them to a place where they seriously considered “what if?”
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
One thing which always intrigues me is the phrase “writing this book” being in a question. I am not alone when I say I didn’t write this book, I simply recorded what the characters told me. I have seen the same statement from many other successful writers. When I am working on my geek book series I actually am writing the book. I’m choosing what needs to be in it and developing all examples. They are very deliberate creations. My fiction, and this book in particular, are created primarily by “watching” and “listening” to the characters as they show or tell their story to me. My duty is to write it down as completely as possible.
That said, there was a lot of history I had to look up when John Smith chose to talk about it. Most readers are quite shocked to learn just how much of the story is actual human history.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
I intend to make it my last career, audience willing. There is a lot of truth to that retirement commercial when they ask “shouldn’t retirement be paying yourself to do what you love?”
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
My ability to type. That may sound odd, but it is true. I have encountered so many writers and computer programmers who cannot type. They hammer away with two fingers and bemoan every day at the keyboard. Some writers still write on paper and have someone else do the first keying for them. Others have openly stated they purchased dictation software so they could speak their first draft instead of having to manually enter it.
I was lucky in my IT career. One of the languages I had to work with was COBOL. Even if you have never used a computer in your life you have probably gotten a bill or paycheck generated by a system written in COBOL. If you have heard anything about the language you will have heard it is the wordiest programming language ever created. We didn’t have speedy desktops and soft touch keyboards back then. Many of the keyboards were closer to a manual typewriter than anything the younger generations would be familiar with today. Typing required a lot of effort. We morphed the famous French Foreign Legion motto “March or Die” into the COBOL programmer’s motto of “Type or Die.” It was nothing to have a single module weigh in at thousands of lines of source. Most applications (payroll, order processing, etc.) needed dozens if not hundreds of modules to achieve their task.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I have never called it writer’s block. In truth I am unfamiliar with the concept. I have periods of time where the characters simply choose to rest. During those times I occupy myself with various physical labor tasks which leaves my mind free for them to start talking again.
Another thing I do, which may sound odd, is change out keyboards. Even when I’m writing with my netbook instead of my desktop I still use a full sized keyboard. I keep a stack of spare keyboards I’ve accumulated over the years. Some are the older “mechanical” or “clicky” keyboards. Most have different layouts. Each requires a bit of re-learning when it comes to the size of the backspace and return keys as well as the key spacing. This tiny act seems to use a different part of my brain which gets the characters speaking again.
When I’m between consulting contracts and writing for days on end I will swap them out a couple of times per week. Some of them are quite nostalgic for me, like an original IBM PS/2 keyboard and a Chicony keyboard from the days when they were second only to NCR in quality. It was a sad day when NCR left the PC market. They still make customized keyboards for their point of sale systems, or at least I still see them. Most of you don’t bother to read the little booklet which comes with a new keyboard, you simply start typing. If you did read it you would find most of today’s keyboards have a rated life span of around 1 million keystrokes. Point of sale systems can have a million keystrokes in a year, if not a month. Quality is something most people don’t seem to care about these days.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
The book currently out for first round editing is “Lesedi.” It fills a large portion of the gap between the end of “Infinite Exposure” and “John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars.” At some point next year I hope begin work on “John Smith: The Last Gift of Atlantis.” Some of the characters have made themselves known but others are just kind of lurking in the shadows. Perhaps they are simply waiting for me to start telling the stories of the others before they feel confident enough to come forward.
How did you come up with the title?
I listened to the characters. This was the story they told.
Who is your publisher?
I self-publish my work these days.
Will you write others in this same genre?
I plan to write/co-write another “John Smith” book to be the base for a series. Hopefully I will be able to hand that series off to some young and talented writer. The fleshing out of a new world rising from the ashes of the old should really be done by someone who hasn’t lived a long time in “Earth That Was.”
How much of the book is realistic?
A significant portion of “John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars” is actual recorded human history.
“John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars” is one big interview. It is a transcript of a dialogue between “John Smith” (who, as the title of the book implies is the last known survivor of the Microsoft wars) and the interviewer for a prominent news organization.
Genre – Dystopian Fiction
Rating – PG
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