For my last post of 2021, I’m happy to publish an interview with Bobbie Falin. Bobbie is a science fiction/fantasy writer in Bowling Green, Kentucky. She’s also my long-time friend and writing group partner. I’ve read her upcoming novel, Flashing Dark, and it’s terrific. Thank you very much to Bobbie for this interview.
– Bobbie, you and I were in a writers’ group together in Kentucky. Would you please tell us what this group has meant to you, and how is everybody doing?
First off, we all miss you very much, and I hope your new group appreciates what you bring to them. Your input was invaluable to us. Everyone in SKY Writers is doing well. Gerry Harlan Brown has a new book, Ring the Bell, coming out soon, and Noel Barton is finishing the last bits of what promises to be her best yet, Lucretia. Kimberly Bartley, being a teacher and a mom, has had to take a step back from the group, but she still works with us occasionally. And, obviously, you are still, technically, one of us. We are devoted to helping each other produce the best work we possibly can. We write in different genres, but, as we say, “good writing is good writing” regardless of genre, and we are capable of recognizing that. Being in a critique group has sharpened our skills as we learn from one another.
– Tell us about Flashing Dark.
Wow, summarizing this book has been very difficult for me, but I think I’ve finally got the hang of it. Captain Vivi Zant is haunted by the loss of her little brother, Anthy, during a botched rescue mission. When she sees another child at risk of the same terrible things she and Anthy experienced, she is determined to save the kid. It doesn’t matter that in the process she loses her partner, her ship, and everything that keeps her in space. She’s willing to put the future of the whole Earth Alliance on the line as she takes on the Moneyworld and all the aliens—friends and enemies—that come with it.
– I have the impression that you’ve been working on this project a long time, and it’s been through some changes. What’s the history of this story for you?
Oh yes. This idea came to me over 30 years ago as a character conversation about clones. That story is still in my head, as something that would happen in the character, Liri’s, future.
– I know that in your revision process, you made a major change to your main character. Could you talk about what it took to make this change?
When I started querying the story it had a 140,000 word count, which is a non-starter for a first-time author. I managed to get it down to 130,000 words, then decided to change my protagonist from Greg Shap, to a woman named Vivi Zant, hoping to make it more marketable—yes, sometimes it makes sense to try to write to market. Greg was a roguish, outspoken guy with a dry sense of humor, so it was not difficult to substitute the ‘she’ for ‘he’ in Word, then read through and make the necessary tweaks. (I hope I got them all!) I know there are big differences in genders, but basically there’s a happy middle where we all meet on some things. This is not a romance, so some of the more distinct differences between the sexes were not an issue. Basically, if you want to do the right thing, there are limited options, whether you’re male or female. My word count was still too high to attract an agent, however. But that’s what it takes to tell the story.
– I think this may be the third time you’ve self-published one of your novels. What has been your experience with self-publishing?
I have found the self-publishing process relatively easy. I have used IngramSpark, Draft2Digital, KDP, and Amazon. They all offer free ISBN numbers if you publish with them, which saves money. Some are easier to work with than others, but they are all learnable. I think Draft2Digital is the easiest.
With self-publishing, I have control over my own work, not to mention I make a lot more money on a sale, since I don’t have to share commissions with editors and publishers. I would have to do my own promotion anyway, so I may as well make the decisions and reap all the benefits. I can also tweak my work when I feel the need. One of the benefits of self-publishing is that your book never goes out of print unless you say so. You can re-invent your promotions and put up a new cover when you decide to do it.
– What’s your writing process? I believe you are primarily a pantser like me. How do you develop your characters and your stories?
I usually start with just a conversation or an idea that I jotted down. As a pantser, I may write more little vignettes, and they slowly morph into a story. I love word processors, as I can move the bits around! That was not easy when everything was typewritten—yes, I’m that old. As I write I continue to move forward, but I am constantly going back and editing in. It’s like, get the idea down, then go back and fill in the details. I feel it makes for better cohesion of plot and character.
– You’ve been a good role model for me and others with the way you focus on revision. Can you talk about what it’s like to revise your drafts? How do you approach it? Do you find that your final drafts are far different than your first draft?
Thank you. I think I have the heart of an editor, but I lack perfect grammar skills. My story may change a lot from the very beginning concept, but it tightens down as it goes along. I get surprised along the way, but it seems a natural progression.
– Do you feel that you have always been a person with an active imagination? What stimulates you to imagine alien worlds and harrowing adventures?
I have always been artistically inclined, and have a degree in Art. I can draw and paint very well, but I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Isn’t that the way it always goes? We want what we don’t have. But I guess the challenge of learning to be a good writer has been good for me.
– Do you think of yourself as a genre author? How do you describe or categorize your writing?
I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy. I remember the first science fiction book I read, in the fourth grade: Elevator to the Moon. I am definitely a genre writer, though I read widely.
– Could you tell us about your other books, the Starchild series?
The Starchild Series is about a young girl who discovers her people have lied to her about her Birthstar and that she was born to what she believes is evil. She flees out into an alien world and is captured by three warriors, who demand she fix the damage her Birthstar has caused to their world. The damage, however, is immense and ongoing as her evil uncle seeks to restore his power through her, so they find themselves in a bigger, prolonged battle. It’s an adventure story of found family.
– Who are some of the authors who influenced you? What books do you really love?
So many writers! If I like one, I read everything they write. I love CJ Cherryh, Terry Pratchett, Anne McCaffrey, Glen Cook. John Ringo, and Steven Brust. I also love Stephanie Plum and Jack Reacher books. And Amy Tan! They’re stories that have strong characterization and astounding worlds and they all teach me something about the art. My absolute favorites are Paolo Bacigalupi—he just astounds me—and Cordwainer Smith.
– Was there a particular book as a child that made you feel that you wanted to be a writer?
My grandmother used to send me paperbacks about the adventures of twin Christian teen boys that really inspired me. Then I read the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and began to make up stories with my own characters.
– You and I both have upcoming books that share the same cover artist. For the Starchild series, I think you designed your own covers. What have you learned about cover design?
There is a science to it and a good professional knows the best way to do things. I have a degree in art and have done two of my own covers, but I have studied a lot of book covers and I wonder if I would sell more if I had professional covers. The RIGHT cover. That matters most.
I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my work. Writing is hard, even if we love it, and people showing an interest means a lot. I know people are going to be very excited when they get your first book in their hands.
Thank you so much to Bobbie Falin! I encourage you to read (and review) her books. Watch for Flashing Dark early in 2022!