Interview with DAVID WALTON

WaltonD-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is David Walton?

As well as a science fiction author, I’m an engineer, a Christian, and the father of seven children. My oldest child is fourteen, and my youngest is only one and a half, so my home is a riotous place, full of love, adventure, and chaos. During the day, I work for Lockheed Martin, a satisfying career that makes use of my interests in math and algorithms. On my blog, I’ve written about how my Christian faith interacts with my love for science and science fiction.

Your next novel, Superposition, will be published by Pyr in the US, in April 2015. How would you introduce the novel to a potential reader? Is it part of a new series?

As a quantum physics murder mystery! Superposition is a fast-paced thriller, with high-stakes danger and a race to the finish. It starts when a former colleague shows up at Jacob Kelley’s door full of unbelievable tales and fires a gun at Jacob’s wife. When the colleague shows up dead, Jacob is accused of murder. Soon he and his teenage daughter are on the run, pursued by the police and by a quantum intelligence unconstrained by the normal limits of space and matter. Father and daughter have to pick up the pieces, following multiple paths of possibility to get to the truth and put their lives back together again.

Superposition is the first book in a two-book series, although it stands alone as a complete story. The second book, Supersymmetry, will be out in September.

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What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

I’ve always loved stories that tie my mind in knots. Stories that juggle multiple layers of reality, each of them affecting the others in complex but logical ways. The kind of stories that take big chances and then deliver. When I sat down to write Superposition, I wanted to write that kind of story.

As far as general inspiration, the experience of writing for me is a lot like reading, except that I get to influence what happens as I go along. I’m inspired by the great stories I’ve read in the past that give me that chill-down-the-spine feeling at a sudden revelation that’s a complete surprise but also exactly right. I write the kinds of books that I want to read, because I’m my own first reader. If I’d rather be reading somebody else’s book than writing my own, I’m doing something wrong.

How were you introduced to genre fiction?

When I was young, a friend of my mom’s suggested that I might like science fiction, and pointed me to classic SF that was written before I was born: Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, Arthur C. Clarke. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t realize at the time that new SF was being written. Most of my reading came from the library, not the bookstore, and there was no Internet in those days. It wasn’t until college, when a friend introduced me to Orson Scott Card’s books, that I realized people were out there writing new and exciting SF stories all the time. I discovered Nancy Kress and David Brin and a whole world opened up. I never looked back.

How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?

I love being a writer. Of course, most of being a writer is actually writing, which is a fairly solitary adventure, involving the delights of one’s own imagination. But the exciting thing about publishing is being able to share those imaginings with other people. As someone who has adored books and bookstores and libraries all my life, there’s nothing quite like seeing your own novels on the shelf and feeling like you’re a part of all that. The people I’ve worked with in the publishing industry have been creative, enthusiastic, talented, and great to work with. I’ve loved interacting with all of them to shape the words I’ve spent so much time thinking about into the finished product you hold in your hand.

Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

My writing practices are, by necessity, haphazard. I hold a full-time job and I’m very involved with my children and family. Evenings and weekends are full of homework help, meal preparation, diapers, bottles, ferrying to karate lessons and church events, etc. I don’t have an office or a special time to write; I write whenever I can, in the middle of everything. Maybe I’d be a better writer (or certainly a more prolific one) if I had more focused and dedicated time for it, but that’s not what my life looks like right now. I’ve learned to make writing work in and around the chaos.

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When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?

I’m not sure quite when I realized I wanted to “be” an author. I started writing SF short stories because a friend of mine in college was doing it, and it seemed like a fun thing to try. I started submitting them to magazines because he was doing it, and it seemed worth a shot. Then I kept doing it. And kept doing it. I was hooked. Pretty quickly it turned from something interesting I was trying out to a part of my identity that I was never going to give up. That was more than fifteen years ago, so I guess it’s here to stay.

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

Science fiction has always been a large genre. In the set of all possible stories, mainstream fiction deals only with the stories that could really happen, while science fiction covers everything else! That leaves a lot of room for new ideas, for speculation, for new experiments. SF is where concepts of philosophy, and religion, and what the world is here for, and what our future is, and how things might be different, can be explored from every possible angle.

A scientist studying a new phenomenon will consider it in different environments, under different pressures, and from different angles in order to understand it better. Science fiction writers do the same thing, only they do it with humanity and life. By putting characters on worlds and with technologies that can never exist, we explore what it means to be human. I’m just a tiny part of that, using my imagination to add a few new angles to the rest.

Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?

I have a new present-day SF thriller that I’m in the early stages of writing, but that’s about as much as I’m willing to say about it for now. Though as a small hint, the two non-fiction books I mention in the next answer are both related to it. (One is about secret codes, and the other about fungi. How’s that for cryptic?)

What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

I’ve been reading a lot of Daniel Abraham lately, both his Dagger and Coin series, as well as the Expanse series he’s writing with Ty Franck as James S. A. Corey. I can’t recommend those books enough. I’m also reading The Three Body Problem, by Cixin Liu (translated from Chinese by Ken Liu). In non-fiction, I’m reading Leo Marks’ Between Silk and Cyanide and Mycelium Running, by Paul Stamets.

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What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

Most people are surprised to learn that I have seven kids, and no office or special time in which to write! I don’t think I have any more hidden surprises that would top that. I do enjoy playing a bit of jazz piano, and I accompany a rollicking singing time for the four- and five-year-old Sunday School class at my church.

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

I’m looking forward to seeing what the reader response to Superposition and Supersymmetry will be! I’m very excited about these books, and I can’t wait for other people to get a chance to read them.

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