Behind the Book with Richard Paolinelli
Liz - Tell us a little about your part of the world.
Richard - I live in Western Colorado here in the United States and I’m enjoying having four full and distinct seasons. We lived in the Los Angeles area for a while. Spring there lasted 363 days, summer for a full day, fall for 18 hours and winter for six hours, usually around December 23rd. Here we actually see the trees turn color, snowfall on the ground, spring showers and some nice warm summer days over long periods of time. But mostly I enjoy living in a smaller town. The peace and quiet is the best part and we’re not too far away from a bigger city like Denver or Salt Lake City if we need to go in for shopping or entertainment.
Liz - You started out as a freelance writer before embarking on a thirty-year career as a sportswriter. What did you enjoy most about sports writing and what was your favourite sport to cover?
Richard -I’d have to say that football (American, not soccer) was my favorite to cover. As for the writing aspect of it, I most enjoyed taking a game that took anywhere from 2-4 hours to play and condensing it down to an article in the paper in such a way that a reader who hadn’t attended the game could feel like they’d watched the game themselves.
Liz - What was the career highlight?
Richard - Professionally it would be the 2001 CNPA Award for Best Sports Story in the state of California. Personally it would be getting to interview Roger Staubach, who I grew up watching play football for the Dallas Cowboys. I also got to interview Senator John Glenn, another childhood hero, for a non-sports story.
Liz - What led to the decision to move from sports writing to writing fiction and non-fiction novels?
Richard - I’d started out wanting to write fiction. In fact my first fiction writing credit was in 1986 when I was the lead story writer for the Elite Comics series, Seadragon. But I needed a steady paying job to pay the bills and I took a job with a newspaper in New Mexico as a sportswriter.
But when I knew it was time to leave the newspaper field, I wanted to go back and try to write fiction again. I also had ideas for two non-fiction sports books that I wanted to work on and they required some time to research before I could write them. So in 2013 I took the leap and never looked back.
Liz - At one point, you also reached a high-level at bowling. What made you decide to give it up professionally? Do you still enjoy playing now?
Richard - My dad was a semi-pro bowler in the 1960s in Nevada. He made more money as a house pro in the bowling alley he bowled in than he could have made as a pro on the national tour back then, so he never tried to make the Pro Tour. I think always wondered what would have happened if he’d tried. As good as he was, I think he’d have made it, but he chose to find a regular paying job to support his new family.
When I started bowling, I won the first tournament I’d ever entered, and after a few years I was averaging in the 200s. So, I decided to give it a go, to see if I was good enough to make it and in a small way, for dad. I got to the PBA Regional Tour for a few events and found out my 214 average in the bowling alley I bowled in was very good, but not good enough to go up against the big boys. So I decided not to pursue it any further. I’m glad I tried though, because some thirty years later I’m not sitting in my recliner and wondering what would have happened.
I bowled in leagues up until the Spring of 2020 when COVID cancelled league bowling where we were. I haven’t thrown a ball since, partly due to COVID (I can’t wear a mask for over an hour), partly due to a move we made and partly to me recovering from a shoulder injury. But I’ve been considering giving it another go this fall. I do enjoy the game still.
Liz - With over twenty short story features in anthologies, do you have a favourite?
Richard - That’s a tough question to answer. I’m proud of every single one of them, but I do have a few favorites for different reasons. I wrote “The Woman Returns” for a Sherlock Holmes anthology and got an e-mail for a well-known Holmes writer that he’d read it and would have suspected it was a previously unpublished Doyle original work had my byline not been on it. It also was a part of another anthology that married a dozen Holmes stories with paintings created by artists after they’d read the original story. Somewhere in South Florida is a huge painting inspired by something I wrote. That still blows my mind a little that I inspired an artist to create a piece of art.
I have another story, “The Fall of Denver” that was part of a tribute to H.G. Wells. Its set during the events of War of the Worlds, but follows the Martians landing in Denver (under the assumption that they landed all over the world). It’s the story of a US Army Major who is retiring after being crippled by an injury during a battle weeks before. He is turning in his papers at the fort in Denver when the Martians arrive and is tasked with evacuating the women and children from the fort and any he encounters along the way to a hidden canyon in the nearby mountains. Among the refugees is the wife and son of the fort’s commanding officer, an old friend of the Major’s. As the battle plays out on the other side of the mountains, we learn of the past history between the Major and the C.O.’s wife. The story was described as “a heartbreaking romance set in a sci-fi setting”. I enjoyed writing it a lot.
And finally, “Barn Wars: The Rise of Brooster Motherclucker”, appeared in an anthology called, “Cracked”, a collection of sci-fi/fantasy stories with chickens as the main theme. My story was a parody of Star Wars, the Looney Tunes cartoons and a dash of Charlotte’s Web thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed this one because I went into it knowing I could be as ridiculous and silly as I wanted. It was a lot of fun to write and its actually set up for a sequel…
Liz - Is short story writing something you see yourself doing more of?
Richard - I actually have another 15-20 ideas for short stories that I’d love to get to in the future. But for now I’m going to focus my attention on a few novels I’d like to wrap up first. So yes, I’ll be doing some more and I enjoy the challenge of telling a story and developing characters in such a compacted word count.
Liz - Your first novel, Maelstrom was published in 2014. What inspired the book and can you tell us about it?
Richard - When I first got the idea for it there were a lot of movies and TV shows about meteors and asteroids hitting the Earth (Dark Skies, Armageddon and Deep Impact for example) and a lot of documentaries on Discovery and Science channel. A few of them focused on what we could do to stop such an impact.
It got me wondering, what if a scientist came up with a way to deflect an asteroid away, but when he tested the device hew wound up wiping out most of civilization? What if he survived the event? What would he do? Would he do whatever it took to fix the mess he’d made? Or would he throw himself off a cliff in his guilt?
This is the premise of Maelstrom. Dr. Steven Collins builds a device that would deflect a killer asteroid away, but when he turns it on it triggers the nuclear WWIII we’ve all feared for so long. The device manages to throw him a century into the future where he finds it is still in operation, an impenetrable (for asteroids) planet-wide energy field. But, there’s only about a million human beings left alive and they are slowly dying off under the shield and they can’t flee the planet because there is a madman on the other side who wants to finish off what Collins started and end the human race. Collins now must find a way to bring down his shield and stop the maniac on the other side.
9. How has your writing style/process changed from when you wrote your first novel to your latest?
I write a lot faster now than I did when I began. I also don’t spend a ton of time outline every single detail, which I used to do a few years ago when I started. Now, I get a general synopsis down, with main characters names and details included. Then I write the first chapter, then the final chapter and then I return to the end of the first chapter and just start writing until I find myself back at the beginning of the final chapter.
I keep saying there’s a method to the madness. My wife says there’s just madness.
Liz - What is it that you love about the Space Opera Science Fiction Genre?
Richard - Because its set in the future and, in the case of the Starquest universe I’m writing in, in a completely different galaxy I have a freedom to write whatever I want without having to worry overmuch about “selling it” to the reader. In the Space Opera setting, you’re expected to have tech we wouldn’t be familiar with today.
Plus, there is a lot of political intrigue afoot in Space Opera, and I love weaving in a lot of skullduggery and political back-stabbing in my stories (See the Del Rio mystery-thriller series and When The Gods Fell) because it’s a level of mystery to add into the mix for the reader to sort through.
Liz - Your latest release, Galen’s Way is the first in a series. How much world building did you do in preparation?
Richard - Not as much as you might think only because the Starquest Universe that Galen’s Way is set in was created by author John C. Wright. He generated a bible for the universe that is over a hundred pages in length and invited other authors to come into his sandbox and have fun.
Once I found which Age I wanted to write in (There are 12 Ages and I selected the 4th Age) a lot of the universe building was already in place. I just needed to add in a few minor worlds and start building the backstories for the characters.
Liz - Can you tell us about Galen’s Way?
Richard - It follows the adventures of Galen Dwynn, who is a mercenary and smuggler who is feared throughout the known (by the humans who were transported there long ago) Andromeda Galaxy. Even the Alliance’s military wants nothing to do with him. He’s that dangerous. But he is also a man of honor with a strong code of ethics, despite being an orphan and having been tortured and abused by the military that he grew up in and eventually escaped.
Galen is approached to rescue a kidnapped Princess, and takes the job not only for the ridiculous amount of money he’s been offered, but to settle a score with the alleged kidnapper. Only, when Galen penetrates the supposedly impenetrable defenses of the kidnapper’s lair, he discovers more than one kidnapped princess and also that he is right in the middle of a plot to replace the Alliance with a malignant Empire.
Now with the entire known Galaxy after him as a kidnapper and murderer, Galen must uncover who is behind the plot, preserve the Alliance, prove his innocence, and keep both himself and the Princess Rhiannon alive in the process.
Liz - Have you planned how many books will be in the series? Or do you write one at a time and see where it takes you?
Richard - Currently I have six books plotted for the 4th Age series. Plus another three or four in what I am calling the Pre-Migration Series in the Starquest Universe (they take place in the final century humanity lives in the Milky Way before it is transplanted to Andromeda ahead of an evil dark force that is killing every star in the Milky Way.) which I have already set up in the Epilogue of Galen’s Way. I also have a couple of books plotted for a Hunter’s Series in Starquest, set up in the first book of the Pre-Migration series, that are set in the late 21st Century on Earth. All three series are connected and a readers could start at Book 1 of Hunters and go all the way through to the final book of 4th Age and easily see the thread that connects them.
Could there be more in one or all three? Possibly. There are endless possibilities, which is why I’m really enjoying working on Starquest with John. I can’t wait to read his 12th Age stories.
14. Do you have a specific process or ritual for your writing?
Well, first I draw a pentagram, then sacrifice an Eagle…. Oh wait, that’s my ritual before every Dallas Cowboys game starts. Never mind…
No, the real answer is I really don’t. I just sit down, open the file and start pounding the keyboard.
Liz - What are you currently working on?
Richard - As I type these answers I’m wrapping up work/final edits on Galen’s Blade (Starquest 4th Age Book #3) and then its straight into Ranger (Starquest Pre-Migration Book #1). After that I’m working on a novelization of the Seadragon comic book series I worked on back in the 1980s. I got the green light on that project from the surviving creator of the series and I’m looking forward to finishing it.
16. Where can our readers follow you?
My website is really the best place: www.scifiscribe.com as everything related to me is posted there. I also blog there too. You can also follow my page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/scifiscribe or sign-up for my weekly newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/8583bc43d04a/postcardsfrominfinity