Author Interview: Richard D. Mellinger Jr.

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– What inspired you to start writing your novels, such as Harold and the Purple Wormhole?

Each novel has had a different inspiration. When I first started writing Harold, I was working on my senior thesis for my BS in physics at Cal Poly SLO. The project involved general relativity and, as I tend to do, I spent a lot of time thinking about wormholes. One day, in response to musing about where wormholes might come from, I though “Well, to make a wormhole, clearly you need a giant worm, duh…” This is the essence of Harold and the Purple Wormhole. After I finished chucking about how silly the idea was, the story had taken hold and demanded to be written, and so it was.

– Can you tell us readers a little bit about Harold and the Purple Wormhole?

Dr. Nenad Conroy is a brilliant scientist that wants to travel by wormhole, so he creates a giant worm that can tear holes in spacetime; this worm’s name is Harold. The two of them go out to test Harold’s abilities. Due to a disagreement and a mishap, they end up in pre-Arthurian England where they get their fair share of adventure trying to get home and learn about the true origins of the myth of wizards.

– What type of short fiction do you write?

My short fiction ranges in length from 60 to about 8,000 words. Some of it is science fiction, some of it is horror, much of it is just plain silly, a few are thought-provoking; all of them, though, are character-driven, as the characters are the most important part of any story.

– Who is your favorite character from your latest novel? And why?

I love all my characters, but forced to pick a favorite, I’d have to go with Harold. Harold is this huge, super-cognitive worm that can manipulate the fabric of spacetime with his brain and visualize eleven-dimensional maps, but he acts like a huge puppy. I think it’s hard not to want to scratch his head and call him a good boy.

– Which one of your short stories was the hardest one to write? And why?

I have a hard time writing from the point of view of a woman. As soon as I realized that I was making a great deal of my characters male simply because it’s easier for me to get into their heads, I started trying to make more of my protagonists female, because I like the challenge. I have one short, Tittle Attraction (available on my blog), that was pretty tough for this reason. The narrator wasn’t only a woman, but she was also a lesbian. Getting her voice down was rough, but the harder the character is to write, the more fun I have trying to get it, so it ended up also being one of my favorites.

– Which one of your short stories did you enjoy writing the most?

This is a tough question, because I get a certain amount of satisfaction from having a clever flash fiction idea and sitting down to write it before I even finishing giggling about it (House Rules is a perfect example of this). However, like I said before, I also really love the process of digging around looking for the right way to tell a story. I think, with that in mind, that I probably had the most fun writing The Great Hat Caper and Tittle Attraction of all my short fiction.

– How many short stories would you say you have written so far?

There are about 55 short stories on my blog. I’ve written a few more that can’t be found there, but that’s mostly because they aren’t any good, so I say that they don’t count.

– What advice would you give to other writer that also write short fiction?

My advice to writers is and always has been to write. Stop worrying about how it is going to turn out, stop waiting for the perfect idea, just write and read a lot. If you decided you like some other idea better, you can always put your current project aside, but you can never go back and recapture all the time that you didn’t spend writing.

At first your writing is going to be crap, don’t worry about it. I have a whole novel (possibly two?) and a pile of short stories that will never see the light of day. These stories were not a waste, because I learned about myself and my craft while making them.
Keep writing
, it will get better. If you love writing, it will be worth it.

– From reading your short stories, I can tell the use of dialogue is perfect. Any tips for other writers?

This is going to sound a bit creepy, but I spend a lot of time watching people. Not peeping-through-the-window sort of watching, but when I’maround people I watch them. I listen to how they interact and pay attention to how and when they talk. I think this helps a lot. At the very least it’s entertaining, because people are weird.

So, my advice about dialogue is this: to emulate people’s speech, you must observe people speaking. Also notice how rarely people actually finish their thoughts or speak in full sentences. Sometimes they just…

– What is your latest writing that you are currently working on?

One of my other novels, Molehills of Mountains (currently unpublished), is about a vole that takes on a maniacal cyborg mole, a remnant of the long since passed human wars. The mole has his mind set on the destruction of all the rodents in the valley and Viktor the vole, being a rodent in that valley, doesn’t like that plan. I’m currently writing the sequel, which doesn’t yet have a title other than Neven, which is the name of the protagonist.

– When is your book, Harold and the Purple Wormhole coming out?

That’s a complicated question. I signed my contract with Divertir Publishing back in July. There is some editing and cover designing going on and it all depends on how long that takes. The people at Divertir pride themselves on putting out high quality novels, so it will take a little while still, but the wait will be worth it.
As soon as I know a release date, you can bet it will be all over my blog, twitter, and facebook.

– What genre would you say your writing falls under?

My writing is all over the place. Being a scientifically-minded person, I think that there is a scientific slant to all my fiction, but I would put very little of it squarely in the sci-fi category. Some of it is a bit fantasy, a little of it is horror, some of it masquerades as literary, all of it is kind of strange. I wish “kind of strange” was a genre.

– Who is your favorite author? And why?

This depends on my mood. I can answer with my top three though: Kurt Vonnegut, Christopher Moore, and Stephen King.
The way Stephen King puts words together just works for and inspires me. He is brilliant, and his stories are great, but his manipulation of the language to get into the reader’s head just amazes me.
Kurt Vonnegut is more of an idea man for me, his writing is phenomenal, his characters are ready to crawl off the page, but what really gets to me with Vonnegut are his overall storylines and how wonderful they are.

Christopher Moore… what more is there to say about Mr. Moore. Just go read his novels and you’ll get it. The man is a master.

– What books, besides your own have you read?

I read a good deal. I like to switch it up: sometimes I read horror, sometimes I read science fiction, sometimes I read fantasy, and I love my classics. I’ll read just about any genre as long as its well written and interesting. I also read a fair amount of nonfiction in the form of research.

I’m on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/33253444-richard-mellinger), if anyone is interested in exactly what books I read. I only joined recently, so it doesn’t have every book I’ve ever read, but I put them on there as I remember.

– Would you say that reading is important for those wanting to be authors one day?

Yes. Reading is critical, there are no two ways about it.

– Where can we find your collection of short stories?

You can find a lot of my short stories on my blog (http://imasillypirate.wordpress.com/). I try to post a new short or comic at least once a week. Often times at 3 pm (PST) on Tuesdays. There is also one piece of my flash fiction that was featured on SaturdayNightReader.com onJune 17th.

– Where can all of us readers buy your book that is being published by Divertir Publishing?

Divertir sells books on their website (http://www.divertirpublishing.com/) and on Amazon.

I’ll post on my blog and twitter when I know a release date.

– Are there any other books you are working on? If so, can you tell us a about them?

Aside from the sequel to Molehills of Mountains that I mentioned above, there is another novel in the works. Eponym has been written and is in the beta reader phase now. In Eponym, an attempt to combat global warming by Dr Alexandros Florian goes horribly wrong and turns the earth into a desert. The novel is the story of his son, who shares his name, trying to survive in the remnants of society several years later.

–  Your characters come to life right off the pages! How did you write such stunning yet realistic characters?

Thanks! That is, in my opinion, one of the greatest compliments that you can pay a writer! As I stated before, I do a lot of people-watching, which helps, I think.

Also, when writing, it is beneficial to remember that though your story may only need some characters to do something very specific, allplayers in your story are still characters. They have a back story, they have a family, they have friends and aspirations, and most importantly, the story that they are living is not usually centered around the protagonist of the story you are writing, but around themselves. I make up back stories about anyone that I mention specifically in my writing… and people that I pass on the street… and random people that I follow on twitter… I think I have a problem...
My point is, though, that
every character has a story. Even though most of it doesn’t explicitly spill out onto the page, it’s there and I think that helps each and every character to feel more real.
I also recycle some of my characters. In most cases, nobody but me notices their presence, because I often don’t even use their names, b
ut they are there. Some of them are more obvious though, for example, Dr. Conroy is mentioned in Tittle Attraction as are the two main characters from Distinct Impression. Some characters will be in the limelight, others will play out their existence in the background, but they are all important.

– Did you always know that you wanted to be an author? 

I have always been a story teller, and I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that the creativity of a human mind can create or destroy entire universes within itself. I started writing on and off just after high school, but it was mostly for me, and a large majority of stuff I started at that time was never finished. I never really considered the idea that anyone (aside from my sister) might actually want to read anything I write until years later.

Now, though, I can’t imagine my life without writing.

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