The Write Stuff – Monday, March 13 – Interview With Louis Antonelli

This week’s guest is a very prolific author with over one hundred short stories to his credit, a widespread and varied publication history and several awards. Small wonder that WordFire Press elected to bring Louis Antonelli on board.

Lou Antonelli started writing fiction in middle age; his first story was published in 2003 when he was 46. He’s had short stories published in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, India and Portugal in venues such as Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jim Baen’s Universe, Tales of the Talisman, Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD), Daily Science Fiction, Buzzy Mag, and Omni Reboot, among many others.

His collections include “Fantastic Texas” published in 2009; “Texas & Other Planets” published in 2010; and “The Clock Struck None” and “Letters from Gardner”, both published in 2014.

His story “Great White Ship”, originally published in Daily Science Fiction, was a 2013 finalist for the Sidewise Award for alternate history. His short story “On a Spiritual Plain”, originally published in Sci Phi Journal, was a finalist for the Hugo award in 2015.

His first professional science fiction short story, “A Rocket for the Republic” (Asimov’s Science Fiction Sept. 2005) was the last story accepted by Editor Gardner Dozois before he retired after 19 years.

“The Yellow Flag” his 100th published short story (Sci-Phi Journal Aug. 2016) set the record for all-time fastest turnaround in genre fiction. It was written, submitted and accepted between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on May 6, 2015

A Massachusetts native, Antonelli moved to Texas in 1985 and is married to Dallas native Patricia (Randolph) Antonelli. They have three adopted furbaby children, Millie, Sugar and Peltro Antonelli.

Lou describes his latest release, Another Girl, Another Planet, which was published on February 1st of this year as follows:

Dave Shuster has been confronted by secret government agents over a photo taken by a Mars lander of a graveyard, complete with crosses, on Mars. Shuster claims that, in an alternate timeline, he was a low-level bureaucrat in the administration of a joint U.S.-Soviet Mars colony when he was caught up in a murder mystery involving the illegal use of robot technology.

In that timeline, the Cold War took a very different turn—largely influenced by Admiral Robert Heinlein, who was allowed to return to naval service following World War II.

When Shuster is thrown into a power vacuum immediately upon his arrival on the Mars Colony in 1985, he finds himself fighting a rogue industrialist, using his wits and with some help from unlikely sources in a society infiltrated by the pervasive presence of realistic androids.

Lou, please tell us about your most recent release.

Another Girl, Another Planet has been published by WordFire Press. This is my first novel, a retro-futurist alternate history. I’m 60 years old and grew up reading the Good Old Stuff, from Heinlein, Clark, Asimov and such. My novel is strongly influenced by the old themes of pioneering in space and finding solutions to the problems that are encountered.

What was the inspiration behind it?

Mostly a reaction for what passes for literary science fiction these days, which starts from a left-wing anti-western premise and builds from there. I go back and build upon the golden age premise that space exploration would be a good thing, and Americans were the good guys.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

After writing and publishing short fiction for over a decade, there were increasing requests from fans for something at novel length. Of course, many authors only write novels, or write more novels than short fiction.

As a professional journalist, I had naturally gravitated to short fiction. I write short stories every day – of course, they are newspaper articles. Over the years I had found myself unable to even come up with an outline I thought could be turned into a book-length story.

I finally decided the only way I could attack the problem was to write a really long short story – in effect, I fooled myself by pretending I was still writing a short story. The first draft came in at 88,000 words – with no chapter breaks. That’s the way I submitted it, too.

I couldn’t get that past the editors, and after I broke it into chapters I added until it passed 100,000 words. So I think I got over that mental block.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

My first professionally-published story, “A Rocket for the Republic” finished third short story category in the Asimov’s Readers Poll for 2005.

My alternate history “Great White Ship” was a finalist for the Sidewise Award in 2013.

In 2015 I was a finalist for both Best Short Story and Best Related Work in the Hugo awards.

What else are you working on?

Right now I am still working on short stories and pondering a potential sequel to Another Girl, Another Planet.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I enjoy spending time with my family and don’t like to ignore them so I write sporadically, usually only two or three days a week at that. I follow the dictum to write crap and edit brilliantly. I can get away with this because I write really fast, an outgrowth of being a journalist.

Tell us about your path to publication

In the case of Another Girl, Another Planet, I subbed it to one of the big publishers that allow unagented manuscripts (most don’t) and when I realized I might never get a reply, I basically bugged them until they rejected it, and then looked for a quality smaller publisher that I hoped would read it before I died of old age.

WordFire Press is a quality outfit. Acquisitions Editor Dave Butler read it, liked it and bought it. It went to a development editor who helped me with some rewrites, as well as expanding the length. He said it was written so tight it read like a movie script, and urged me to add almost 14,000 words. Then it went into proofreading and production.

It was released right at the end of January.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

No, I find it becomes a straitjacket for me. I usually have some good ideas and pieces of business in mind, and I just start writing and see where the story goes. I’ve generally found if the plot twists and turns surprise me they will entertain readers as well.

Why do you write?

For my fans, and to have something to read myself. Most of what passes for literary science fiction today is pretentious and boring.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Over the years I’ve tackled writing in different settings and from different perspectives.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Having a good hook for a beginning, sounding original, and keeping the readers’ interest for 250 pages, followed by a snappy ending.

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

You’ll find Another Girl, Another Planet fast-paced, fun reading, and hard to put down. Remember, I originally wrote it with no paragraph breaks.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Fiction is my “other job”, I work full-time as a small newspaper editor.

Describe a typical day.

There’s no such thing for me, as pertains to fiction writing. I write in snatches when I have some free quiet time, and that may come any time during the day.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

My wife and I were never able to have human children, so we adopted canine children, and I fully agree with Andy Rooney’s observation that “The average dog is a better person than the average person.”

What motivates or inspires you (not necessarily as regards your writing)?

My wife. I consider my myself the most happily married man in the world. I didn’t get married until I was 42, but it was worth the wait.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

Throw myself into a new project and wait for fate to deal with whomever did me dirt. I’ve never encountered a person who did me wrong who wasn’t an asshole and treated other people like crap. Bad karma accumulates. I recall a person who really backstabbed me who, when they died, the family didn’t want the burial site mentioned – too many people were waiting to piss on it.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Marrying my wife and trying to be a good husband. I think I’ve done OK.

What do you consider your biggest failure?

I never did get a college degree, but that’s something that can be fixed in the future. I like to think nothing ever happens that is a complete failure, just maybe a painful learning experience.

Do you have any pet projects?

I’d like to get a collection of my short stories together that all touch on the legend of Atlantis in some way.

Who/what has been your greatest inspiration?

I’ve always greatly admired Howard Waldrop’s fiction, and I like to think at my best I approach his creativity.

Before I present our visitors with an excerpt from Another Girl, Another Planet, I’d like to conclude our interview with a customary Lightning Round.

 My best friend would tell you I’m… a witty person,

The one thing I cannot do without is… coffee.

The one thing I would change about my life is… my short temper.

My biggest peeve is… intentionally rude people.

The person I’m most satisfied with is… my wife.

And now, Another Girl, Another Planet, excerpt:

It was perhaps three hours later, when I realized it was quieter than ever. I looked up. Elena was staring at the monitor.

The gentle beeping sounds had stopped. All the lines were flat.

I stood up and went over to her.

She looked up at me. “He’s gone,” she said softly. “Just like that.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I won’t lie and tell you I know how much it hurts. I’m young, I’ve not had anyone I care about die yet.”

She laid a hand on his forehead. “His functions have stopped. He grows colder.” She looked at me. “Is this death?”

“This is what we call death, yes,” I said. “We really don’t understand it ourselves.”

She turned and walked around the end of the bed to go to the other side. She glanced through the door at the mirror in the bathroom as she passed by the foot of the bed, and stopped. She turned and instead went into the bathroom. She stopped and leaned forward onto the counter, staring at her face in the mirror.

“What is it, Elena?” I asked gently.

“I don’t look any different,” she said. “I feel very different, but I don’t look any different. I know when humans are unhappy, their faces contort, their muscles tighten, they cry,” she continued. “I am doing none of that. I don’t know how.”

She looked down at the water glass by the sink. Dipping a finger in the water, she drew a tear down below one eye. She dipped a finger again and did it for the other eye, then looked at herself. “Now I look how I feel,” she said.

She kept looking at herself in the mirror. Then she reached down and picked up the water glass. She turned, and in one violent motion, threw it out the door and across the room to the opposite wall where Mark’s bed was. She threw it with such super-human force that when it hit the wall it disintegrated into a shimmering cloud of glass dust.

I threw my arm across my face to keep the particles from flying into my eyes. After a moment I looked up, to see a shimmering cloud of fine glass particles and mist descending on Mark Davis-Seale’s body which made it look like his soul was dissipating.

Elena came and stood on the opposite side of the bed from me. She lowered the railing and gently slipped her arms beneath him. She lifted him effortlessly in her arms, and turned around. She walked over and stood at the open door that led to the balcony.

By then the nurse on duty had rushed into the room and was behind me.

I cried out, “Elena!”

She turned, holding him in her arms, and looked at me with what could only be described as sadness.

“Eyes do more than see, Mister Shuster,” she said.

She walked onto the balcony, and, with a violent kick, dislodged a segment of the railing. She then leapt off the balcony with his body in her arms

The nurse uttered a stifled scream. We both went onto the balcony. There below, you could see the oil and silica gel from Elena’s smashed android body mixing with Mark Davis-Seale’s blood. A crowd began to gather.

The nurse looked at me. “She killed him!”

“No, he was already dead,” I said.

The nurse’s eyes were wide. “What did she mean; what she said to you?”

“It’s from a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov, about when in the future humans lose their physical bodies. I read it while I was on the Orion on the way here. One character says, ‘Eyes do more than see and I have none to do it for me.’”

We looked down. “They were a couple, and in love. She committed suicide,” I said.

The nurse looked at me. “Is that possible?”

“It is now,” I said. “I need to get down there to prevent a panic. We don’t need people thinking a robot committed a murder.”

The nurse looked at me, stunned.

I left the room and went to the ground level, where a security guard had come out from the hospital and stood near the bodies.

“You need to cover up the bodies,” I said to him. “Then remove them.”

“Did the android kill this man?”

“No, he was already dead. She was grief-stricken and committed suicide.”

 

For those of you who would either like to follow Louis online or purchase his book, this is how you may do so:

 

Book online sales links:

Baen Books:  http://www.baen.com/another-girl-another-planet.html

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MUG3V83/

 

Blog:               www.louantonelli.blogspot.com

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/LouAntonelli

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