Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday Spotlight on Science Fiction author, Martin L. Shoemaker. Martin is a programmer who writes on the side… or maybe it’s the other way around. Programming pays the bills, but a second place story in the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest earned him lunch with Buzz Aldrin. Programming never did that! His work has appeared in Analog several times, as well as in Galaxy’s Edge, Digital Science Fiction, Forever Magazine, and Writers of the Future. His Clarkesworld story “Today I Am Paul” appeared in four different year’s best anthologies and eight international editions. His follow-on novel, Today I Am Carey, will appear from Baen Books in 2019.
Thanks so much for joining us, Martin! Can you tell us where people can find your work?(Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
It should be available in many bookstores. My work often appears in Analog Science Fiction & Fact.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
Look for Martin L. Shoemaker on Facebook, or my website: http://Shoemaker.Space.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Today I Am Carey?
I write a wide variety of science fiction, or occasionally fantasy, often with elements of mystery and romance. I strive to create an immersive, consistent, but different world and then explore the lives of the people who live there.
Today I Am Carey is unusual for me in that the world is ours, just advanced a few years technologically. In a world where medical androids assist in the care of the elderly, one android, Carey, has awakened. It is more than a machine, and it learns how to be part of a family and find its place in the world. The novel follows Carey from its origin caring for Mildred Owens, an Alzheimer’s patient, through generations of the Owens family.
What was the inspiration for Today I Am Carey? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
The novel is a follow-on to my award-winning story “Today I Am Paul” (which forms the first few chapters); and the inspiration for that, unfortunately, was the last year of my mother-in-law’s life. But I honestly didn’t realize that at the time. I started with a simple premise of an android and a patient, and I just started dictating. Fifty minutes later I had my story. After reader feedback, I tightened the last couple of paragraphs, and I sent it out. Clarkesworld Magazine bought it and published it, and it took on a life of its own: four year’s best collections, eight international translations, a Nebula nomination, and the Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award.
So when I was ready to tackle a novel, it made sense to start from my best-known work. But I didn’t want to simply add content to the existing story, stretching it out and perhaps ending up with a bloated mess. Instead I decided to use the android as the viewpoint character in a multigenerational family saga. I wasn’t sure how to proceed; but my friend DawnRay Ammon asked for a story for a Christmas charity anthology, so I wrote the next chapter. In there, we got to know Mildred’s precocious granddaughter Millie and her obsession with frogs; and the Millie-Carey dynamic became the core and the shape of the book.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
I absolutely loved Millie, and I hope the reader will as well. She’s smart, stubborn, determined, occasionally overwhelmed, independent, and caring. She’s her own character, but she has elements of many of the women in my life.
I didn’t hate any of my characters. I seldom write villains, just characters who have conflicting perspectives and goals. Even Colonel Rejón of the Belize Defence Force, who wants Carey destroyed, has his reasons.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
This is a difficult question for me. It requires significant introspection because I’ve loved science fiction all my life. Asking the question is like asking why I like ice cream. Because it’s ice cream!
And that leads me to my fallback answer. Ray Bradbury was once asked why he wrote science fiction; and his answer was, “What else is there?” If it’s good enough for Bradbury, it’s good enough for me.
As for what draws readers – what has drawn me for five decades – I think
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Don’t be like me. Don’t give up.
I submitted my first story when I was 14. I got a personal rejection. I didn’t understand how significant that is, so I gave up. I kept submitting and giving up off and on for decades.
In 2010, I got a thicker skin. When I got a rejection, I just kept submitting. And in 2011, I made my first sale.
Don’t give up.
What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
I’m a software developer, and that’s certainly a passion. Fortunately my day job satisfies that need quite well.
I’m also a fencer. Not good, but enthusiastic.
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
It’s a 2008 Jeep Liberty. I dictate almost all of my stories these days. I have an hour commute to work each way, so dictation lets me turn two wasted hours into 3,000-10,000 words of prose. “Today I Am Paul” was dictated in one straight session one morning. Today I Am Carey was dictated in six weeks in early 2017.
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?
The friends and mentors I have met through Writers of the Future have been crucial to my success. They kept me going when I needed encouragement, and we shared many tips. The late Jerry Pournelle was a Writers of the Future judge, and he loved the first story that I submitted there. I had given up writing (again!); but when one of my favorite authors praised my work, I decided to keep trying just a little bit longer. This book wouldn’t exist if not for that.
The friends and mentors I have met through Superstars Writing Seminars have been just as supportive – and there’s a lot of overlap between the two groups.
Thank you again, Martin, for being on our blog!