This spotlight was originally posted on February 1, 2019.
Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday Spotlight on David Gerrold, who writes books, stories, screenplays, columns, articles, comics — whatever excites him. Look him up on ISFDB or Wikipedia for more details.
Thanks so much for joining us, David! My first question is, Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester –though they should totally check here first!)
You can find almost everything on Amazon or eBay.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I post personal commentary on Facebook, work in progress (and past efforts) on Patreon, articles and essays on Medium, and occasional thoughts on Twitter. Just look for “David Gerrold.” I’m not that hard to find. My website http://www.gerrold.com hasn’t been updated in a while. Sorry about that.
What kind of research went into writing your favorite story? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
My favorite story is The Martian Child — because before I could write it, I had to live it.
I researched adoption for two years, before I met my son. I went through a stack of books on adoption, seminars, courses, tapes, online resources, and all kinds of trainings. I wanted to make sure that I would be well-prepared so I could be a good dad for whoever ended up living with me.
And even after I met him, I still had to do even more research about his special needs. I did more work here than I ever did in any college course.
What was the inspiration for The Martian Child? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
One day I asked Sean if he was a Martian. He said no. I was disappointed, it would have been a great story — but then we started playing the Martian game anyway and the story grew out of it.
One night, after I’d tucked him into bed, I went back to my computer and just started typing about our experiences. It flowed. When I was done, I had a story. At the time, I didn’t know if it was a good story or just an embarrassingly earnest letter to myself. But the way that the readers reacted after it was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction showed me that I had accomplished something special.
The story was a breakthrough in so many ways. In particular, I discovered writing muscles I didn’t know I had. But I was writing about how much I loved my son, so I think that was the best part of all.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
I was writing about how much I love my son. In writing the story, writing about our experiences together, I got to relive them, and I got to rediscover what an incredible little person he was. Today, he’s all grown up, married, and an incredible big person.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
I have to quote Robert F. Kennedy. “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” I can’t say it any better than he did.
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
I get to sleep late. I don’t have to dress up. I don’t have to leave the house. I get to choose my own challenges.
I get to go anywhere in time and space, any dimension of possibility and every dimension of impossibility. I’m a literary timelord. My keyboard is my Tardis.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
If you can be discouraged, you will be. So quit and stop wasting your emotional energy
If you cannot be discouraged, if the above sentences make no sense to you, then maybe, just maybe, you might have enough determination to make it.
Do your research. Set big challenges. Don’t listen to any advice from anyone who hasn’t published at least a million words. Learn your grammar. Learn the rules before you break them. Never write the same story twice. Always try something new and different and seemingly impossible.
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
My writing space looks like a bookstore exploded. In the middle of it are two big screens and a keyboard.
What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?
My favorite adventure has been all the great people I’ve met. Some have been famous people, like astronauts and writers and actors and even a few political leaders — but just as many have been quietly working to make a difference in their own way: my adoption caseworker, my veterinarian, my son’s godmother, and … um, someone who taught me what love was really about. It’s not about what you get, it’s about what you can create.
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
I have dogs. I’ve always had dogs. They’re someone to talk to who won’t argue, no matter how silly an idea might be.
I need a dog to sit under my desk and do all the heavy thinking. As long as he doesn’t snore too loud.
Do you have any favorite foods or drinks that must be in the vicinity (or must be avoided) while you’re writing or editing a piece of work?
Chocolate is always good. Coffee too.
What do you consider the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome that?
The blank page is the enemy.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
Apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair and type.
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?
Any good professional writing organization that is willing to establish professional standards of behavior — I am a member of SFWA and WGAW, and when I remember to pay my dues, HWA.
David, thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions.