Interview with ROBERT L. SLATER
Robert L. Slater is a teacher/writer living in Bellingham, Washington. His stories and poetry have appeared in many small press publications. His first novel, ALL IS SILENCE: A DESERTED LANDS NOVEL, was released in early 2014. He has a should’ve-been-a doctorate B.A. in Theatre/Education, Spanish and History minors and a M.A. in Educational Technology. He sing;, plays guitar; acts/directs in regional theatres; brews; cooks; reads; practices Taekwon Do; writes plays, songs, and stories. He has six children, ages 10 to 29 years and one grandchild. His motto is Robert Heinlein’s “Specialization is for Insects.”
What are you reading right now?
I'm reading local authors mostly: Noble Smith's SONS OF ZEUS, Selah J Tay-Song's DREAMS OF A VAST BLUE CAVERN and Jesikah Sundin's LEGACY. On eBook I'm reading Platt & Truant's WRITE. PUBLISH. REPEAT.
What first sparked your interest in writing?
The answer seems flippant, but reading sparked my interest. I wrote songs, poetry, and plays from the time I could write. My focus has changed several times over my life, but writing of some sort has always been present.
What do you love the most about writing? The least?
The creative spark when I fall in love with an idea and later when I'm stuck and begging out loud for the muses to provide with answers. It's amazing how well that works.
The second, third, through penultimate rewrites. I like the first rewrite and the last, but the ones in between begin to drag. I'm really trying to learn to be more conscious so that I won't have to do more than two rewrites to solve that problem. I'm not there yet.
Tell us a little about your writing process.
I used to be a “pantser,” writing by the seat of my pants, but that led to a lot of character studies and vignettes and unended pieces. Then I learned not to start a story that I didn't know an end for. Often the end I know is not the one I end up with, but it's like they say: if you don't head somewhere you'll never get anywhere.
What are your passions?
Music and words. Sensory experiences. Nature and travel. Reading myself into another world. Eating and cooking good food. Teaching and learning. Challenging myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. I'm pretty passionate about most of my life. Sticking up for the little guys. Fair play. RECYCLING. That last one's hard as a writer, so I use most paper twice. I'll print on one side and then when I'm done I'll print on the other side. I collect DOOS [Dirty on one Side] paper from other people to reuse.
What inspires you?
Hugh Howey. Really. My kids. Music of almost any sort. My books have lots of little references that connect me to something I heard playing while I was writing or plotting.
Why speculative fiction?
Because it asks the question, “What If?” as it’s most important component. It allows us to escape and the good stuff makes us ask ourselves why we want to escape. It's also what I'm most drawn to reading, though I also love history and science nonfiction, which helps with the speculative aspects as well.
Why young adult?
I'm not even sure ALL IS SILENCE is Young Adult fiction. I mean, it's a category that it probably fits best in, but I would also classify it first as Science Fiction. I worked hard to make the science realistic. I think it also borders on the category New Adult. The next series after Lizzie's will center on a pre-teen boy, so that one will be more of a YA book, but the story is the story and hopefully it crosses those arbitrary borders while still helping people looking for that genre to find it.
How was ALL IS SILENCE born?
The original germ of the idea was a response to LORD OF THE FLIES. I was angry after reading it, because I felt the message was that human beings would quickly devolve into savages given a bad situation. In response I wrote a short story about a disease that wiped out all but some prisoners in a jail who had been taking a medication to keep them calm. But the story never satisfied me. So, many years later when I wondered what would happen to an at-risk teen girl in a similar apocalyptic scenario, I found the story I needed to tell.
Setting (Bellingham and Northwest Washington specifically) play a strong role in the book. Was this deliberate?
Yes and no. I knew very early in the idea stage that the story would be about people trying to reach each other across the plague-stricken country. Bellingham is about as far away from the rest of the country as you get without leaving the lower 48. I knew I could set a realistic novel in this area best. It was important to establish verisimilitude and what better way than to write about where I've lived the past 23 years.
ALL IS SILENCE has a large and varied cast. Was any one character more fun to write?
I loved writing about Spike, but I think I enjoyed them all, even when I didn't like what they were doing!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write. Write some more. Share it with people. Write some more. Lather, rinse, repeat. I talk about Robert's Rules of Writing in a blog post. Robert Heinlein's rules of writing adapted by Robert Sawyer and then adjusted for me. Each writer must find what works for them. It's a long arduous process of trial and error.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?
I'm 60% finished with the first draft of Straight Into Darkness and almost done with a novella set in the Pacific Northwest that is also set in the DESERTED LANDS universe. I plan to release the novella, TOILS & SNARES, as an ebook sometime this fall and STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS in print and ebook during the first half of 2015. People can sign up for free fiction, newsletter updates, and more at www.DesertedLands.com.