This time we’re headed to Asia to chat with science fiction & thriller writer John Triptych.
Who are you? Where are you? What kind of stuff do you write?
Hi, I’m John and I write science fiction and thriller novels. Right now I live out in Asia because I’m planning to settle here permanently. I’m a semi-retired businessman who decided to write novels because it’s always been my dream to be an author.
Why did you relocate to Asia and do you think your new surroundings will impact your fiction?
I worked as an expat, traveling and living in different parts of the world for almost 20 years so the area was pretty familiar to me. I also found the cost of living is much, much lower, and I didn’t have to work as hard yet still maintain my lifestyle if I stayed in the US. There’s plenty of American retirees living in the Third World and they live like kings!
As far as my surroundings having a say in my writing … it’s very strange in that I actually write more about the US ever since I’ve moved away, so while I’m in another part of the world, I still write about things I’ve experienced before.
Tell us about your most recent book, story, or other project.
I’m currently finishing up the first book in a new series called Alien Rebellion. Its set a few hundred years in the future, and there’s a human colony on an alien planet that’s undergoing some … drastic changes to put it lightly. It’s sort of like a cross between James Cameron’s Avatar movie and the anthropological science fiction of Ursula K Le Guin, and a bit of James Clavell too.
In what genre do you primarily write? Why did you choose that one?
I primarily write science fiction. I like writing in this genre because there are no limits to your imagination. You can create entire worlds from scratch and I love doing that. I have a background in tabletop role-playing games and even as a kid I loved to create my own little worlds, sort of like a self-centered demigod.
Tell us briefly about your writing process, from once you’ve got an idea down to having a finished product ready for publication.
I start out with nothing more than a concept. From there I think of an initial scene and start writing. I don’t plot in advance and I just create the story and characters on the fly. I’m a two-finger typist so it takes me a long time to write (and I stop every now and then to do research on the internet too whenever an idea pops up) but I still somehow get it done!
Once the manuscript is finished I go through it a few times before submitting it to the editor. After she sends it back to me I go through it again to see if we’ve both missed any errors. I also contact the cover artist and give them my idea on what the cover ought to look like.
The moment I am happy with everything I send it to the formatter to put it all together.
How deep does your “concept” go? Does it include the universe in which you’re going to tell the story, or just the basic 1-sentence hook? The idea of writing sci-fi off the cuff without a lot of preparation gives me hives!
The whole concept revolves a lot on instinct and feel for me. My background in playing RPGs and constant daydreaming seems to have affected a strange sense of deja-vu when I write, and everything just comes together somehow. I can’t fully explain the process, but I try to imagine myself living in that world, down to the smallest detail, and everything starts to gel to the point where I am overwhelmed by details.
It’s almost like a strange awareness of being able to project yourself into a whole different universe. You start to imagine what a table looks like in that place, and how stuff works, as well as the other little things that add to it.
Who is the favorite character you’ve created? Why?
The protagonist of my Ace of Space series: Stilicho Jones. I like writing him because he is my alter ego. Stilicho is a mercenary who is out for himself and he’s a smart aleck to boot. Some readers get turned off by his smugness but I love writing him since he jokes around a lot, and it helps because I felt my earlier novels were all too grim.
What’s the weirdest subject you’ve had to research as a writer that you never would have otherwise?
My Wrath of the Old Gods series is a mythological post apocalyptic storyline about the ancient pagan gods returning to modern day earth and causing all sorts of mayhem, so I had to research some very obscure deities because I wanted to get to the root of all these mythological stories and strip away popular misconceptions in order to get into what the old pagans gods were really like.
One of these gods I stumbled upon was a Hebrew god (or demon) named Peor (or Ba’al Pe’or, depending on the sources), literally the god of defecation! I added him into the third book of the series since there’s a subplot with one of the main characters trying to escape from hell. Great fun!
What’s the one thing you’ve learned, the hard way, as a writer that you’d share to help others avoid?
Hoo boy! I’ve learned a lot of things. One is you have to find a good editor. It’s not easy, but it will save you a lot of hassles in the end. Don’t be cheap, because good editors cost money.
Could you give an example of a time where an editor’s feedback really improved your finished work?
One of my editors is very good- she does a two step editing process. The first is that she just reads through the story, much like a beta reader, and looks for inconsistencies with the plot, characters, etc. and then sends me back the manuscript for rewriting. I go through her list of suggestions (like why would a character do this when he did this before, or that was a bad line, change it, etc.).
Once I’ve made my changes, then I send it back to her- after which she looks for grammatical errors, spelling and stuff. Once all that is done she sends it back to me again. All in all, she makes me realize about things I didn’t think about the first time over, and it has dramatically improved the quality of my work, though I still have a ways to go!
If you won $1 million (tax free, to keep the numbers round and juicy), how would it change your writing life?
Not much, to be honest! I’m semi-retired in the tropics and I live a fairly easy life. The books I’ve written have given me enough earnings to take care of my daily expenses so money isn’t too much of an issue. I guess one change would be is that I will probably take more international trips to do field research lol.
What’s the last great book you read or new author you discovered?
I don’t read a whole lot of indie books, and I always make it a habit to browse in the nearby used bookstores for some old tried and true stuff. A recent good book I’m currently reading is A Stranger is Watching by Mary Higgins Clark. It’s a classic suspense thriller that’s been made into movies more than once. I read a lot of books in different genres because of my varied tastes.
What do you think you’re next project will be?
An epic space opera series with some hard sci-fi elements. I’m currently doing research to make sure the space battles will have a bit of realism to them, but at the same time I’ve thought up an epic storyline that should interest most readers. Hopefully I will finish the first book sometime next year!
I am also writing more sequels to my hard sci-fi series Ace of Space, and my planetary romance series The Dying World. So plenty of the new and the usual too. I like variety.