Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Interview with author Barton Paul Levenson

This week author Barton Paul Levenson is here to talk about one of his latest releases, the science fiction novel I Will.


Tell us about your book.

I Will is an SF love story, named from a line in Yeats's "The Song of Wandering Aengus."  It's just your typical boy-human-meets-girl-alien, loses-girl-alien, gets-girl-alien story, with stops along the way like being in the close vicinity of a supernova and getting trapped in a parallel universe with cold water for interstellar medium.  You can get it in paperback for $10.95, or as an e-book for $4.95, through either VirtualTales.com or Amazon.com.  And I'm starting to get it into the bookstores.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the story, without giving too much away, of course.

It's hard to make up my mind, but one very brief scene stands out, I think.  It's early in the story, when my protagonist, Art Gordon, is looking for work.  He signs on as housekeeper for an alien research starship, and at the end of the conversation with the ship's captain, Shevileen Tonctyr, she asks his name.  "Arthur Gordon," he says.  "You can call me Art."

"Thank you, Art," she says.  "You can call me Captain."  That sets the tone of their relationship right there.

What draws you to writing science fiction?

I got turned onto science fiction in a major way at age eight, when my parents took me to see 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  After that I was hopelessly hooked.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. For instance, are you a pantser or a plotter? If you’re a plotter, what method do you like to use?

I definitely prefer to wing it.  Sometimes I have a broad plot outline in mind, but most often I just start with one daydreamed scene.  If it works out I get a story, if it doesn't, I get an incomplete manuscript.  I only complete about half of them, I'm afraid.

What are some of the writers and books that have inspired you?

Edgar Rice Burroughs was a strong early influence, and I picked up some nutty ideas from him it took me years to get rid of.  Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, and Ursula K. LeGuin were others.  Heinlein was a big influence--I love his books even though I despise his ideology.  More recently, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, C.S. Lewis, Brian Stableford, C.J. Cherryh.  King is my hero because he was teaching part-time and working part-time in a laundry when he got the call offering him a $400,000 paperback contract for Carrie.

Very recently I've been infatuated with anime and manga, especially Gundam Seed Destiny and Rosario + Vampire.  Ikeda Akihisa, who draws the manga Rosario + Vampire, is a genius, as far as I'm concerned.  The manga is far superior to the anime, by the way, although both are great fun.

Tell us about yourself. Do you have a day job? Do you have any hobbies and interests outside of writing, and if so, do they ever find their way into your writing?

I have a degree in physics but have worked mostly as a computer programmer.  The past two years I haven't worked at all, due to multiple crippling medical conditions.  My hobbies are mostly sedentary ones--books, videos, computer programming.  And I write radiative-convective models of planetary atmospheres.  For fun.  Which tells you what kind of an Über-geek I am.

I'm very happily married to Elizabeth Penrose, the poet, who just had a poem published in the August Asimov's.  She keeps me alive.

Would you explain for us what a "radiative-convective model" is? That sounds like a fascinating hobby.

RCMs are a way to model the atmosphere as a single column of layers--I generally use 20 layers of atmosphere and one to represent the ground.  If you get the physics right, you can predict how temperature varies with altitude, and from the amount of sunlight, clouds, greenhouse gases, and so on, you can estimate what the mean global surface temperature should be.  The first reliable estimates of global warming under increased carbon dioxide were made with RCMs.  They can also be used to predict temperatures on other planets, which was how I originally got interested in them.

Thank you for stopping by, Barton!

You can learn more about Barton Paul Levenson at his website.

1 comment:

  1. Barton Paul Levenson has a unique writing style. It is somewhat refreshing. Sometimes, it is so stripped bare that it takes a while to catch up with the concepts.