- game designer, game publisher, and writer!
Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Robert E. Waters.
Robert E Waters is a game designer/producer by day, and moonlights as an author on nights and weekends. He’s been in the gaming industry since 1994 and currently works for BreakAway Games in Hunt Valley, Maryland.
Since 2003, he’s been a published author of over 60 stories seen in print and online magazines and anthologies. He is also a frequent contributor to Eric Flint’s alternate history series, 1632/Ring of Fire, and had just wrapped up a novel (1636: Calabar’s War) set in that universe with Charles E Gannon.
Robert, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!
If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?
The jaguar. Pound for pound, it has the strongest bite of any big cat in the world, and its role in Mayan culture makes it a powerful mythological symbol. For the Maya, the jaguar was the ruler of the Underworld, and a symbol of the night sun. It represents power, aggressiveness. The jaguar gives us the power to face our fears, to confront our enemies. Plus, it has a damn beautiful coat of fur. The jaguar also plays prominently in many stories of one of my favorite science fiction authors: Lucius Shepard (may he rest in peace). I can’t think of a better pet/companion than the Night Sun.
Beautiful and powerful choice!
What do you write and how did you get started?
I write science fiction and fantasy mostly, though I have been known to dabble a bit in straight fiction (“Mekong Ghosts”) and poetry (“The Cassini 500”). To date, I have roughly 60 stories published in various online and print magazines and anthologies. I have more stories published than novels, but I’m working to bring better balance to the Force with at least two novels published later this year (see below).
I’ve always been interested in writing stories. From the time I was 3-4 years old at least. But I guess the first legitimate try at writing something substantial came in Middle School, after reading The Lord of the Rings. You know you’ve stumbled on something great and rare when you begin to cry at the end, not wanting it to stop. LotRs was a big early influence, and so too the fiction of Robert Sheckley, Robert Silverberg, Clifford Simak, Alfred Bester, and the writers at the time publishing in Asimov’s and Analog Science Fiction magazines. I had subscriptions to both, and to this day, maintain my Asimov’s subscription.
My first legit try at writing was a horrendously bad pastiche of LoTRs. Between seventh and eighth grade, I banged out 50 or so pages (front and pack, single-spaced) of an adventure that, thank the gods, I don’t remember at all today. About ten years ago I stumbled upon my old box of early writings, and that manuscript was still in there. But, praise Jesus, all the ink had faded away, leaving clean, blank pages that I could have used again. The words today would be much better. Small miracles…
My first real publication came in Weird Tales, 2003, with a story about an assassin facing retirement. A few years later, I published another, and then another, and in 2009, I hit the motherlode with three publications. It kind of steamrolled at that point and now I’m writing novels.
Congrats! What a great path, and I’m glad you made it.
What do you like to read?
Pretty much everything. Fiction mostly, though in my research for stories/novels, I read a lot of non-fiction. Most recently, I was reading Ravensbrück by Sarah Helm, which was an all-female concentration camp run by the Nazi’s north of Berlin during WWII. Not a fun read, but necessary for a story I’m considering writing. I’ve also been researching North Vietnamese fighter aces for an alternate history story that I finished recently. So, by virtue of the job, a writer winds up reading everything. I’ve learned more about the world and the human condition being a writer than I ever did in school.
Oh wow. What a powerful story to be working on. It’s always best when you can tell that the writers did their research, and bring their hearts to the subject.
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.
Write what you know.
It works for some; not for me. At least not yet. I’ve never been interested in writing mundane stories about my mundane life. Well, perhaps my life isn’t always so mundane, but I don’t need to write that story. I’ll let others write those stories. I need to write stories about people whose lives I want to emulate, even if they are living hundreds of years in the future, or are throwing fireballs at oncoming hordes in epic fantasy battles. Those are the stories I like to read. Those are the one I like to write
Especially in science-fiction and fantasy (and hopefully horror) writing, this is probably the most ignored advice. Of course, filtering it through a lens of your learned experiences gives it a level of realism.
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.
Go for the visceral
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it pitched as a piece of advice, but I always go for the visceral, as defined “relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect.” I like to think that my work has some intelligence about it, but I want you to feel something when you read my stories, good or bad. Sometimes, I’ve succeeded; sometimes, I’ve failed. But I always try.
That’s the ephemeral dream for me, when I write. To make the reader feel what I want them to: nostalgia, fear, excitement — whatever makes the connect and makes the story resonate long after they’ve put down the book.
Shameless Self-Promotion time!
On November 1, I have a full collection of my Devil Dancers stories coming from e-Spec Books, DEVIL DANCERS.
“I Am the Lightning Flashing and Streaking!”
Beneath the stars or flying up among them, the Ga’an dance a deadly dance. Apache Devil Dancers take to the skies to defeat the ruthless Gulo, an alien race bent on the destruction of humanity. Led by Captain Victorio “Tomorrow’s Wind” Nantan, the 3rd Sol fighter Wing follows a long tradition, adapting the dance to make them an ace squadron, but will it be enough?
It is hard to hold faith in the face of a never-ending foe, when life and limb are sacrificed with no end anyone wants to see in sight. But Captain Victory comes from a long line of fierce warriors and he is more than ready to take the fight to the enemy.
Devil Dancers is a collection of seven action-packed tales, the culmination of 10 years of stories. I’m quite excited about this release. Love the cover!
So far this year, I’ve had a story (“Extraction”) published in Charles E Gannon’s LOST SIGNALS anthology, which is set in his very successful Tales of the Terran Republic series.
I’ve also had a story (“Medicine Man”) recently published in IN HARM’S WAY, Book 8 Mike and Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s mil-sf series, Defending the Future.
And a little later this year, my story “The Cud Brigade,” will appear in NOT FAR FROM ROSWELL.
I have a couple novels to be released later this year, as well.
First up, THE LAST HURRAH, which is a media tie-in novel set in Mantic Games’ Dreadball Universe. It follows the attempted comeback of a famous Dreadball player who’s fallen on hard times, and the men and women he has to coach to glory… or defeat. It’s currently scheduled for a late September release.
And finally, book 2 in my City of the Gods trilogy, THE SWORDS OF EL CID, scheduled for a late November release. This novel follows the adventures of Catherine of Aragon and her companion, Fymurip Azat, as they seek El Cid’s famous/infamous swords, Tizona and Colada.
Check him out at http://roberternestwaters.com/