Bewildering Stories Interviews
Robert L. Sellers, Jr.
Bewildering Stories is a big operation, as our Information page shows. Our Associate Editors are an elite group. Their critiques of submissions not only make Bewildering Stories possible, they are essential to making it the best it can be. The Associate Editors necessarily work anonymously, “behind the scenes.” Now we express our appreciation to them with a series of personal interviews.
How did you become involved with Bewildering Stories and when?
I had dabbled in fan fiction initially with the fandom of Forever Knight and Due South many years ago and got back to writing when I found a writing group sponsored by Kelley Armstrong about five to six years ago.
I had a story that was initially planned as fan-fic but managed to turn it into something less connected to the original fan style subject. Working on the story, I realized I needed to do backstory and found carrying the story through the Wild West — which is not often touched upon in Vampire or Werewolf fiction — to be both a challenge and a fun adventure.
Bewildering Stories offered an outlet for my short stories as I developed them, along with great editorial suggestions and comments that helped form a better story as I went.
Is there anything you’d like to tell Bewildering Stories authors to do or not do?
Be yourself as you write. Learn to hold your ground on your ideals while also being willing to listen and learn. Too often you will find people trying to force a frame on a picture that is not as square as they prefer.
Prepare for failure in the writing market. Not everyone will be as enamored with your work as you are. Don’t get lost in finding “how to” books or tools. Sometimes sitting down and just writing is the best way to get your story told and then come back to massage or fix what you find needs it.
Take negativity as a learning experience and don’t let it turn you away from the craft. View something you describe from the reader’s standpoint. Try to see if you are giving them enough to see what you are trying to say.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of working as an Editor for Bewildering Stories?
Variety is the fun part. The challenges can come when you change ebb and flow between writers and have to change gears to read a story and not compare it with someone else’s style in either a good or bad way.
All writers have their own way of doing things; it is from the reader’s perspective that you have to view how it plays out. The hard part can be how you phrase a critique hopefully to be a learning experience where you find it and not a ruler across the knuckles as some often do in other places.
Who are your favorite authors, and what about their works appeals to you most?
Kelley Armstrong, for her approach to telling stories, along with Stephen King for taking me places I probably wished I had not gone while I read his books. John Sandford, for his examples of dark minded people. Ann Rice, Laurell K. Hamilton and others.
What’s your favorite book?
I would have to answer that with a book series, rather than one book. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Women of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong, simply because every few books she changes perspective within the same group of characters. An often revisited issue can play out with books that are in their fifth, sixth or more part of a series that can go stale. She keeps the series new and fun to read.
What’s the last book that you read and really enjoyed?
I picked up a book midway into the Jeaniene Frost and her Night Huntress series. I’ve since picked up the first book, Halfway to the Grave, and am enjoying the read.
If you could be any character other than one of your own from a book or movie, who would it be?
My answer would likely be Lucien LaCroix from the TV show Forever Knight Why? As a vampire, one gets a different perspective on the change of time, how society changes for the good or bad and how your actions can affect things that are viewed differently later. A Roman general in life to world traveler, to adventure in places mortals would not normally go.
If you could invite any other writer to dinner who would ask and why?
Perhaps John Sandford. Learning how to delve into the depths of a dark mind and show it to the reader in a way that does not leave a writer in that dark place afterwards while leaving the reader entranced would be fun to learn about.
How do you think literature might be used in education, especially in the age of the Internet?
Bringing strange areas, historical references, or nuances to culture or relationships they currently do not experience opens one’s mind to how things could be done differently and hopefully evokes them to try and make it so. Crime stories can often lead a reader to become a part of law enforcement as much as the criminal element so portrayed — hopefully more so the former than the latter.
Do you write yourself? What kind of material?
Weird Wild West tends to be my favorite theme. Researching what was available to use and not having to deal with technologies that were not there makes what they did have to use more interesting.
I try to portray the evolvement of vampires, werewolves and other supernaturals through a time period not normally covered in the usual time frame when they would have had to exist if they were eternal and lived now. Most stories either cover pre-Victorian or current time frames.
How long have you been writing?
Probably about fifteen to twenty years as a dabbler in fan fiction, more seriously in the last five to six years.
What made you want to start writing?
On the Forever Knight fan site we had groups that favored one character or the other with names for each group. They started a fiction war of sorts that lasted for about two weeks at a time where participants wrote what I would call flash fiction stories that were melded together afterwards within the universe of the series storyline.
The group that I still consider myself a member of were called the “Cousins” and were affiliated with the Lucien LaCroix character. The name of the group came from an ironic timing of two members finding out another had a phobia of frogs. They each sent chocolate (if I recall correctly) frogs to that person as a joke. They could only have been related to have done that, hence the name “Cousins.”
Some authors have said that their parents were supportive of their efforts when young, and some have said they had to sneak around and hide. What was the case with you?
My parents knew I was good with reading and writing. Unfortunately when I was a child the only way to compose something was either long hand or with a typewriter which made the process much more arduous than it is today. Typing fifty pages only to have to go back and retype them to correct was a lot of work.
Where do you get your ideas?
Reading, watching movies or television shows. Sometimes you see something that you want either to try yourself or to fit into your story as something that may have happened to your character.
For example, I had a situation where a character that would take revenge on someone who did something very bad to her. I happened to have watched a movie based upon an Australian serial killer, and something that happened in that story gave me the opportunity to have my character do something similar that didn’t kill but still gave her the closure I felt she needed to move on.
Where do you write?
Mostly at home. Sometimes at work as something to do between other processes or as I monitor something that is occurring over a long period of time. Email works wonders when you have a sudden idea and want to save that thought.
When do you write: at set times or as the mood moves you?
I tend to write more in the evening when things are quiet.
Some writers say that they have to write a certain amount of words every day. Do you do this? Why or why not?
Yes and no. If I am pushing to get something done, then I will shoot for a certain number, but otherwise I write as I feel I know what I want to get done.
Do you ever have a problem with writer’s block?
All the time. Fortunately little things will help trigger a break in the block. Other times, white boards work wonderfully. I learned that trick from watching police shows such as Law and Order: Criminal Intent (kudos to you, Robert Gorin).
Sometimes a block can be caused by something you know you have to do but want to find another way to do it. That was probably the toughest write that I had to do, but the end result was something that I’m somewhat proud of as I can be of a difficult scene to script.
Sometimes the best way to break writer’s block is to simply write something out. Perhaps visualize it as a Holo-deck (the Star Trek gizmo), where you can walk through a scene and look at it from different angles or perspectives as you replay it over and over.
Do you have a favorite among your works?
Each of them has their own element that I like. Sometimes it is the character; in others, the location; or the interaction between them. Sometimes it is a character that represents a mood or darkness that is intriguing. While perhaps not my best work (my opinion) the flash fiction from Forever Knight was the most fun.
Do you have a favorite character? If so, who is it, and what makes it your favorite?
If I had to pick one, it would be my Marshal Augustus Poe. I use him to tell the story of conversion from mortal to vampire through the discovery first that they exist in his world and then that he has to deal with them along with other immortals before becoming one himself, and how it affects him and those around him.
Who drives a story: you or your characters?
The characters. In the end it is their story that I am telling. For good, bad or indifferent as the readers may be, the story is as the story is. I look at it from the perspective of a Star Trek holosuite where you can go in and pick up where you left off, walk among the characters, perhaps interact or witness what happens to them. A bank robbery? Okay, who was where when something happened. How did something happen as a result, etc.
What do you consider the strangest thing you’ve ever written?
Probably the most challenging thing that I have had to write was a rape scene. I have a female character that can defend herself and is quite adept at doing so, while at the same time with the story line she had twins that played a very important role later in time.
I do not condone such actions and do not like gratuitous scenes of violence but found I needed the scene to carry the story line properly. Having watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo long after I wrote that scene, I found myself sort of vindicated in that a similar thing apparently had to happen to a character in that story.
Almost every writer is inspired by someone or something else. What inspirations have you found?
Steven King was my first and foremost inspiration to write. It is not unlike watching a Nascar race and wanting to get your own car on a back road. Other authors have come and gone but he was the initial spark to get me to write.
I still have several types of stories I wrote in my teens, and all the notes. They may make me laugh now, but they were fun at the time and still fun to reminisce about.
Who proofreads and critiques your work?
The writers group that I participate in on Kelley Armstrong’s website or sometimes friends that happen to be handy. I try to go over the work a bit after I wrote it to approach it as an editor, which sometimes works and other times does not. Don Webb, in particular, has provided much guidance along the way.
What do you do in real life?
I am a computer geek of sorts, PC game player (World of Warcraft, Star Wars the Old Republic and Diablo III). I dabble in writing when I have time, enjoy reading both books and Bewildering Stories on-line stories and enjoy spending time with my family.
What is your occupation?
I am fortunate to have two jobs, one full-time and one part-time. I am a Senior Programmer/Analyst with Mayo Foundation (Mayo Clinic, Rochester Minnesota). My particular function at the moment has to do with Windows 7 deployments across our various campuses as we upgrade from Windows XP.
I work part time as a Geek Squad Agent at our local Best Buy where we offer assistance and support to customers with various issues both computer related and not.
What do you like most and least about it?
Challenges from working in a medical environment can be both fun and taxing at the same time. Unlike the manufacturing companies that I have worked for in the past, downtime for the users is less available or desirable than we might hope for when we need to upgrade or change systems or processes.
What advice would you give to a young person going into your line of work?
As a programmer, one has to be three to five steps ahead of the users who request their projects. Planning for something to grow beyond the initial request will save time later. Taking the time to step back look at the whole picture and building it to expand helps both you and your requestor.
As a Geek Squad Agent, learning to simplify often complex issues can have a user both understand better and help with a solution. Translating tech to English and then offering to compare it with something they already know makes it easier for them to understand and work to a solution they feel will work for them.
What do you do in your spare time aside from doing review reading for Bewildering Stories?
Family time where and when the family is together to do something, gaming (I currently am immersed in Star Wars: the Old Republic) and riding my motorcycle for fun and transportation.
Where do you live, if you don’t mind saying?
Kasson, Minnesota, which is just outside of Rochester and south of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Where do you think you might like to live, either in reality or in your imagination?
Good question. I can only answer it that wherever my family enjoys living. My wife would prefer somewhere warm. As long as they have air-conditioning or a pool, I’d enjoy it too.
Copyright © 2012 by
Robert L. Sellers, Jr.
and Bewildering Stories