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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Writer interview - John Booth

It's been a year and a half since my last interview with writer John Booth. Much has changed in John's life since then and we sat down once again to see what he has been up to.

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You run a business in addition to being a writer? What sort of business?

I am a consultant engineer, which explains nothing. Over the years my kids have struggled to understand what I do, and now they are grown up they still have little idea. Once upon a time I used to design the mathematics that became the software that directed guns to shoot down missiles. Then I designed the whole system. Then I became design authority for the systems that told various systems how to operate together. That was a long time ago. Now I am a systems of systems integration expert with a background in risk analysis, performance analysis, systems design, capability management and a few other designs and managements. If you have a systems problem, and want to solve it, then maybe you should hire – the B Team. Except that there is only one of me.

Do you ever leverage your business principles in writing and publishing?

Yes.

Oh, you want an explanation? Writing a book is not dissimilar to designing a system. There is a problem, there are capabilities, there are rules/laws that constrain the world, the characters act according to their nature and somehow they struggle to reach a fun conclusion. On the publishing front, Kindle is run by Excel and I have written much in Excel, the book ranking uses control theory principles and I’ve had a lot of pleasure emulating it.

You write in series. Let me know if I miss anything but there are: World of Jalon, Wizards, Magic, Hellogon, Inspector Monde and Spellbinder universes. How do you keep them all straight?

There are a few more than that, but they haven’t all seen the light of day. Jalon and Wizards are good examples of what I like to do. All my books start with an idea, a concept, sometimes just a vision of something that sets the scene. Then I drop some characters into it and give them a good poke to see what they will do. I build the world as I go and these days, I build an information document to keep track. When I first wrote, I didn’t do that and I kept forgetting character names and their physical characteristics. I spend more time searching the manuscript than I did writing the stories.

Jalon started as a series of poems that lasted 40,000 words. Going back and checking for consistency was taking longer than the writing, so I invented an information document that I update as I write. Because the Jalon stories mention events that traverse 3,000 years I also have an Excel timeline for that one. The later Spellbinder books have a similar problem as I try to figure out what each of the dozen main characters are up to. That’s like choreography.

Wizards started as short stories, written as an interlude between novels. I had to do a lot of work to create the information file when I turned the short stories into a novel. It is a point of honor that I never change any fact once I’ve written it and I’ve had to be extremely ingenious to make some stories work out. I never write down much about the main characters as I tend to remember them. But things like, ’What street did I say they were born on?’ that’s a big problem.

Considering you have created a kind of John Booth Universe, do you suppose any of your characters will ever meet?

Oh yes, some of these worlds are very close and it would be easy to make them part of a bigger, fatter universe. But I think I would only do that if I ran out of ideas.

What are you reading these days and what fascinates you?

The last few years I read mainly what I write, young adult and fantasy fiction. I just read the latest and last Artemis Fowl book and I shall miss him. I read Terry Pratchett and David Weber (though Weber is pure SF). I used to read a lot of science fiction but I rarely get into it these days. I love books that challenge my expectations. I don’t read as much as I should, perhaps that’s because I haven’t found that much that engrosses me these days.

Two sentences: one describing your physical state, one describing your mental state.

I am much less fit than I want to be, but as fit as I can be bothered to be.

I have little left to prove and there are too few mountains on the horizon.

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John's books are available on Amazon.com - I am looking forward to seeing new additions to the list on a regular basis.

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