E. M. Foner is the author of the EarthCent Ambassador series. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with Alexa (ne Echo) and an imaginary German Shepherd he’s trained to bite bankers.
1) What inspired you to launch a career as a fiction writer?
It was less inspiration than desperation. I’d been self employed for over twenty years, my business was on the down slope, and I decided I was old enough to take a break from the rat race to live on savings and try to please myself.
2) Your Union Station scifi series is unique in a variety of ways, ranging from the lack of profanity, overt violence and gratuitous sex to the use of humor throughout your stories. What made you decide to write the stories with that approach?
I embarrass easily, so I try to write books that I can read without blushing. And I tend to be idiosyncratic, so there was probably an unconscious effort to do something different from everybody else. Bad idea from a business standpoint.
3) Compared to standard scifi fare, the Union Station series story lines are quite different. How do you create such a different universe from other scifi authors?
I wanted to write about an optimistic future, and being a pessimist, that was difficult for me to imagine. In order to get there, I needed a way to keep humans from screwing everything up, which led to putting ancient alien AI in charge of a network of independent species. Everybody else is so far in advance of humanity that war (on our part) is out of the question. Earth doesn’t even have a navy.
4) Union Station is an interesting place. Why did you select this as the universe your stories would be set in as opposed to the more typical traveling through space or an outlandish alien planet commonly found in science fiction?
I have a strong preference for science fiction that holds a mirror up to history. In my case, it’s a funhouse mirror, but I write about serious subjects, however sugarcoated the delivery. An enormous multi-species station with a lot going on creates the opportunity for different story lines every book.
5) The alien characters in your stories are both humorous and if taken literally, a bit frightening. Where did the inspiration for these creatures come from?
I suppose one man’s fright is another man’s salvation. The alien characters and their cultures all have a point, usually as a contrast to the direction humanity has chosen. One of my favorite scenes is when the ambassador is complaining to her friends that she doesn’t get to meet any aliens, and her friends have to point out that they ARE aliens. It has to do with why the ambassador was chosen for the job, but that’s close to being a spoiler.
6) Humor is laced throughout your stories, much of it subtle or tongue in cheek. While there are other science fiction authors who interject humor into their stories, what inspired you to make this part of your voice as a writer?
I have a hard time writing without humor. And I’m uncomfortable mixing humor with violence, even though finding humor in bad times helps keep people sane. I did write some apocalyptic SciFi short stories back in the early 90’s, but writing a novel means submerging oneself in that universe for months, and I don’t need to spend that time in darkness.
7) What made you decide to go the indie author route as opposed to a traditional publishing deal?
EarthCent Ambassador would never have been picked up by a traditional publisher. The trades aren’t interested in gambling on unproven ideas from unknown authors.
8) With the advent of Amazon’s KDP, the opportunity for individuals to become published authors has never been easier. Finding success as an author is still a daunting challenge. Based on the success of your series, what advice can you share with authors just starting out?
Don’t ignore the importance of good cover art. Authors don’t get to choose who reads their books, and we would probably do a poor job of it if given a chance, but the wrong cover art WILL result in readers being feeling that they were misled and giving you bad reviews. People who buy books with sexy covers expect sex, people who buy books with battle scenes expect battles, etc. And if you’re interested in writing a series, don’t wrap up all the plotlines every book like I do.
9) Of all the challenges you have faced as a fiction author, what has been the most interesting?
My editing process has evolved over the last three years to the point where I start with the “finished” book and read it out loud on the screen while making changes. Then I use “Send to Kindle” to send the Word file to my Kindle and read it out loud three more times, with each iteration taking a week. I’m nowhere near as productive as the most popular SciFi authors on Kindle, many of whom can write a novel in the time it takes me to edit one.
10) Are there any authors in particular that inspire you as a writer?
The Victorians had a way of writing about regular people in trying circumstances, usually poverty, which is more meaningful to me than the plot drivers of most modern literature. Despite the fact that my space opera includes faster-than-light drive and other demands on the suspension-of-disbelief to make it work, I try to keep the core focus on the things that make people get up in the morning and allow them to sleep at night.
11) You’ve started a fantasy series. Is there anything you would like to share about your new series?
Meghan’s Dragon is a standalone, and even though I started a sequel at one point, it will probably remain so. The basic story just falls too far outside of the fantasy rules to attract a following.
12) If you were to start your career over as a writer with the advantage of the wisdom you have gained, what would you do differently?
Both the title and the early cover designs of my first book, “Date Night on Union Station,” were bad mistakes. The title attracted romance readers, who were often disappointed because it’s not a romance, and at the same time repelled readers who would never consider a book with “Date Night” in the title. Even “Late Night” would have been a huge improvement.
13) What stories can your fans expect to read in the future?
“Family Night on Union Station” is currently with the last round of proofreaders. I’ve been floundering around the last month while it makes the rounds, and if the plot I’m fiddling with now doesn’t bloom, I’ll probably return to Union Station where the characters write their own stories.
14) How can fans find out more about your books?