Meet Stephen B. Pearl!
Gandalf taught me how to be a spirit wrapped in flesh. Aragorn taught me how to be a man. Frodo taught me of perseverance, and Samwise of loyalty. Along the way I learned of the power of the written word, the gift it could give by slipping past our defences to show us the best and the worst in ourselves. So who is Stephen B. Pearl? He is a lifeguard, husband, mystic, science enthusiast, home handyman, backyard mechanic, and writer. Like most of us the face he wears changes with the company and the season. His three cats know him as pride alpha, I like to think so, though servant might be more accurate. Who am I kidding? My wife runs the pride; I just try and stay out of her way.
At any rate, I am a man of middle years who lives in a house in Ontario, Canada with three cats, a wife and a sincere hope that you will enjoy my book.
Hello! What’s your name?
Hi I’m Stephen, Stephen B. Pearl actually. I also answer to Steve though it feels weird to spell it with a v so I don’t use it in writing. “Hay you,” works too, and “what in hell do you think you’re doing?” This last usually when I’m taking care of something urgent while everyone else is still talking about whose fault it was.
What do you write and why?
I write across the speculative fiction field. Tinker’s Plague is a post-apocalyptic, science fiction, Medical, political thriller. Nukekubi, my second in print book, is a paranormal detective story. I’m trying to market Cloning Freedom, which is a space opera set so far in the future that the science is hugely advanced. I prefer the novel format, though I have written short stories for anthologies. My short stories tend to turn into novels. My nice little idea will be sitting there then it will say but if this is so this and this have to follow and wham I’m at fifty-thousand words wondering what happened.
I write speculative fiction because I like to deal with an element of the fantastic. I like to explore what we know, what we think we know and what we have yet to figure out.
In my fiction I get to speculate doing that lets me feel I live in a larger far more uncertain universe. Weird as it sounds, to me that is comforting. I would hate a universe where there was nothing more to learn or experience.
Do you read the same genre that you write? Why or why not?
I’d say about sixty percent of my reading is speculative fiction, twenty percent actual science, ten percent metaphysics, and ten percent mixed. I read speculative fiction for the same reasons I write it. Science and metaphysics I read because if you are going to write about a thing then you better know something about it. Good science fiction has a foundation in science. Also metaphysics has fascinated me since my teens. The rest is because great books know no genera, and I refuse to ignore greatness for the sake of fitting into someone else’s perception of what I should be.
What is the title you are promoting right now?
With this interview I am promoting Tinker’s Plague.
What is it about?
The eternal struggle of good people against the overwhelming stupidity and greed of the human species. Boy am I an optimist. Here’s the cover write up.
Betrayed by petty minded superiors in Novo Gaia, Brad and Carla race to save innocents from the blind hatred of long-dead killers.
The Earth is struggling to rebuild itself from the excesses of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Brad, a Doctor of General Applied Technologies colloquially known as a Tinker, travels the Dark Lands- areas without electricity- helping the people bootstrap themselves back from the edge of civilization.
All until he finds the plague in the town of Guelph.
Now Brad and his assistant Carla struggle to save the lives of the rapidly succumbing townspeople, while a cold war battle between Novo Gaia and the United Grid regions plays out over the quarantine and the lives of the people in the Dark Lands. The political theater is leaving Brad with a mounting toll of dead victims.
Will Brad and Carla be able to stop the plague, or will the contagion escape, infecting a world that is in no condition to survive another catastrophe?
Tinker’s Plague is heavily based on reality principles. The world is an extrapolation of one potential future if we don’t fix the mess we’re making of the planet and society. I enjoyed writing it in part because I could incorporate my long standing interest in sustainable energy generation into the book. As well, I trained as an Emergency Medical Care Assistant in my younger days. I could apply much of that knowledge to the medicine highlighted in the book.
Mostly the book came about because I hadn’t seen what I considered a realistic extrapolation of where we were headed. They were all either to dark and dismal or to optimistic. The problems faced by the people in Tinker’s Plague are all things we have the early stages of today carried to a logical point. One example is ground water contamination. In Tinker’s Plague people have to distil the well water they drink to avoid toxins.
Another thing that is somewhat unique is that Tinker’s Plague offers solutions. The message is, no matter how bad things are by doing the little you can and keeping it up you can make a change for the better.
Brad, the lead character, is a tinker, a doctor of general applied technologies, committed to a philosophy of change for the better by successive baby steps.
All the pontificating aside. The book is a heck of a good read. Fast paced, internally consistent with characters you’ll love and some you’ll love to hate. You can take my word for it, I’m not bias, no not at all. 😉 Seriously, I’ve had very good reviews from people who I’ve never met, and my publisher thought it was good enough to take a chance on.
What makes this book different from others in your genre?
One would be the research. I’ve looked at a post oil future and not tried to pretty it up or drag it down. Most folk live with a roughly 1890s technology except in the areas around the old Hydro-electric plants where high tech has held on. The environment is toxic, but not a planet wide desert. Though climate change has messed things up pretty badly.
Another thing is the character motivation. Brad isn’t driven by vengeance. He’s not trying to hunt someone down. He’s a man who’s doing his job that finds himself tossed in the deep end. Despite being under-qualified to deal with the situation he finds himself in he is the best qualified person available, so he does what he has to. I think he reacts how most of us hope we would react in a similar situation.
I also deal with the background society and politics that make matters worse. Novo Gaia, the bright lands nation Brad comes from, though altruistic as nations go has its limitations and bad apples in government.
Mostly I think what makes this different is the sense that the society itself is building towards something. Too many books deal with the crises and the world doesn’t really change. In Tinker’s Plague the whole book is about change for the better. The change is slow and the bumps in the road that happen as any system grows are there, but there is change in the world of the tinkers.
What’s the story behind the story?
I love the Earth. “The Earth is our mother we must take care of her,” should be more than a chant. We as a society are like the frog in the pot. The temperature is rising, but all too many of us are unwilling to jump out. So in part, I wanted to try and contribute to people’s awareness.
That said; let me tell you my philosophy about fiction. The first job of fiction is to entertain. If you wanted to be preached at you would go to whatever place of worship you favor. If you wanted facts you would read nonfiction.
So first I wrote Tinker’s Plague to be entertaining. In that context I used real places and things to create the conflict that drives the entertainment and in some cases offers a solution to the problem faced by the characters. The hope is that you’ll put the book down think “Wow, I loved that story,” then later on look at your down spout and think, “That rain barrel thing they used in the book was kinda neat. I could do that.”
The first focus though must be on entertainment value, that’s why people buy a fiction book.
What is your goal as an author?
To feed myself. Please. J I’ll be honest, I’ve never met an author who didn’t secretly wish they could hit the big time, and what’s wrong with that? Everybody wants to advance in their career. Very few of us little fish survive until we get anything like a living wage in this industry.
Sure I also want to enlighten people, share my world view, make life better for all. The whole beauty pageant speech, who doesn’t want that too? Still and all, it would be nice to be able to eat in a nice restaurant once in a while.
Are you working on anything new? Give us a preview of what’s to come!
I am presently working on the rough draft of Tinker’s Sea the next book in the Tinker series. Each Tinker book is a standalone story so Tinker’s Plague deals with the Plague in Guelph from start to finish. Tinker’s Sea follows Tabby, who is briefly mentioned in Tinker’s Plague but never seen, who works an Aquatic Tinker’s route following the coast of Lake Huron. It involves radiation from an unknown source getting into the lake, Captain Packer the pirate and his Pre-collapse nuclear sub-marine and Andy a twelve year old boy that can identify where the radiation leak may be coming from.
A quick warning, Packer isn’t Johnny Dep. My pirates are cut throats, thieves, rapists, the scum of the earth. Just like in reality. They are criminals who care nothing about others. Here’s a little piece but keep in mind this still has about three edits to go, at least, before it will be submitted to publishers.
Tabby lost track of time as she fought with the ship’s wheal. After what seemed like days the storm began to abate. It was full night by the time she felt confident in tying off the wheel. Collecting her medical kit from the equipment pack she headed below decks to examine the sick men. Entering the grubby hallway she could hear a thump whoosh sound. In a room to one side Andy worked the long handle of a pump. The boy was stripped to the waist and sweat dripped off him despite the near freezing temperature. He paused for a second to drive heave then pulled himself up and went back to pumping. Blood dripped from burst blisters where he clutched the pump handle.
Tabby moved to his side and placed her hands on the backs of his. Andy looked at her with uncomprehending eyes.
“You can stop. Good job.” She gently eased his hands away from the pump handle. The skin of his palms looked like ground meat.
“I…” Andy collapsed.
Tabitha helped lower him to the floor. “You did great. Rest, I’ll be back to bandage your hands after I check the others.”
“OK.” Andy sat staring dumbly at his hands as if they belonged to someone else.
Tabitha nodded once to herself and muttered “Tough kid,” as she moved to the sleeping cabin. A quick check revealed that one of the two survivors had succumbed. Pulse, respiration, pupil response followed for the unconscious survivor. Opening the med kit she took out a bag of normal saline I.V. solution and started it feeding into the man’s vein. An abnormal amount of blood dribbled from the puncture site. Tabby pulled out a tube as long as her middle finger and slowly passed it over the man’s body.
“Ground out!” she exclaimed when she looked at the numbers displayed.
“What is it?” asked a voice that cracked mid-sentence behind her.
“Andy.” Tabby turned around.
Andy stared past her into the cabin. “What happened to them?”
Tabby looked at her young companion. His arms trembled from over exertion and his skin was pail, but blood no longer dripped from his palms. She held the cylindrical device over him and checked its readout before sighing with relief.”
“I don’t know how, but, I’m sorry. Andy, it’s radiation. They all read high for hard radiation.”
The whites showed around Andy’s eyes.
Tabby rushed to continue. “You’re OK. You hardly show any.” Tabby leaned against the wall as she thought. “Did they eat or drink anything you didn’t?”
This is from the early part of the book. Now you have to wait months to years to find out more.
Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. Wonderful writing and an incredible story ark.
For living writers, Jim Butcher. Any of the Harry Dresden Wizard for Higher books. They are a pleasure to read, fast paced, internally consistent and a whoot. Jim also happens to be a nice guy.
Where can readers find you and your work?
My website is www.stephenpearl.com
Other places to look for me are:
YouTube Readings: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlMDmlb-Los
Buy links for all my books at listed on my website. The works are available through most major outlets. To buy direct from the publisher please contact:
Nukekubi: Dark Dragon Publishing: www.darkdragonpublishing.com
Tinker’s Plague: Draumr Publishing: http://www.draumrpublishing.com/store/cart.php?target=main
Slaves of Love: and The Hollow Curse: Club Lighthouse Publishing: www.clublighthousepublishing.com
What’s your view on the self-publishing/traditional publishing thing? Ideally, which one would you prefer and why?
Thus far I am published by small presses. I will be self-publishing a book in the next few months due to legal entanglements and frankly a desire to see how the dollars add up.
That said, I’m not fond of the self publishing phoneme. There have been some fine self-published books, the works of Ira Nayman spring to mind, but generally a self published book hasn’t gone through the same vetting procedure that a traditionally published work has. As such there is virtually no quality control. Of course the person buying the book has no way of knowing this going in so they spend their money, often on a product that is not yet ready for publication. This takes those dollars away from people who have had their work vetted through the more traditional wrought.
Of course I have to add that if the publishing industry hadn’t dropped the ball on making openings for new talent the self-publishing trend might not have gotten such a quick start.
Do you have a favorite quote?
HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE. Death from The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
What is the most important advice you have for aspiring authors?
If you are not yet completely addicted, quit! It is a hard, drawn out road.
If it is too late for you to save yourself then write the best book you can. Know your topic and bring that to the book the way you bring it to life as a back ground that doesn’t overwhelm the work. If you want to write swords and sorcery for example join the Society for Creative Anachronism and learn a relatively realistic form of armoured combat. Learn firsthand what it feels like to have five hundred armoured men charging at you in a line battle. (Freaky and unnerving. )
Edit, edit, edit and did I mention edit. When you send your work off every word should pull weight each character should be someone you could meet on the street. Making allowances for your world of course. Your world should make sense and be internally consistent. I always ask myself, “If a person can lift a car telekinetically why haven’t they been hired to launch satellites into orbit?”
At this time, and this is subject to change, I feel the best gateways are the small presses. There you will get the vetting your work should have but they are still open to new talent. Pretty much everyone else in the industry seems to want you to have an established track record.
One thing to be sure of in any situation is that the flow of cash is to the author, (unless you are acting as your own publisher in which case you are a publisher when you shell out for printing etcetera.) You send your work out and money comes to you. The industry is littered with people looking to exploit you, don’t let them. Predators and Editors is your friend as well as other sites that vet the industry.
Finally, when your book gets out promote, promote, promote. You can have the best book in the world but if no one has heard about it it won’t sell. This is very hard for a lot of authors but you need to get out there. Think of it like an acting job. You are playing the gregarious extrovert, it is a role. It doesn’t matter that you’d rather be curled up in your study writing the next novel. The ivory tower author, if he ever existed, has gone extinct. Sad but true and I think the quality of the actual work has suffered for it.
Is there anything else you’d like to say before we finish up?
I’d just like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts and ask everyone to check out my books.
Awesome, thanks for allowing me to interview you!
Please visit Stephen at the links below!