I’ve been writing science fiction pretty much since I was a teenager. That and fantasy were my first loves as a reader and a writer. I read a lot of science fiction as a teen: lots of Bradbury, especially, but also Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. There were movies that sparked my interest too, maybe especially Ridley Scott’s movies Alien and Blade Runner.
I do some research for sure. Most of my stories in Odin’s Eye are set in our own solar system so I would look up maps of the Moon, for example, or research features of various planets and areas like the Oort cloud (that’s where my short story “Johnny B. Goode” is set). For most of the technology, I just invent it and sort of skim over the details of how it works in the story (unless it’s pertinent to the plot itself). Since most of my stories take place in a far future, I can play around rather freely with what society might look like, and what technology is available. The one thing I did the most research on for Odin’s Eye was probably the Voyager probe. I looked at when it was sent out, where it will end up in the future, how it was made… all that stuff. That kind of research is actually a lot of fun to do for a project like this.
I saw the Gates of Balawat at The British Museum in London, and they absolutely fascinated me. They’re beautiful and the imagery on them is very evocative. They made me feel close to that part of history, I guess as though it really might be just on the other side of those doors. After seeing them, I read up on Babylonian and Assyrian ancient history, and thinking about that, and my own reaction to seeing those artifacts is what inspired that story. It was interesting to me to imagine how people in the future might view our museums and preservation of historical artifacts: Would they feel the same connection I did? Or would they just be mystified as to why anyone would keep such things stored in a special building? That’s kind of what I wanted to explore in that story.
I grew up in Sweden, so Norse mythology is something I’ve had with me since I was a kid. It’s always felt like a rich vein to get material and inspiration and imagery from as a writer. That particular story, of Odin sacrificing his eye in Mimir’s well in order to gain wisdom and the ability to look into the future, that story has always fascinated me. It just seemed like the perfect backdrop for a collection of science fiction stories: to try to peer into the future. Then, I found that image for the cover, of the distant galaxy known as the Eye of God, or Odin’s Eye, and it all just came together for me. I knew I had to use that for the title.
That is a bit like picking your favorite child I suppose. I like to think I’m always getting better as a writer, so I guess I’d pick my latest collection of poetry (Cuts & Collected Poems), and my flash fiction anthology Dark Flash as my favorites. But I have a lot of love for Odin’s Eye too! Dark Flash feels very close to my heart right now, because I just published it this past December, and that mix of horror and dark fantasy is kind of where a lot of my writing is taking me these days.
Brian Basher, who has a terrific online radio show called Hard Rock Nights featuring new and old rock bands, asked me to write reviews for his site back in 2012. That’s how I got started writing about music online. I loved doing that, and later started my own blog Rock And Roll. When I first started writing about music, it was during a period when I suffered from some serious writer’s block and felt unable to write fiction. Writing about music was therapeutic in a way: I love finding new bands to listen to, and it’s fun to share my opinions about it. All writing is creative, and while writing about music is pretty different than writing fiction, it’s still something I enjoy doing.
I was a voracious reader as a child. The Lord of the Rings totally blew my mind when I first read it. It was the first book that made me realize that you could create entire new worlds as a writer, and it opened my eyes to the kind of depth you could conjure up by using maps and languages and an invented world with its own history. It was an intoxicating experience to read it the first time. I don’t think any other book I’ve ever read has affected me as profoundly. I remember crying so hard at the end of the trilogy when I realized the story was over. Ursula K. Le Guin’s original three books about Earthsea also inspired me a lot. Tombs of Atuan is a book that influenced me greatly, more than I probably realized at the time! Bradbury’s short stories were also very much a part of my original “writer DNA.” All the science fiction I wrote as a kid was basically riffs on Bradbury… bad riffs, but that’s how we all start out!
I think that at a very profound level I’m still very much influenced by Ursula K. Le Guin. I re-read her books periodically because her prose is so powerful and exquisite. I’ve also been very inspired by newer authors like Angela Slatter and Kai Ashante Wilson who both write speculative fiction. Currently, I read a lot of new short fiction in the horror, fantasy, and science fiction genres. There are a ton of great new authors there, and I learn from and am inspired by them all the time. Online zines like Shimmer, Apex, Uncanny Magazine, Gamut, The Dark, Liminal Stories, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and many others, publish fantastic short fiction all the time, and I try my best to keep up with as much of it as I can.
The Lord of the Rings is my all-time favorite book. Other favorites (meaning books I’ve read multiple times) are Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco, The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas, Le Guin’s Earthsea books, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré. Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama is another one.
For me as a poet, I think that reading T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land was transformational. I remember reading it in high school and it just changed how I wrote and read and thought about poetry on a fundamental level. The idea that a poem could be that mysterious and that strange and yet be so powerful and moving was a revelation. I’d always liked reading and writing poetry, even before that, but once I read it I fell in love with it, and my writing changed radically after that.
Read a lot, write a lot. That’s really the basics. Read old writers and read the new writers, too. Read every genre that appeals to you. And, once you start writing and submitting your work, realize that you will be rejected. But that’s OK: keep plugging away, and keep honing your skills. Just be persistent, and be willing to learn and work hard. No matter how talented you are, working hard and being persistent is what will help you in the long run.