I have just had the opportunity to ask a few questions to Bob Mayer, the author of well known sci-fi series such as Area 51. Since I have been reading Bob's work for over a decade now, you can imagine it was an absolute pleasure to have this chance, which I am happy with share with you... I'm currently going through his excellent "Area 51: Nightstalkers" series (of which I already posted some reviews).
SFB: First of all, I fell like I know you well from years of reading the "Area 51" series over a decade ago. How did you make the transition from that previous series to this new one?
BM: I wanted to merge my military books with my science fiction. The basic idea was coming up with a Special Operations team that deals with those things that go bump in the night. When I was in Special Ops, we'd meet other units and talk, and often each though the other unit was doing some high speed stuff. Although we did fly around in black helicopters, we just thought someone was doing other, more neater stuff. It turns out they was us.
SFB: Obviously, your time as a Green Beret has given you a lot of military background which transpires through your writing. Do you make a conscious effort to include as much detail and jargon as possible or rather shy from exaggerating not to overwhelm the reader?
BM: I don't want to overwhelm the reader with jargon or describing gear. Tom Clancy would spend pages describing how a nuclear weapon works. I figure readers can google that if they want. I'm more concerned about the effect on characters and plot. There is the additional factor of not wanting to divulge anything classified.
SFB: What is the most challenging aspect of writing about events that in some way follow from some personal perspective/experience?
BM: Letting go of reality sometimes. Spec Ops we 99% boredom and 1% terror. Readers don't want the 99% boredom. One of our favorite sayings was "Prepare to Prepare." You can't write that.
SFB: Are there some key writers that you feel have - in some way - molded your approach to writing? And if you had to pick a favorite current sci-fi writer, who would it be?
BM: I try to read writers that are better than me. Actually, I really enjoyed Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. While not science fiction, it certainly stretched the boundaries of the imagination considerably.
SFB: There are so many sci-fi, action, and military novels coming out these days, it is often a struggle just keeping up with news. What do you think of the current writing/publishing/reading world?
BM: The market is saturated and will continue to be so. Since anyone can publish now, it seems everyone is. They key is to gain a core readership of fans. And to try different things. I actually think story-telling is changing and the straight narrative is no longer the rule. Playing with time and point of view is more acceptable to readers.
SFB: Finally, what can we expect from the 4th book and subsequent ones in this series?
BM: The fourth book is out and it's Nightstalkers: Time Patrol. And it moves my Nightstalkers into a new unit-- the Time Patrol. I introduce it in this fourth book, then essentially launch a new series, with the same characters. The fifth book comes out 25 August and is Time Patrol: Black Tuesday. It introduces a concept I'm going to use in all the books in the new series: the Time Patrol has to send six operatives into the past to the exact same date, but in different years. And they have to stop the Shadow from trying to destroy our timeline. For Black Tuesday, for example, 29 Oct, we have, of course, the 1929 Stock Market crash (although the problem on that day is something much more nefarious), Sir Walter Raleigh's beheading in 1618, the first internet message ever sent in 1969 and other events. I'll follow that with Nine Eleven and more books. It's a really fun series and brings up a lot of what-if's.
Bob Mayer is a New York Times bestselling author, a graduate of West Point, a former Green Beret (including commanding an A-Team), and the feeder of two yellow Labs, most famously Cool Gus. He’s had over sixty books published, including the #1 bestselling series Area 51, Atlantis, and the Green Berets. Born in the Bronx and having traveled the world (usually not the tourist spots), he now lives peacefully with his wife and his Labs at Write on the River, Tennessee.