How would you describe your story in one sentence?
Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla sent a message to Mars…what happened when they answered?
*What inspired you to write your story/characters/theme?
The protagonist himself. Nikola Tesla invented the modern electrical system, so he is practically the father of the “industrial age”. He also had an otherworldly side. He reported visions of “beings of light”, and believed that he had received a message from extraterrestrials on his radio equipment. When I read his story, I thought “this is a science fiction story that practically writes itself”.
And yet until recently this man’s name was in no schoolbooks and nobody had even heard of him. Those who did, tended to dismiss him as a ‘crackpot’. Very few authors had written serious novels with Tesla as a protagonist. His story just cried out to be written. I wanted to get inside his head; see what he thought and felt. Yes, it is science fiction and I did take liberties with the historical facts. I stretched the timeline and the facts, and I explained all of it in my historical notes. So, this is a book where you can learn some history, while having a good time.
After decades of rejections from the Pro publishers, I had given up on writing. But this story just wouldn’t leave me alone, and so I had no choice but to pick it up and run with it.
*Which authors have influenced you?
Isaac Asimov, Sherri Tepper, Orson Scott Card, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Theodore Sturgeon, Clifford Simak, Zenna Henderson, Ursula leGuin.
*Which are your favorite literary genres?
Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical fiction and combinations of these.
*What makes a book/story special for you?
I identify with outcasts, so I like stories about exceptional people–geniuses, people with special talents and gifts–who don’t quite fit in to their societies. I like a well-crafted plot, and a definite ending (I don’t care for cliffhangers). What makes a story really special is that “sense of wonder” that SF used to have. I used to love novels with advanced aliens who are more evolved than us. If I could find a story about aliens that are not horrifying monsters… a story that gave me a bit of hope, instead of a cloud of gloom and doom…that would truly be a special book. This is the kind of book I am trying to write.
*Where do you live? Did your hometown/country/culture influenced your story?
I live in the Eastern part of the US, nearl Philadelphia. My hometown and culture did influence my story. One of my major characters is a Russian-Jewish refugee, Clara, who has a talent for electrical science and who insists on working with Nikola. She is named after my grandmother who came from Russia. Clara uses Yiddish expressions which my grandparents used. The grandparents lived in New York City, so I felt comfortable writing about this setting. My brother and I loved to ride the subways, and I wrote several climactic scenes where New Yorkers hid from the invading aliens in the NY tunnels.
My hometown of State College also appears in the book. This college town is set in a rural area amid beautiful mountain ridges. It seemed a perfect place for my characters to hide out when things got a bit too hot in the big city. My beloved mountains were a perfect setting for Tesla to set up a Magnifying Transmitter, followed by a fierce battle with alien attack ships.
*How long you needed for writing this book/for your first draft/ for your revision/editing process?
I started writing ‘Tesla’s Signal’ in Oct. 2013, and finished my first draft on Dec. 30. For the next year and a half, I did rewrites, revisions and edits. I was ready to publish in April 2015.
*Did you hire a cover artist/editor/proofreader?
I had a few beta readers who gave me some developmental feedback, and I hired a literate family member to proofread. I believed I had the skills necessary to do the majority of the editing myself. I’m a veteran of the Philadelphia SF Writers’ Workshop, where your story gets critiqued by 10 or 12 people. After years of this, I learned to anticipate what the critics would say about sentence structure, continuity, clarity etc.
I I have heard many people say you cannot write a good book without a professional editor, so I will have to let the readers decide. So far, I have a 4.5 star rating on Amazon and none of my reviewers have complained about poor editing, grammar, spelling or story flow.
I also did my cover art. I have a degree in computer graphics/desktop publishing and have worked for several years in the graphics field. I’m enough of a Photoshop whiz that I would not be happy with myself if I couldn’t do my own cover. And since doing that, I have made quite a few ‘promo’ graphics, and I’m working on a video.
*What have you learned while writing and publishing? Did unexpected things happened?
I learned more about electricity and radio than I ever thought possible. (Thank you, Wikipedia and YouTube!) Of course I became an expert in Tesla, the Gilded Age, and the early 1900s. I also researched the geography and history of New York City, where much of the story takes place.
Formatting a Createspace manuscript was a new experience. I learned how to set up style sheets, page breaks etc. Producing an actual print book was enjoyable and satisfying for me because of my background in graphic design.
Many unexpected things happened during the Kindle process. I initially paid for Kindle formatting. I was unsatisfied with the result, and had to teach myself a crash course in Kindle.
The whole marketing process was unexpected for me. I didn’t think about buying advertising. Somehow I thought that all of the Tesla fans on the internet would rush out and buy my book. LOL!
And of course I had to learn about Twitter, Pinterest and even Reddit.
*What helped you to get inspired and overcome hurdles along the writing of your book?
I was inspired by Nikola himself. He was a workaholic who would not give up. He worked insane hours and rarely slept. There were several times where I was stuck on a plot point and avoided the project for awhile. One time I heard Nikola’s voice in my head, saying “why aren’t you writing my story?”
In general I have learned that you must take breaks. If you’re stuck, work on a craft or music project while you toss the ideas around in your head. Eventually, sit down with a pen and paper, and start scribbling ideas. Mainly, just don’t give up.
*What would you do differently on a next project?
I would probably not include so much historical detail. People say it is “slow”. (But they also want ‘background’. Go figure…) Also, I might try to plan out my Launch better. I had never thought of giving out advance review copies!
*Best piece (s) of advice for first time writers?
Find a workshop where you can get feedback on your writing, because that’s how you improve your craft. Do Not be shy! All of us were beginners once.
*Where can readers contact you in the internet? Do you have a blog/website?
*What are you planning to write/publish next?
My next project is a sequel called Tesla’s Wavelength, about Tesla’s elder years when World War II looms on the horizon. A new and dynamic character is stepping in, and possibly she will demand a new book afterward.
A link to the book on Amazon: