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Welcome to The Mysterious Stranger blog, Robert Lenz!
"Indie Author Tuesday" is all about showcasing writing talent beyond the big publishing companies. However, while my identity is clouded in mystery, Lenz has already broken onto the scene with his novel, SHIFT. You can read more about SHIFT here.
Why did you decide to start writing stories?
To me writing is very cathartic. I do a lot of technical writing for a living, so slipping into a fantasy world is somewhat of a release for me. I've been writing short little stories for several years to just give my mind a break, but have never really sat down and decided to publish anything fictional. At one point a friend (Jacob Hunter, the co-author) and I were doing a little writing exercise where we passed paragraphs back and forth to build up a world. Somehow, that little writing exercise turned into several chapters worth of material and we decided to just go for it.
As an aside, I somehow just managed to watch 'Hackers' for the first time (a movie any self-respecting computer nerd should have long since watched) and I was reminded a lot of that movie when musing on the visuals and plot we created in Shift. It has that style that isn't found too much out of a good 80s/90s movie, but I feel we added a modern twist. Regardless, if you enjoy a story set in the near-future, with a protagonist who progresses from a mischievous hacker to usurper, sprinkled in with a world-weary, jaded sarcasm, then this book is for you. Also, if you enjoy supporting indie SciFi authors trying to unconventionally transition from hobbyist to novelist, then this is also for you.
I do somewhat wish we'd released this book a few years earlier when we finished the initial draft, as we would've beaten Google Glass to market. In the book the protagonist gets a nifty heads-up display in the form of glasses. A couple months later Glass went live on the market. Such is life.
This story was an interesting one for me, as I wrote it with a co-author. We started it as a writing exercise online to work on our Worldbuilding and character development skills. After a few weeks of back and forth, we had a solid few chapters and a good idea of where the story was going, and it just took off from there. For me personally, I like to have an idea of an overall outline of where I'd like to take the story, but how I (or my characters) get from Point A to Point B is sometimes up in the air. I suppose my writing style is somewhat a bit of that thrill of discovery, coupled with an engineer's need to have everything plotted out and well-defined. Sometimes, I'll work on a rough outline of character motivations, overarching plot threads, and so on. Sometimes a random song lyric will strike me and I'll just need to write, based on however that made me feel at the time, ideally following that outline along. Sometimes, it's last minute panic that I need to get something down on the page just to keep moving forward.
And finally, a mysterious stranger approaches and offers you one book to read, unpublished in our universe but published in another alternate universe. Which book would you choose and why?
That is an intriguing question. I was considering something witty or esoteric, perhaps an alternate character's viewpoint on Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Then I was thinking that I should just fulfil my base desires and ask for the next book in Rothfuss' KingKiller Chronicles. In the end, I'll have to go with another Neil Gaiman-penned story in the Lovecraft universe. I remember reading his short story in 'Smoke and Mirrors' about a tourist visiting a pub ('Shoggoth's Old Peculiar'), and that was absolutely wonderful. I know that he had another early work in this vein, but I feel like I need a lot more Gaiman-Lovecraft in my life.
Thanks once again, Robert Lenz, for the interview! If you'd like to know more about Robert Lenz and his novel, please visit the link below.