Author Spotlight: Tom Olbert

longhaul-200Today’s author, Tom Olbert, is another one I’ve had the pleasure of working with at Musa Publishing. I haven’t actually taken the time to read his science fiction novella, Long Haul yet–my list of books to read only seems to grow–but it’s near the top of my list and I’m looking forward to it.

Please give Tom a warm welcome and enjoy the wisdom he has to share.

1. Can you tell us a bit about Long Haul?

Long Haul is a somewhat dark, somewhat comical sci-fi action yarn about truckers in the near future who have to drive their rigs through alternate universes to deliver their cargo on time. In addition to alien monsters and bizarre parallel earths, the heroes of this story have to deal with a conniving corporation, a wildly radicalized college student who hijacks their truck, and a mysterious cosmic plot that could change the world as they know it. The story is narrated by the protagonist, Garth Jenkins, a hapless, twice-divorced absentee father and ex-army driver who tries, in his own haphazard way, to do the right thing, but just can’t stay out of trouble.

  1. When did you decide you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I took to it quite naturally. I was hooked on science fiction at an early age, and my childhood fantasy was always to be a science fiction writer.

3. What modern author do you admire most and why?

Hard to say. I grew up reading Ray Bradbury, and always admired his beautifully poetic style. So much magic there. I admired J.R. Tolkien a lot as well. I guess I’d have to say the modern writer I most admire is J.K. Rowling. Her working class-to riches success story is an inspiration to us all, and she brought a rare magic into all our lives.

4. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

The hardest part is staying in the character’s skin and keeping the reader in there as well. Every breath, every heartbeat. Don’t tell it, feel it. No way to make it easier. Just keep trying to get better at it.

5. How did you originally get the idea for Long Haul?

I read a Scientific American article entitled “Life in the Multiverse” and just knew I had to do a story on the subject. I wanted the story to be accessible to the average Joe; I wanted to connect the cosmic to the mundane. And, since inter-universe travel is just that, travel, I figured the trucking business was the best way to go.

6. What genre do you most enjoy reading and why?

I grew up reading science fiction. I just loved the idea of going beyond conventional reality and testing the limits of imagination. Science fiction is the best way to do that, I think, because it deals with things that are actually possible, at least in theory. My favorite kind of SF is the kind that creates exotic landscapes, but puts the scientific concepts secondary to the human, philosophical and/or political concepts involved. “Dune” was certainly one of my all-time favorites. But, I’ve tried to branch out my reading as well. I’ve read Hemingway, Dickens and Kafka, and I like reading anything that challenges me to try to grow as a writer.

7. Have you ever thought about writing something other than science fiction?

I have. I’ve toyed with the idea of trying swashbuckling, period romance, with same-sex couples for a change. I’ve also occasionally written short fantasy and vampire fiction.

8. Where would you like your writing career to be in ten years?

Who knows? I like to be surprised. I’d love to be a success at it, naturally, but I have no delusions.

9. If you could give an aspiring author just one piece of advice, what would it be?


10. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

More science fiction, set in futuristic settings with lots of action, and more than a few dark demons of the soul.

Snapshot_20140807Tom Olbert lives in Cambridge, MA.  When not working, he writes sci-fi and horror and volunteers for causes he cares about.  He finds Cambridge a wonderfully colorful and sometimes crazy place to live.

You can purchase a copy of Long Haul here.

Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

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