5 Minutes with David Lee Summers
David Lee Summers is an author, editor and astronomer living somewhere between the western and final frontiers in Southern New Mexico. He is the author of five novels: The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, Heirs of the New Earth, Vampires of the Scarlet Order, and The Solar Sea. David is also co-author, with Lee Clark Zumpe, of the book, Blood Sampler, from Sam’s Dot Publishing. His short fiction has appeared in such magazines as Realms of Fantasy, The Vampire’s Crypt, Aoife’s Kiss, The Fifth Di…, The Martian Wave, and Science Fiction Trails. He edits the science fiction and fantasy magazine, Tales of the Talisman and serves as a consultant for El Paso Community College’s literary magazine, Chrysalis. In addition to his work in the written word, David has also worked at numerous observatories around the southwestern United States. Currently he works for Kitt Peak National Observatory, outside of Tucson, Arizona.
What project are you currently working on? (C’mon, give us a hint!)
I’m currently working on a prequel to Vampires of the Scarlet Order called Dragon’s Fall. The current plan is that it will be released by Sinful Moments Press as a series of five novelettes in ebook format. Once all five novelettes are released, a paperback book will be available. It tells the story of Lord Draco and how he formed the Scarlet Order.
What is your favorite snack?
I love rich, chocolate brownies as a way to get myself ready to write, or as a reward for a good job writing. While I’m writing, I tend to like salty snacks like cashews or corn chips with a good fiery salsa.
I have heard from numerous authors that chocolate is the staple of their diet. Is it in yours?
Absolutely! Chocolate is definitely a staple of my diet. I’m especially fond of dark chocolate. In addition to sweets, I also enjoy a good molé sauce, which combines the comfort of chocolate with the spiciness of chile peppers.
Will electronic readers ever take the place of the humble paperback?
I don’t think electronic readers will completely replace paperbacks. Nothing really compares to settling in with a good book and I think most people will still want to own paper copies of their favorite titles. However, I think electronic readers play a very important role. They let people discover new authors without spending a lot of money. Also, you can now carry around whole libraries of books conveniently and easily in your electronic reader. There’s no question that electronic readers are great, but I think people will continue to collect paperback books, particularly those by their favorite authors.
If you could be one of your characters – Who would you be? And why?
I would pick Desmond, Lord Draco from Vampires of the Scarlet Order. He’s immortal. He’s traveled the world. Although he is a vampire, he has a moral compass and strives to be more than a simple predator. He also has a home and a library I would love to own.
Who or what influences you when you write?
The world and people around me influence me when I write. A lot of writers dream of giving up their day job, but one of the great things about having a day job is that you can watch and interact with people. Those interactions can be great fodder for stories. Events from the news and from history often influence and inspire me. Pictures from the Cassini mission to Saturn inspired much of my work on The Solar Sea. Much of Vampires of the Scarlet Order took inspiration from my day-to-day life in Las Cruces and working at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.
When you have writer’s block how do you break free?
I usually find that if I can’t write, it’s because I haven’t fully envisioned a scene before I started to write it. I find the best method of dealing with that is to step away from the keyboard and go take a walk, or maybe go do some simple chore around the house while I think about the scene a little more. I ask myself what’s important to convey. I picture the setting as completely as I can. When I feel focused, I sit back down at the keyboard and give it another go.
Every now and then, even that won’t let me get to the heart of what I want to write. If a scene isn’t coming together and I’m working on a novel, I’ve found the best thing is to skip ahead. Often a later scene will fall into place just fine. Sometimes when that later scene is done, I see how to connect the dots, so to speak, and I can find the words that will let me write that earlier scene.
Who is your perfect hero? And why?
I think the perfect hero has to have a moral compass that steers him toward such core values as integrity, responsibility, loyalty and respect for others. When put into a tough situation, he’ll do everything in his power to do the right thing. That said, perfect people don’t always make great characters. Even the best heroes get something wrong because of some emotional baggage they carry or because their own interests conflict with someone else’s. I’ve written some short stories that feature a character named Ramon Morales and I really see him as the perfect hero for a story. He tries to do the right thing, but the woman he loves comes from a different culture that he doesn’t completely understand. The process of him coming to understand those cultural differences creates an interesting plot. That’s also true with Desmond, Lord Draco in Dragon’s Fall, where I will explore his relationship with the vampire Alexandra.
What do you do for inspiration?
I often go for walks around my neighborhood. That allows me to clear my thoughts and visualize scenes. I also like to listen to music. Sometimes lyrics inspire me, but generally I prefer listening to instrumental music and letting the melodies create a mood that will inspire a scene or a moment in a story.
Is there a genre of book you would like to write but haven’t yet?
I would love to write a steampunk novel. I think the genre is very exciting and rife with possibilities. I really love the blend of action, romance and history that you find in steampunk. I’ve written some steampunk short stories and have drafted an outline for a novel. That may well be my next project after I finish Dragon’s Fall.
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
When I write something historical, I spend a lot of time at the library learning as much as I can about the period I’m writing about. I pay a lot of attention to the day-to-day lives of people. What did people wear? Where did they live? What kinds of things were happening at that time period and how did they influence people. I really do enjoy the research process and learning about people’s lives in other times. One fringe benefit of this kind of research is that learning about people’s lives in the past can make it easier to write about possible futures. You start to see things that people today have in common with people of the past. You can use that information to build believable futures.
In addition to being a writer, I’m also a professional scientist. Because of that, I also enjoy researching how things work. When I wrote Vampires of the Scarlet Order, I researched anatomy so that I could create vampires that I would believe in. When I wrote The Solar Sea, I researched the planets of our solar system and their moons so that I could present them as realistically as possible. I hope to take my readers beyond willing suspension of disbelief to a place where they wonder if what I’m writing about really could be real.
What is your favorite movie of all time? The one where you can watch it and still get affected at the same spots each and every time?
This is a tough question because I love a lot of different movies for different reasons, but the one that really works for me on all levels and affects me at the same spots each and every time is The Milagro Beanfield War. There’s a great blend of romance, politics and magical realism that really works for me and it feels very true to life in rural New Mexico. The film also features absolutely gorgeous scenery.
Who would you want to be tied/handcuffed to for 24hours?
My wife would be my first choice. She’s the person I most enjoy spending time with and that could be kind of fun. If I was picking someone famous, I’d pick the actress Claudia Christian. I enjoy her screen work a lot, she’s my age, and by all accounts is an enjoyable person to be around.
What is your favorite way to relax after a hard day working and writing?
Sitting in a hot tub with a glass of red wine, looking up at a starlit sky.
What is the one era you would love to go visit and why?
I would have to pick Great Britain around 500 AD, the era of King Arthur. I would love to see the truth behind Arthur, his romance with Gwinevere, Camelot, and the quest for the Holy Grail. It was known as a time of relative peace in the British Islands. It would be interesting to see what it was like for the average person and see how they perceived the events around them.
Have you ever faked sick?
I remember faking sick as a kid at least once to get out of going to school. However, I’ve never faked sick as an adult. Although I may get annoyed or frustrated with some things that go on around me, I enjoy life too much to try to get out of work or social invitations.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I think two people can be drawn to each other from the moment they first see one another. That attraction is love, but it exists the same way the first sprout of a seed does. The sprout won’t grow into a mature plant unless it’s nurtured and cared for. That’s true with love, too. Left alone, love at first sight will wither and vanish. It must be nurtured so it can reach its full potential.
What is your perfect pizza?
Pepperoni, sausage and New Mexico green chile peppers. I’m a sucker for good Italian meat, but the chile peppers just add that zing that makes a pizza perfect in my opinion.
If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
I don’t think I would change my name even if I could. I’ve grown into David Lee Summers and it’s hard to imagine myself with a different name.
Out of all your books, do you have a favorite one? If not, then which one is closest to.
Vampires of the Scarlet Order and The Solar Sea are my two favorites for very different reasons. I love the romance, action and history in Vampires of the Scarlet Order. It’s a fun adventure that borders on the outrageous for adults. I also love the adventure and the optimism of The Solar Sea. That book is written for the young and the young-at-heart who look to the stars and dream of possible futures.
What character out of all your books is the closest to your personality?
Daniel from Vampires of the Scarlet Order is probably the closest to my personality. Like me, he’s an astronomer who is fascinated by the world around him. He’s fairly quiet and owns a big American car. Also like me, he’s attracted to strong women.
Have you ever been nervous over reader reaction when a new book comes out?
I think I’m always a little nervous over reader reaction when a new book comes out. I want my readers to enjoy what I’ve written and I hope that I’ve fulfilled or exceeded their expectations.
How much does reader response mean to you over your books?
Reader response is tremendously important to me. I love to know what the readers think about my books, good and bad. Nothing thrills me more than getting a note from someone who enjoyed one of the books, asking if there will be a sequel. That tells me that the reader really cared about the characters and the situations and would like to see more.
What do you hope readers get from your books after they read them?
First and foremost, I hope I give my readers a wonderful thrill ride. Along the way, I hope they meet characters they like and come away seeing the world in a little different light than they did when they started the book.
If you could make a movie of any one of your books which one would you choose and who would you cast at the h/h?
I would love to see a movie of Vampires of the Scarlet Order. If I could go back in time to the 50s, I would love to see Christopher Lee as Draco, Pedro Infante as Rudolfo, Lauren Bacall as Jane and Vivien Leigh as Marcella. Using a contemporary cast, I think the characters would have a different spin. I could see Johnny Depp as Draco, Benicio Del Toro as Rudolfo, Angelina Jolie as Jane, and Rachel McAdams as Marcella,
Who is your favorite author?
My all-time favorite author is Ray Bradbury. His work really transcends genre. His stories run the gamut from sweet and romantic to optimistic to truly frightening. Few people use language as well as Bradbury. I enjoy his poetry, short stories and novels. I’m never disappointed when I read his work.
What is the weirdest thing a reviewer has ever said about one of your books?
I think the weirdest review of one of my books was written by a pseudonymous author who lambasted The Pirates of Sufiro based entirely on the first three pages of the novel. In short, the reviewer was incensed that the novel was not serious science fiction. Well, I could have told him that. It’s meant to be lighthearted space opera.
What is the nicest thing a reviewer has ever said about one of your books?
“If you like vampire stories, this may be the best seven dollars you can spend.” That was written by Chris Paige about the book Blood Sampler that I co-authored with Lee Clark Zumpe. The book is a collection of our vampire flash fiction. Many of my stories from the book were further developed into scenes and chapters in Vampires of the Scarlet Order.
What is your favorite color besides YELLOW?
Over the years I’ve grown very fond of red, the color of passion of warmth.
Boxers or briefs?
Boxers for comfort. Briefs when I want to look my best!
I want to thank David for taking the time out to do an interview with us. I really appreciate it. And I hope you will too. David work can be found at Amazon, Fictionwise and LBF Books. His website is www.davidleesummers.com and his blog is http://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/ .Thank you.