Name Doug Dandridge
Where are you from Born and raised in Venice, Florida on the west coast of the state.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I was raised by a Native Floridian father and a Mom from Long Island, New York (her family was French Canadian). Went to Catholic school, then the local high school and participated in Marine JROTC. Joined the US Army after graduation (infantry) and served four years, plus two in the Florida National Guard. Went to college at Florida State, and spent ten years and four majors (biology, geology, biology education and psychology) in and out of college before getting my degree, then on to graduate school in Clinical Psychology at the University of Alabama.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My first Exodus novel, which has sold almost 23,000 copies in eBook and Audio, is coming out in hardcover through Wilder Publishing. Also have a short story coming out with Dean Wesley Smith and Kristin Cathryn Rusch’s WMG Publishing. Other big news? Things in the works that I really can’t say anything about yet.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I originally started writing a non-fiction manuscript in 1996 after losing a job at a drug treatment center after having an argument with the clinical director. In a rage, I wrote a book about the abuses in graduate school and mental health, an 80,000 word book, in two weeks, and almost had an agent for it.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess after I finished that first non-fiction manuscript. I called myself a writer, but not an author, and of course got the response that most people get when they say they are a writer but are not published.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
As said above, the anger at the system I had just come out of, and the desire to get back at them. The second book was my first stab at fiction, an alternate history that was awful, which I consider my first real book. Writing that first non-fiction book taught me that I could actually plan out and write a book. The second taught me how to do research, how to plot, and some mistakes to avoid.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I’ve kind of settled into a process of coming up with an idea, making some notes as to where I want it to go, and just sitting down to write. I normally do about 2-3,000 words a day, and write in chronological order until I am done. I don’t always have the ending completely in mind, and different paths will suggest themselves when I work through things. I think in terms of scenes, and try to get a variety in each book. I do some corrections as I go, normally only glaring errors. Sometimes I will write to scenes ahead when I’m lost, hoping that something will come to mind. Second draft I add words, a very seldom cut like common wisdom demands. I add in sections to link what I already have, maybe some background. Normally I make about fifty or sixty corrections the second time through. After that I do another couple of read throughs in different fonts and points. Then run it through a grammar program to find about fifty to a hundred mistakes that somehow eluded me. Sometimes I’ll work a couple of projects at the same time, to keep my mind fresh.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Most times something just seems to pop into my mind. With the Exodus series, the title came from the idea of humankind fleeing an alien menace. I added Empires at War because I didn’t want people buying it thinking it was something biblically based. Later I learned from Kevin Anderson that I had fortunately picked the perfect search words for military science fiction, Empires and War. Now I think of terms that people might search when formulating titles, and search Amazon to make sure I have something unique, another thing I didn’t do when I first started. That’s why I have some older titles that are reproduced in many other books on Amazon.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Only that there is always hope, no matter how bad things get. I put the heroes through hell, and not all of them make it out the other side, but in the end the good guys win. Maybe that’s old fashioned, but from reviews I have read, a lot of people are still looking for that kind of story. I don’t think most readers want to come home from the job they may not like, or dealing with family problems, only to read something that lets them down at the end, something hopeless. I think those kind of stories have a place in science fiction, and I enjoy some of them myself. Everyone dies might make you think about the story, but it’s not really the message I want to push in my books.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Depends on the book, but I always shoot for as much realism as possible. In my Refuge fantasy series I tried to make the NATO weapons and equipment as realistic as possible. I also try to find out information on real muscle powered systems, then extrapolate what the magic of the world would do to augment them. For Exodus I use as much real physics, astrophysics, biology, geology and whatever I can. Of course I have to make some things up, handwavium, but I always try to think of the weaknesses of such techs as well as the strengths. I think I do a pretty good job for a non-physicist. As far as how people react to the situations? Well, as a former soldier and someone trained as a psychologist, I think I do a pretty good job there as well.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Well, my experiences in the military, my experiences in science, are all things that go into the characters. But also all of the combat veterans I know, and the biographies and autobiographies of various people I have read; those also figure prominently in the construction of characters and situations.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor
I always say that the writers who have influenced me the most are Robert Heinlein and Robert E Howard, a pair of Bobs. But I also have learned much from the styles of Jim Butcher, R A Salvatore, David Weber, Jack Campbell and Taylor Anderson. And of course historical fiction writers like Bernard Cornwell and alternate history by I think you can pick up tricks of the trade from a variety of authors and make them your own. I have read so many people that I probably have a little bit of their style in my own and don’t even know it. Of course you may have noted that all of the authors I named were male, which doesn’t mean I don’t read female authors. I enjoy Tanya Huff, Jody Lynn Nye, Nancy Kress, Holly Lisle, Mercedes Lackey and others. But the guys and the gals seem to approach military scifi and space opera from different perspectives, and my style more closely follows those of the guys. Early mentors were Charles Sheffield and Holly Lisle, both of which gave me the kind of advice and encouragement that kept me going through hundreds of rejection letters.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Right now I’m caught up in the Lost Fleet Beyond the Frontier series by Jack Campbell. A lot of times I will read every new I can find by one author while others replenish their lists. I read four Taylor Anderson books at the beginning of the summer, and five David Weber books before him. Before that it was three books from my friend, David Farland, and a couple from Holly Lisle. I still enjoy reading, and can’t understand authors who say they don’t read in the genre they write. To me it’s love of the genre, as well as seeing what’s out there, both to generate new ideas and to learn what not to do.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Les Johnson, who is a NASA scientist and has written books with Ben Bova and fellow scientist Travis Taylor. I have also read some of indie author Chris Nuttall’s work, which is good military science fiction. I don’t think he goes into as much detail as I do, but it’s still very enjoyable reading. Matthew Matther is very good, as is Hugh Howey, and I just started getting into Lois McMaster Bujold last year, who so far is as excellent as advertised. Then I have a bunch of books I have bought at conventions from new authors based on covers or titles, so I expect I’ll find a new favorite or two in those. The problem right now is I have more on my reading list than I have time to read.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
At the moment I am finishing up the second volume of my Exodus: Machine War story arc. After that I will begin work again on the gunpowder era fantasy I am hoping to sell to Baen books, After that, too many to list at this point.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
When, my ex-wife did support me and give me encouragement when I first started, for a while. Charles Sheffield was a big support in the early days, as was Holly Lisle and her Forward Motion site.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Of course. I have been a full time writer for the last three years, and have made my living with my craft. I have no other source of income, and really don’t need one at this time.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
My latest book (Book 8) no, I like just about everything about it. If I could do Exodus Books 1 through 3 over again I would make a lot of changes. Especially book 1, which now seems more like an introduction to the series than a novel. Enough people liked the book that it must have been good enough, but I think now I could do a better job and have put more action in those pages. Book 3 was too long, which caused problems with the audio book, and may again cause problems with the hard cover when it comes time to do it, and I may have to revise it into two books to fit the hard cover requirements.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
When I was a child I used to make up stories to cover what I saw as the shortcomings of a lot of TV and movie scifi. In college I thought about writing, but never had the time. So, when I was unemployed in 1996 I decided to give it a try, and then found that it was something that I really liked doing. Now I love it.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Exodus: Machine War: Bolthole in the second volume in the Machine War subseries. Three centuries before the current war chronicled in the Empires at War books, the New Terran Empire experimented with autonomous war machines, despite the warning of their neighbors. Three dead planets and billions of lives later the mistake was realized and the machines destroyed, with the exception of a few that escaped to far outside the Empire. Now they have been found again, in control of a large section of space with a mighty fleet. Book one was about a new species that would be of great help in the war, but the machines were also discovered. Book 2 is about the first round in that book, as Exploration Command, the exploratory branch of the Fleet, under manned and under gunned, must fight off the first wave while developing intelligence on the new/old enemy. The series has some of the same main characters, including the Emperor, Sean Ogden Lee Romanov, as well as a new cadre of recurring characters.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Trying to keep focused on one project. I’m always coming up with ideas. I have ideas for new science fiction series, fantasy, alternate history, even some near future techno-thrillers. But I only have so much time in each day, so many days in each year, so I may do some development on each idea, which still detracts from my current project completion time, but have to forge ahead with what I’m working on.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
That is a difficult question to answer, since I like so many. So I will have to go with the author I reread the most, Robert E Howard Edgar Rice Burroughs comes in a close second). Howard could set a dark mood in one paragraph, then jump right into the action with memorable characters. He was a master, and it is unfortunate that we lost him at such an early age.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not all that much, and I can thank the internet for that. I am planning on doing some travelling in the future when I finally get around to doing some alternate history. I go to a couple of conventions a year, trying to work my way into the queue for doing panels to get my name out there. Dragon Con and Liberty Con so far. I plan on adding another couple over the next couple of year, but nowhere near where some authors are with one or more a month.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I actually design most of my covers. For one I had Elizabeth Babski design the cover (Aura), and she is working on two new covers for my Refuge series. Otherwise, I bought a bunch of pictures from Shutterstock, and I take two or three and blend and erase them in Paint.net. I have a friend, Ruth de Jauregui, who used to be a cover designer, who does the borders and lettering on my Exodus books. In the future I may turn more to professional designers to save time and get a better product.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Middles. Beginnings and endings are easy. Just come up with the idea and write them. The middle is where ideas run out, and it takes some thinking to keep coming up with bridges between beginning and end.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
It’s not brain surgery, though it also isn’t easy. A novel may look like an overwhelming task when approaching it for the first time, but it is very doable if you sit your butt into your seat and write, one day at a time. They add up, and before you know it, you have a completed manuscript.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t give up and keep writing. Practice makes, if not perfect, at least more polished. Write a lot. Don’t get bogged down in one book for years. Write your book and start on the next one. If your trying to make a career of this, you have to get enough of your work out there. You never know what will hit it big. Taking years on a single book is likely to lead to disappointment, while putting out several a year increases the odds of success.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
That I appreciate them. I especially appreciate the reviews, the comments on my blog and Facebook page, and the emails. I still don’t think I’m the greatest writer out there. I have doubts whenever I put something new out. But the support of my readers is always a shot in the arm to keep on plugging away. The money is great, but getting an email from a Marine officer telling me how much my books helped the hours pass while on deployment is the greatest payoff there is.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
That’s a hard one. The first one I remember reading was Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Heinlein. I was six at the time. I must have read simpler books before that, but I can’t remember what they were, except maybe some Dr. Seuss books. My father was my role model, he was always reading books from the library, mostly Westerns and books on Nature and Wildlife. I do remember winning the reading award in first grade at Catholic school, and rating a reading level of twelfth grade when I was a fourth grader.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh at the absurd. Things that poke fun at the sacred cows of society. I also love old comedy like the Three Stooges. And my cats can make me laugh as they do all the cats things that seem so important to them, but are so humorous to us. I cry at seeing cruelty to animals and helpless people. I‘ve also been known to cry at movies, especially those which resonate with something from my childhood.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I would love to meet Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, who I consider one of the greatest generals of all time. But he also had a very human side, and care for his men at a time when most military leaders so their troops as cannon fodder.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
He tried. That’s all. Just that I tried my best at life, even though things didn’t always work out the way I wanted.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Reading is a big one, but I also like working out and am trying to get back into martial arts. I go to sporting events. Living in a college town there is a lot to see here. Football (American style), Basketball, Women’s Volleyball and Soccer (and our hometown team won the national championship last year). And being an American and ex-military, and a Southerner, I like going out to the range to shoot. I don’t hunt. I don’t have anything against people who do as long as they are using what they kill, but I just don’t have it in me to kill anything that isn’t trying to kill me.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Just about anything to do with superheroes, having read comics the whole time I was growing up. The Flash, Agents of Shield, things like that. Also good science fiction series like the new Battlestar Galactica, all of the Stargates, the Star Treks. I use shows like this to spark my imagination. For movies I like science fiction, superhero and war movies. I love to see films at the max on the big screen, preferably in 3D if available. I see that as part of my job, taking in outstanding visuals that I might be able to use in a book.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music Foods:
Chinese, Italian, a really good hamburger. Blue is my favorite color, whether it’s the sky or eyes. It’s a calming color. Music? I love a range from blues to jazz, hard rock, heavy metal and classical. My favorite musicians and groups are Yes, Joe Satriani, Ozzy, and just about anything written by Beethoven. Love finding new music, and often listen to the new rock channels on Satellite radio.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I kind of wish I had gone to West Point as planned, and stayed in the military. But, unfortunately, I don’t always play well with others. Maybe continued in biology and become either a doctor of a zoologist.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it? My website is http://dougdandridge.net . I haven’t done much with it for a while, but am planning a complete rebuild in the near future. My WordPress blog is at http://dougdandridge.com . I try to post at least twice a month.
Amazon Author’s Page: http://www.amazon.com/Doug-Dandridge/e/B006S69CTU
Exodus: Empires at War: Book 1: http://www.amazon.com/Exodus-Empires-Book-Doug-Dandridge-ebook/dp/B009TZSBJO
Exodus: Empires at War: Book 2: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ANXO4K6/
Exodus: Machine War: Book 1: Supernova: http://www.amazon.com/Exodus-Machine-War-Book-Supernova-ebook/dp/B00TT6OG3I