Name Larry Collins
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
Larry: I was born and raised in Southern California, majored in Aerospace Engineering at Cal Poly, Pomona. Married Lorna and we have one adult daughter, Kimberly. My wife and I write both together and separately. Between us, we have fifteen published books, and we are currently working on three more.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Larry: Last month the third book in my Sci-Fi adventure trilogy The McGregor Chronicles: Book 3 – Alien Invasion was published. Book 1- Saving Mike and Book 2 – Escape From Eden were published last year.
Now that the trilogy is complete, Lorna has insisted we next finish the sequel to our book The Memory Keeper, a historical novel set between 1820 and 1890 at San Juan Capistrano Mission and told by a Juaneño Indian. The sequel will be entitled Becoming The Jewel and cover the period from 1891 to 1940 and the restoration of the mission.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Larry: In high school, I took an English writing class. Every Monday, the teacher required a minimum one-page story on any subject, fiction or non-fiction. Two of my stories made it into the annual school literary book. I guess Ray Bradbury was right when he said, “Write a short story every week for a year. It’s impossible to write fifty-two bad stories.”
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Larry: After high school, I put my creative writing on hold to become an engineer. It languished for the next thirty years. I wrote, but only specifications, instructions, and other business documents. Then Lorna asked for my input on what became our first book. With the publication of 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, my creative juices were revived.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Larry: In 1998, my wife, Lorna, and I moved to Osaka, Japan to construct the Universal Studios Japan® Theme Park. I was area project manager and Lorna the document control supervisor. While we were there, Lorna began emailing a two or three page letter (today it would be called a blog) to friends at home every couple of weeks. When we finished the project in 2001, Lorna was sending to about one-hundred-fifty people. They, in turn, forwarded it to others. On our return, friends suggested we turn them into a book. Lorna started, but found the letters didn’t translate well into a book and decided to start from scratch, using the letters as reference material only. She needed help and asked me to pitch in. In 2005, we published 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Larry: I approach writing much as I did engineering. I research the subject, develop a plot, do detailed character studies, and outline the entire story, often before I put the first word to paper. I fit the term “plotter.”
Lorna, on the other hand, is a “pantser” (writes by the seat of her pants). She lets her characters lead the way. This sometimes creates problems in the storytelling, but we’ve learned to adjust and work together.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Larry: My titles all have to say something about the book. In The McGregor Chronicles: Book 3 – Alien Invasion, there are aliens. In Book 1 – Saving Mike, Mike is rescued. And in Book 2 – Escape from Eden, someone escapes. Some titles are a little more vague. The Memory Keeper is about Tomás Romero, a Juaneño Indian born near San Juan Capistrano Mission in 1820. It chronicles his life of seventy years. He sees the events, floods, droughts, plagues, wars, changing governments from Spanish to Mexican to American, and how each affects his life and impacts the mission. His memories make up the story. He is the memory keeper.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Larry: What sometimes looks like failure may not be. And if you persevere you will come out ahead.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Larry: My science fiction book series, The McGregor Chronicles, is based more on science than fantasy. I take recent scientific advancements and discoveries and project them into the far future. My characters are not magical and do not have special powers beyond what science can provide.
Often, I draw characters (as composites) from strangers or friends, taking a trait from here or there and combining them. For my book of short stories, Lakeview Park, I watched total strangers in a park in Yorba Linda, California, and imagined what their life might be like.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Larry: Early on, my heroes were H.G. Wells, Jules Vern, A.E. van Vogt. Then came J.R.R. Tolkien, Larry Niven, Ursula Le Guin, Piers Anthony, Ray Bradbury, and Terry Brooks. You can see my earlier taste ran toward Sci-Fi/Fantasy.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Larry: In the last couple of years I’ve discovered Pauline Baird Jones and Kathryn Sullivan, and for mysteries, Marilyn Meredith.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members
Larry: With our first book, Lorna and I were lucky to find a wonderful critic group, Lagunita Writers. Without their help, we would have never finished the first manuscript.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Larry: I have no intension of stopping. I’m having too much fun.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Larry: Whenever I reread one of my stories, I can always see places where I could tweak it, but in the main, I’m generally happy with the work.
I have a rule: The main story of each book in a series must be complete and stand-alone. The story should build to a climax, then quickly wrap up loose ends and quit. You’re done.
As a reader, if I come to the end and it says, “To Be Continued,” I’ll never pick up the next one. And never make the last chapter of this book the introduction to your next work. If you want, place a completely separate afterword teaser, but identify it as such.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Larry: I’ve always been an avid reader. Even when I wasn’t writing, stories and ideas would fill my head. Lorna was the one who encouraged me to put ideas to paper.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Larry: Sure. Here’s a quick blurb of The McGregor Chronicles: Book 3 – Alien Invasion.
Space Freighter co-captain Matt McGregor is worried. His father’s ship, the McGregor-7, has not returned from the Triangulum Galaxy. A cryptic message from the Federation Battle Cruiser Majestic warns of an attack and an alien virus. Matt, his bride, Tracy, along with older brother, Marc, sister Maddie, and Federation Investigator Jake Stevens, push their modified freighter to its limit to reach the far galaxy. Once there, they discover political intrigue, ghost ships with dead crews, a seemingly unstoppable epidemic, and an intelligent alien species. Are the aliens responsible for the virus? Can the outlawed nanomedical robots in the bodies of Matt’s crew save them? And what is the fate of his parents and their ship?
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Larry: Ideas come easily. It’s the grunt work (discipline) of pushing through the story to the end that’s tiring. Terry Brooks calls it “the muddle in the middle,” and I concur.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Larry: Lorna and I like to set our stories in wonderful places. Our mystery series is set in Hawaii. We have to go there to do research. My research is thorough. If my protagonist drives a road from here to there, I have too. I’ve eaten in the diner, shopped at the local store, and walked the same beach. I want the scene to be as accurate and realistic as I can make it. After all, the locals will never forgive you if you screw up their town.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Larry: For the early books, Lorna and I sent samples of what we wanted to the publisher for their cover artist to use (including my personal artwork and Lorna’s photographs). For my latest books, I did the covers myself.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Larry: Finishing the story and writing the pitch, back cover blurb, and synopsis. All the miscellaneous stuff to get it published.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Larry: Don’t give up. Write every day, even if what you write today doesn’t make it into this book, it may be resurrected in another story.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
Larry: Someone suggested Laurence Fishburne for the protagonist in our mysteries. Agapé Jones is a seasoned NYPD detective, shot in the line of duty, and forced into early retirement. In Hawaii, he works as a security guard at conferences and a part time special investigator for Maui County.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Larry: Find a compatible critic group and stick with it.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Larry: I work extremely hard to ensure the authenticity of the facts, both in my historical and science fiction. As examples: In 1857, when Tomás helps fight off the Juan Flores outlaw gang to save the mercantile, he uses a Patterson–Colt 36-caliber revolver. It had to be loaded with separate black powder and round shot. The Colt 45 Peacemaker, “the gun that won the west,” with its metal-encased cartridges wouldn’t be in use for another sixteen years. In space, my ships use the centrifugal force of a rotating crew ring to simulate gravity. Star Wars and Star Trek must use movie magic.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Larry: “A Crushing Death” by F.M. Meredith.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Larry: After struggling through Dick and Jane in first grade, my mother read me several, more interesting, books. The first I attempted by myself several years later was probably 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I wore the covers off it.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Larry: Intelligent puns (is that a misnomer?) make me laugh. When I have to kill a favorite character, I cry.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Larry: I met Terry Brooks briefly at the Maui Writers Conference in 2006, but didn’t have time for us to talk. I’d like to share a meal with him. He is one of the few authors who outlines. We have it in common.
Fiona: What do you want written on your headstone and why?
Larry: I’ll have to think about it. I plan to be cremated, spread at sea, and perhaps could send a few ashes into space. I think that would be cool.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Larry: Every weekday morning you will find me on “dawn patrol” surfing at a nearby beach. A couple of hours in the water clears my mind to better concentrate on the latest story.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Larry: NOVA and my latest favorite, “Finding Your Roots.”
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Larry: Any dish that doesn’t contain onions (I’m allergic). / Blue. / Anything except rap.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Larry: Always wanted to go into space. To feel the weightlessness I write about.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Lorna blogs each week. I guest blog on her site occasionally.
I also maintain the Lagunita Writer’s Website. www.lagunitawriters.com