Name Stephen H. Provost
Where are you from?
Born in Fresno, California; living in Cambria on California’s Central Coast where I’m editor of The Cambrian weekly newspaper and pursuing a second career as an author. My wife, Samaire, is an author, as well.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My fantasy adventure novel “Memortality” will be out in February. It’s the story of a woman who can bring the dead back to life through the power of her eidetic memory and paranormal gift. It’s my first traditionally published novel and the first title on the new imprint Pace Press. It’ll be out Feb. 1 and is available for presale on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2dqIJjJ. My second historical nonfiction work, on the history of Highway 99 in California, is also due out next year, on Craven Street Books. Meanwhile, I’m writing the sequel to “Memortality.” (I try to stay busy!)
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I took a creative writing class as a junior in high school and wrote an Arthurian spoof called “The Adventures of Krack.” I’ve been writing in one way or another ever since.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I began getting my stories published in the college newspaper at Cal State University, Fresno.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
That would be “The Phoenix Principle,” which I published under the name Stifyn Emrys. It was my attempt to figure out “where everything came from” – the political and mythological underpinnings of western religion.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Conversational. Action-oriented. I don’t want the reader to get bogged down in a lot of flowery description. I like to move the story along with lots of action and dialogue. And twists. If I’m writing fiction, I love a good twist.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
“Memortality” is a combination of the words “memory” and “immortality.” It came to me in the car when my wife and I were driving home from a book signing for my nonfiction book on the history of my hometown, “Fresno Growing Up.”
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Memories are important. If you can preserve the memories of the people and things that are important to you, you can, in some sense, keep them alive.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The protagonist, Minerva Rus, is paralyzed from the waist down. I drew some of the inspiration for her character from my mother, who was left paralyzed on her right side by polio as a young teen.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Robert Lynn Asprin’s “Myth” series (I love a good pun); Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s “Good Omens”; Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book;” Tolkien (like nearly everyone who enjoys fantasy, I suppose); Terry Goodkind’s “Wizard’s First Rule,” and a bunch of others. No mentor. I’ve worked out my identity as a writer, for the most part, on my own.
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?
Most recently (although he’s not really new anymore) Ransom Riggs with “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” I liked his combination of childhood innocence, an original idea and the connection to history he made through the old photos he found at garage sales, swap meets, etc.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My publisher, Linden Publishing, has been great. Not only did they accept my unagented query for “Fresno Growing Up,” they did a heck of a job with the book and then, on top of that, accepted “Memortality” even though they’ve published very little fiction in the past. The fact that they created a whole new imprint and are kicking it off with my book still blows me away.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
As a journalist, it’s been a career for me for 30 years. Although much of that time has been spent a lot of that has been spent as an editor, I’ve always considered writing my first love. Working as an author is another aspect of that. I’m having a blast.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nope. I’m very pleased with it. Of course, I’m still waiting for editorial suggestions, so we’ll see!
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
In that creative writing class. After that, I wrote a fantasy book longhand in my early 20s. It was very uneven, and I’ve never tried to publish it, but it was a good practice run for what I’ve done more recently.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
The tagline (which my publisher came up with) is, “Minerva Rus can raise the dead. And it might get her killed.” As you can imagine, being able to revive the dead can make someone the target of everyone from government agents to people with their own agendas. And that’s what happens to Minerva, a 21-year-old introvert who’s isolated herself because she’s been picked on by peers and neglected by her mother. The first dead person she happens to revive is her childhood best friend – who becomes her romantic interest. There are historical connections, fantasy worlds to explore and plenty of danger and intrigue.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I write both fiction and nonfiction, and I’ve done far more of the latter. I find it easy because all the pieces are there: You just have to find them and put them together in an interesting way, like a puzzle. Fiction is the bigger challenge for me because you have to make things up out of whole cloth, then keep everything straight. I’m not big on formal outlines, because I want the story to take me where it’s going to go, but the more complex the world you build, the more meticulous you have to be in terms of consistency.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
For my historical nonfiction, I’ve traveled quite a bit within California, because I do the photography for the books in addition to writing them. That’s been a lot of fun for both me and Samaire. We’ve gotten to visit the California redwoods and some other beautiful country. I’ve also done some traveling for book signings, and I expect to be doing more of that next year.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I designed my own covers for the self-published works (eight titles, both fiction and nonfiction) I produced under the pen name Stifyn Emrys. My publisher designed the cover for “Fresno Growing Up.” The cover for “Memortality” is by Claudia Lucia McKinney, whose work can be seen at http://phatpuppyart.com. I was struck by her work and suggested it to my publisher, who was equally enthusiastic. I love what they came up with for “Memortality.”
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
It wasn’t hard at all, actually. The story just flowed. It’s 89,000 words, and it took two months to write from start to finish.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That I’m not just a nonfiction writer. I can do this.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
That’s a hard one. Maybe Elizabeth Olsen, who played Scarlet Witch in “Captain America: Civil War.”
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Inhabit your world. When you’re writing, block out everything else and focus on your story as if you’re living it. Imagine you’re the protagonist. Then go for it!
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I think you’ll love “Memortality.” Whenever I write something, I try for something original, and I haven’t seen anything else like this out there. It’s not about ghosts or vampires or werewolves or zombies. It’s an entirely new kind of paranormal adventure.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Mike Fleetwood’s autobiography. I’m a music lover, and I get a kick out of reading biographies of rock musicians.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
“The Horse that Played Centerfield” by Hal Hidgon. I’m also a sports lover. I read it in summer camp because I realized I’d rather read than go horseback riding.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Laugh: “The Big Bang Theory.” Cry: My father just died last month.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Maybe King Arthur, because I’d love to find out how much of his story is history and how much is myth.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
Storyteller, philosopher, historian. Because that’s what I am.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Well, I don’t consider writing a hobby. It’s more of a passion. I enjoy going to concerts, watching football and basketball, traveling.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
“Seinfeld,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Star Trek” (all incarnations), Marvel movies, “Once Upon a Time,” “Grimm,” “Pushing Daisies,” “The Twilight Zone.”
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food: Mexican. Colors: Blue and forest green. Music: Symphonic rock (Nightwish, Delain); classic rock (Queen, KISS, Def Leppard); but I like some country, pop and classical music, as well.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I probably would have been a historian, because how we got from “then” to “now” fascinates me.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Blog/author website: www.stephenhprovost.com.
Amazon page: http://amzn.to/2diX6kT.
Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/shprovost.