Name Kevin L. O’Brien
Where are you from
I was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Both sides of my family come from around that area, in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I have both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Biochemistry and I worked as a biomedical researcher for 15 years. I then got an Associate’s degree in Interactive Web and Graphic Design. Now I am semi-retired as I devote myself to my writing career. I am single and I live with my mother and take care of her. I have a sister who’s married with two children; my nephew just recently got married and my niece is earning her degree in costume design. And I have three cats.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
One of my stories, “The Road to Hell”, was published earlier this year in issue 32 of the reboot of Weirdbook Magazine, published by Wildside Press. I have another story, “Team Girl and the Manticore”, that will appear in a future issue of the online magazine Warriors & Wizards, published by Graveland Studios.
Last year I self-published through Smashwords and Kindle a two-volume set of speculative fiction short stories entitled Other Worlds & Times, and just this past October I self-published my first novel, The Adventure of An Cupla, a heroic fantasy set in the Dreamlands of H. P. Lovecraft, also through Smashwords and Kindle. I have also just completed a new novel, as yet untitled, that was my National Novel Writing Month project for this year. It can be described as Ian Fleming meets Tom Clancy; that is, a combination espionage thriller and technothriller.
I will also be submitting to Sword & Sorceress next year, like I’ve done every year since 2009.
Meanwhile, I am working to complete several novels and short stories, and I am working on several supplementary material projects, including a bestiary of the Dreamlands and a compendium of important people who live there.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
You’ve probably heard this many times before, but I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. Sometimes it feels like I was born with a pen in my hand. Some of my earliest memories are of me writing stories and nonfiction books. I am old enough to have progressed from writing longhand through typing to using computers, and I’ve seen the literary community adopt electronic submissions and accept self-publishing as a viable, if not entirely desirable, method of making one’s works available to the public, as well as become more tolerable of fan fiction.
It’s only been in the last two decades, however, that I’ve really begun to write as a fulltime career, and begun to have my work published, both through self-publishing and traditional publishing.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Like I said, I’ve considered myself a writer for as long as I can remember, but I haven’t considered myself a professional writer until round about 2000. I should explain, though, that I don’t mean professional as defined by writing organizations — by how much money you make — but as defined by the scientific organizations I once belonged to — in terms of education, work experience, and behavior. As far as I’m concerned, anyone is a professional writer who makes a career of it and who acts in a professional manner, regardless of how much they’re paid. Nothing ticks me off faster than someone who says, “I get paid a professional rate, so I’m a professional, so however I act is professional behavior.” I’m serious; I’ve had other writers tell me that when I criticize them for their nasty behavior towards me or others.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
That’s kind of a long story, and it comes in two parts.
In part one, sometime before 2000 I had purchased from W. Paul Ganley a series of heroic fantasy novels and short stories written by Brian Lumley that were set in Lovecraft’s Dreamworld. I had always wanted to write heroic fantasy myself, but I had no suitable settings or characters. The Dreamlands seemed ideal to me, but I still needed a character. Eventually, I developed Medb hErenn as sort of a female Conan, while basing her on the semi-mythical Medb of Connacht from the great Irish epic, Táin Bó Cúailnge, or “The Cattle Raid of Cooley”.
In part two, sometime after 2000 I became a fan of a webcomic called Girly, written and drawn by Josh Lesnick. When he ended it in 2010, I wrote him for permission to write Girly fan fiction, and he agreed. Being as they were two young girls who went on adventures together, I decided to give them the ultimate adventure: I sent them to the Dreamlands to help my character Medb to save the universe; I called it “The Adventure of An Cupla”. However, after I finished the first six chapters he inexplicably withdrew his permission, with no explanation. I didn’t want to abandon the story, so I changed Otra and Winter into Eile and Sunny, creating Team Girl. I actually used them in a number of short stories that I self-published before I finally finished the novel, and I have more novels and stories about them that I have yet to finish. (They are the Team Girl of the story I mentioned above, “Team Girl and the Manticore”.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Every writer has his or her own style, but I don’t emulate or try to create a specific style; I simply write as I feel appropriate.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Once I figured out how Team Girl was supposed to save the universe, I borrowed from ancient Irish mysticism the principle of the twins, which is the concept of paired opposites that create a whole, such as hot and cold. “An Cupla” is Irish for “the twins”. So, “The Adventure of the Twins”.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
No, unless pure escapism can be a message. I write to tell stories, not teach lessons. Sometimes my stories are based on specific themes, so one or another moral could be teased out of them, but for the most part I’m not trying to convey a special message.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Hah! I wish I could say that I’m a Dreamer and I go to the Dreamlands every night, but unfortunately that wouldn’t be true.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
The works of C. J. Cherryh probably had the greatest impact because of her strong female characters. Especially her character Morgaine, who strongly influenced both Medb hErenn and my other character, Differel Van Helsing. Another strong influence was the works of Robert E. Howard, especially Conan, and those of H. P. Lovecraft, especially his Dreamlands and Cthulhu Mythos tales. Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Algernon Blackwood, Robert W. Chambers, Arthur Machen, Brian Lumley, Frank Belknap Long, Richard Adams, and Tad Williams have been lesser influences.
However, I have also been influenced by movies (such as Forbidden Planet, 2001 and 2010, and War of the Worlds), television series (such as Star Trek, Babylon 5, and Space: 1999), graphic novels (such as Hellsing), and even music (I wrote a story inspired by “Misunderstood” and I am outlining a story inspired by Billy Joel’s “Downeaster Alexa”).
As for mentors, there is only one person who qualifies: Elisabeth Waters. She was a protégée of Marion Zimmer Bradley (she works for The Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust), she is herself a writer of short stories and novels, and she edits the anthology series Sword & Sorceress, which Bradley started. I first came to her attention when I submitted four stories to S&S in 2009. (It was largely due to that that she instituted a rule limiting submissions to only two; yes, I’m to blame for that.) Though she wasn’t wild about my stories at first, they started to grow on her (even bleach couldn’t remove them!), and she started giving me feedback to help improve them. We became friends when she let me send her unpublished stories to read, which progressed to her writing reviews of my self-published works, and she is one of my novel beta readers. She has not yet accepted any of my submissions for S&S, but she states it is only a matter of time, and she has held some for final review. I also help her by reading her stories to give her a different perspective on them, and I advise her on science and technology, while she tells me what women really think and feel. Tellingly, though, when in a fit of pique over her latest rejection I suggested that in time I would have enough stories to self-publish a “Rejects from Sword & Sorceress” story collection, she not only said she thought that was a good idea, she also offered to write a forward.
Now, how many editors would do that?! She is definitely a breed apart, and I value our association.
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?
When I was in college, I was an avid reader, but as time went on I found I had less and less time for reading, until I don’t have any time for it anymore. One of the truths I’ve learned about writing is that it is a zero-sum game, meaning that whatever time you spend doing anything else leaves less time for actual writing. Since I am a slow writer to begin with, I can’t afford to spend any time doing anything that doesn’t directly contribute to writing. About the only outside reading I do anymore is when Ms. Waters send me one of her stories to review.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Aside from Ms. Waters, I would have to say it is two artists: Morghan Peressini and Ariel Roberts. Ms. Peressini created the look of Eile and Sunny of Team Girl, and Ms. Roberts has done the art for most of my self-published book covers.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Definitely. I work at it everyday for hours on end, just like a real job. It’s still amazing, though, how many people believe that as a writer I have lots of free time to help them with their issues.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
It’s too early to tell yet, but I doubt it. I write slowly, and I tend to edit as I write, so by the time I finish a story I’m generally satisfied with the results. However, I also follow Heinlein’s advice, and if while writing a story I get an idea for doing it differently, I reserve that idea for a new story rather than rewrite the old story.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Like I’ve said, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, so not really, no. However, even before I learned to write I had an extremely active imagination, so I’m sure my desire to write stories stems at least in part from that.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
What, just one?! [grin] Okay, this is the first “chapter” of my newly completed espionage/technothriller. It’s set in a dieselpunk version of Earth in the mid-thirties, and it sets the stage for the rest of the book:
Eile Chica sat on the hood of a Bearcat as a photographer snapped an endless series of pictures. They were inside her hangar in upstate New York, and she was nude, which explained why she felt a bit chilled. They had been at it for a couple of hours, and he showed no signs of wrapping the session up soon, and aside from her minor physical discomfort she was also growing bored. The cheesecake aspect she understood. The Stutz Motor Company was developing a promotional campaign for their new hoverroadster, and they hoped to cash in on her fame as an ace fighter pilot, barnstormer, racer, and playgirl, but whereas the photographer had gotten an eyeful, he posed her in a way that accentuated her nudity but kept her goodies carefully covered or hidden. He called it “show-nothing nudity”; she called it nonsense. If they wanted nudity, why not show full-frontal and be done with it? She had agreed to do it; partly because they offered her a huge honorarium, royalty payments every time the photos were used, and the roadster, but mostly because she liked the idea of doing something so risqué. As long as the shoot didn’t veer into raunchy, she would have been perfectly willing to put all her assets on display.
“How much longer?” she finally asked.
The photographer inserted a fresh cartridge into the camera. “I have everything I need, but I’d like to get a another dozen with a different pose. Would you lean back and twist your torso towards me a quarter turn?”
She grinned; that would expose her bosom. At last, she thought, this could finally get more interesting. She did as he instructed and displayed a mischievous lopsided smile.
He took five photos with her making minor adjustments each time, which gradually exposed more and more of her abdomen between her hips, and he was getting ready to take a sixth, when Mach walked up to them from the repair bay. He was as tall as she was, and his lack of a shirt displayed his muscular but lithe frame. His skin was perpetually tanned while his short-cropped hair was a sandy-blonde, but it was his intense blue eyes she found most intriguing.
“How ’bout if my mechanic joins me?” she said in a lilting tone.
The photographer hesitated and gave her a perplexed look over his camera.
Mach flashed a wry grin. “I might enjoy that, but you have a call.” That’s when she noticed he had a robe draped over one arm.
She frowned. Mach was a crackerjack-of-all-trades, of vital necessity for her line of work, as well as being marvelous arm-candy in a tux when she needed an escort. Not to mention handy with firearms and a tiger in the bedroom, but sometimes he gave himself undeserving airs. “I’m a trifle busy right now.”
His grin grew broader, as if savoring the moment. “It’s Aunt Rossie.”
Had he said it was the President she wouldn’t have moved any faster; she hopped off the roadster, took the robe, and slipped it on. “I’m afraid we’re gonna hafta cut this short; something’s come up that I can’t put off. You understand.”
At first the photographer looked as if he would give her an argument, but he glanced at Mach, who slowly fitted a fist into the palm of his other hand. “Quite right; quite right. As I said, I have all I need.” And he started to hastily pack away his equipment.
She ignored him and hurried into her office, closing the door behind her. The radio-telephone dominated almost an entire wall. She sat in the chair, flipped the key, and spoke into the microphone.
“Eile here, General; what can I do for you?”
Gen. Morgan Leia Ross was her superior in the Military Intelligence Division of the United States Army. Though not officially connected with either the government or the Army, Eile was an honorably discharge veteran and a loyal American, and so was willing to offer her services whenever her country called on her. Besides, her lifestyle made it possible for her to perform special favors incognito.
A strong, almost masculine voice came over the speakers. “I’ll come right to the point, being as time is limited. A freelance spy known as Maela recently contacted the War Department about selling us secret plans. Rather than come in directly, however, she will turn them over at a party in Washington, DC, tomorrow evening.”
“Huh. That all sounds pretty hoodoo ta me. Is she reliable?”
“She has been in the past, though I suspect she has also dealt with the British, the Pan-Germans, the Russians, and the Turks, among others. Granted, this could be a hoax, but it is her normal modus operandi, so I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Besides, if the information she has is as important as she indicates, we can’t take the chance of it falling into the hands of our rivals.”
“I understand. I take it you want me to attend the party and get a hold of the plans if I can.”
“Exactly, but I want you to examine them first, to make sure they are what she claims them to be. If they are genuine, I prefer that you purchase them; the last thing we need is to call attention to the transaction with unnecessary violence. But if she becomes difficult, you must steal them, and you are authorized to use deadly force if necessary. It is imperative that we acquire them before anyone else can. Is that clear?”
“Yeah, crystal. What form is the payment ta take?”
“Preferably a bearer bond in the amount of $100,000, or the equivalent in foreign currency or gold, but you needn’t worry about that. Just proceed to the warehouse; everything you’ll need will be provided for upon your arrival, including the payment. But it’s critical that you arrive tomorrow before evening; the party starts at 9 PM, and you’ll need time to prepare.”
“Understood. Anythin’ else?”
“Just, be careful. Even if this isn’t a double-cross, she may have contacted our rivals as well.”
“Gotcha. Eile out.” She flipped the key off and sat still for some moments, digesting all that Ross had told her.
“You can come in now.”
Mach opened the door and strolled into the office. Of course, she knew he had been eavesdropping. He pursued some agenda of his own even as he helped with hers. She didn’t know what it was, but so far he had done nothing to betray her or America, so she was willing to let him play his game as long as she kept an eye on him.
“When are we leaving?”
She stood up. “Tomorrow morning, as early as possible, so have the truck ready tanight.” She slipped off the robe, tossed it into the chair, and strolled towards a couch.
“First, though, I need some relaxation.” She laid down on her back and flashed a grin. He returned it and sauntered towards her as he undid his pants.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I have Attention Deficit Disorder; ADD. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. When I was little, it was so severe that psychiatrists diagnosed me as mentally impaired (this was in the early to mid sixties) and recommended that I be institutionalized, but my parents found a young pediatrician who correctly determined what I had and put me on a regimen of medication and educational therapy, and I significantly improved to the point that I could learn and function normally. I’m no longer on medication, but I am not completely cured either. At present, ADD allows me to concentrate on a project to the exclusion of everything else, but it also makes me easily distracted. What this means with regard to my writing is that once I get past the creative stage I get bored with the tedium of the drudgery of writing, and I start to get inspired by new ideas.
In the past this meant that I often abandoned one story to start another, then abandoned that one to start yet another, and so on. That often left me with a string of unfinished stories that in the end I would never finish. That also made me feel guilty, because at the time I worked under the delusion that I had to finish one story before I could start another. (That was, and still is, a common piece of advice given to new writers.) Then, round about 2000, I realized that instead of fighting my ADD I should use it to help my productivity. What I did was I allowed myself to start a new story whenever I got bored with the one I was working on, but when I grew bored with the new one, I would go back to the old one and work on it some more. In this way it didn’t matter how many stories I had in the works, because I would work on them all bit by bit until they were all finished. While not a perfect solution, it worked, because I started finishing stories instead of tossing them away, and now I have completed a hundred that I have published in one form or another.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I wish I could, but, no, I don’t. My imagination is sufficient, and the Internet can provide me with whatever images and information I need.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I do. My degree in graphic design gave me the training. I’m not necessarily a gifted designer, but my covers nonetheless work. I am not, however, an artist, so I either purchase artwork or have it commissioned; most of the latter is done by Ariel Roberts.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Combat scenes. I’m not a soldier or a martial artist, and all I know about guns and swords and hand-to-hand fighting comes from reading references. I also carefully choreograph my scenes, which takes a lot of time, so much so that it often feels like the scenes are taking way too long, so I often stop and read what I’ve written to make sure the scenes are working properly. As such, it takes me longer than usual to write action.
I also have trouble writing romantic interludes and emotional introspection.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
If you mean in general, I always learn some new information as I do the necessary research for a story’s background. If you mean about how to write better, generally no, because my improvements come from lengthy introspection and experimentation, which generally crosses multiple stories.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
That’s a toughie. Medb hErenn may be impossible to cast; like Jessica Rabbit, her body is practically inhuman. She may have to be CGIed or animated, or the actress would have to be heavily modified with special effects.
Eile and Sunny may be easier, but I have no preferences for specific actresses. Just as long as their ethnic natures and appearances are accurately portrayed, any actress would probably work.
Mature Differel Van Helsing would be best played by Cate Blanchet. Younger Differel, I’m not sure; maybe Scarlet Johansson.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write. You can’t be a writer unless you write, and the more you write, the better you’ll get over time.
Be professional at all times, regardless of what you feel is the provocation. Even if another writer, or an editor, or an agent, or a publisher insults or belittles you, be professional back. Be assertive and protect your rights, but in as courteous and calm a manner as the situation permits.
Don’t argue with editors or critics, not because it’s wrong or they might blackball you, but because it’s a waste of time. Even the good ones who are consummate professionals will almost never change their minds once they decide to reject your story, and some can be monumental jerks.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for supporting my work.
And the best way you can support a writer more, other than recommending his or her work to your friends, is to leave a review on the site where you obtained the story.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
As I mentioned before, I don’t have time to read much anymore, but I am working on Mending Fate by Elisabeth Waters as I have the time.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not really, no, but one of the earliest that I can remember, and I don’t remember the title, was a collection of legends based on walking corpses, demons, vampires, and werewolves.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Cats make me laugh; people voting for Trump make me cry.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
No, there are dozens, but if I had to choose just one, I suppose it would be Benjamin Franklin. No, Abraham Lincoln. No, Isaac Newton. No, Marco Polo. No – Gaaah, I can’t decide! Okay, okay, Vincent Price! Or, Kermit the Frog. Or …
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
Finally! Some peace and quiet!
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Science. I also use Photoshop to create floorplans and diagrams, but many of those are for stories.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
My taste is exceptionally eclectic. As long as it intrigues me, I can enjoy just about anything. However, that also means I like stuff other people hate. For example, I really like the Star Wars prequel movies, and the Hobbit trilogy.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Potatoes and sour cream; broccoli and cheese sauce; steak; seafood; and much, much more. Except for peas, lima beans, and yoghurt, I pretty much love food in general.
Black. Sometime candy-apple red.
As with movies and TV, my taste is eclectic: classical to rock. However, I tend to like individual pieces rather than performers or groups.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Not sure. I wanted to be a scientist, but that didn’t work out, and I don’t have the talent to be a painter, cinematographer, or poet. Possibly an actor, or a D&D Dungeon Master.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My blog (but I haven’t been active in awhile) and GoodReads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/335131.Kevin_L_O_Brien
Warriors & Wizards: https://gravelandpub.wordpress.com/warriors-wizards/
Elisabeth Waters: http://waters01.blogspot.com/