Please welcome Dean Lombardo, author of Space Games and Vespa, available in paperback and for Kindle.
Dean was born in Norwalk, Connecticut and now resides in northern Virginia. He is an author and avid traveler who makes a point to explore many of the same settings where his fictional characters can be found.
Space Games is his second novel. His debut Sci-Fi novel, Vespa (Active Bladder, 2007), was named after the Latin word for “wasp.” When not writing or researching for novel projects, Dean works as a writer and editor in the information technology industry, with a focus on software products. Prior to that, he served as an editor and reporter for several newspapers and magazines in New York and Connecticut.
Dean lives with his wife, Karen, and their two children and one dog.
Greetings, Dean! Let’s get right to it, shall we?
So what made you become a novelist in the first place?
Dean: I’ve always been a dreamer, from the time I was child suffering from fever-induced hallucinations right up to the present with terrifying yet inspirational nightmares continuing to plague me. My mind tends to wander and explore possibilities, many of them unintentionally terrible. Even in consciousness, it’s difficult to halt this wandering mind. I guess you could call my need to write and tell a story catharsis. On a lighter note, I also like to tell a good joke and hone my voice that way. You’ll find an overarching joke in just about everything I write.
What’s your muse? Where do you get your ideas from?
Dean: It’s more like, Who’s your muse? She’s dark and merciless and she doesn’t let me relax much. The ideas come from dreams, nightmares, scientific journals, newspapers, and, most important, my imagination. God didn’t give me the best of everything, but he did give me one wild, bleeping imagination for which I’m grateful.
Is there a particular author or book that’s most influential to you in your writing?
Dean: Michael Crichton comes to mind. He had an uncanny ability to ‘write lean’ while still managing to integrate hard science and technical detail in potable doses, making for fast-paced and believable science fiction. The novel that blew me away was “Pompeii” by Robert Harris. Here, we have a historical novel set in the Roman resort town of Pompeii in 79 A.D. around the time that Vesuvius erupted and, damn, if I didn’t feel like I was there. Powered by its likeable aqueduct engineer main character, Attilius, “Pompeii” is also a mystery and romance which in about 270 pages delivered one of the most satisfying reads I’ve encountered to date.
If you could go back in time to when you started writing your first novel, what practical tips would you give your younger self?
Dean: I’d tell my younger self, “Outline the story, man. Work from a well-thought-out blueprint so that the building you construct doesn’t deviate from the plan, costing you time and endless rewrites.”
Could you tell us more about your novels, Space Games and Vespa?
Dean: I’d always had this desire to write a novel about an estranged couple (man and woman) stuck in space together–if you recall the 1989 film The War of the Roses, I was imagining a War of the Roses aboard a cramped space station. But then I read Discover Magazine’s 2006 interview with retired U.S. astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was asked what the privatization of space travel might mean for the future. When Aldrin mentioned “television game shows,” a game show-like bell went “ding, ding, ding” in my head. I restructured my outline and then wrote a shocking satirical tale called “Space Games” about a man and woman in their twenties who are contestants in a televised game show aboard a next-generation space station. The station is equipped with an arena room and a device that can create artificial gravity. With the cameras and nearly everyone down on Earth watching their every move, the two contestants compete in events such as partial-gravity basketball and full-contact combat. Only a retired NASA astronaut is up there to keep the fiery, martial artist woman and the powerful brutish man apart. Let’s just say, things get out of control and the people watching the show are eventually sickened by what they see. This is just me sharply poking fun at the one-upmanship of reality TV, our society’s thirst for drama and fame, misogyny, misandry, Internet addiction, Hollywood, and more.
My first novel, “Vespa,” was loosely inspired by the movie Alien, which I saw when I was far too young. I left the theater traumatized, and for many years after my dreams were filled with creepy-crawly things meaning to do me harm in ways previously unimagined. Writing “Vespa” and finding a publisher for it gave me the catharsis I needed to put those nightmares behind me.
I’m currently working on three new novels: a supernatural horror tale, a historical romance novel for middle grade and up, and a novella for middle grade and up.
What key themes should readers look for in Space Games and Vespa?
Dean: I don’t want anyone to ever have to put down one of my books because they perceived it to be boring. I’m going to crank up the emotion, the tension, the conflict, the stakes, and drive the story in a taut, economical style. The big-picture themes usually involve human weakness and folly, and an insurmountable enemy, but these trademark elements do not always prevent a happy ending.
Do you have a sequel in the works?
Dean: I’m not a sequel kind of guy… Not yet, at least. I have too many big ideas I want to bring to life before I return to one I’ve already explored. However, I do see an opportunity for a sequel for my in-progress supernatural horror novel.
What is the hardest part about writing a novel?
Dean: There are four equally difficult steps: researching and writing it, absorbing and addressing feedback, finding a publisher, and then making sure the darn thing sells. Step 1 is probably the most fun. Steps 2 and 3 can bring on death if you let them.
Star Trek or Star Wars?
Dean: I love them both, but if in the Star Trek option you’re including “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which made me drowsy, I’ll have to choose Star Wars.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Dean: There are so many ways to beat that. Find a time where you can sit down with a cup coffee and write. You know, just let it rip. I’m getting fired up to write just talking with you about it. And use the time that you do have wisely.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
Dean: Ass2Chair, which I think I borrowed from Michael Crichton. It means you stop making excuses and sit your bum down in a chair and write. I came across another great quote in Writer’s Digest. It was from a single mom with multiple kids, who despite her challenges found time to write and succeed. She said, “No one has time to write a novel … but some people do anyway.”
What was the best compliment you have received as a writer? Toughest criticism?
Dean: My favorite compliment came from a reader who referred to my first novel as “working class horror” in a mini-rant against the clichés of popular fiction. This fellow got it. The toughest criticism I received? … and yeah, it stung … a reviewer said that my second novel was “more twisted than Stephen King … would gag Tarantino.” He urged me to write something else. I’m proud of “Space Games” for what it is, an adrenaline-charging sci-fi pulp thriller with social commentary up one side and down the other, but now I AM writing something else.
Any tips you’d like to offer others attempting to write novels?
Dean: Find something you’re passionate about, discipline yourself to keep sacred your dedicated research and writing times, and then let it rip, Ass2Chair, and all that.
Anything you’d like to say to readers/fans?
Dean: If you’re bored, give” Space Games” a try. And thank you for reading my work and reading about me! Thank you!