Monday, January 19, 2015

Author Interview: M. Stephen Stewart

The Speculative Fiction Showcase interviews M. Stephen Stewart, author of We Are Watching.
1.    These days, most writers are glued to their laptops, tablets, and/or e-readers. A few still swear by print books and typewriters, the question is: Do you move at all?

            Oh yeah. All the time. I'm moving my fingers right now!

            But when I'm not answering interview questions or working on a first draft, I get to the gym. I used to be hardcore about powerlifting, doing my squats and deadlifts and power cleans and all that. After a few months of doing that, my legs were huge, which had its benefits. I could crack any walnut, no problem. But it had its drawbacks too—it was really, really hard to find pants that fit.

            Anyhow, I'll be the first to admit I've been really bad about going to the gym lately. The last couple of months I've been scrambling like mad, either in the lead up to releasing We Are Watching, or working on my first draft for its sequel.

            Who would've thought all this writing was so much work?
2.    Apple or PC?

            PC. PC forever. I built my first PC when I was 15. It ran Windows 98 on an AMD Duron 750. I played Diablo 2 and listened to Limp Bizkit on that thing like it was my job. It was great.

3.    Do you use Scrivener or Word?

            Both, actually. I type up my drafts in Scrivener, then do my CreateSpace copy in Word. I tried to use OpenOffice, but it doesn't play nice with headers and all that. Also, way more people use Word than OpenOffice, and that presents a whole bunch of other problems. CreateSpace is pretty much all I use Word for.

            I couldn't imagine not doing a first draft in Scrivener. There are so many organizational tools I need that Scrivener gives me. The thought of doing a book without those makes my blood curdle. I'd have character descriptions, plots, maps, research, all kinds of crap coming out of my ears without Scrivener.

4.    Do you have any pets? Do they influence your writing?

            Yeah! I have two dogs, and I adore them. I'm a dog person, for sure. One is a Jack Russell/Maltese mix, and the other is a Pit Bull/Labrador mix. If they told me to rob a bank, I'd really think hard about it on the way to the mental hospital.

            More to your question, I don't know that they influence my writing. They like to hang around me while I write, so invariably the pit/lab, who is just over one year old, will get bored and mess with the malty jack, who's eight. I have to turn around and tell them to knock it off. That probably influences my writing. Maybe it makes my characters more ornery? Sometimes the pit/lab bites my socks too. That sucks.

            Oh, wait. I guess someone shot a cat in We Are Watching. The shooter was a jerk though. Maybe that's my subconscious coming out? But I like cats too?

5.    Would you rather see your stories on the big screen or the little screen?
            Big Screen, no doubt. And not because I want to see my book as a movie or anything. I'd just like to get through the story once more without it taking up too much time. Two hours sounds perfect.
            Actually, an HBO series where we see someone's butt would be cool. I could probably pull some strings and be a butt-double too.

            I gotta think about this one more.

6.    Are you hooked on any science fiction or fantasy TV shows? If so, which one(s)?

            Game of Thrones, naturally. No explanation needed there.

            Since the Twilight Zone is on Netflix now, I've been tearing into that. I've really loved the entire original series so far, even with all its cheesy flaws. TV is a great format for experimenting with different science fiction premises. Like, if something sucks, it really doesn't matter. Make 22 minutes of TV out of it and go to the next one. I think Rod Serling recognized that, and that's what makes the series so great. He wasn't afraid to tackle any old idea and really work everything out of it, really exploring stuff as simple as “A writer can create actual people with his words,” to things as complex as people's fears of nuclear war during that time.

            I'm also a huge fan of Star Trek, specifically The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. I'd like to think that if there's a God, he doesn't care about Voyager either.

7.    Do you own copies of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings DVDs? The extended version? Do you ever watch them?

            Based my previous responses, I think the answer to this is obvious. If not, yes, I own all of that. Yes, I have watched them all in one sitting.

8.    Have you seen the first two parts of the The Hobbit? Are you planning to see the final installment?

            Of course! It became a quasi-family tradition that my dad, my brothers, my nephew and myself all went to go see the Hobbit movies together. Although, it was only my one brother, my nephew and I that saw the third movie together.
            It was pretty decent. Although, I was a bit thrown off by Dain being pure CG.

9.    We Are Watching is your first novel. What was the inspiration behind it?

            It was largely inspired by Edward Snowden and much of the public's apathy towards finding that the NSA is working with big data companies to gather information on innocent people. It made me think about one of those companies becoming way too big for its own britches and running things on their own. Like a super evil version of Google.

            Then there's some stuff in there about social media, and people shying away from physical interaction to bury themselves in their phones and twitter accounts and whatnot.

            Yes, I have an active Twitter account. No, I am not consistent.

10.                       Dystopian SF is currently experiencing something of a boom. So which are your favourite dystopias?

            That's a really, really tough question. One I had to think about a lot.

            On a ideological level, I guess I hate all dystopias. To think that someone claims the right to run someone else's life is really horrifying to me. I guess that's why I wrote this book. To get those fears out, even if I'm just spewing them into nothing.

11.                       Are you a Luddite? Or do you prefer to be on the bleeding edge of technology?

            Bring on all the technology, man.

12.                       Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?

            What is this, a McCarthy trial? :)

            Yes, I have been a life-long gamer. I have vivid memories of playing Final Fantasy II on Super Nintendo, and being afraid that one of the imps from the very first zone was going to pop up at the foot of my bed and kill me. The next day, I saw they had seven hit points, and I wasn't scared anymore. That's the kind of kid I was.

            I also love Super Metroid. I try to do a run-through of it at least once a year. That might be my favorite game of all time.

            For more contemporary stuff, I've been playing a lot of Binding of Isaac on PS4. I'm a huge fan of Assassin's Creed (especially the multiplayer). As of this writing, I have an active World of Warcraft account.

13.                       What kind of foods do you eat? Are you a health-food-nut or is it strictly junk?

            I'm somewhere in the middle. I like to get my protein macros in while limiting my calorie intake. Usually that means I eat a lot of chicken and vegetables. I also love breakfast, and will never apologize for it. My wife and I love to go to places where we can get breakfast at any time of the day. It doesn't matter what side of town, how crappy the restaurant, anything like that—if you serve breakfast all day, we will find you, and we will eat you.

14.                       Have you ever been to Starbucks or any other coffee shop?

            Oh, for sure. Do you guys get many writers that have never set foot in a coffee shop? Are they okay? Like, mentally speaking? :)     

15.                       Coffee or Tea or Water? Espresso, Drip, Instant, or French Press? Bag or Looseleaf? Bottled, Filtered, Tap or Rainwater?

            I always have water when I write. I don't know why, but it helps me stay in the chair. Sometimes I'll have tea. I go on coffee kicks, probably not unlike how a drug addict relapses. I'll get a taste of the stuff, then I'm drinking every morning, and inside of a week I'm drinking it at any time of the day. Then I'll kick it to the curb. Currently, I'm thinking about kicking coffee to the curb, but there are no less than two cups of coffee on my desk right now.

16.                       Do you wear socks?

            I've thought about it.

17.                       What are you wearing right now?

            Nothing but a smile. :)

18.                       How often do you wash your hair? 

            Every day, I guess? Are you guys gonna nab me for being wasteful? Was that the wrong answer?

19.                       Do you do your own laundry?


20.                       Does life fascinate you?

            Life is pretty cool, I guess. I mean, I'm alive and I like it. I'm a fan of breathing. I could take or leave eating. I feel like eating is the root of a lot of my problems. I wouldn't be overweight if I didn't eat. Bills would be a lot cheaper. Less time spent at the grocery store and in the bathroom.

21.                       What would your animal totem be?

            Human. Specifically, Richard Simmons.

22.                       Do you recycle?


23.                       Do you do Yoga? Meditation? or Deep Breathing? Does it help you cope?

            My brother lives in an ashram in Tennessee, so I've dabbled. I went through a problem with insomnia a year ago, and I was down to try pretty much anything to get it solved. I tried some meditation that included a mantra and breathing techniques.

            It didn't help me at all.

24.                       On a scale of 1-10, how eccentric are you?
            I'm a solid eight. You probably should have asked this question up front. Could have served as a pretty strong warning to anyone who has made it this far.

25.                       What’s your astrological sign?


26.                       Do you consider yourself a slave to the muse?
            No. But I'm sure that'll change after I've used up all the ideas I've written down.

About M. Stephen Stewart:

M. Stephen Stewart is a graduate of Indiana University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He makes his home in Indianapolis with his wife and two dogs. In his spare time, Matt is an avid sports fan, gamer, and reader, who loves to connect with new people. You can usually find him around town with his wife, exercising, or in front of his computer working on a new project.

Contact Matt at, on Twitter @mstephenstewart, or at

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