Interview with Lin Sten:
Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.
Intellectually I sense human civilization is being propelled toward an apocalypse based on humanity’s delusional mass psychology, the risks of technological advance, and Earth’s environmental limits. Emotionally and physically I tend to ignore that possibility, and to simply enjoy each day for the miracle that it is. Usually I enjoy swimming and bodysurfing in the Pacific Ocean, but for the last two weeks there have been several shark sightings up and down the coast; because I’m a vegetarian, I would get really mad if I were eaten.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing for several decades.
Can you tell us about your latest book, Mine?
The idea of our solar system attracting extraterrestrials—helpful or antagonistic—has intrigued me for as long as I can remember. While it is a common theme in science fiction, and there is certainly nothing new either about an insane person believing himself to be an extraterrestrial, my angle on this long-standing theme seemed original enough and like it could be a great deal of fun. Too, there is the intriguing SETI silence, which increases the likelihood that any soft-spoken claimant to interstellar spurs is actually a charlatan. On the other hand, even down-to-Earth politicians (such as Ronald Regan) have imagined the possible beneficial human attitude adjustment that an extraterrestrial threat to Earth might provide. So here we have a simply expressed question about our universe, one that almost everyone can understand, and yet any reality might yet emerge. What more fertile ground could there be!
What is it about the science fiction genre that you find interesting?
Science fiction allows an expansion of the spectrum of environments—technological, biological, and natural physical—within which to set a story, or about whom to write it.
Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?
As an example of my writing process, the story for Mine evolved over the period of about one week, resulting in a chapter-by-chapter outline, after which I spent six months writing a treatment. (I also always write a treatment before I write a screenplay.) Then I spent about a year writing a readable draft of the novel; using my outline, I wrote the chapters in whatever order they seemed to emerge or gel. After that it took another year to finish the necessary research and the editorial process. As to the general question of where my ideas originate, I do not know, but there are always more of them than I have time to deal with and they seem to choose me rather than I them.
What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
I find it difficult to find enough time to read.
You’ve penned some historical writing as well as science fiction. What kind of research have you done for your books?
For my unpublished series of four historical novels set in the ancient Mediterranean, a sense of the amount of research I did can best be suggested by the number of books I purchased: 22.
You also write poetry. Do you find that enhances your ability to write fiction?
My poetry tends to be more purely romantic than my fiction. Also, it speaks more directly and with more immediacy to the sense of the miracle that encompasses us here on Earth. For me, each raindrop is a miracle. When I write a novel, I experience each of my characters, but they do not experience me; however, in my poetry, mine is the only voice. On the other hand, something I have never done, but could do, is to write a poem from the standpoint of one of my characters as a way of understanding that character better.
Who has inspired you as a writer?
The list is very long, and it includes many beings who are not authors, and some who are not human. In summary, I should mention that I always have on my desk a volume of the The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; the last important book that I read was Paulo Coelho’s The Witch of Portobello. On the other hand, there was a time when the library did not contain enough science fiction books to fill my need—Verne, Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, McCaffrey, etc. Of course, who has not been inspired by Albert Einstein? I have also been inspired by many different animals, rocks, raindrops, rivers, lakes, trees, and celestial objects and events, not to mention incredible films (Gone With the Wind, The Cranes are Flying (Russian), Chariots of Fire, Les Enfants du Paradis, Pelle the Conqueror (Danish), Die Hard, Luther, Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini, The Mission, and many others). Even though your question was only about “who,” I guess it is equally important that even the falling of a leaf—being the miracle that it is—can inspire me.
What’s next for you?
Right now the marketing of Mine is uppermost in my mind. Nonetheless, I have a zillion stories waiting in the queue.
Anita, thank you for these questions. They have made me reflect on myself—my goals, philosophy, and appreciation for what we have.