Van Allen Plexico knows genre writing. And he knows that genre isn't a dirty word in writing circles. From space adventure to superhero epics to football nonfiction, Van's done it all.
Needless to say, it's an honor he set aside a few minutes to chat with us here at Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action.
(And congrats to Van on his win in the Pulp Ark Awards Best New Pulp Character category with Blackthorn.)
Tell us a bit about your latest work.
Just putting the finishing touches on HAWK: HAND OF THE MACHINE, a 105,000-word Military SF Action Pulp novel. It's the story of Hawk, a sort of "US Marshall in Space," who awakens naked and with no memories, in a space station being assaulted by horrifying hordes of alien creatures. From square one he's on the run, trying to figure out what in the world is going on while fighting for his life--and for the galaxy! The novel will be out from White Rocket sometime this summer. PRO SE PRESENTS will be running a two-part story that kicks the thing off, starting this month.
What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?
Identity, duty, and memory. How the role you play in life defines who you are as a person. My best characters-- Lucian, Ultraa, Hawk, Vanadium-- all reflect this search for understanding and acceptance of who they are trying to be, vs who they actually are inside.
What would be your dream project?
To write a 20-volume superhero space opera saga with dozens of major characters and vast battles and aliens and androids and gods and cosmic beings and regular humans, all mixed together amidst vast carnage, and presented alongside deep introspection and character development and evolution. And, hey--I'm doing it and it's called the Sentinels novels!
If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?
Every time the first volume of the Sentinels series has been reprinted or published by a different publisher or included in an omnibus or hardcover, I've rewritten or at least tweaked some portion of it. It's the introduction to the whole series so I want it to be the best it can be, and I've never been entirely happy with it--which I suppose is natural, because most everyone who's read it liked it a lot and most of them kept reading the rest of the books. Whew.
What inspires you to write?
Reading, mainly. Movies and TV, too, and comics. But mostly just walking through any section of Barnes and Noble and just looking at the books there will get my blood pumping and send me hurrying home to the keyboard. And of course receiving feedback from readers always makes you know it was worth it--that someone else enjoyed your work, too.
What writers have influenced your style and technique?
Roger Zelazny is my lord and master. He died of cancer in 1995 and how I wish I could have met him. His work is overwhelmingly the major influence on my writing. My novel, LUCIAN: DARK GOD'S HOMECOMING, was written mainly as my homage to just how much he influenced me--right down to the poetic language (I tried!) and first-person POV from a shady and unreliable protagonist.
Jim Starlin had a massive impact on how I think in "cosmic" terms, with vast empires and themes of life and death and the mystic side of all of that. Kirby did, too, but probably more Starlin than Kirby. Just the "flavor" of Starlin's writing-- his characters with their anguished soul-searching and conflicted natures--that really shaped my work.
Lately it's been Dan Abnett (of the Warhammer 40K novels and comics like Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova) that has helped me to get a nice handle on how to write even better action scenes and strange, outlandish settings and battles. He's so good at that stuff.
Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?
Oh, I probably come down about 50/50. You have to get the "science" part pretty much down. Of course, there are always new things to learn, and I'm always looking stuff up, along the lines of grammar and style and structure and the like, so it's a continual process. The "art" part is, I suppose, partly your own natural talent and partly the impact of various influences upon you. Whatever "art" dwells within my writing is a direct result of spending a lifetime reading and re-reading Zelazny and Starlin and Herbert and Tolkien and Varley and Niven and Howard and on and on, absorbing the parts that seem to me to work the best and sound the best.
Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?
Learn more about Van and his work at: www.plexico.net and www.whiterocketbooks.com.