Thanks for being with us today. I’ve enjoyed reading your snippets and excerpts of this story—glad you could be here!
First, would you tell us a bit about yourself? Hi. I’m S.A. Check and I’m a sci-fi / fantasy author. Thanks for having me!
What area of the country do you live in, do you have a family, pets, etc.? I grew up and write from southwestern PA. I’m a product of a coal mining patch town that filled the days of my youth with adventures exploring abandoned mine shafts, swimming in ponds, and having winter bonfires in deserted coke ovens. My wife is an E.R. nurse and I have a tween daughter whose imagination dwarfs my own.
Are you a coffee fiend, or do you have another “addiction” you must have on your desk at all times? Every few years I think my taste buds may have matured enough that I’ll enjoy a hot cup of java and I’ll give it a shot but it still tastes like crap to me (apologies to all coffee lovers out there). I can’t say there’s any certain flavor that I have a particular bias towards but, in general, not my cup of…yeah you get it. I do love me some milk but my wife and daughter laugh when I order vanilla milk instead of calling it white. What?
What’s your education, if it’s relevant to your writing, and how does that education help you/or do you find that you can write well even without the diploma others might think they must have? I’m a PennState grad and proud of it. My degree is in English / Writing Option and while it may not have been the best suited to help me land a job in the market post-graduation, I’m still glad I travelled that literary road. Do you need a degree like mine to pursue a writing career? Absolutely not, but it forced me to examine a lot more divergent genres than I had before college and I really feel it helped me round out as a writer.
Tell us about your most recent publication. Welcome to GreenGrass is a straight up science fiction fantasy adventure centered on a murder mystery. I started writing the novel back in 2008 and have revised and re-touched it more times than I can count. The story is about family, in whatever non-traditional form it may take, and what it means to be a part of the world around you. The main character, John Traveller, is tested and torn but at his center he holds true to some core beliefs. When Dave Barnett from Bedlam Press / Necro Publications decided to pick it up, I was thrilled this would be my debut title. I’ve finished a couple other novels since GreenGrass but it’s always held a special place for me.
What inspired you to write this story? This was the kind of book that I would lose myself in as a reader, a world built all on my own with endless possibilities and countless tales that could spring from within the domed city. I enjoyed every minute of crafting GreenGrass and it really was a novel that I wrote as much for myself than the prospect of publishing but then you come to the point that it’s done and you say, “I wonder if anyone else would like this?”, and here I am.
How would you best describe your books? I try to keep my books fast, fun, and entertaining. I consider myself plot-centric at times and I spend a lot of effort in pulling together tight story arcs. I just want a reader to enjoy themselves and read the last page and be a little disappointed that the ride is over but be glad they bought the ticket.
What is your favorite genre to write? Most of my writing leans towards worlds of the fantastical nature. I think science fiction and fantasy really allow an author to let loose with their imaginations and disregard convention a bit but I’ve done a few realistic fiction shorts that I’m proud of too. Check out Tangled Lines, a short story I contributed to a charity anthology, Hazard Yet Forward, out last year.
To read? I read a lot of scifi and fantasy novels but I always grab something totally out of genre every fourth or fifth book when it catches my eye. I enjoy Jim Butcher’s Dresden series and lately I’ve been reading A. Lee Martinez’s work, and I read Joe Hill’s Horns. If you keep my entertained, maybe a chuckle or two along the way, I’ll read it, even if it’s the instruction manual to my microwave.
What would you write if you could write anything you wanted to write? Wow…that’s up there with a wood chuck would chuck wood. I think I’m already writing the kind of tales I want. I grew up on comics and they’ve influenced my writing as much as anything else I’ve read. I really put everything I can into one of my novels and try not to hold back. I keep the strong language to a minimum and the violence intrinsic to the story. One of my favorite things about John Traveller in Welcome to GreenGrass is his use of the word thunderin’ in lieu of other curse words. It’s fun and really adds something to his character.
What do you most like about writing? I love the initial phases of creating and developing a project. The idea phase when you’re trying to piece together something and see if the kindle (no pun intended) takes flame. Maybe it’s a thought here or a twist there that I jot down until the novel begins to take focus. I always try to outline my novels to a certain degree and it’s the one point in the process that I let loose with pen to paper and scribble down some mad notes. Outlining by hand feels very organic and I enjoy watching it take shape.
Least like? I should say revisions and it can become tedious after the first few run throughs but as long as I know the story will be better for the effort, than I can’t really say I mind.
Do you belong to any writing groups? I’ve been a member of Pennwriters for several years now and they really are an excellent group. The conferences they hold are top notch for both networking with other writers, classes into the craft of writing, and meeting industry contacts along the way.
Tell us a little about your path to publication. Like a million other writers, I’ve received more than my fair share of rejections from prospective publishers. I’ve kept a rather simple philosophy to the whole process. Every time I received a rejection, it was just a reminder that I’m still in the game and another opportunity to fine tune my pitch. I kept writing and refining. One of my favorite sayings is that you can’t fail if you never quit. When Necro Publications agreed to publish Welcome to GreenGrass under its Bedlam Press imprint, it was a thrill and especially so because you finally find a literary home and someone who appreciates you as a writer. David Barnett, the main man at Necro, has simply been awesome to work with and to have someone with his experience and talent backing you makes the whole process that much more fulfilling.
How many books did you write before selling one? I have three books in the done bin prior to getting the green light for Welcome to GreenGrass and several others in various states of completion. I’m really glad that this one turned out to be my debut novel and has always held a special place for me. GreenGrass touches on so many of literary influences to this point in my career and I literally have an entire notebook of notes and scribbles, circled passages, arrows, and filled margins while I was crafting it. Maybe I can include some of the more busy pages when I release the twentieth anniversary edition? Hey, you never know!
How did you find a publisher? You have to put the time in! Finding a match for where you want to be and be comfortable with who’s handling your work. Necro was looking to expand its sci-fi fantasy imprint with Bedlam Press and I had the right submission at the right time.
How did you receive the Call? David Barnett reached out to me and said he really enjoyed my manuscript and wanted to add it to Necro Publication’s line-up and it didn’t take much for me jump on board. There’s a definite feeling of satisfaction to reaching your goal of publication.
What are you writing now? I have another novel ready to go. It’s another trip through a fantastical world but with a twist that I hope the readers of Welcome to GreenGrass will cross over and enjoy also. It focuses on friendship and family and the characters find out a bit about themselves along the way. Oh yeah, there’s murderous ghosts, virtual worlds, and high tech armored enforcers too!
What’s next for you—will you be making personal appearances anywhere our readers can find you? I plan on making the rounds to several sci-fi and writing conventions throughout the coming year and I’ll be posting specific dates and locations on my blog as the dates approach. I was down at the Virginia Comicon last month and had a great time meeting and talking with so many of the folks who attended.
What would you like to tell readers? That’s easy. Thank you! Sincerely! By reading my work, you give me the privilege of building worlds to capture your imagination and attempt to hold on long enough to leave you with something more than when we started and if it can change a perception or add to a perspective or keep you entertained, then I’ve accomplished something worthwhile.
Here’s a link to the book –
and one for the book trailer –
There have always been alleys. Whether in a big city, a small town, or the end of the world, the spaces in between, the dark corners of civilization, have always needed a place to breathe. The Mayans had Tikal, Rome raised the bar, and the Big Apple grew into a city that never slept. Too many eyes made secrets difficult to hide. Worlds need those pockets, the urban closets that hide the skeletons of a modern society. Just as sure as the sun rises, even if it’s not the one you’re expecting, there are places that never see the light of day.
Resting against the fire escape grating, John Traveller knew as well as any that even the cast-outs and misfits needed a place to call home. For two nights straight, he watched the same alley from his metal perch and all he had to show was a sore back and numb fingers. The dual red moons overhead stared back at him, a constant reminder this world was not his own. Not that he needed any.
“Another thunderin’ dead end.” Traveller tossed a stone at a garbage can. The clang echoed down the alley. “I guess you can’t surprise anyone if there’s no one here.”
He laid a single barrel shotgun on the grating beside him and pulled a small notebook from his back pocket. The calculations seemed right. Traveller looked over all his data at least ten times. It looked like he missed his mark on this one. He couldn’t wait any longer. They would all be expecting him back at the house. He made it up to one knee when something caught his eye near the ground.
A blue pinhole of light hovered over the quiet cobble stoned street, floating in the evening air, unaware it hadn’t existed moments before. Traveller felt the air in the alley pull towards the floating glow. The tails of his trench coat bustled in the artificial breeze. And then everything stopped, like the moment before someone unleashed a sneeze.
The radiance rushed out into the night, erupting from its center and blowing discarded trash down the passage. A pair of tennis shoes emerged inside the pulsing glow. They hovered in the brisk night air before a figure gushed out of the portal, flowing through like a water slide without the benefit of a pool underneath. The confused rider struck the ground hard, tumbling end over end until skidding to a stop on his stomach. The body remained motionless.
Traveller chuckled. That may have been one of the top five most unglamorous entrances he ever witnessed. The naked guy from a couple months back would still be hard to beat. From his shadowed vantage, Traveller watched the bewildered figure scrambling along the ground. His red jogging pants and t-shirt that read Start Slow Then Back It Down was covered in whatever muck accumulated on alley floors. The man clung to his elbow that took the brunt of the initial impact and blood seeped out between his fingers.