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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Creating your Writing Art Form: An Interview with Doug Cooper

What made you decide to write your first novel? 
I was looking for a new creative outlet in my life and began chasing a handful of ideas. I started developing a series of webcasts to go with my online textbook (, I outlined intellectual property ideas for a new technology company, and I tapped away at my keyboard writing a science fiction novel.

Within months, my writing morphed into a passion and I dropped my other projects to give myself more time for it. I’ve been at it for about five years and my writing time remains a most treasured part of my day.

Tell us about your books.The Crystal Series books are futuristic thrillers with action and adventure that center on the themes of aliens, spies, AI, romance, and battles in space. Criss, the overarching personality in the series, is a four-gen AI crystal with the cognitive ability of a thousand humans. He is hard-wired to protect and serve his human leadership team, which includes Dr. Juice Tallette, the crystal scientist who created Criss; Cheryl Wallace, an ex-captain of the Fleet space cruiser Alliance; and Sid, a one-time covert spy for the Defense Intelligence Agency, who now helps Criss protect Juice and Cheryl while they all strive to keep humanity safe.

Wow, that sounds exciting! Where are you in the process of developing your series?
I just released the third full-length book of the series, Crystal Rebellion, and I’m gratified by the positive reader response—it’s been amazing! The setting is on Mars, and the bad guys are three AI crystals left behind after the last alien invasion of our solar system. Our heroes struggle to save the world and soon realize they need to save themselves. I’ll leave it at that as I don’t want to reveal any spoilers. I invite everyone to give the book a read and enjoy the ride!

I'm working on submitting a sci-fi story for a short story competition. What tips do you have for making a sci-fi story work? 
A good science fiction story is good fiction—be it a thriller, action-adventure, mystery, romance, or whatever—but with a sci-tech theme. The “good fiction” part comes first, though. The “science” part is the secret sauce that makes it fun for people who enjoy thinking about space, or time travel, or life in the future, or whatever excites you. 

While sci-fi and fantasy are often lumped together, there is a difference. Fantasy stories—those with magic or superheroes or the undead—include extranormal phenomena that will (probably) never exist. Sci-fi offers more plausible realities, at least that’s how I think about it.

Tell us about your writing process.
I begin with an idea in my head and then start writing.  I don’t plan, and in fact even prohibit myself from thinking too far ahead, because my joy comes from the creative process of writing into the unknown.

I write each scene in the order it will appear when published. The fun thing about this is that my stories follow a rotating point of view among the characters, and don’t always follow a straight timeline from chapter to chapter. So, I write a story that does not follow a strict timeline sequence, and that rotates among the viewpoints of the central characters, in page order.

And to really make it fun, I don’t allow myself to go back and change a previous scene to help me solve a challenge with the current one. To me, plot development is like solving a puzzle. I enjoy being at a particular point in an adventure, with characters deployed here and there, all with histories and in certain situations, and now I must move forward in a plausible and entertaining fashion.

It’s a slow process, but my key to success is persistence. I write every day for a few hours. And slowly but surely, I write books. In this manner, I wrote Deception, Conquest, and Rebellion, taking just over a year to write full-length stories (ranging from 96-99K words each, for those who think in word count). The editing process adds another four months before publication.

Are you active with any writing groups?
I belong to a writers group—in a parallel universe—and it has indeed improved my writing. This past summer, while I waited for others to read and comment on Crystal Rebellion, I started an online journal—a fictitious story about me participating in a writers group. I challenged myself to post a humorous bit every few days. 

The results can be found at I put up 20 short stories—more than ten thousand words—as I struggled to be humorous on a tight schedule. I had great fun on this project and hope to revisit it in the future.

Why did you choose the indie route for publishing? 
I chose to become an indie author for a number of reasons: I’m eager to get new works out to readers in a timely fashion, I want to maintain long-term control over the work, and I’m excited by the entrepreneurial challenge.  Self-publishing has all aspects of the small business enterprise, including product creation, branding and marketing, finance, project management, and intellectual property concerns. I love exploring ways to pull those levers to advance my writing career.
What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
 That writing is an art form. If I make it personal, it’s a joy to pursue.

What advice would you give to new authors? 
Write every day and have fun doing it. Because writing is art, there will be people who like what you do and those who don’t. So like any art form, do it for yourself.  Write what brings you joy and satisfaction, and you will produce the best work you are able and have fun doing it. 

One way to practice is to write pieces and then stick them in a drawer. An alternative is to write articles that will help organizations. Your neighborhood library, museum, senior center, and shelters all have access to grant opportunities. They would benefit from a talented individual willing to help them write one. 

It’s hard work. It’s only creative to the extent you can spin the circumstances of the organization you are supporting to the requirements of the granting agency. But I know that anyone who writes a dozen grant applications will be judged a dozen times. It’may be frustrating work, but like practicing your scales on an instrument, this sort of activity strengthens your writing skills.

That's it for today's interview. If you would like to learn more about Doug's current and future writing, here are some links to get you started. 

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