Hi guys and gals! One of the most exciting things for a writer is getting published! A close second is celebrating and promoting other writers who are getting published! And that’s what I’m doing today. I ‘met’ author and architect Ralph Walker on Twitter about a year ago when I was getting ready to head to the Philadelphia Writing Workshop. And YAY for hashtag connections or I might not have actually gotten a chance to know him at all.
Thanks to the #Phillyww hashtag, even though I didn’t get a chance to meet Ralph in person (there were a lot of people and I was suffering from introvert-paralysis), I’ve been delighted to follow him on Twitter, and cheer him on through his journey to publishing and his goal to hit #100rejections. But more importantly, I’ve been excited to share his publishing successes.
So without further ado, I give you—Ralph Walker!
Thanks so much for inviting me to be a part of your blog. For readers who don’t know me, I’m Ralph Walker. I am an architect in New Jersey and I write speculative fiction, particularly near future science fiction.
Tell me a little about what you mean by Speculative Fiction?
Speculative fiction deals with the question of WHAT IF? What if Elephants could fly? (Dumbo). What if we forgot somebody on Mars? (The Martian). What if the world we see in a game was real? (Ready Player One). Speculative Fiction permeates popular culture, but it is really centered on that question of ‘What If?’
For me, I try to focus on ideas and things that are so close you can almost taste them. One of the first stories I published; Gators in Kansas, was about underwater farming, something that is really happening today, but I tried to push the idea further and explore other issues like climate change, immigration and the craft economy.
Gators in Kansas was featured in UnCommon Lands, which is available for purchase here.
And Near Future Science Fiction?
Many science fiction writers focus on space and beyond. I try to write closer to home both in time and place. The changes in our cities and landscapes are changing at a sprint, and I see so many stories in what might happen tomorrow, or the day after that. I like to imagine ideas that my children or grandkids might experience.
Are you an optimistic writer?
That is a loaded question. I’m an optimist at heart, but in my writing I am looking for ways to break things. I don’t remember who said it, but another writer once said ‘A driverless car isn’t interesting until you know how to crash it.’ Or something like that. I love to take the best ideas I can come up with and turn them on their head. My characters have to have the stamina and wit to move the story forward. I fill my characters with hope and optimism even if the world around them is broken.
What inspires you?
So many things. I have the privilege to work in architecture and design every day. In my work I get to reimagine the built environment, but I also am faced with the realities of a changing climate, speedy technology and human nature. I love seeing how buildings age and where the natural environment evolves around what we build.
Near my office there is a river walk where I often take my lunch break. A long path runs along the river and it is a nice respite on the day. At one point on the path there is a tree that has grown, I kid you not, completely around a traffic barrier. Not a branch or some leaves, but the whole trunk widened out and encased the steel barrier. I don’t think they can ever be separated now without killing the tree and removing the steel. At least once a week I walk past that tree and get lost thinking about how that could have happened. I feel like that is where our world is today.
How does your writing process work?
I am a morning writer. I try to get out of bed and get straight to the work. Slippers, coffee, words in that order. I’ve been doing the #5amwritersclub for years now and it works for me. No I don’t get up at 5am every morning, but 4-5 days a week I am there pounding on the keyboard. Usually I’ll get a few pages done and then get on with the rest of my day.
Outside of my morning writing I try to let myself ruminate on the story I am working on. I keep note cards with me and will scrawl out ideas for a character or a scene while I am at lunch, or on a train. Those bits of ideas wind up on my desk at night and are waiting for me the next morning. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes they are just trash. The good ones wind up taped to my wall somewhere.
What are you currently working on?
Right now I have a few stories in various states of unrest. I am really good at starting something and getting through the first act and then stalling out, so I am trying to finish a draft of something short each month. My current story is a horror piece about a divorced couple trapped in an acid rain storm. I’m not sure if it is going to make it into the Rising Waters series or take a different form, but it is a fun piece to write.
Tell me more about the Rising Waters Series.
Rising Waters grew out of my love for short speculative fiction. The past few years I have been writing a half dozen or more stories each year. Looking over these stories a theme emerged around personal technology and climate change. I am really drawn to stories that poke at the ideas of what lies just around the corner or just out of reach. I want to tell those kinds of stories.
Why make it a series? Why not just release an anthology?
I think that people are oversaturated with media these days and most of us can’t consume a whole book or anthology in one sitting. I wanted to make these stories fit into a small space. Something you might read on your commute, or waiting for a child to finish a swim lesson, and feel satisfied with the experience. Personally I like reading a short story in a single sitting and I hope readers will enjoy that experience with these too.
I heard a rumor that you have a book about a flying iceberg? Tell me more.
(Muffles laughter) I have been working on an Eco-Thriller about a washed out coast guard pilot who gets caught up with a Greenpeace / Whale Wars type group who is trying to stop a corporation from stealing ice from Alaska. I don’t want to give away too much yet, but there might be something to the rumors you’ve heard.
Awesome, let me know when you can share more.
What keeps you going on your writing path?
Besides the characters that wake me up every morning?
As an architect I work in a very collaborative profession. I get to create every day and work with amazing people, but I don’t always have the opportunity to create art for art’s sake. My writing habit was born out of needing to find another outlet to express myself artistically.
I am also lucky to be engaged with an amazing writing community. #5amwritersclub has been a godsend to me. Those folks inspire me every day just by showing up, and I’m really jazzed when I hear about their successes. I’ve seen them all bust their hump to get the words down and it shows in the work.
I hear you bring donuts?
Yeah. That started a couple of years ago (yes, years). I was joking online with another writer friend about needing a reward for showing up all week and we started sending each other virtual donuts on Fridays. Now I bring them for the whole crew. Friday Donut GIFs usually turn into Friday Dance Party GIFs and then it is just a free for all.
But you still get your work done?
Somehow. Last Friday I pounded out nine pages between shenanigans. I think we all know we have limited time, so the pressure is on to knock out the pages. I’m a father too, and my little ones don’t let me forget it.
What are you reading? What is your favorite fiction book?
Honestly I jump around in my reading. I read a lot, some in print, some on e-reader, some on audible, but there is always a book in my hand or in my ear.
I try to balance between fiction and non-fiction, but I often go on jags where I read whole series in a short span. Last year I was obsessed with VE Schwab and Pierce Brown. Then I bounced to The Art of Starving by Sam Miller. That book slayed me. I really can’t recommend it enough.
Right now I am on a short story jag. I’ve been rereading Kelly Link’s Get In Trouble and trying to read all of the Hugo Nominated stories. While I love novels, I really think some of the most exciting writing out there comes from short stories.
What can you tell me about your newest story; Stealing Air?
Stealing Air is, as you might imagine, a heist story. It follows a band of thieves as they attempt to covertly steal a very expensive drug that makes it easier to breath. Nora, our heroine, needs the drug not only to make money, but also for her ailing husband. In this adventure she is taken from the woods of Appalachia to a craft air manufacturer in the sky where she discovers a real treasure.
This is a story about unintended consequences of messing with nature. It was inspired by the debate about putting Fluoride in drinking water and more recent events in Flint, Michigan.
I hope you’ll check it out, and if you like it share it with your friends.
Where can we find you or your work?
You can find my stories at Amazon here.
Or, if you are in New Jersey you can pick up the UnCommon Lands Anthology at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ.
I am very active on Twitter. Come say hi at @RW_Igloo
My website is www.ralphwalkerauthor.com
That’s all from Ralph. But wait, there’s more! You didn’t think I’d let you leave without enticing you into a giveaway, did you? Enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Uncommon Lands, featuring Ralph’s ‘Gators in Kansas.’
The Rafflecopter giveaway starts March 20th and ends March 31st with several opportunities to win!