Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Interview with YA sci-fi author Steve Bellinger

My special guest today is young adult science fiction author Steve Bellinger. He’s chatting with me about The Chronocar.

Welcome, Steve. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised on the West Side of Chicago by a single mom who worked nights for a printing company. She would bring home books and magazines to encourage us to read. This is how I discovered Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and the other masters of classic science fiction. It didn’t take long for me to get the itch to write. Over the years I’ve written everything from newspaper articles, comic strips and radio drama to short stories and fan fiction.

One of the original Trekkies, my wife Donna and I plan to renew our wedding vows with a full Star Trek-themed ceremony; I’ll wear an admiral’s dress uniform, and she will be decked out in a custom-made leather-and-lace Klingon wedding dress.

Please tell us about The Chronocar.
Imagine being born the son of a slave with the mind of a genius. That was Simmie Johnson in the years following the Civil War. After a perilous escape from lynch mobs in Mississippi, he manages to earn a PhD in physics at Tuskegee, and in his research, discovers the secret of time travel. He develops a design for a time machine, called a Chronocar, but the technology required to make it work does not yet exist.

Fast forward a hundred and twenty-five years. A young African American Illinois Tech student in Chicago finds Dr. Johnson’s plans and builds a Chronocar. He goes back to the year 1919 to meet the doctor and his beautiful daughter, Ollie, who live in Chicago’s Black Belt, now known as Bronzeville. But, he has chosen an unfortunate time in the past and becomes involved in the bloodiest race riot in Chicago’s history.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve loved science fiction since I was a kid. I used to make my own comic books and write stories but never had the nerve to share. Then in the 70’s I experienced some success with writing and producing original radio drama, including a modern version of War of the Worlds (http://sonicsociety.org/tag/day-of-the-martians/ )

After getting a sci-fi short story published in 2012, I decided it was time to write a novel. I had been playing around with The Chronocar for a couple of years. I finally got serious and did a year of research to create a time travel story that takes place in Chicago during the Red Summer Riots in 1919. In 2015 it was picked up by Barking Rain Press. It has gotten many excellent reviews and was the August 2015 Black Science Fiction Society’s book of the month.

I have lived the dream of doing book signings at major independent bookstores, libraries and my Alma Mater, the Illinois Institute of Technology, where The Chronocar has been placed of the shelves of the library and the university’s archives.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My second novel The Edge of Perception should be out later this year. It is a sci-fi/paranormal love story that starts out with a poor African American kid in the Chicago ghetto in the 1960’s who is haunted by a curse that was put on his family a century earlier.

I am just putting the finishing touches on the third book, which will be a techno-thriller.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably the first time I saw my name in print when I wrote something for my high school newspaper. I have since written everything from articles for a small town newspaper, short stories, radio drama, Sunday school skits (used in several churches) and for three years I wrote the Junior High Sunday School text for the AME Church worldwide.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I work full time as a computer support specialist. In the past I’ve been a software instructor and a web developer. My wife, a business coach, is a morning person. I am a night person. So it actually works out for me because I tend to do my best writing at night when it is quiet with no distractions.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Whenever I find myself with writer’s block, or just not motivated to work on my current project, I will sometimes write a little fan fiction. That’s where anyone can write their own stories about Star Trek, Dr. Who, Harry Potter or whatever your favorite TV, movie or book series might be. The real fun is when you do “crossovers” where you take characters from one series and put them into another. My fan fiction has actually gotten some pretty good reviews.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a very young child I wanted to be a bus driver, then a TV repairman. With the advent of the space program, I wanted to be an astronaut. Now, when I grow up, I want to be a starship captain.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I was a late bloomer. I was 65 years old when The Chronocar was published, and it is doing rather well. This should encourage older persons to remember that it is never too late to pursue your dream. And for younger people with the dream of getting published—don’t wait until you’re 65!


Thanks for being here today, Steve. All the best with your writing.

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