Thursday, August 14, 2014

Books: Interview with Author and NASA Engineer Terry R. Hill - Science Fiction

During one of this year's book signing events I participated, I had the pleasure of meeting fellow Texan writer Terry R. Hill in person. His science fiction book was amongst the 50 Most Worth Reading Self Published Books of this year's Indie Author Land list. I'm excited to introduce Terry R. Hill!

Terry, tell us a little bit about you, where are you from, and what is your background?

I am an East Texas native, was trained with two degrees in aerospace engineering. I have worked for NASA since 1997 with a very satisfying career as an engineer and project manager spanning programs from the international space station’s navigation software, to next generation space suit design, to exploration mission planning, to mitigating the health effects of space on astronauts. While supporting the manned space program has been a lifetime passion, writing of different worlds, alternate futures and the human condition has filled my spare time.

Always looking to maximize what life has to offer, I have found myself singing on stage, helping to house the less fortunate, skydiving, hammering away at the Berlin Wall, wearing space suits, ice swimming in Finland in the dead of winter, bathing in the hot springs of Japan, and forging into the unknown as a parent and author. Life is too short to let opportunities pass us by, as we only get one chance to ride. But mostly, it's all about the people in our everyday as we experience this thing we call Life.

Seems like you've been - and are- very busy! With your demanding career, and family life, when did you decide to write and why?

Well like many major decisions in life, all the right things had to fall into place at the right time. I won’t go into those in detail, but let’s say that one day in 2011 I accepted the fact that I probably had fewer days ahead of me than behind – as we all do at one point or another, and that I had best get to writing if I was to get serious about it. I had always enjoyed writing and had received encouragement from friends and co-workers over the years, but never took the time to indulge myself with writing. So one day I realized I needed to add more Awesome to my daily life, and writing was my preferred way.

What a fantastic way to put it! Adding more awesome to your daily life! So, what genre (or genres) do you write and what is your target audience?

So far I have been writing in the genre/style of Science Fiction – Dystopian / Space Exploration because they say “write what you know” and I know the business of space travel and exploration.

My target audience is from the later teens through mature adult for people who like a little intellectual stimulation served up with their science fiction. While personally a huge fan of Heinlein and Clark – to name two of the greats – I strive to serve up similar stories with deeper meat to sink your teeth into. And therefore I am hoping that my work appeals to individuals who also like the style of writing of these authors.

I try to serve a modern approach to science fiction with respect to the sexes so that there are enough elements such that both can enjoy the stories. Everybody likes adventure. Everybody likes a little sex. Some like a little romance. Some like a little graphic violence. Some like appropriate rough language. Some like character building and development of relationships. If done right, I think it can be quite effective and enjoyable to all.

Great approach to writing, there's a little bit of everything! Do you incorporate your expertise and background working at NASA in your books?

One of my original goals was to provide science fiction to the masses that was firmly grounded in real physics, real space flight operations, real experiences of being in space and using the hardware, etc. Another current NASA scientist and celebrated author, Geoffrey Landis, has also written a few books that maintain as much of realism in the stories as possible from someone within the spaceflight community.

It sounds odd to say that one would want to maintain realism in their fiction, but that is exactly what I desire. We have learned a lot about living and working in space since the greats – even Asimov – started writing. Some things they got right, some they didn’t. So now I want to offer up stories and themes that are re-anchored and extrapolated from today’s reality of space travel and science.

It makes sense, a lot of space reality does seem like fiction and can be hard to grasp, anyways. Do you have a favorite quote - who is it from and why you love it?

“Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.” – Anonymous but also has been attributed to Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens quotes (Archbishop of Malines-Brussels 1904-1996)

I received it from an aunt in my early teen years and for many years it sat on my dresser looking back at me as something that seemed to make sense, but nothing profound. And I guess at the time it felt a little sad knowing that getting what you wanted came at a price.

Then as I got older it took on more meaning as I understood that following your dreams would take some commitment and sacrifice and what that really meant in terms of educational time commitment, relationships, job possibilities, etc.

Now in the second half of my life, it still takes on new meaning for me. Now having friends and peers also in the later parts of their lives and careers, I can see that those who have truly followed their dreams – and were willing to pay the price and the sacrifice – are truly happier over all. Unlike as a youth, I now appreciate the wording in that if you willingly make the choices to follow your dream, the price you willing bear and is in no way regrettable. But more importantly, you can make your dreams happen!

Very motivational and inspirational, thanks for sharing it! Since you mentioned Landis, Asimov, Heinlein and Clark, who is your favorite writer/author? Has she/he influenced your writing in any way?

Oh wow, I don’t think it’s possible to name just one. But I think each one endeared themselves to me uniquely and each taught me different things.

For example, Heinlein taught me that science fiction can be the vehicle by which you can explore new “big ideas” and that it’s not just about aliens and laser guns.

A. C. Clark taught me to think like a futurist. S. Hawking gave me eyes on the galactic scale. V. Vinge exposed me to the world of post-dystopian futures. O. Butler placed me in the minds of alien species and their motivations. P. Anthony taught me about the humors side of the world of fantasy and J. Rosenberg let me experience that realm first hand with the grit and gore that made it real. Certainly not last is A. Rand that introduced me to objectivism that has dramatically shaped my ideas in many areas of my life.

So as you can see, with so many great teachers out there, it is very hard to name just one.

That's very true. And how many books have you written? What are your plans for the future of your writing career?

To date, I have published “Third Exodus” which is the first volume of the series “In the Days of Humans”. At the time of this article I have the second volume in the hands of the beta readers and have begun writing the third volume. And in my moments of distraction, I am fleshing out the outlines for a few other books that I am quite excited about – one is even ventures into the world of religious text, which is very unusual for me not being a religious person. I guess I find this story concept interesting because I consider myself more spiritual being having a human experience, rather than the corollary.

But my goals for my writing career are to continue writing quality stories that leave the reader changed and hopefully with something extra – however long that takes.

Great to know your second book is coming soon! Good luck with all the projects. Are you optimistic/hopeful/romantic?

Yes! To all of those. While it might not seem so on the surface on the books that I have written / am writing, but underneath you will see that I always give the reader the ray of hope and resolution. I guess this is where my writer influencers come in to play. Most of them write about the contagiously exciting future and possibilities. And at NASA we ask the question “How do we make it happen?” not “It can’t be done because …”.

While I do not manage my teams using hope as a motivator as I feel that’s unfair and to some extent deceptive. However, I do feel that in the course of a story, that is what you need to get you through hard times. And that I think is fair so long as it manifests itself in something positive once you are through the trial’s gauntlet.

Life is hard. You have your good times and your bad. I think the world is, and is shaped, by your perceptions and your viewpoints. So being an optimists, and a romantic, I present my stories in a similar light.

That's really interesting. So, now that we're so excited about your book, where can we find it?

Network links:
Twitter: @terry_r_hill

Sale links:
•    Amazon (Kindle): 
•    Barnes & Nobles (Nook):
•    Kobo Books:
•    Also available on Apple iBooks – just search for In the Days of Humans

Perfect. Thanks, now we know where to go to find out more about you and your work. Is there anything else you'd like to share today?

For those who might be interested in my writing or style thereof, I offer up the following two snippets from “In the Days of Humans: Third Exodus”

One tick of the clock passed. The President exhaled. How had their well-meaning efforts led them here? The hope and fate of the world likely was held on the point of his decision. It wasn’t supposed to work out this way. “Unless there are any better ideas...?” He paused but was not met by any reply, “Alright, go make it happen!”

The crowd quickly began to disperse. The phone rang. Everyone stopped in place as if rehearsed and slowly turned to face the President as he answered.
“Hello?” The muffled sounds of an excited voice came from the other end of the line. Sinking into his chair, the President’s face paled and turned graven as he ended the call. Oh God…


The President spoke quietly and with great effort. “We no longer have control of our nuclear arsenal. There are reports of at least fifteen domestic launch signatures. The preliminary trajectories will take them to D.C. and fourteen of the largest cities in the US. The same is being reported by all of the other countries with nuclear strike capability.”

The lights flickered and went out. The room erupted with action as all bodies mobilized in an effort to come up with evacuation plans for all the major cities, including their own.

A rather frantic staffer approached the President. “Sir, we need to get you onto Air Force One, now! We have sent for the First Lady to meet you at the plane.”
He sat motionless, stunned. What had they done? “Sir, we have to leave NOW!!”


The last person was on board and the doors to Air Force One were still closing as the aircraft picked up speed down the runway. The atmosphere in the plane was organized chaos, but with movements of purpose. Silence dominated the cabin when the President turned to the General of Special Ops and asked, “What is the latest?”

“Sir, we have taken down about forty five percent of the Internet hardware and have units en route to directly take down as much of the rest as they can. Sir, I have to remind you that the original Internet was designed by the military to survive and negotiate hardware taken out by a nuclear attack. It has evolved over the last sixty or so years. I honestly don’t think we can take it completely down. We have reports of a thirty percent success rate at taking out the satellites. Our anti-missile system was not designed to fire away from the Earth and take out communication satellites in geostationary orbit. We lost control of that system five minutes ago. We just can’t keep ahead of Blue’s decryption capabilities.”

The President leaned forward in his seat and cradled his head in his trembling hands and then slowly looked back up at the general. “That leaves us with only one option. Contact any country still in control of their conventional or nuclear weapons and ask them to strike all places on Earth where Blue has assets. This is our only hope to have a future, any future. Send the list of worldwide targets, and may God forgive me.”

From the quiet of space where sound has no reign, the blue planet slowly rotated. Silently the continents crept into view, the resplendent cerulean oceans and forested landmasses were replaced by the glow of inflamed crimson and oranges and the shadows of darkness. The cloud cover was occasionally punctuated with flashes that parted the sky like the hands of God himself making room for the growing, glowing, rolling columns that served as ferryman to transport the souls of billions from the Earth to their respective, assumed destinations. As the Earth’s surface rotated into the blackness of perpetual night, the places where cities once illuminated the darkness now only briefly glowed with the transient life of fire that quickly extinguished itself, leaving a world as it had been before humankind walked upright across its face.

Or …

Evah was early and stood alone in the desert on this unusually cloudy morning for this wasteland, at the agreed upon coordinates. A clear path was worn in the hard earth as she paced while waiting. She hoped that they would arrive soon. Evah checked her watch for the thousandth time, and then heard what sounded like three mighty drum beats off in the distance. That must be the sonic booms of the Yamakarā, she thought to herself. They would be here any minute!

Scanning the sky in the direction of the last signal of its approach she finally saw what she was searching for. As large as a mountain and with the magnificent wings of a mighty, ancient black dragon, the Yamakarā punched through the cloud bank and glided silently to a stop on top of a choking blanket of rushing air, dust, and sand. She caught herself jumping with joy and clapping her hands like a schoolgirl as the vehicle rolled to a stop. Heat radiating from the ship made it seem alive, overheated, and weary from its long journey. This was not the spacecraft that left Earth four years ago; it was something completely different. Something beautiful, but not of her world.

She quickly moved to place the portable stairs where the external hatch should be and secured everything in preparation for the egress of the crew. Almost convinced it was taking too long and there must be something wrong, she sighed with relief as the hatch opened inwardly and one of the young engineers stuck his head out, waved, and shouted a greeting. To her surprise, as the crew departed the ship her eyes welled with tears of joy. Her long departed crew had finally returned home, if only for a short while.

Wow, these are great! Thank you so much for sharing your book's excerpts here and thank you for your time in granting us this very educative interview! Much success with your books!

No comments :

Post a Comment