Please welcome Nicholas Sansbury Smith to the blog! I was thrilled to be able to ask Nick about his Orbs series (Book 2 is out this week), and much more!
Orbs 2: Stranded, just dropped and you’ve got Orbs 3: Redemption coming out in 2015 from Simon451. Will you tell us more about the series and what inspired you to write it?
The inspiration for the Orbs series came from a variety of sources, so it’s hard to narrow it down, but I can tell you where the idea behind the title started. Two years ago I was vacationing in Mexico. The second to last night of the trip I was strolling across our resort when I discovered these beautiful blue spheres. They were set up for a wedding along the ocean, with the surf crashing on the beach behind them. It was a beautiful and kind of odd sight. At that point, the idea of the biosphere was already firmly planted in my mind. So was the premise of human’s disappearing after Dr. Sophie Winston’s team entered the biosphere. But when I saw the glowing balls and the ocean beyond I began thinking about the invasion and the pieces finally came together. Orbs was a story I wanted to tell for years, and it really came together after Mexico and during my Ironman triathlon training. I spent thousands of hours running, biking and swimming to prepare for that race and much of what you read in Orbs was created in my mind during the training.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?
I went to college thinking I would eventually go to law school. Then I graduated and had a job offer to work at the Iowa State House for Governor Tom Vilsack. I took it and started a graduate night program. I wasn’t happy. Deep down I always fantasized about writing full-time. I loved to tell stories and I wrote a couple of books in college that were unfortunately lost when my laptop was stolen. My idea behind my debut novel, The Biomass Revolution came to me when I was working at the state house. Some of my friends read Biomass and encouraged me to self-publish the story. I did, and nothing really happened. I spent the next year researching self-publishing and writing Orbs. By the time I was ready to release Orbs I had a solid marketing strategy. I launched the book, and by a stroke of luck and some skill I had an international bestseller. Everything else just kind of happened. I’m still in shock to this day. I absolutely love what I’m doing and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve had so many stories swimming in my mind for years. Releasing them to the world has to be the greatest thing ever. I write for you all.
What kind of research did you do for the Orbs series?
I spent most of my time researching biospheres, solar weather and the science behind the loss of water. The goal was to create a feasible science fiction story that dealt with the removal of all of Earth’s fresh and salt water. I was lucky to have a contact at NASA that read my first book. He answered quite a few of my questions about the environmental issues in the book and helped a good deal with the solar storms.
With that said some of the readers weren’t happy with the science. And I’m the first to admit it was lacking in parts. This was one of the reasons I signed with a traditional publisher. I wanted to work with an editor that would help me remaster Orbs and then go on to help me write an even better Orbs II and Orbs III. When we were revising Orbs, my editor connected me with a scientist who helped tighten the science in the story. This helped immensely and paved the groundwork for the technology and science that we used in the second and third installment.
Why SF? What do you love most about reading, and writing, in the genre?
Wonderful question. I fell in love with science fiction at a young age. Star Wars, Aliens, The X-Files, Halo, Doom. These were all significant parts of my childhood. As some readers point out there are bits of inspiration from all of these stories embedded in Orbs.
When I pick up a good science fiction book it takes me to a new world, a place that I will never physically travel too. I love that feeling of wonder a good book gives me. Science fiction is all about the question, what if?
What is your writing process like? Chaos or organized chaos (or a bit of both)?
Right now it’s a combination. I’m working on a lot of projects. Although my main focus has been finishing the Orbs series. Before I even start a book I write down a pitch or long synopsis. Then I outline the book in detail, write character profiles and dive right in. Organization is key, I think, to a cohesive book with good pacing.
As far as my schedule, I usually start my morning by reading and drinking coffee. Then I jump into the writing and or editing. If I write in the morning then I edit in the afternoon and vice versa. I enjoy having several projects going because writing a series can become mundane. It’s good to have alternate stories to work on. As long as I can keep them straight. Inside baseball—there have been times I’ve written the wrong characters name in the wrong book. Guilty on that. That’s why we have editors, right? *Disclaimer: I didn’t have an editor look at this interview so my apologies for any typos!
What are a few of your favorite authors or books?
My favorite book of all time is The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. I’ve read it countless times. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of Rick Yancey. The Fifth Wave was freaking awesome. So was The Darwin Elevator by Jason Hough. I’m obviously a sucker for alien invasion stories. Something about extraterrestrial life coming to Earth scares the crap out of me. Ever seen Fire in the Sky? I didn’t sleep well for weeks after I saw that movie. The Doom books also kept me up late when I was a kid.
What are you currently reading?
A book called Three by Jay Posey. A friend of mine recommended the novel. I really dig the writing style and I am borderline obsessed with the post-apocalyptic genre. So this has really been a great find.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Great question. I’d have to say The Forever War. That book had a profound impact on my life and if I had to pick one book before having my memory wiped, I’d pick this one, no question.
When you’re not writing, or running, how do you like to spend your free time?
With my friends and my family. I’m very close to my parents and twin brother. They all live in Des Moines. My brother and his wife just had a baby boy. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time over at their house.
In 2013 I started a not-for-profit that focuses on animal welfare. This is something I’m very passionate about. I hope to adopt a second dog and run with him/her in races to raise money for the NFP in 2015.
When I’m not training or traveling I’m usually reading or watching movies. I’m kind of simple, really.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
There is one thing. I’ve heard from aspiring writers from all around the world. With self-publishing on the rise a lot of authors have asked what I did to get where I’m at. My response is usually the same—stay true to your genre and your ideas. Most importantly, never stop writing. No matter what! Even if your first book tanks (The Biomass Revolution), or an agent tells you it’s not for them. Storytelling can be a roller coaster, but in the end it’s all about the stories. For those of you reading this post that may be considering writing a novel, I would say the same thing. Pick up a pen or open a laptop and write. See where your words take you. You might be surprised where you end up.
About ORBS 2:
Dr. Sophie Winston and her team of survivors fend off the alien invasion in Orbs II: Stranded, the second book in Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s bestselling Orbs series.
At the end of the world, who can you trust?
The aliens have invaded, wiping out almost all life on earth. Their goal: water. Huge spaceships are draining the oceans, and the few remaining humans have been herded into farms, where their bodies are harvested to support the growing alien army.
Humanity’s last chance lies in the biospheres that have been planted secretly across the globe. But all is not peaceful in the biosphere led by Dr. Sophie Winston. With resources dwindling and tensions high, her small group of survivors is divided. Some want to fight, some want to stay hidden, and Sophie just wants to keep everyone alive.
When one of their own, eleven-year-old Jeff, is kidnapped by the Organics, Sophie is forced to pick sides. With the help of a promising new magnetic weapon, the biosphere team just might have a fighting chance to save Jeff and the world–if they live long enough to use it.