Robert Waters and the Wayward Eight

What was your first paid piece that you wrote?

The first paiRobert E Watersd piece of fiction that I wrote was a story titled “The Assassin’s Retirement Party,” published in 2003 in Weird Tales, Issue #332. Not only was it exciting to see my first story in print, but I was also sharing space in that issue with one of the finest short story writers in the sf/fantasy genre, the late Robert Sheckley. I was so thrilled to be in the same issue with him that I sent an email to him and we had a very pleasant correspondence. He was a nice man and a great writer, and the sf field was lessened by his passing.

 

How did you start writing for Wild West Exodus?

I was talking shop with Clint Lee Werner (aka CL Werner), a most excellent author of several Warhammer Fantasy novels, and he happened to mention that a company he was writing for at the time, Outlaw Miniatures, was looking for authors to write books in their new gaming universe, Wild West Exodus. He gave me WWX mastermind Romeo Filip’s email address, and we started talking ideas. One thing led to another, and finally the conversation fell to the Wayward Eight. I banged out a plot for the novel and sent it to Romeo for approval, and I started writing it mid-February of this year.

 Is the Wayward Eight your first full length novel?  What did you find the most challenging?

Yes, the Wayward Eight is my first full length novel. Up to this point, I have been primarily a short story writer, and of course, there is a big difference between having to write a story of 4-5 thousand words versus having to crank out an 80k plus word novel. So, the most challenging part for me was having to discipline myself to write at least 1,000 words per day. My thinking was, “Do that and within three months, I’ll be sitting on 90,000 words.” And of course, some days would be better than others; I’d get in more than a thousand. In the end, I came very close, missing the initial deadline only by a few days. So, not only has it been rewarding to write in such a rich, vibrant universe as WWX, it’s also been invaluable teaching tool for me as a writer.

 What else have been writing besides WWX?

As I mentioned above, I’ve been selling fiction professionally since 2003. Things began to escalate after 2007, with the publication of a story in a Warhammer Fantasy anthology titled Tales of the Old World. From that moment on, I began to sell regularly to various online and print magazines and anthologies. These days, I often write stories set in Eric Flint’s 1632/Ring of Fire universe, an alternate history series published by Baen Books. I’ve also written several stories set in a few notable universes of my own. Namely, my “Devil Dancers” stories featuring an Apache fighter squadron in a galactic war against a wolverine-like race known as the Gulo. I’ve also continued to write stories about the assassin from my first story sale, and I’ve begun a series of paranormal investigation stories that I call the “Joe Littlecloud” series. For a full list of everything that I’ve written to date, you can visit my website at www.roberternestwaters.com.

 What is the most challenging thing about writing genre fiction?

Making it fun to read. Over the years I’ve learned that there are a lot of people who can string sentences and paragraphs together, but that in and of itself does not make a story fun, challenging, or thought-provoking. Genre fiction relies heavily on good plotting, and so I make a point to spend as much time as I can working out the details of a story, no matter how small it is, before I actually sit down to write it. That, coupled with good, compelling characters, is what every piece of genre fiction needs to be successful.

 Have you had any writer and/or person influence your style?

Several, in fact. Some of my early influences were Robert Sheckley, Clifford Simak, Robert Silverberg, Harry Harrison, and Glen Cook. These guys filled my shelves with novels after novels that I devoured like candy. And looking back, I’d also have to say that Stephen King was a big influence, most notably in how many of his early novels handled dialogue. When they spoke, his characters were so real to me. It was like standing at a street corner and talking to people that I knew. These days, my work is heavily influenced by writers like George RR Martin, the late great CJ Henderson, and Charles E Gannon, all of which have styles that are quite envious and worthy of study. I must also say that over the years, I’ve found a lot to enjoy in the work of so-called literary mainstream authors, such as John Updike, T.C. Boyle, E.L. Doctorow, and Don DeLillo. The plots of their novels often leave a lot to be desired, but that’s not why I read them. How they turn a phrase or how they describe the world, the internal dialogue of, and the relationships between, their characters. There’s a goldmine of worthy nuggets that can be harvested by reading mainstream fiction, and I think genre authors can learn a lot from these kinds of authors.

What do you do when you aren’t writing fabulous novels and what do your colleagues, friends and family say about it?

In my day job, I design games. I’ve worked in the gaming industry since 1994 when I served as a Managing Editor at the Avalon Hill Game Company. These days, I work at BreakAway Games and help to design and develop so-called “serious” games, those used in simulations, education, or in business/medical training. When I’m not doing that or writing, I can be found either playing games or going to the movies. I love movies; there’s a lot that genre writers can learn from movie structure as well. My wife and son rarely see me between the months of April and June, and November and December, when all the good ones are released.

What’s your favorite color?

Blue… don’t ask me why.

 

How much historical research do you do for a book of fiction?

I tend to write stories that rely heavily on historical research. For the Wayward Eight, I spent a lot of time combing through books about the Wild West, and I even read several Zane Grey novels just to get the “feel” for the time period. For my 1632/Ring of Fire stories, I have to do a lot of research about 17th Century Europe, and for a story I once wrote set during the Mexican War of the 1840’s, I read three full books about the conflict, including a biography on Robert E Lee’s career before the Civil War. So, yes, a lot of time and effort goes into researching topics. I’ve probably learned more about everything, since I’ve begun researching stories, than in all my high school and college years combined.

 

Do you think you will ever get the hankering to write non-fiction?

Perhaps, if a subject ever comes up that really speaks to me. I do find the Mexican War most fascinating. It’s one of those near-forgotten American conflicts more influential than people give it credit for. Nearly every significant Civil War officer (Grant, Sherman, Lee, Longstreet, the list goes on) cut his teeth in that war of choice. I also find ancient Meso- and South American culture fascinating. I’ve often thought about writing an Alternate History where the Incan Empire never fell, but in contrast, rose up to be a global and, eventually, a stellar power. But of course, that would be fiction. I’m also keen on taking a crack at writing historical fiction.

 

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a Neil Diamond fan (well, perhaps some people wouldn’t be surprised about that). Not so much that I have all his records/CD’s or anything, but I never miss a chance to hear him on the radio, and I often drop on You-Tube and other music sites to listen to his singles. I mean, who can argue with the qualities of a song like “Stones” or “Shiloh” or “I Am…I Said”? I know, I’ve now opened myself up to ridicule and disgust. But that’s okay; I refer everyone to my answer to #13 below.

 

How much of a role does an editor have on your writing?

Years ago, CJ Henderson once said that I took direction like a pro; meaning, that I was very receptive to editorial comment and revision. I’ve tried to live up to that statement ever since. I welcome editorial input. Naturally, like every author, I don’t always agree with an editor’s comments, but the best editors leave room for compromise. Winged Hussar’s editor Brandon Rospond, for example, is a very conscientious editor who never changes a word without author agreement. The way I approach an editor’s suggested change is that I ask myself one basic question: “Am I going to lose sleep over this revision?” If the answer is no, then I accept it. If yes, then the editor and I discuss it, and a solution is found.

 

What is the best question you have ever gotten on an interview?

“Why the hell are you in my office?” A college professor from the University of Memphis asked me this in my freshman year when I went there to interview him about an article I was writing for the school paper. And he wasn’t kidding. I must have caught him on a bad day, or perhaps he was just a jerk. Whatever the reason, being so young and nervous about conducting the interview in the first place, I nearly ran out of the room. But I didn’t, and in some ways it was the best question I’ve ever gotten. I stood my ground, stared at him for a moment, kept my cool, and told him why I was there. After that, he calmed down and we got to business. What do they say… eighty percent of success is showing up? A big part of that is also not being scared off.

 

Because we can’t end on 13, is there one character you like writing about more than any other in WWX?

There are many characters of the WWX universe that I introduce to readers in The Wayward Eight, and I enjoyed writing them all. Every member of that mercenary unit is unique and worthy of remembrance and further stories. But I guess if you took a Webley Bull Dog and pressed it to my head, I’d have to say that Robert “The Wraith” Gunther was one of the most compelling characters to write about. From the moment I saw his miniature and concept art, I knew his storyline would be fraught with bad-ass adventure. The guy reeks of a cool cruelty, but he has a roughish moral code that makes you root for him in the end, and I hope I get a chance to write about him in the future.

 

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