Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Get to know Steve Umstead

I met Steve Umstead through Twitter. He's a great guy and a great author. He wrote a fantastic book titled Gabriel's Redemption. It's the first book in a planned trilogy and a great value at $2.99. (Amazon/UK/Barnes and Noble) It's an interplanetary adventure that races to an exciting finish. I sent Steve a few questions. He sent me a few answers back -- while on a vacation out of the country, no less. Take a few minutes and get to know him.
Give me a three sentence summary of Gabriel's Redemption.

Gabriel's Redemption is a near-future science fiction/adventure story of a man, a disgraced Special Forces soldier, who lost his team and his command on a far-off planet called Eden. Now, plucked from the slums of the Caribbean, he is given a chance for redemption, with a new team, a new mission, on a new world. However, the mission, and the people behind it, aren't quite as they seem.

Where did the story for Gabriel's Redemption come from?

The story was written during 2010's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but the premise behind it was a scene I've had in my head for perhaps a decade. That one opening chapter, the people in it, the past that's behind it, created the entire story, and the character of Commander Evan Gabriel himself. I just knew there was a complete story behind it. And since it's an ebook, readers can download a sample and see what I mean by that first chapter...

Now pitch me on the next book in the series.

The next in the trilogy, Gabriel's Return, is, as of this writing, in the final editing stages and should be out for public consumption by mid-August. Commander Evan Gabriel and his team, having survived the previous mission mostly-intact, are being sent on a highly secret new mission, one to rescue an important relative of a good friend, and to take down a terrorist organization. However, the mission takes Gabriel back to Eden, the planet where he barely survived a massacre that killed his entire team five years ago, and the mission which cost him his command. Plenty of jungle-based combat scenes intermixed with political intrigue on three different worlds.

What are your plans for future books, both in and out of this series?

There is a third, and final, book in the Evan Gabriel trilogy (obviously!), tentatively titled Gabriel's Revenge. Things happen at the end of Book 2 that Gabriel struggles with and teeters on the brink of losing control, and he has his enemies in his scope. 
As for after that, I've already got a half a page of notes on a different type of science fiction story, one involving a planetary disaster and time travel (I'll have to ask my teen son, who apparently knows quantum physics better than I do, for assistance). Also, I plan to drift a bit out of my usual genre for a stab at a present-day technothriller, as I was a big fan of Tom Clancy (back when he actually wrote his own books).

I'm stealing a question from Declan Burke. What three words would best describe your writing?

Hmm, good question. Um, Pulitzer Prize worthy? No, probably not…let's go with imaginative, realistic, and enjoyable.

As a self-publisher, you're really the head of a small publishing company. Has your experience owning your own small travel business helped you in your publishing endeavors? If so, how?

Actually, yes. Last year, before the writing bug ever became real, I set up our company's social media program from scratch. Facebook company page, Twitter account, Flickr, LinkedIn, et al. That gave me a big leg up (in my opinion) on having to launch my own program soon after publishing the book. Yes, absolutely, I should have started the social media program before publishing the book…but I didn't expect to actually publish. It was done for fun, so, when it happened, I found it easy to put a social media program together. I also think I have a pretty good grasp on web design to appeal to customers, an understanding of the financial and tax processes, that sort of thing. Whether that will ever translate into success…we'll see!

What's the most surprising thing you've discovered in the writing/publishing process?

That there are SO MANY other people, great people, out there, that are all in the same boat. I've been alive for forty *cough…mumble* years, and I'm not sure if I've ever run into such an amazing group of people. Everyone with the same goal, the same challenges, the same drives. Real, true, down-to-earth people; best I've ever run into. Truly incredible -- if I never sell another book as long as I live, I know I've found a form of success in the people I've met, people I know will be there for years to come. (As an aside, yes, most of them have been online. However, I was privileged enough to meet nine of them in person at Readercon, and they're just as fantastic in person -- if not more so -- than online…and I look forward to meeting many more.)

How long have you been reading science fiction? What authors influenced you?

I have been reading voraciously since I was very young -- one of my first memories was when I was 7 and read both Jaws and All The President's Men in my mother's room. As for science fiction, Star Wars in 1977 changed everything for me. Reading-wise, early on Arthur C. Clarke (there's a nod to one of his postulations in my novels) would be one of the first I can remember. I'm actually not a classic scifi reader; most of what I enjoy have been fairly recent, most notably David Weber, Charles Sheffield, Peter F. Hamilton, and John Scalzi.

Give us a quick recommended reading list. What little-known books have you discovered that more people should know about?

The Ragamuffin series from Tobias Buckell I felt was so amazingly entertaining and well-written, but you never hear anything about it. And while Weber is widely known, his Safehold series (number four is in my TBR list) was fascinating.

Now how about the three books that you couldn't live without.

Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising was probably the book that influenced me most, and I might not have had the writing bug without it. Great multiple plot, world conflict, tech and characters blend. I think I've read it four or five times. David Weber's first in the Honor Harrington series was excellent. He's an absolute master at realistic (physics-wise) space combat. And let's go with Peter Benchley's Jaws, in the original printed form (not movie). I still, after thirty *cough…mumble* years, can picture scenes from it in my head, scenes that were not in the movie. It really had a profound impact on me as a reader.

Finally, what's next for you? Anything we should know about?

For me? Finishing off the Evan Gabriel trilogy, hopefully by the end of this calendar year, and closing out his story. A few new works I mention above, as well as working on getting the Gabriel name out there to potential readers. But maybe the most exciting thing I have coming up is helping further my son's writing career as best I can. He published his first work last month, a young adult science fiction novelette called Shifter, for Amazon/BN/Smashwords, which honestly blew me away. I knew, know, that he's an incredibly gifted and intelligent kid, but seeing 10,000 words on paper, as well-written as they were, took my breath away. It's the first in a series of novelettes about the same character, and he's spending his summer working on a full-length novel. Big proud papa here...

Check out more from Steve at his blog.


  1. I had the privilege of meeting Steve at Readercon and he's not only a great writer but a lovely person as well.

  2. Great interview! Thanks for sharing a bit of your world.

  3. Thanks for a great interview, guys.

  4. A great interview with a great author. Thanks to both of you!