Where did you get the idea for Building Baby Brother?
To be honest, I don’t remember where the actual idea for the plot came from. The story itself started as part of an exercise that, well, kind of got out hand. My son’s charter had planned to sponsor an event to help foster reading and writing skills by asking students and willing family members to write a short story and then read it out loud at this event. Always willing to write, particularly for a good cause such as that one, I started pondering possible story ideas. I knew I wanted something kind of ‘‘Twilight Zone”-ish—something short, entertaining, but with a fun twist at the end. From there, the basic concept of the story was born.
Every author develops their stories differently. In your case, did you create an outline first, or just choose a direction, or something else?
I rarely work from an outline for a short story. They are usually based on some concept I want to explore and I kind of see where the characters involved take it. In case, since it was originally only supposed to be 2,000 words, I felt a full-fledged outline might be overkill As a result, though, the last third or so of the story went a direction that surprised even me.
No story ever flows smoothly as it’s created. What parts, or scenes were the hardest to develop?
I always have trouble with the middle. They say that maintaining the story and pace in the second book of a trilogy is often difficult, and I think the same thing is true about the middle of any story. I usually know how to start my stories and have a pretty good idea how it will end either when I start it or before I get a quarter of the way through it. In this story, probably the most difficult scene was scene with the police because I needed something that would transition the story from its setup to exploring the implications of the actions performed in its first half. I had a really tough time coming up with a scene that would work that would get me to where I wanted the story to go.
Another question I’m sure authors get asked all the time is, what made you decide to be a writer? With all the professions around, why get into writing?
Why not? I’ve always wanted to create—whether it be writing or filmmaking. There’s immensely satisfying about “putting on a show” and presenting it to an audience. With writing, perhaps even more than with filmmaking, you can have full control over your production: all the way from set design, costuming, and casting. Of course, when you sell the movie rights, you tend to lose those.
Where and when do you like to write? I know that David Weber has said that he prefers the evenings, as it allows him to relax and concentrate. What are your favorite conditions for writing?
Peace and quiet—and good luck getting that! My preferred writing environment is where were I’m unlikely to be interrupted. I prefer to be able to get mentally lost in the world that I’m writing about. I find that the characters tend to be more vivid in my mind and are more to behave as they should so that mostly all I have to do is transcribe as they take whatever action the story requires of them. I’ve written in a lot of places: home, work, coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotel rooms… I’m pretty good at tuning out external distractions. Still, a quiet environment is my preference. Also, I don’t write with music on in the background; I find it too distracting.
Do you feel that a story needs to have relevance in society?
I think that having some kind of social relevance helps to deepen a story. The trick, though, is to do it in such a way that it doesn’t feel preachy or pedantic to the reader. That can turn them off to the message (and story!) very quickly.
Comics are used at times to offer controversial subjects in stories. In Civil War, the idea of registration comes up. Do you feel Building Baby Brother has touched a subject that could become more important as robotics and Artificial Intelligence become more sophisticated?
I think it raises the point that we probably need to re-examine our preconceptions about AI, much of which is driven by popular science fiction films, television, and literature.
It’s been said that all great stories like Building Baby Brother are built on previous works the writer had read. In that vein who, influenced your vision of the story?
There are several influences to this story, some of which are even subtly referenced during the course of the story. One of the inspirations that kept coming to my mind as I wrote and edited it was David Gerrold’s When Harlie Was One. (I still prefer the original edition. Sorry, David.) Other conscious influences were the movie A.I. and, of course, Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’m certain that there were many, many unconscious influences as well, such as Mycroft Holmes from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but none I specifically set out to emulate.
Were there any books that helped solidify your idea, or an author you enjoyed reading that might have given you ideas on style and presentation?
As I mentioned in my answer to your previous question, I think David Gerrold, with When Harlie Was One, was a major influence, both thematically and stylistically. Finding the right voice for this story was definitely a challenge-and one of the reasons that I very rarely tell a story from a first-person point-of-view. I felt that this story, though, demanded a first-person narrative perspective. Other than that, I can’t say that any specific storytelling style influenced the one used in this story. I’m not saying that it isn’t there, just like that I don’t recall using any other author’s particular style as an inspiration or template.