Donald J. Bingle, whose books include Greensword: A Tale of Extreme Global Warming and Father’s Day, talks about his approach to writing and his plans for the future.
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do? Or is it something that you started fairly recently?
I am a gamer turned writer. I was the world’s top-ranked tournament player of classic role-playing games (like Dungeons & Dragons, Top Secret, Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia, etc.) for about fifteen years. I started out writing by writing tournament adventures for others to play, as a way of giving back to the hobby. From there I started writing gaming material: monsters, published adventures, rulebook materials, and world-building supplements–even movie reviews in a gaming-related comic book.
I was then asked to write some tie-in fiction for gaming worlds like Dragonlance and expanded generally into short fiction in the science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller, steampunk, romance, and comedy genres. Many of my short stories were written on very short deadlines as a replacement writer or extra writer when an anthology was short on stories or wordcount. Many of these stories, as well as a few others not previously published, are collected in my Writer on Demand TM collections by genre: Tales of Gamers and Gaming, Tales of Humorous Horror, Tales Out of Time, Grim, Fair e-Tales, Tales of an Altered Past Powered by Romance, Horror, and Steam.
I started writing longer: a novelette, a novella, and eventually three novels. Along the way, I’ve also written a couple of screenplays and miscellaneous other things, like an award-winning humorous short memoir about my dad, called Father’s Day.
Tell me a little about your books.
Net Impact is a spy thriller, but I didn’t want to write about a supercool spy who could do anything or about an anonymous loner. I wanted to write about a guy with some spy skills (former Ranger, former cop) who has a wife and a kid and a mortgage, but secretly goes around the globe fixing problems as best he can (though he uses a few more explosives than his boss would like). I also wanted to deal with some real new problems posed by technology and use a real–though bizarre–conspiracy theory that has a life on the world wide web. Here’s the promo text:
Dick Thornby is not Hollywood’s idea of a spy. In his rough and tumble job there are no tailored Italian suits, no bimbos eager to please, and no massive underground fortresses built by evil overlords seeking world domination—just an endless series of sinister threats to the safety and security of the billions of mundane citizens of the planet. Sure, Dick’s tough and he knows a few tricks to help him get out of a tight spot, even if his boss accuses him of over-reliance on an abundance of explosives. But he’s also got a mortgage, a wife upset by his frequent absences on “business” trips, and an increasingly alienated teen-age son who spends way too much time playing in gaming worlds on the computer.
When a mission to bust up an arms exchange in New Zealand goes spectacularly bad, Dick is forced to partner with an espionage neophyte to battle evil on multiple fronts, leading to a final confrontation that incorporates real-world conspiracy theories and cutting-edge technology.
In the end, Dick can save his partner, save his marriage, save his son, or save the world, but he can’t do it all.
Greensword: A Tale of Extreme Global Warming is a darkly comedic eco-thriller about three misfit environmentalists tasked by their movie star benefactor with eliminating global warming NOW, before his beach house slides into the ocean. It skewers both sides of the climate change debate for over-simplifying a complex problem and makes fun of extremism within the context of a what-will-happen-next thriller. Here’s the promo text:
They’re about to save the world; they just don’t want to get caught doing it.
Zeke, Milo, and Brandon are struggling to keep their environmental protest group, GreensWord, alive. It impresses chicks and sure beats getting jobs as corporate serfs in the real world. But their chief benefactor, movie star Matthew Barrington, threatens to cut off funding unless they stop global warming before his Malibu beach house slides into the storm-tossed ocean. In their desperate effort to save the beach house and their organization, the GreensWord trio is willing to try almost anything. No plan is so illegal, so risky, or so stupid that they won’t lend it an ear. But nothing is fast enough to stop global warming in time … until they think of the unthinkable solution.
And although they may be crazed fanatics, they’ve watched enough T.V. to think they know exactly what to do to foil any investigation of their noble crime. And if their drastic solution to global warming means they also take out the reigning internet tycoon and his monopolistic software company, that’s just organic frosting on the vegan cake.
One person can make a difference in the world.
Of course, three people with a plan to stop global warming overnight can make a big difference.
Greensword is a dark comedy about the environment, extremism, stupid criminals, and the lengths to which people will go to avoid getting a real job.
Says Hugo/Nebula Award Winner, Robert J. Sawyer: “Science fiction has always been a great vehicle for biting satire and social commentary, from H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine right on up to Donald Bingle’s engrossing Greensword. Bingle is a terrific writer”.
From Library Journal: “The author of Forced Conversion demonstrates his talent for dark comedy in the style of Kurt Vonnegut and Victor Gischler. Bingle takes aim at both sides of the global warming controversy, addressing global complexities in comedic trappings for a cautionary tale that belongs in most libraries”.
Says USA Today Bestselling Author of the Warlands trilogy, Elizabeth A Vaughan: “I loved Greensword. The characters made me laugh right out loud, but the actions of this group of half-cocked people, with a half-assed plan, had me gasping in horror as their implausible schemes became all too plausibly real. Suddenly, the twists of the chilling plot had me turning the pages, unable to look away from the macabre tale and yet still chuckling guiltily as the story reached its terrifying climax in a horribly real way. Greensword is a darkly humorous, gripping thriller that combines environmental imperatives, terrorist activities, and sex in ways that still make me wake up in a cold sweat, months after reading the book, convinced that it could happen”.
From the American Library Association’s Booklist: “A novel about three slacker environmentalists may seem an unlikely vehicle for edge-of-the-seat suspense, yet Bingle’s satirical ecoterrorist thriller just might haunt readers’ nightmares for days. Zeke, Milo, and Brandon are twentysomething conservationists whose only claim to fame, aside from a little TV footage spotlighting their faltering environmentalist organization, GreensWord, is their dubious relationship to action movie star Matthew Barrington. Desperate to save his lavish Malibu beachfront property from global-warming-induced surf damage, Barrington cuts GreensWord a million-dollar check, stipulating that its recipients do something about the ecological crisis immediately. Their ensuing, hare-brained schemes to put the money to good use only generate legal woes until they hit upon one that seems fool-proof … Needless to say, nothing goes quite as planned, and Bingle’s storytelling acumen makes the scenario all too chillingly plausible”.
Forced Conversion, my first novel, is near-future military science fiction. Here’s the promo text:
Everyone can have heaven, any heaven they want, but some people don’t want to go.
Mankind has largely retreated to the realms of virtual reality, where resources are unlimited and the problems of the real world–violence, conflict, sickness, and pain–can all be avoided. Unfortunately, those who stay behind in the real world pose the only risk to the immortality of those who have converted to virtual existence.
Derek, a soldier in the Conversion Forces (ConFoes), seeks to enforce the Mandatory Conversion Act on the remaining mals (malcontent Luddites, gangbangers, and religious fanatics). He just wants to put in his time and join his family on one of the virtual worlds. But until then, he is forced to deal with his psychotic squad-mates, the increasingly brutal tactics of the ConFoes, and a mal ambush. And that’s just the beginning of his journey.
While most speculative and science fiction deals with worlds transformed by technological advance, Forced Conversion highlights the troubling and chaotic process of that transformation, itself. It combines the adrenaline-soaked action of military fiction with the extrapolation of current scientific trends of the best speculative fiction, while dealing with the moral and religious implications of both war and technology.
When Moore’s Law meets God’s Law, the result is forced conversion.
Says Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Author: “Visceral, bloody — and one hell of a page turner! Bingle tackles the philosophical issues surrounding uploaded consciousness in a fresh, exciting way. This is the debut of a major novelist — don’t miss it.”
Says Ed Greenwood, Creator of The Forgotten Realms™ and Author of the bestselling Elminster novels: “I loved it! Many writers have explored hard-hitting and brutal possible futures for Earth, and told colorful tales of people trying to stay alive in them, but few have brought such imagined futures as vividly to life as Don Bingle — and no other book I can think of examines how and why such a future might just happen as well as Forced Conversion does — or provides half the breath-catching twists and turns of Bingle’s yarn. A ‘good read’ of the old school, coupled with all-too-plausible reasons for everything. A grim warning and a fast action adventure tale, all in one! Highly recommended!”
Are there any authors who inspire you?
I’m a fan of Robert J. Sawyer, Michael Crichton, Elizabeth Vaughan, Joe Haldemann, Ernest Cline, and Jean Rabe, as well as any combination of Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steve Barnes.
How do you write? Do you make yourself write a certain number of words per day?
I don’t write everyday. I write on occasional weekend days–every weekend only if I am on a deadline. While I don’t write often, I write fairly quickly and generally write without any breaks or distractions until the project is done or until I am spent for the day–often six or eight hours at a sitting. I never check word-count until I have stopped writing, but usually write about 800 words an hour.
Did you try to get a conventional publisher or agent interested before you opted for self-publishing?
All three of my novels were published by small presses. Forced Conversion and Greensword by Five Star, an imprint of Gale/Cengage, and Net Impact by Alliteration Ink. Most of my stories were packaged through Tekno books for DAW anthologies. I started self-publishing my backlist online and followed with collections of my stories and standalone stories, like my tale: Makeshift. I had a New York agent for about a year, who was supposed to be pushing Net Impact, but while she had some good suggestions for the book, it was overall a frustrating experience. I’d been published before and the book is timely and solid, but thrillers depend on current events and technology to work well and I didn’t want to wait further to get to market, so we parted ways amicably.
What goals have you set yourself? Do you want to sell a certain number of books in 2012? Is there some way you measure success, on your own terms?
You always have interim goals–a certain number of reviews (which figure into the Amazon algorithm) or sales or ratings, but the overall goal is to have enough of a following and market presence that the books sell at a steady pace without extreme marketing efforts and enough of a following of fans that your new material is anticipated and bought. Sure, everyone wants to replace the income of their day-job, but you can’t depend on that without building your resume, your backlist, and your market presence.
Do you worry about Amazon gaining a monopoly in the ebook market?
No. Writers should spend more time focused on their writing and their own marketing and less about mega-issues like Amazon’s antitrust stance. Amazon has done a lot to help indie writers and readers.
What’s next? Are you working on anything at the moment? Do you have anything new coming out in 2012?
Will be putting out my sixth story collection, tentatively titled Not-So-Heroic Fantasy and working on a mystery and a potential sequel to Net Impact.