Throwback Interview: John S. Drew (2006)

Several years ago, I engaged in a series of interviews with various authors in which I asked them ten questions about the craft, their work, and advice for new writers. Appropriately dubbed “The Ten”, I am reposting those interviews here for archival purposes. 

While the first two authors I interviewed for The Ten have been well-established ones with several novels underneath their belts, I thought it would be prudent to shift the focus in the third installment. Here, I would be interviewing an author who is still up-and-coming, but having had several stories and/or novellas professionally published. John S. Drew is that man, developing a solid reputation in the circles of fandom with his audio drama work for Everlasting Films. John S. Drew was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule as a full-time teacher, writer, and family man to take The Ten.

Q: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?

A: This may sound corny, but I’d have to say it was when I was around four or five years old. As kids, we’d watch shows like Star Trek in the late afternoon. We would proclaim that we wanted to be like Kirk or Spock, but whenever they got around to who I wanted to be, I’d say, “I want to be the guy who puts the words in their mouths.” I paid attention to names like Gene Roddenberry, Rod Serling, David Gerrold, and Kenneth Johnson in the credits.

Q: You were active in the Doctor Who fan fiction scene. How did you benefit as a writer from this?

A: There are many who scoff at fan fiction, but I think it’s a great training ground for those who have an interest in writing. If you look, a number of the Big Finish audios were originally fan produced audio dramas. For myself, writing six Doctor Who audios for Everlasting Films helped to increase my confidence in myself as a writer as well as developing a thicker skin (which you really need to be doing this) when it comes to criticism. It was shortly after my first audio, The Time Brokers, that I made my first professional audio sale with Meltdown for ART Productions.

Q: What was your first professionally published work?

A: In audio, it was Meltdown for ART Productions. In prose, it was the short story, “Moving Day”, for the Untold Tales of Spider-Man anthology for Bryon Preiss Visual Publications.

Q: How did you make your first sale?

A: Well, Meltdown came about when Joseph P. McGuire contacted me and asked me to submit some ideas to him. He chose Meltdown and its success led to the development of Star Traders which only had one episode produced as the company went out of business. “Moving Day” was something I sold to editor Keith R.A. DeCandido, an old high school friend of mine. I had been sending ideas for various other anthologies to him. He liked “Moving Day” and it was generally well received.

Q: Describe the writing experience for your Star Trek: S.C.E novella/eBook Paradise Interrupted?

A: Paradise Interrupted was another opportunity to work with Keith. One thing that I learned the hard way is that there is more to writing a novella than a short story. I sometimes think I’m more geared towards short fiction as I like to come in, tell my tale, and move on. There is also a rich history in the Trek universe and the editors appreciate it if you can display a working knowledge of it as I discovered when I submitted the final draft.

Q: How did you get your short story “The Revolutionaries” published in the Doctor Who anthology Short Trips: A History of Christmas?

A: I’m a member of the Who Ink newsgroup and editor Simon Guerrier posted a notice looking for stories for a Benny Summerfield anthology. He’s great at trying to bring in new talent and I took a crack at it. We didn’t have any success, but when he got the assignment of editing the Short Trips anthology, he contacted me. I had this idea of Washington not taking the Hessian fort in Trenton during the Revolutionary War and pitched it to him. We had a sale.

Q: During story development and writing, do you use any particular tools and/or methodologies?

A: There’s no real method to my madness. One thing I’ve had to overcome is that while I am brimming with ideas, they need to have a story behind it. Case in point, while visiting Ireland years ago, I was in the Dublin museum. I was intrigued by how compressed all the displays were. I suddenly had a vision of the displays coming to life and terrorizing Dublin. From this trip came Mesomorph, a Doctor Who fan audio. While it has its moments, I always look at it as one of my weakest in terms of content.

Q: How do you balance a full-time job and family with a writing career?

A: I don’t know if I’d consider my writing a career at the moment with such a short reading list, but to answer the question – not as well as I should. I’m up in the morning at 5AM and try to get in at least a half hour of writing, but it doesn’t always happen. I’m a high school English teacher and find myself working out lesson plans up until the last minute and that includes during my writing time. I can’t write at night, I’m more of a morning person, so if I don’t get it done then, it usually doesn’t happen, unless I’m on a deadline.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

A: This is advice I need to follow myself and that’s write. You need to not let the ideas sit in your head or in a notebook, but rather get them on paper. You need to be able to handle criticism well and you have to accept the fact that like any art form, it’s all subjective.

Q: Are there any upcoming projects that you would like to discuss?

A: On the prose front, I have an original fantasy novel currently in review with a publisher. I also have a couple of proposals for further Star Trek: S.C.E stories under review with either Paramount or Keith R.A. DeCandido. I’ve just finished a new proposal for a Doctor Who that I need to send off to BBC Books. On the audio front, I’ve turned my attention towards producing my own audio dramas at the moment. I have the first in what I hope to be a series called The Dome available at my website. I’m looking to get the cast together to record the second one and I’m looking into producing a third one I didn’t write.

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