Thank you for joining us today, Maxwell. We appreciate your time, creative input and expertise here at Pen and Prosper.
Can you tell readers a little about your professional background and how you began your career as a writer?
After college, I worked in high tech, and still do. I started writing about networking and computers to stand out a bit among the brilliant people I worked with. I was an adjunct professor too, so writing courses about new technology blended well with writing books.
What challenges you the most about being a scribe?
Stories are made up of a few basic ingredients: setting, plot, dialogue, characters. I think I am adequate in other areas, but I struggle with characters that readers will really care about. My characters tend to be cool and analytical, like I am, and that’s not the best way to be if you are trying for fear or another raw emotion to drive the character. (But I think I’ve done that in Terror Quest…which, odd to say, is basically a love story between a married man with children and his former lover.)
Do you write everyday? Describe your creative process.
As Stephen King once said, "When I’m writing, I write every day." But you need to think too. I find that the easier the words come out, the more I like the resulting story. If it’s hard for you to get from Great Scene A to Great Scene B, imagine how hard that will be on the reader. But when you can’t wait to write the next chapter or scene, and the words flow easily from your brain to your fingertips to the page, that’s when you know you have something others will read.
What inspired you to write Terror Quest? What do you hope readers will take away from it?
I wrote the book years ago, but even then, there were concerns about success in the Middle East, the plight of our veterans, the security of elections, the us-versus-them “tribalism” breaking out among citizens who fight in the streets, the co-opting of the Stars and Stripes by one side…I could go on, but it’s all there in the news every day. I think there are things that are sacred in this country and that are worth fighting for. The American flag is not a symbol of oppression, but of the freedoms we enjoy.
What I want readers to take away from Terror Quest, besides the good guys winning over evil, is the idea that everyone can make a difference: young and old, Black and White, rich and poor, civilians and veterans. If you want to make this country better place, it can start with you, no matter who you are.
What would it surprise others to know about you?
Let’s see…I’m kind of odd. I am published in classical and military history as well as technology. I almost had a PhD in artificial intelligence (some day..). I was for 20+ years a lector and eucharistic minister in the Roman Catholic church. I was asked to be a deacon (I declined) and have given out ashes on Ash Wednesday. When you look into the people’s eyes, you can see who is shining with faith and who is just going through the motions. It’s that stark a difference.
If you could have one literary “super power” what would it be?
Oh, gosh, let me invent characters who readers will be enthralled with. Let me wave a magic wand and create the next Sherlock Holmes or Harry Potter. But it has to be a female…all of my female characters are always stronger and wiser than the males. I used to tell classes that female programmers were the best, because, if the roof is leaking, a male will throw a tarp over it and watch the rest of the game, while a female will actually fix the leak first and check the score later. (You didn’t ask, but I think everyone is part male and part female…even males have an X chromosome and so are half female…so a lot of the gender debate is just silly. Be who you are.)
Do you find that being a tech writer helps you in creating fiction?
Actually, I think it hurt me until I figured out what to do about it. Yes, my writing about technology and the internet is easy and requires little research, but the point of the chapter is not how bitcoin and blockchain works, but how the bad guys managed to transfer a million dollars to their Swiss bank account under the noses of the good guys.
Once I focused 100% on the characters and their execution of the plot, the members of the writers group liked my stories a lot better.
What passion project or “cause” excites you currently?
Oh, where to start…. I try not to bring emotion to the controversies about vaccines and climate…I live in Phoenix where I know first-hand how much hotter it’s become in the past 20 years, and I do what my doctor tells me to do.
One thing I’m trying to put together is a web site that seems to be a normal site about education or whatever, but hides a horror story about demons and those who protect us from the evil from beyond.
Do you have any other projects in the works that readers can look forward to?
Actually, I have a work of historical fiction that’s gotten some good feedback from published authors in the field. It’s about the early days of Christianity in the Roman Empire and is about as far from the world of Terror Quest as you can get.
On the other hand, at the end of Terror Quest, one of the characters heads for Texas, so maybe there’s a story there as well. We’ll see.
MAXWELL SILVER IS THE PEN NAME OF A TECHNICAL WRITER WITH MORE THAN A DOZEN BOOKS AND ARTICLES ON AN ARRAY OF TOPICS, INCLUDING: military history, classical history, and networking. He has worked as a college professor and technical trainer. He also collects first editions and rare books and is a member of the Lawrence of Arabia Society.
Learn more at his new site: