Mike Van Horn started writing science fiction thirty years ago, but got sidetracked by life and writing a dozen business books. A few years ago he said, “If I’m ever going to tell these stories in this lifetime it has to be now.” He still advises small business owners, but sci fi is a lot more fun.
How did you get started writing sci fi?
Back in the 1980s, several of us got together for a writing group. We called it the “4F Society—Fun, Fortune, Fame, and F—k the Critics.” I started writing science fiction stories then, but never finished anything, because the biz books I was writing at the time made me money. Sci fi was backburnered until a few years ago when I decided, “If I’m ever going to get these done in this lifetime, it has to be now.” My advice to writers, don’t wait 30 years to tell your stories!
What is your book about?
My Spaceship Calls Out to Me is Book 2 of a trilogy. My heroine—the singer Selena M—has hijacked an alien spaceship from the government after she discovers it is repairing itself. “It’s rightfully mine,” she says. “It crashed on my property.” But now what? “If I have a spaceship, I might as well fly into space.” Even though the governments of three nations are after her to grab hold of this advanced technology, she and her team of Spaceketeers ready the vessel for a trip. Can they pull it off? Can they stay out of the clutches of the government? Can Selena honor her commitment to singing while playing space girl? She is aided by her tubular AI, Wanda, that obeys only her—usually. And from across the cosmos by the needy clan mother of the alien that crashed.
What sets your stories apart?
I have a strong female protagonist—savvy and sassy, with a sense of humor. I write about contact with aliens that are not hostile—no alien invasion. The stories are lighthearted, not dystopian shoot-em-ups. But she has plenty of adventures in space.
What led you write and then publish recorded songs to accompany your books?
Selena is a singer/composer. I had to write snippets of lyrics for the songs she performs. Some of these snippets grew into verses, and then entire song lyrics. I found a guy who could compose music for my lyrics, and he found a local blues singer who became the vocalist and the voice of Selena. They produced my songs and I put them up on Soundcloud. Now I have “sci fi with a sound track!”
I had no inkling that I would become a lyricist! I astound myself! I’ve written about twenty songs—only seven produced so far. My message to writers is, go where your creativity takes you, even down totally unlikely pathways.
Have you ever written a character based on the real you in some part?
All my main characters capture a slice of me. My MC is an introvert who “hides on the stage in front of crowds of people.” She’s a brash risk taker, but afraid to sing the songs most meaningful to her. There’s an irascible country singer who gets to tell all my dumb jokes. There’s a captain of industry and a suave professor. A nerdy high school teacher and an anti-government survivalist. An astronaut who’s a cool-headed problem solver. My alien ran away from the responsibilities of adulthood on her home world, breaking their biggest taboos. Yes, I am all these characters!
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
Fiction authors? Ursula LeGuin, David Brin, Tolkien.
I love LeGuin’s poetic language, character development, and the sophistication of her plots. For both her sci fi and fantasy. She doesn’t write shoot ‘em up stories, and neither do I. Brin is a master of portraying how very different alien races behave and work together. That’s a big part of my stories. In Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” I love his poetry written from the perspective of different kinds of beings. I do a lot of that also, including song lyrics.
What is one question you wish someone would ask you?
“Could we use your music in our movie sound track?”