Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed author Duane Poncy , about his writing and his latest, Skyrmion: Book One of the Sweetland Quartet, a pitch perfect, pulse-pounding cyberpunk adventure rife with high action, tension, and poignant human emotions. (Read the review here.).
Writer and novelist, Duane Poncy, writes an eclectic stew of science fiction, mysteries, and historical fiction. His works are often set in the Pacific Northwest and address contemporary issues, such as climate change, colonialism, and historical memory. He is an enrolled citizen of The Cherokee Nation, and his writing reflects his mixed ancestral heritage in the Americas.
He lives and writes in Portland, Oregon, where he resides in an artist community with his spouse, Patricia J McLean.
Our Substack newsletter, Memory & Dream.
Goodreads Author: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3340845.Duane_Poncy
Amazon Author: https://www.amazon.com/author/duaneponcy
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/poncymclean
Author Website: https://www.poncy-mclean.net
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Hiring a professional editor was perhaps my single most important investment. If I have advice for indie authors, it is “find a good editor!” The other expense that has totally paid off on-location research. Not so much for Skyrmion, but my upcoming novel, Ghosts of Saint-Pierre, which I co-wrote with my wife, Patricia McLean, required a substantial amount of travel: to Martinique, Canada, and the Northeast US. Totally worth it in terms of making the book feel genuine.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It depends on the book, but I do a considerable amount of research on all of my books. For Skyrmion and Bartlett House, Patty’s and my mystery novel, hours were spent online and at the county library finding and reading articles. Ghosts of Saint-Pierre, as I said earlier, required much travel, visiting landmarks, genealogy libraries, and historical museums. Even though we began writing it in 2017, Patty and I have known for two decades that we wanted to write that book, so my research started years ago, studying colonial history, my own family’s history and the history of Martinique and the Caribbean.
What does literary success look like to you?
I’m now writing full time, but I’m a little impatient to finish all the books I have in the hopper. Getting those books out and into the hands of readers is success. I’m not in it for fame and fortune — I write because I believe it’s important. At least to me. Unlike a lot of people I’ve known, my life has been fortunate. My parents were not rich, by any means, but they were stable and loving and left me with a strong ethical foundation. My dad was a union man, and I grew up in the sixties with a burning desire to better the world. I still have that drive, and there’s so much wrong with the world right now, so if I can impart a little of that ethic to others, then my writing — and my life — will mean something.
That said, success ultimately comes down to people reading my work and liking it, so sales and recognition are important.
What in particular attracted you to this genre?
I grew up on science fiction. I started reading it when I was in the fifth grade. One of the early books I read when I was in high school was Frederick Pohl’s and C.M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants, a satire about libertarian capitalism and a Ponzi scheme to sell real estate on Venus. Another seminal book for me was John Brunner’s The Dreaming Earth, which has influenced me tremendously, and definitely left its mark on Skyrmion, even though it’s been over fifty years since I read it. The idea that you could reach some actual utopic world through drugs, or in the case of Skyrmion, through the internet.
What’s more important: characters or plot?
What’s crucial for me as a writer is balance. World building, character building, in themselves, do not interest me unless there is a strong narrative. Not necessarily a standard plot, but a story that feels like it will take the reader somewhere they haven’t been before.
How many rewrites did you do for this book?
I think about a dozen rewrites. This book, in particular, was quite difficult because of the changing political climate. I finished the first draft in 2010. Then along came Occupy and turned a lot of political assumptions upside down. I put the book aside for a few years, then started working on it again in 2016 with a fresh eye. But then Trump and all of that happened, and I knew I’d have to change it yet again. I set the novel aside while i absorbed the new political reality. Finally, I picked it up again a little over a year ago, made some final changes. It’s been a long haul.
What makes this book important right now? What should people get out of it?
I think what I’d like people to take away from this novel is that the situation in the world may be dire — and will certainly get even more difficult — but there is always a path forward if we’re willing to fight for it. That doesn’t mean things will necessarily turn out well for us, or for our children, but they certainly won’t if we resign ourselves to the status quo. Give the struggle all your worth.
What’s next for you?
I currently have a few more projects to complete. Skyrmion is the first in a series. Degrees of Freedom, the second book of the Sweetland Quartet, is nearing completion. Ghosts of Saint-Pierre will be coming out at the end of September, and there will be marketing, etc. I also have another manuscript about half finished, a mystery novel set in the Sweetland universe, ten years prior to Skyrmion. It involves a Cherokee cop in the Pacific Northwest. Busy times.