Welcome to this week’s Friday Author Spotlight! Today I have Donald Firesmith with his debut novel, Hell Holes: What Lurks Below.
A computer geek by day, Donald Firesmith works as a system and software engineer helping the US Government acquire large, complex software-intensive systems. In this guise, he has authored seven technical books, written numerous software- and system-related articles and papers, and spoken at more conferences than he can possibly remember. He is also proud to have been named a Distinguished Engineer by the Association of Computing Machinery, although his pride is tempered somewhat worrying whether the term “distinguished” makes him sound more like a graybeard academic rather than an active engineer whose beard is still more red than gray.
By night and on weekends, his alter ego writes modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels and relaxes by handcrafting magic wands from various magical woods and mystical gemstones. His first foray into fiction is the book Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore written under the pen name Wolfrick Ignatius Feuerschmied. He lives in Crafton, Pennsylvania with his wife Becky, his son Dane, and varying numbers of dogs, cats, and birds.
Connect with the Author
About the Book
Hell Holes 1: What Lurks Below is book one in the Hell Holes series of modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels.
A geologist, his climatologist wife, two graduate students, a local newspaper reporter, an oil company representative, and a field biologist travel to one of dozens of huge holes that have mysteriously appeared in the tundra of the North Slope of Alaska. Their mission is to research these strange craters that threaten financial and environmental catastrophe should they open up under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline or any of the many oil wells and smaller pipelines that feed it. Unfortunately, a far worse danger lurks below, one that threatens to destroy all of humanity when it emerges. Who will live and who will die on Hell Day and as the team flees south towards Fairbanks?
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Keep reading for an interview with the author:
Why did you decide to be a writer?
I always loved writing. Back in high school, I read literally hundreds of science fiction books, often had story ideas, and wrote lots of short stories. Once I had a decade of experience developing software, I started writing system and software engineering books based on what I learned working on real projects and eventually published seven. More recently, I started writing fiction again.
Do you have a “day job”? If so, what do you do?
I work as a system and software engineer at the Software Engineering Institute, a Federal Research and Development Center. I help the United States Government acquire large complex software-reliant systems.
What genres do you write?
I primarily write modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels. I also write software and system engineering technical books.
What inspires you to write?
I often get my ideas from the latest advances in science and technology.
What authors/books have most influenced you?
I was greatly influenced by the science fiction Grand Masters: Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein. I also read the works of Tolkien many times.
If you could choose an author to be your mentor, who would it be?
That’s a hard question. I read the works of dozens and dozens of authors and would find it hard to concentrate on any one author. For example, when preparing to write the second book in my Hell Holes series (which is told from the first person point of view of a strong female character), I read a very large number of books by female authors having strong female lead characters.
When did you first consider yourself an author?
For nonfiction, after my first technical book was published and I had a physical copy in my hands. For my novels, when I started getting multiple positive reviews from people I did not know (i.e., when I could legitimately say that I has beginning to have fans).
What is the biggest obstacle you face as an author and what do you do to overcome it?
There are two obstacles: finding time to write when I have a full-time day job and marketing as an indie author. Since I enjoy writing so much, the first obstacle is more of an annoyance than a hindrance. I spend a lot of time using social media, trying to get reviews in book blogs, and developing connections with other authors.
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received as an author?
I received the following Amazon Review: “This novel follows on from the first novel, Hell Holes – What Lurks Below and is, again, written in journal form but this time by Dr. Angela Menendez, the wife of the author of the first journal. She follows on more-or-less where the last account ended, and it’s amazing that a book written by the same author (Donald Firesmith) can fool one into thinking that it’s written by a completely different person. Such is the strength of the writing that the new “author” (Dr. Menendez) shines through and her personality & writing style is quite different to that of the other journal’s surrogate author, her fictional husband.”
What do you enjoy doing aside from writing?
Reading, obviously. I can imagine being a writer without being an avid reader. I also make unique, hand-crafted magic wands from various woods and gemstones, which ties in with my book, Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore.
What book or series do you enjoy reading over and over again?
The Tolkien Trilogy never grows old. In fact, it was the one book in English that I took with me when I spent a year abroad studying at Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich. Interestingly, I often listen to the German language audio books when making long solo car trips.
How many books do you have on your “to read” list? What are some of them?
I have at least 50 books that I have downloaded onto my Kindle Fire and not yet started. I typically read two books simultaneously, and finish most within a week. Most are paranormal fantasy books by new female indie authors.
What made you decide to self-publish?
I got tired of my traditional publishers not doing an adequate job of marketing the books. I also really appreciate the ability to put out updated editions anytime I want without waiting for the publisher to sell enough thousands of copies to ensure their profit.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I typically take 9 months to complete the first edition and another couple months of rewrites, copy editing, and beta readers.
Do you write about real life experiences, or does everything come from your imagination?
To the extent possible, I make as much of my non-paranormal content as real as possible. I feel it makes the paranormal fantasy and science fiction aspects of the books more believable. For example, Hell Holes 2: Demons on the Dalton involved a trip to Alaska and the Dalton Highway, a visit to Eielson Air Force Base including all of the locations in book 2 and book 3. I used Google and Google Maps Street View extensively and had three major military advisors on the military aspects of the book.
Have you ever gotten an idea for a story from something really bizarre? Tell us about it.
The Hell Hole series was triggered by the actual discovery in 2014 of several mysterious huge holes in the frozen tundra of northern Siberia. I asked myself what would happen if several hundred such holes instantly appeared all around the Arctic Circle.
What are you working on now?
I am about one-fourth of the way through writing the initial draft of Hell Holes 3: To Hell and Back.