The OF Blog: The wotmania Files: Interview with Bob Mayer (1/27/2003)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The wotmania Files: Interview with Bob Mayer (1/27/2003)

Returning back to semi-chronological order here with the reposted wotmania interviews, this one was conducted by yet another moderator/Admin at wotmania, with a screen name of Dodge.
Brief Biography

Bob Mayer has twenty-six books published under his own and pen names including Robert Doherty and Greg Donegan. His AREA 51 series have been consistent USA Today bestsellers and have been optioned for feature film development with the screenplay written by the co-creator of ALIEN. He has over two million books in print and has been published in twelve foreign countries. He has taught novel writing for numerous colleges, workshops and conferences. Before writing full time, Bob graduated from West Point and served in the military as a Special Forces A-Team leader. He currently lives on Hilton Head Island, SC. His web site is


How much do you write per day?

I write every day. Depending on which book I'm working on and it's schedule, I write from 3,000 to 5,000 words a day. I stay at it until I accomplish what I set out to achieve each day.

Do you have another "day job"?

Writing is my full time job as I have seveal pen names and have on average three to four books published each year.

How much do you write that you later edit out?

Less and less as I've grown more experienced as a writer and edit much more efficiently as I write. After thirty-five manuscripts I'm better at it than I was in the beginning.

As you are now releasing books from three different
series, how do you divide your time throughout the
year? Do you start on one book and say, "right, I'm
going to start and finish this one" or do you write a
chapter of this, and a chapter of that?

I write only one book at a time as it is an intensive effort. I totally focus on that series and 'forget' about all others. However, I do sometimes work on my non-fiction work while writing fiction and also I keep up with my writing students.

Many of our readers are aspiring fantasy/sci-fi
writers. What tips would you give them for submitting
a work that's more likely to be accepted?

Have a very good, exciting idea, that you can state in one sentence. Not only will this help you sell your book, it also keeps you focused as a writer. It's said that every idea has been done-- but the key issue is what is your unique and interesting twist? Also, be able to communicate to an editor/agent your excitement for what you've written. The idea and story should have excited you. Then you try to communicate that and find an editor/agent who also gets excited about it.

Do you keep up with what other authors in the genre
you are putting out, or do you tend to read material
from outside of the genre on your own time? Any
authors that you are particularly fond of at the

I mostly read outside the genre and I aim to read authors who are better than I am to learn from them. I just finished Dan Simmons latest novel. Before that it was Dennis Lehane's Mystic River. I love Richard Russo's books. I tend to re-read classic science fiction for inspiration as there were some great ideas done really well. I also read a lot of non-fiction as fodder for my imagination,

How precisely does one go about submitting a story?
How long did it take for Area 51 to be approved?

I recommend going to a writers conference and listening to learn a bit about the business. But I would send everyone the same thing (editors and agents): A one page cover letter that looks just like the inner flap copy of a hardcover book; a one page synopsis; and your first twenty pages or so. The flow is thus:
Cover letter: I have a good idea and I have the background to write it.
Synopsis: I've translated my good idea into a good story.
First twenty pages: I can write.

Area 51 was the second book in a two book deal from Dell, The first was a book called THE ROCK which came around 94, before Stargate, but it has a lot in common with that movie. It took me about a year to sell the Rock to Dell as I was also currently writing military thrillers for Presidio and St. Martins.

Is there any work out there that you've read and
thought 'oh, I would've loved to have written that'

Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo. The Foundation Series. Dune. Stranger in a Strange Land. My shelves are full of books of writers I admire. Lonesome Dove is a classic.

Many of your stories include myths and legends from
religion. What inspired you to put a 'twist' on
stereothypical views of religion?

I call my writing in the Area 51 and Atlantis series: "Techno-myth." I take ancient (Atlantis) or modern (Area 51) myths and combine them with modern technology. As far as the twist on religion, I believe we don't know as much as we think we know. ThereofreI like taking things that exist but giving them a different reason for coming into being. A key part of the Area 51 series has been the promise of immortality, which many religions make. Where did this come from? I explain it near the end of the series. I just finished the first spin-off book for the series AREA 51 NOSFERATU which uses the alien mythology I've developed and in which I describe this history of vampires with a very different explanation from that which people are used to.

What are your feelings on a movie version of your

The screenplay has been written by Ron Shussett who penned Total Recall and Alien and was Executive Producer on Minority Report. The company that has the option has a large part of the funding for a major feature film in place from a foreign studio, but are currently searching for a US Studio to pick up the other part. The latest version of the screenplay holds pretty true to the first book with some liberties taken in the translation from page to screen.

Do you ever use ideas that fans send in to you in
regards to the Area 51 storyline?

I read all my emails and take into account feedback. People often send me web sites to look at or books they recommend.

Do current events and world politics, such as the
tragedy on September 11th, ever end up influencing the
events within the books? If so, what aresome examples?

I've not incorporated Sept 11 directly into the stories because the series started before then. I'm currently trying to launch a new series about who polices the world of covert operations, using my experience in the Special Forces, and 9-11 definitely plays a role in that,

Do you do much research once you begin writing? What
type of things do you research?

I love research. My stories grow out of it. I do a lot before starting a book, when working on the outline, but it's a continuous process. I keep going back to sources even when writing. I try to put as much fast as possible in my story-- much more than most readers would believe. Things people take for granted, such as the age of the Great Sphinx, are not proven. I delve into a lot of things like that such as the statues on Easter Island, the pyramids, the great tomb of Qian-Ling in China, etc.

How do you come up with names for characters in your

The name has to feel right for the character. Also, the interesting thing about some of my characters is that they aren't who they appear to be.

When you first started writing the Area 51, did you
have a set plan for the whole series, or were there
some things you just thought up as you stumbled upon
them in your writing?

Area 51 was a stand alone book when first written. However, I added a one page epilogue to the book where a message is broadcast out into space sort of as an homage to The Sentinel, the story that inspired the movie 2001. When the publisher came back and said they wanted more Area 51 books, naturally, the next book was AREA 51 THE REPLY. I knew where I was driving toward with the series and thankfully the 7th book AREA 51 THE TRUTH just came out this month and it finished the main story arc. The spin-offs that will follow will focus on specific parts of the storyline from the past in more detail. After Nosferatu, I'm considering writing a spin off focusing on what 'really' happened with King Arthur, the Grail, Excalibur, etc. based on the main story arc from the seven book series.

Do you outline your books before you begin writing

Yes. I think it's hard to wing it in science fiction or fantasy. Terry Brooks, who I teach with at Maui, is a big fan of outlining and I agree with him, It also saves a lot of time in that you have to do less rewriting.

How do create the personalities for your main
characters? What inspires you to help make your people
believably different?

I base them partly on people I've met. I also use character types such as the sixteen of Briggs-Meyer or archetypes to flesh out my characters. The most important thing for me the author to know is their primary motivation. And the interesting thing about that as you read the series is to realize that what appears to be isn't, sometimes. A character may appear to have one motivation, but in reality is working off of something deeper and more secret.

Do you ever let compassion for a character affect or
influence plot development?

My fans really dislike it when one of the major characters die. The ending of Nosferatu was influenced because of the bond I started to feel for this ageless character who has been alive since before the dawn of history.

Do you like writing more action or more for the human

Both although I probably am better at action. However, I think emotion comes out of a character's choices and the paths they are on so they are tied together.

When you create characters, how much do you know about
them? Do they ever go off in directions you hadn't

Soemtimes they do surprise me. I think that's the power of the subconscious, of the characters coming alive in my brain and developing more deeply than I had originally imagined.

Lastly, what advice would you give to a young and
aspiring writer?

Write. A lot. Read. A lot. Study the craft of writing because you have to be a craftsman before you can become an artist. Be willing to learn. And then throw in a dash of luck-- but luck goes to the persistant.

All the best.

Bob Mayer
aka Robert Doherty
aka Greg Donegan
aka Joe Dalton
aka Bob McGuire

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