Friday, November 7, 2014

Mini-Interview with David Lee Summers

About two or three times a month I do mini-interviews of authors who have crossed my path. It's a lot of fun and I enjoy hearing other author's views about their books, why they write, what it is that sparks their creative passions.

Today I give the page over to David Lee Summers who has an impressive list of novels he's written, as well as short stories and poems. He has also edited several anthologies. I'm honored to interview him on this blog. He has a lot of interesting books so please check out his author page on Amazon.

Here are David's answers to the four questions I always ask:

Why do you write what you do?

In short, I write the stories that I'd like to read but don't find often enough to satisfy me.  For example, I loved both The Wild Wild West and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. when they were on television, but I didn't find many other westerns with that kind of retro-futuristic vibe.  So, I set out to write my Clockwork Legion novels Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves.  They tell how Russia's airship fleet invaded America in the wake of the Civil War and how a healer woman and a former sheriff formed a resistance against them. What's more, I have a real affinity to both the west and the technology of the nineteenth century.  Pat Garrett, the man who shot Billy the Kid, is buried a quarter mile behind my back door and I pass the turnoff for Tombstone, Arizona every week on my commute to work.  In addition to writing, I'm an astronomer working at Kitt Peak National Observatory.  My first job in the field was at an observatory on Nantucket Island, observing variable stars with a nineteenth century telescope that tracked the sky with windup clockworks.  I published two research papers in the 1980s from data obtained on that equipment.  In a very real way, writing western steampunk is writing what I know.

How does your writing process work?

My process is very much like the ones storytellers use.  Before I sit down at the keyboard, I visualize the story and get to know it almost as though it's a series of events that actually happened.  That way, when I type, it's like I'm relating a series of events and I'm not worried about basic plot.  I'm free to embellish details as I need and try to figure out why someone took an action.  As it turns out, I have a five-hour drive to work.  Fortunately, I only have to make that drive once a week, but this process of visualizing stories is a way that I can put that time to good use!

What are you working on now?

I'm working on the third book in the Clockwork Legion series, The Brazen Shark.  The healer and the sheriff are swept away by pirates and learn that Japan is pretty worried abut Russia's imperial ambitions.  Did I say I write what I like?  I'm also a big fan of Akira Kurosawa and anime.  I'm sure you'll see plenty of those influences in this new book.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I think there are two things that set my Clockwork Legion novels apart from other steampunk novels.  First, I want even the most outrageous gadgets to feel like they could have been built.  This gives my books a more retro science fictional tone than some steampunk, which feels like Victorian fantasy.

Second, my books reflect the multiculturalism of the southwest.  Historically, Billy the Kid spoke Spanish and Japanese farmers helped to cultivate New Mexico green chile.  Latino, European, Asian, and Native populations often competed, but sometimes cooperated.  I wanted to write steampunk where being a white male wasn't a prerequisite for being a dashing hero, a mad scientist, a bounty hunter, or an airship pirate.

 A list of my novels is at:
Info about my short stories and poetry is at:
Thank you, David, for this wonderful interview!

David Lee Summers is the author of eight novels along with numerous short stories and poems.  His writing spans a wide range of the imaginative from science fiction to fantasy to horror.  David’s novels include The Solar Sea, which was selected as a Flamingnet Young Adult Top Choice, Vampires of the Scarlet Order, which tells the story of a band of vampire mercenaries who fight evil, and Owl Dance, which is a wild west steampunk adventure.  His short stories and poems have appeared in such magazines and anthologies as Realms of Fantasy, Cemetery Dance, and Apocalypse 13.  In 2010, he was nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Rhysling Award.  In addition to writing, David edits the quarterly science fiction and fantasy magazine Tales of the Talisman and has edited three science fiction anthologies: A Kepler’s Dozen, Space Pirates and Space Horrors.  When not working with the written word, David operates telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory.  Learn more about David at
Thank you to David for taking the time to share his thoughts! Look for more interviews later this month.

Wendy Rathbone


  1. The Brazen Shark sounds like an excellent followup in your steampunk series! And I like the history.

  2. Thank you, Joy! Much appreciated!