Author interview 143 – Robert G. Williscroft

Robert G. Williscroft


Age 79

Dr. Robert G. Williscroft is a retired submarine officer, deep-sea and saturation diver, scientist, author of 17 books and hundreds of articles, and a lifelong adventurer. He spent 22 months underwater, a year in the equatorial Pacific, three years in the Arctic ice pack, and a year at the Geographic South Pole. He holds degrees in Marine Physics and Meteorology and a doctorate for developing a system to protect SCUBA divers in contaminated water. A prolific author of both non-fiction, Cold War thrillers, and hard science fiction, he lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his family. 
     Dr. Williscroft is a member of Colorado Authors’ League, Science Fiction Writers of America, Libertarian Futurist Society, Los Angeles Adventurers’ Club, Mensa, Military Officers’ Association of America, American Legion, and the NRA. He spends most of his time writing his next book, speaking to various regional groups, and hanging out with the girl of his dreams, Jill, and her two cats.
Slingshot is a love story – about a man, a woman, another man, another woman, some gender bending…and a machine, the largest ever built.
     Slingshot is a mystery – about a missing aviatrix, a conspiracy, a true-believer. Slingshot is an adventure – about following a dream, the ocean-deep, outer space.
    Slingshot is about constructing the first space launch-loop stretching 2,600 km between Baker and Jarvis Islands in the Equatorial Pacific. It’s about high finance, intrigue, unlimited ambition, heroism, fanaticism, betrayal…and about opening space to the common person.
    With a cast of 69, Slingshot takes you from Seattle’s world financial district, to the ocean bottom at 5,000 feet off Baker Island, to the edge of space 80 km above. You play with dolphins and battle sharks. You fly and sail and dive, you work and play and love across the vast panorama of an Equatorial Pacific being put to leash to serve humanity’s surge into outer space.
    While its accurate science and precise engineering will appeal to hard science-fiction buffs, Slingshot’s major focus is the grand journey, the opening of outer space to the common person by men and women who loom larger than life as they work, play, and love.

Romelia: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Robert G. Williscroft: When I read my first real book—age seven or so. I didn’t do much about it until my teens, and then I wrote and submitted a (terrible) short story to John W. Campbell, Jr., at Analog Science Fact & Fiction Magazine (it may still have been Astounding then). John sent me a personal rejection letter, telling me what I sent wasn’t good enough, but to keep at it, because I had talent. I wanted to write Science Fiction, but when I calculated the potential income from the word-rate paid back in the 1950s, I realized that I would not be able to earn a living from just writing what I wanted to write. It wasn’t until my doctoral dissertation (A System for Protecting SCUBA Divers from the Effects of Contaminated Water) was published by the U.S. Department of Commerce and distributed to Port Captains around the world in 1983 that I realized I really did have something to say that people would pay to read.

Romelia: how long does it take you to write a book?

Robert G. Williscroft: Three to four months, depending on the subject and what else is going on in my life. My goal is to publish three to four books every year.

Romelia: where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Robert G. Williscroft: Let’s look at the first two books in The Starchild Trilogy. I spent a year at the geographic South Pole in charge of the National Science Foundation’s atmospheric projects. I took several scientific papers with me to study during my sojourn. One was a paper by Keith Lofstrom about constructing a Space Launch Loop—a way to get into orbit or even father without using rockets. It fascinated me. When I returned to the U.S., I looked Keith up and we spent several days together laying out the basis for the novel Slingshot, about actually constructing the world’s first Space Launch Loop between Baker Island and Jarvis Island in the Equatorial Pacific.

I was inspired to write the second book (actually written first), The Starchild Compact while I was reviewing videos transmitted by the Cassini spacecraft as it flew close by Saturn’s moon Iapetus. Iapetus had a 20 km high mountain ridge around its equator and its density was that of a snowball although it’s actually a rocky moon. I asked myself how this could be. One possibility was that Iapetus was hollow—perhaps a derelict starship. That became the basis for The Starchild Compact and the third book, The Iapetus Federation, that is an immediate continuation of the second book.

Romelia: what literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

Robert G. Williscroft: I have not so much gone on literary pilgrimages as have done things that I later incorporated into my writing: I led a group of saturation divers out of a bottomed nuke sub in the Sea of Okhotsk to tap into Soviet underwater communication cables (Operation Ivy Bells); I spent three years in the Arctic ice pack (Operation Ice Breaker & Operation Arctic Sting); I spent a year at the geographic South Pole (Operation White Out­­, available next year); I have a PhD in Engineering, I spend a year at sea on the Equator, and I met Keith Lofstrom (Slingshot); I worked with Keith Lofstrom developing a concept called ServerSky (Icicle). You get the idea.

Romelia: what is the first book that made you cry?

Robert G. Williscroft: As a youngster, six or seven perhaps, I read Just David by Eleanor Porter. It became a favorite. I shed tears of sadness and joy as I read it.

Romelia: what is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

Robert G. Williscroft: Publishers’ creative bookkeeping that deprives authors of their just royalties. A close second is refusing to release a book to the author when sales peter out.

Romelia: does writing energize or exhaust you?

Robert G. Williscroft: Neither. Writing is something I do at this stage in my life, along with hanging out with the girl of my dreams, Jill, and her two cats.

Romelia: what are common traps for aspiring writers?

Robert G. Williscroft: Being too much in a hurry. Not employing the services of a good editor. Not reading or understanding publishing contracts. Giving up. Following the latest writing trend—such as writing in the present tense; not using quotes; loosing track of point-of-view; following every “rule” in the woke book of rules.

Romelia: does a big ego help or hurt writers?

Robert G. Williscroft: It can’t hurt!

Romelia: what is your writing Kryptonite?

Robert G. Williscroft: The concept of writer’s block is, in my opinion, a myth that has been foisted on writers.

Romelia: have you ever gotten reader’s block?

Robert G. Williscroft: We seem to be playing with words here. If I am enjoying a book, typically, I read through to the end. If it is particularly long, I break it up into manageable sections. I can think of no time in my life where I could not pick up a book and start reading. Throughout my teens, I read a book a day, sometimes more.

Romelia: did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Robert G. Williscroft: Not really. I think a pseudonym can play a role for a writer with a specific reputation who wants to try writing in an entirely different genre where the new writing could interfere with the writer’s reputation in the original genre. Here is an off-the-wall example: A woman writing popular religious romances chooses to write a hard-porn novel, and she chooses to write in the new genre under a pseudonym.

Romelia: do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

Robert G. Williscroft: I don’t really try to be anything but what I actually am as a product of my years doing things most people only dream of doing. Readers enjoy my writing because they sense an underlying reality—a been there, done that feeling.

Romelia: do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Robert G. Williscroft: Sure, but that writer probably will not do very well tackling emotional subjects.

Romelia: what other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

Robert G. Williscroft: I am close friends with Hard Science Fiction author Alastair Mayer. We each review the other’s manuscripts during the review process, making both line edit and substantive suggestions. Both our books are better as a result of these interactions.

Romelia: do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Robert G. Williscroft: It depends. Each of my books stands on its own, but I have been writing within three entirely different universes: (1) The historical Earth during the Cold War—Operation Ivy Bells, Operation Ice Breaker, & Operation Arctic Sting published, Operation White Out next year, and several more on the way; (2) the universe described in The Starchild Trilogy—three books in the trilogy, four Daedalus novelettes in the Slingshot universe, perhaps others to come; (3) the universe of The Oort Chronicles—Icicle published, Federation later this year, Andromeda next year, and possibly more to come.

Romelia: if you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Robert G. Williscroft: Don’t let anything stop you—ever!

Romelia: how did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Robert G. Williscroft: Some background here. I already mentioned my first book—my dissertation. After that I wrote two diving instruction books that were picked up by a small publisher and ended up as the diving texts for the National YMCA and the Multinational Divers Education Association (MDEA). After that, I was commissioned to write a book for a diving periodical. Then I wrote my first current events book, The Chicken Little Agenda—Debunking “Experts’” Lies. This was published by a publisher in New Orleans. After publication, I put a bunch of my own money into the book’s promotion, and it became a bestseller. The publisher did well…I broke even. So, for my next book, Operation Ivy Bells, I decided to create my own publishing firm and publish the book myself. This worked well. The book became a bestseller, and I got to keep all the profits. I continued in this mode through The Starchild Trilogy, doing well but not spectacularly. Then I was approached by the Fresh Ink Group (FIG). They presented a hybrid option that I really liked, and I have been with them ever since.

How did all this affect the process of writing? With my own company, I was responsible for everything, and so had to pay attention to a lot of things most writers in the traditional mode can ignore. Now, with FIG, we work together to bring out the very best product.

Romelia: what was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Robert G. Williscroft: There are different choices here, but probably the best was the money I put into promoting the current events book.

Romelia: what authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

Robert G. Williscroft: Only one I can think of, Philip Wylie. I first read his Generation of Vipers. He seemed to be stepping on a lot of my personal values, but with time, I came to understand that he was right more than he was wrong.

Romelia: what did you do with your first advance?

Robert G. Williscroft: I never received an advance. My response to question 18 explains why.

Romelia: what was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Robert G. Williscroft: I was four and performing on the stage of the church pastored by my father. I was popular with my father’s congregation. I got up and started my presentation: “I’m just a little boy with a very little speech. I don’t have a sermon, and I don’t know how to preach.” At this point the audience began to chuckle, probably because of my words and gestures. I stopped, lifted my hands to the audience and repeated, “…but I don’t know how to preach!” The audience began to laugh in response. I loved it. Even as a four-year-old, I recognized that I had that audience in the palm of my hand. “I really don’t know how to preach!” I repeated. The audience howled. I grinned and clapped my hands. “I don’t, I really don’t!” I shouted, at which point my mother pulled me from the stage and gave me my what fors.

It was years before I experienced such power in words again.

Romelia: what are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?

Robert G. Williscroft: In my opinion, magazines about writing are next to useless. They are designed to enrich the publishers of those magazines because so many people want to improve their writing. I recommend reading about the things a writer writes. I write hard science fiction, so I read a lot of science-related publications, and a lot of science fiction—how do the other guys do this? I write Cold War submarine and diving techno-thrillers, so I read about Cold War submarine and diving espionage, and a lot of similar novels—again, how do the other guys do this?

Romelia: from where you get inspired with your first book?

Robert G. Williscroft: My response to question three pretty much answers this question. I see the world through a set of unique filters. Ideas constantly bombard my consciousness. For example, recently, I read about how cosmologists may have possibly viewed the intersection of two parallel multiverses. This is pretty esoteric astrophysics, but I saw a way to include this into the Third Oort Chronicle, Andromeda—A Rising Tide, that I anticipate commencing later this year.

Romelia: describe yourself in a few sentences. Tell us something we do not know about you and something you hate about the world.

Robert G. Williscroft: Retired submarine officer, deep-sea and saturation diver, scientist, author, and lifelong adventurer. Spent 22 months underwater, a year in the equatorial Pacific, three years in the Arctic ice pack, and a year at the Geographic South Pole. Degrees in Marine Physics and Meteorology, and a doctorate for developing a system to protect SCUBA divers in contaminated water. A prolific author of non-fiction, Cold War thrillers, and hard science fiction. Lives in Centennial, Colorado, with the girl of his dreams and her two cats.

I really do not like onions!

I hate the woke mindset that is dominating our culture today. I strongly believe that I am the captain of my ship and the master of my fate.

Link to all my books:

Link to Slingshot:

Robert G. Williscroft

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