Author Spotlight on Alan Kolok
Tell our readers briefly about yourself.
Alan Kolok is a professor at the University of Idaho. He is interested in the interface between science and science fiction and how story telling can be used to both entertain and to inform people about how science is done.
What books do you have available?
Modern Poisons: A brief Introduction to Comtemporary Toxicology, this is a non-fiction book published in 2017.
Twist, is a science fiction book published in 2019.
Can you tell us about your most recent release?
Twist is the story of a professor that follows a hunch and discovers a self-replicating molecule that is having devastating effects on people. The molecule can jump from one animal species to another and can jump into humans creating agression and intense bouts of violence.
Alex Pendergraf, the protagonist, has to figure out the mystery of the molecule, but he has a very short amount of time to do so, as he has also become infected with it. It is a race against time.
Do you stay in one genre when you write or do you find yourself veering toward others?
I flip between writing science for the non-scientific audience and writing science fiction. My science writing informs my science fiction writing.
Are you a panster, planner, or someone in between?
For my non-fiction books, it is essential that I be a planner.
For my fiction books, I am definitely a panster.
What is your writing routine like?
Get up at 5 am, make coffee, feed the dog, then write for an hour. Every day.
Tell me about your favorite character that you’ve created?
Alex Pendergraf, Alex is my protagonist and is a professor at Iowa State University. He gets a hunch and follows it, winding up way over his head. His marriage is a mess, and the infection that he has only makes it worse. He is a flawed person, but he is relentless, like a dog on a bone, and he does not give up. I really like the dichotomy between the flaws and the persistence.
Where do you get your ideas for world building?
The ideas regarding the science fiction come from my science writing. The ideas regarding the world come from my everyday life, as the action is set in present day times.
Do you add romance to your writing?
No for a number of reasons. First, I am not good at it. Second, I write the anti-romance, the broken relationship that Alex has with his wife. I like the tension that comes from two people, both basically good human beings, struggling with each other and trying to keep it together when everything is tearing them up. That is pretty cool and for me has more mileage than romance.
What was your favorite scene to create?
Alex visits a park with a zoo of barnyard animals. The 500 pound pig, Boris, that lives there is a bit of a local celebrity. Boris gets infected with the molecule that creates agression and he attacks Alex and a couple of his co-workers. Alex winds up bitten by Boris, which infects him with the molecule, while Boris winds up dead. I really liked that scene.
Where do you get character inspiration?
Mostly from people that I have known or have met in the past. On an airplane flight I sat next to a women that was heavily tattooed. She had an interested life story, so of course she made it into the book.
What genre do you prefer to read?
I mostly read non-fiction science related books. It helps give me inspiration for my characters.
Do you have any specific authors you follow and try to craft your work after?
I guess the closest is Michael Crichton, Andromeda Strain, and of course, Jurassic Park.
I also love Vonnegut and his use of the anti-hero in many of his books.
Do you have any recurring themes in your book?
I really like the premise of the unprepared protaganist falling into a situation in which they are way over their head, but they have no choice but to perservere.
What does your editing process look like?
Write, edit, write, edit, write, edit. While I am by no means a perfectionist, I edit and edit and edit until it “sounds right” in my head.
Do you have a preferred drink or snack that you eat/drink while writing?
When is your favorite time of day to write and why?
5 am. When my son was living at home and in school, the time period between 5-6 was just about the only time that I had when the house was quite and I could concentrate. After he went to college, I just kept with that schedule.
What is your favorite vacation spot?
Locally, the Oregon coast. Internationally, anywhere where there is good hiking, biking, kayaking. I really liked snorkeling in Hawaii, really enjoyed the mountain country of southern Chile.
Marvel or DC? Do you have a favorite character?
Iron man, definitely, Iron man. I love the first suit.
What hobbies do you have?
Outdoorsy stuff, but also woodworking. I like the interplay between the constraints of the wood and the ability to mold it into something beatiful and useful.
What is something your readers don’t know about you or something unique about yourself?
While it is pretty obvious, I think my background as a scientist is pretty unique when it comes to science fiction writers. I like to bridge the gap.
What defines success for you as an author?
Having people read my books and like them. My non-fiction book has been used in courses, which is gratifying, as it is not a textbook. Twist, and some characters within it, Boris the pig!, has resonated with some people, and they still talk to me about him years after they read the book. That is pretty cool.
What is your work space like?
I have an office in our basement. It is a garden walk out, so it is very well lit with natural lighting. I have my favorite comfy chair, a drafting table, and good lighting. That’s all I need.
Do you have a selfcare routine that you follow?
I try to work out and meditate regularly. Sometimes I can follow the routine, other times I fall off.
What advice would you share with new or aspiring authors?
Write, every day. Even if you set a time and just sit there staring at the blank page or screen, come back tomorrow. Every day.
Where can our readers find you?
Both of my books are on Amazon.com. They can also find me at my website.