Rod Pyle Interview

Rod Pyle is a space author, journalist and historian. He has written ten books on space history, exploration and development for major publishers that have been published in seven languages.

What inspired you to write?
I started writing short stories in grade school, and have had the bug since then. In the 1990s I started writing TV documentaries, then books in 2004. It's the best way to make a living I can imagine.

Was your inspiration sudden, or did it take time?
Inspiration was immediate--overcoming the fear of writing professionally was another thing altogether. There's a fine line between overconfidence and fear, and reading as much self-published material on Amazon as I do, sometimes I wish there was a bit more of the former.

Did you use an outline, or just write your story from start to finish?
I use augmented chapter outlines to frame the book, then work from there. Sometimes editors will ask for more detailed summaries, but that's my basic approach. It seems to work well for nonfiction.

Do you work alone, or get encouragement from family and friends?
I work alone, writing drafts fairly quickly. Then I polish and send to a select group of readers for feedback. Once that is implemented, an MS goes off to the editor for his or her input, then after another few drafts (or sometimes many), is finalized.

What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
It depends on which one--I'm writing my 11th book now, all nonfiction. I think in my genre--history and tech--research, and the vetting of facts from decades ago is by far the most difficult part of the process. When referring to technical material from the space age, even primary sources often disagree, and it can take a lot of digging to get an acceptable result. After that, marketing, which is an increasingly large part of the process for even traditionally published authors, is the biggest hurdle.

What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing your book?
Everything! I honestly love every bit of the process.

After the book was published, were you changed?
Not much. When my first book was published in 2005, it took four years to get a second commission. Then two years, and now generally less than a year. But as quickly as authors advance, the marketplace changes, and that can throw off anyone's tempo.

Have you received any awards for your book(s)?
I've been put on a few "top ten" lists and been a featured book of the year or month in a number of science and tech publications.

Are you working on a new book at the moment?
Yes--"Space 2.0" is a look at the new space age, with commercial enterprise entering the scene at an accelerating pace. It's being published by BenBella Books.

What gets in the way of your creativity?
Very little. Over time, one becomes more able to write with distractions and in shorter bursts of available time.

What strategies do you use to deal with criticism?
It's part of the game. I think there were two formative experiences for me. The first was that I attended a very tough undergraduate school, the Art Center College of Design, where brutal feedback was a part of the curriculum in order to better prepare you for creative professions. The other experience was dealing with notes from TV executives in the reality TV market, which can, at times, be severe. But it's all good at thickening the skin, while allowing you to reflect and properly integrate constructive criticism.

Do you have a favorite quote?
One of my favorites came from an interview with Gene Kranz, a NASA Flight Director during the Apollo and Shuttle years, in an interview conducted in 2005. We were completing the interview, and I asked him if he had anything additional he wanted to say. He looked me square in the eye and said, "What America will dare, America can do." It was a stunning summary of the lunar landing program.

Favorite book?
I'm sure many cite John Steinbeck, usually for his more weighty works, but "Cannery Row" is very high on my list of all time favorites.

Who would you want to meet if you could? Dead or alive.
There are so many, but Ernest Shackleton, the polar explorer, would be my top choice.

Is there a talent you wish you had?
Fiction writing!

What’s something about you that would surprise us?
I worked in visual effects in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" for three years, and it was a blast.

Describe yourself in 3 words!
Doggedly, foolishly determined.