Marla L. Anderson is the author of the novels “NanoMorphosis,” and “The Cost of Living: A Life for a Life,” as well as numerous short stories. Her specialties are science fiction, fantasy, horror and suspense. She and her family live on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest enjoying the native wildlife, and occasionally fending off rattlesnakes and marauding coyotes. Readers are invited to visit her website at mlandersonauthor.com.
1) You self-published your first novel at the age of 67. Can you describe your journey to becoming an author at this stage of your life?
I suppose people would consider me a late bloomer, but the truth is, I’ve been writing stories and poetry most of my life. In fact, my first novel was written in the third grade. As I recall it was a handwritten, 100-page western with lots of horses and dogs involved. I’m sure it would be hilarious to read again if I had any idea what happened to it. In addition to loving horses and dogs, I’m also a longtime fan of science fiction and fantasy. I grew up reading Bradbury, Asimov, Clarke, Le Guin, Tolkien, and so many more. Although I loved writing stories, it never occurred to me back then that I could make a living at it, so my day job was being a paralegal then a law office administrator.
Over the years, I sold short stories and poetry to various publications and finally wrote the science fiction novel percolating in my subconscious. I then sought out agents and publishers, some of whom expressed interest, but life got in the way, and I put the idea of selling my book aside. Time passed while I focused on making a living, raising a family, and writing on the side. Meanwhile, the publishing industry evolved. The gates to traditional publishing narrowed, while self-publishing grew into a legitimate path for both new and established authors.
Since my novel nagged to be finished and shared, I decided that rather than pursue the lengthy and often frustrating path to traditional publishing, I would choose the one of an Indie author giving me full control over my own work. What I found was a steep learning curve. In retrospect, I doubt that self-publishing was faster or easier than traditional publishing. The upside is that, as a result, I’m far better educated on what it takes to get a book to market, and it allowed me to work with an editor of my own choosing and design the cover art I envisioned. The downside of being an Indie author is no one shares responsibility. Every choice made is mine, good and bad.
2) Your first novel, NanoMorphosis, was a work of science fiction, and you are currently working on a medical thriller. What inspires and connects the kinds of stories you seek to tell?
I love this question, and yes, there are consistent themes that appear in my stories even when they are completely different genres. The one that always inspires my tales is the “what if” question.
In NanoMorphosis, a science fiction tech adventure, the “what if” deals with nanotechnology and how it might change humans physically and mentally, altering the way we interact with the world.
In The Cost of Living: A Life for A Life, a cautionary dystopian tale, the question is ‘what if’ the human lifespan were extended hundreds of years. How would we deal with the consequences?
In the medical thriller that I’m working on now, the inspiring “what if” is what if in attempting to cure someone of Alzheimer’s, their aging reversed entirely?
As you can see, these themes deal with the future of mankind as a whole and the prospect of death as an individual. Must have something to do with getting older myself.
Now as to the second half of the question (what connects my stories?), I’d have to say that it’s the theme of human connection itself. The need for emotional intimacy is a driving force that makes us strive for self-improvement and personal growth. It’s my take that we only find satisfaction in life and happiness in ourselves through our connection to others. I enjoy exploring that theme with my characters as I set them off on their journeys.
3) What advice would you give to anyone that is reluctant to pursue a new passion or project later in life?
I would strongly encourage anyone of any age who is looking to start a new career, or embark on a passion project, to seek out those of a similar mindset. Workshops, classes, and meet-up groups can be wonderful sources for support and inspiration. To anyone who hesitates to pursue a goal because they think they’re too old, I must point out the admittedly trite but accurate adage that you will never be younger than you are today, so what are you waiting for?
I see life as a one-way street with no U-turns, so I try to focus on the road ahead rather than stare in the rear-view mirror grieving for what might have been. Sadly, fear of the unknown can chain us to the familiar, even when the familiar is neither satisfying nor pleasant. It takes a certain amount of determination to break that chain and try something new, but the alternative is living with regret.
It might sound like I’m merely offering well-worn platitudes here, but I speak from personal experience. Until I let go of my old expectations about what defines a successful author and embarked on a new and unfamiliar road of self-publishing, I was bogged down with thoughts of lost opportunities. Now, I am re-energized, eager to keep going, to keep writing and keep publishing.