Larry Constantine is a professional member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the author of a number of science fiction short stories. He writes thrillers under the pen name, Lior Samson.
Please tell everyone a bit about yourself.
Larry: The older you get, the harder it is to be brief, to condense the lifetime journey into a paragraph or two in a biographical sketch. In your twenties, you pad the resume; by your forties, the thing stands on its own; by the time you are looking back at your sixties, radical compression and redaction are in order. What’s important, what irrelevant? What’s of interest? What is a boring distraction? I tell my students at the university where I teach that I am not a real professor but that I am a real industrial designer. Both parts are true — in part. What they reveal is a complexity hidden behind brevity. I have been a pioneer in software engineering, in family therapy, and in interaction design. I divide my time between Europe and the US. I am deeply entrenched in academia and in industry and fully belong in neither. I am a novelist. I write under a pen name, but my official identity is no secret. I do most of my writing evenings and weekends in my apartment near the University of Madeira. My loving wife and kids put up with my long absences. I love to cook. I am a composer and would write more music if I were not so busy writing novels.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
Larry: I have been writing professionally all my adult life, but nearly all of that was technical non-fiction. I was good at it — even won awards — but I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much. I really started writing with passion and pleasure when I began work on my first novel, Bashert. I have never been one to color within the lines, so, although my novels are nominally in the thriller genre, they frequently break out of the boundaries of genre conventions. My forays into fiction actually began decades earlier with science fiction short stories and a couple of novellas. Those earlier works have been republished in Requisite Variety, which takes its title from my last published SF short. My recent novel, The Rosen Singularity, might nominally be called near-future science fiction, but it violates the terms of engagement that SF readers expect and is probably more literary thriller than SF.
Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Larry: If I had wanted to be a preacher or rabbi, a long-form journalist or a self-help guru with a message, I would have taken a different path. So, no, I don’t have a message for readers. But I do have a mission. I want to challenge my readers, to get them thinking, to leave behind semantic seeds that grow into fresh inspiration and insight. Thoughtful thrillers, provocative page-turners, intelligent intrigue—these are among the phrases that have been used to describe my novels. I want to raise questions more than offer answers. What is the nature of extremism and its connection with terrorism? Who are the good guys and who the bad in a world of shadow and deception? What are the unintended consequences of medical advances? And I want readers to have a great time and a grand ride on the road to the last page.
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
Larry: My most recent novel is Chipset, which is both part of The Homeland Connection series and can be read on its own. Readers who missed the first three novels — Bashert, The Dome, and Web Game — will not be lost, but those who go back and catch up will be doubly rewarded.
Like its predecessors, the story turns on a real threat, in this case malicious computer code actually embedded in the very hardware on which the entire world now depends. Like the other novels, it centers on ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, not superheroes or larger-than-life figures, but people you could know dealing with outsized challenges. Let’s just say that Karl Lustig, an American technology journalist, and his British-Israeli wife, Shira Markham, a jewelry designer and all around smart lady, are in for an adventurous holiday when Karl uncovers a secret within the computer chipsets he is delivering to colleagues at the University of Madeira.
Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
Larry: I really like all my characters, even the bad guys and walk-on players are lovingly crafted. In Chipset, I have to admit to having developed a special affection for Karl’s mother, whose story-within-a-story in a packet of letters takes Karl back to World War II Poland, Germany, Portugal, and England. She was an amazingly resourceful lady, as Karl finds out.
Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
Larry: Perhaps it is the influence of my career as a designer, but I write much as a portrait artist paints, moving from one place in the canvas to another, filling in details here, sketching broadly there, painting over something that doesn’t look right one place, adding an element for balance someplace else. I make lots of notes but do not work from a strict outline. Instead, just as the painter steps back from the canvas, I keep going back and approaching the work as a whole, as a reader, taking on the perspective of the reader’s experience. Does it hang together? Is the pace and rhythm satisfying and engaging? Are there holes or is too much given away or at the wrong time? Then I go back and rewrite. And revise. And rewrite.
Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?
Larry: Every writer, even those who mimic others, has a writing style. In my case, I confess to writing in a fashion that echoes not some particular writer or writers but broadly fits the sort of writing I like to read. I enjoy reading rich description, insightful exposition, and colorful, clever narrative. I like hearing the voice of the writer as well as of the characters. I enjoy the poetry of language, the music of well-crafted sentences, and the rhythm of flowing paragraphs. These are the things I aspire to. Others will judge how well I reach those aspirations. In any case, I strive for something more classical than contemporary, despite the thematic currency of my thrillers.
And while we are on the subject of style, if I read one more self-appointed expert blogger cajoling modern writers to “show not tell,” I am likely to reach violently through the screen with malicious intent. It’s called storytelling for a reason. The language has adjectives and adverbs for good reason. The passive voice is useful. I see it as the writer’s job to master and use it all.
I have always favored third-person POV because of its flexibility, but I have no religious orthodoxy about acceptable incursions into the inner thoughts of characters. I am more interested in spinning a good story than purity of viewpoint. I try not to throw readers for a loop as I take them around curves and through twists, but I am not writing to please some professor of creative writing. I am telling stories.
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Larry: My environment and upbringing are as different as land and sea, but I suppose both have colored my writing. From my growing up, I would have to credit my mother, a newspaper columnist and editor, for instilling in me a love of words and a healthy respect for the craft of writing, in which it has taken me a lifetime to develop some craftsmanship. But my environment, which spans the globe and washes me with life’s complexities, is far the more direct influence. I often use familiar places to anchor my fiction. The Rosen Singularity is centered in the North Shore communities of Massachusetts near my home, but also in London and outside Moscow, where I have worked and visited numerous times. Chipset is largely set in Madeira, my second home. But I also go far afield, as far as the wholly invented African country of Busanyu, where the long lived dictator Edgar Jabari Mbutsu rules with brutal efficiency and plays a pivotal role in The Rosen Singularity.
Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.
“Few thriller writers can match Samson’s ability to deliver a gripping story. In previous reviews, I have compared him to John le Carré and Tom Clancy. As an Indie writer, he probably doesn’t have the same name recognition or sales, but he is equal to or better than both those authors. His work deserves to be on the New York Times Seller list.” That from mystery writer James A. Anderson. More than I deserve, I am sure, but to soar in such celebrated company, even for a paragraph, is delicious.
What are your current projects?
Larry: I like that you end this question with a plural, because I have two novels in progress. I imagine that writers are not supposed to do that, but there it is, the confessed truth. I am just not ready to commit fully to one or the other. Both are quite daring, in a sense, and each represents an entirely new literary direction for me. The one that has the tightest grip on me at the moment is my first murder mystery, although, as with my other works, it jumps the genre gaps and might be thought of as a love story except … Well, it’s still in progress, so exactly what it is remains an open question. Literary fiction? The other novel, which is also well under way but temporarily simmering on a back burner, is a work of quiet terror. So maybe it’s horror, except… These novels are quite experimental, stories that defy expectations and take the reader in new directions. I am excited. And scared.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Larry: My author page at Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk is the best jumping off point. And it makes it easy to purchase the books with One-Click!