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"Getting the hero into trouble is as much the author’s job, as getting him out of it."

Interview: H. Peter Alesso, Author of ‘Lieutenant Henry Gallant’

H. Peter AlessoH. Peter Alesso graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a B.S. and served in the U.S. Navy on nuclear submarines before completing an M.S. and an advanced Engineering Degree at M.I.T. He was a research scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for over twenty years. He published several software titles and numerous scientific journal and conference articles, and he is the author/co-author of seven books.

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Lieutenant Henry Gallant. When did you start writing and what got you into science fiction?

I love words.

That wasn’t always the case. My first infatuation was with numbers which explains my career as a research scientist. However, with maturity came insight into the elegance and efficacy of words. I learned to express myself in narratives rather than in algorithms.

I discovered that basic human behavior — emotional and physiological reactions to specific internal and external stresses — could be well-expressed though stories. What makes a science fiction story special is the tension originates at unexpected locations with unusual characters and strange circumstance, all of which combine to produce surprisingly ordinary human responses.

I’ve enjoyed this wonderful form of entertainment all my life. Now I find pleasure in manufacturing the adventures for myself. 

What do you hope readers will get from your book?

I offered a scientific basis for the fictional science I described.

My characters were presented as complex people. Their behavior was multifaceted — sometime predictable, sometimes not — but their response always fell within the spectrum of past human reactions. 

I hope the reader will feel that my book is based upon hard science with characters responding with normal human behavior. 

Did your book require a lot of research? 

In the past, the scientific speculation of science fiction has helped spark the curiosity of researchers in many fields.

Lieutenant Henry Gallant 2As a result, I believe science fiction should start on hard scientific principles. I researched the technologies included in the story and tried to predict their development path into the next centuries. For example, genetic engineering is current an important social topic and humanity faces difficult choices ahead. In Lieutenant Henry Gallant, genetic engineering plays an influential role in the background, but it is cast against a competing innovation — Artificial Intelligence.

In addition, I found it useful to explore the concepts of dark matter and faster-than-light travel, both of which are areas of serious scientific exploration today. 

How do you keep your narrative exciting?

The hero should exhibit his (or hers) emotions to allow the reader to vicariously enjoy the emotional roller-coaster ride of the story arc. As a result, the reader will find it exciting whenever the hero gets into trouble, or danger — whenever he is embarrassed, or upset.

The more distress the hero endures, the greater his (and the reader’s) satisfaction will be when he finally prevails. Getting the hero into trouble is as much the author’s job, as getting him out of it. 

What is your advice for aspiring authors? 

Work with an experienced editor.

From time to time, you can find yourself so immersed in your work that you may lose perspective. An outside voice can keep you focused on the truth you are trying to tell.

You may not know if you are actually producing the impact you desire, until a knowledgeable editor offers an honest evaluation. Your editor can help you recognize when your book is ready for publication — when the characters are properly defined, the plot arc is adequately developed, and the settings are clearly described. 

Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A multi-book story arc requires a thorough understanding of the characters and their motivations, as well as considerable planning. An author always benefits from the encouragement and feedback of his co-conspirators in this endeavor — the readers. With the release of each book in a series, the voice of the readers becomes clearer. Their desire to see certain characters prevail and certain events transpire becomes plain.

I am looking forward to further developing The Henry Gallant Saga — if the readers encourage me to do so through their review comments.

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.

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