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Homer Hickam is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Rocket Boys, which was made into the acclaimed movie October Sky. He is also the author of The Coalwood Way, Sky of Stone, and We Are Not Afraid (all set in his beloved hometown of Coalwood, West Virginia), plus Torpedo Junction, Back to the Moon, and his popular "Josh Thurlow" World War II series. He is a former coal miner, a Vietnam combat veteran, a scuba instructor, a retired rocket scientist, and, recently, an avid field paleontologist. More than anything else, he loves to write. He is married to Linda Terry Hickam, an artist, who is also his assistant. They share their time with their cats between homes in Alabama and the U. S. Virgin Islands.

Favorite Bible verse:  2 Peter 3:13 - Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.


 

 Our Interview with Homer Hickam


 

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I am best known as the author of Rocket Boys, the #1 NY Times best-seller which was made into the movie October Sky.  Rocket Boys is now considered a classic and is studied in many school systems across the country and the world.  I am also the author of many other books, including The Coalwood Way, Sky of Stone, The Keeper's Son, Back to the Moon, Red Helmet, and The Dinosaur Hunter among others.  I am also an avid amateur paleontologist, a scuba instructor, a Vietnam veteran, and a retired NASA engineer.  My wife and I are members of the Monte Sano United Methodist Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

What is your favorite Bible verse? (translation please.) Why?

 2 Peter 3:13 -  Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Although the verse in context promises Christians a world that reflects their values, I take it to also mean that we are promised truly new Earths in the heavens where we can live.  Essentially, it's a promise of a vibrant space program right there in the Bible!

That’s an interesting title; is there a special meaning behind the title?

The location of the story is on the moon and I thought it would be fun to name my main character after a major feature there.  After being adopted as an unnamed newborn, Crater receives his name from his foster parents because of the thousands of craters the couple pass as they journey across the moon.  The publisher liked the name enough that it evolved into the title of the novel.

What inspired the concept for the Helium 3 Series?

A discussion with my editor Ami McConnell and publisher Allen Arnold at Thomas Nelson about what my next novel should be worked its way around to the idea of writing a Young Adult novel set on the moon.  After I fleshed out the idea of setting it 120 years in the future where a brave people are carving out an existence by mining Helium 3, they were enthusiastic about it, enough that they suggested a trilogy with the same characters.

How did you choose the setting?

I've always been a Lunaphile.  I think the moon should be part of our future.  I wrote another novel titled Back to the Moon which was set in the early 21st Century.  Although not exactly a sequel, some of the characters in Crater are related to those in Back to the Moon.  So I guess I've been quietly planning another book set on the moon for a long time.

Is any part of Crater factual?

Crater is fiction, of course, but it is based on several underlying facts.  Among these are:

•  Fusion reactors are feasible and, if constructed, would provide vast amounts of clean energy for the world.


•  Helium 3 is acknowledged by scientists as being the perfect fuel for fusion reactors.

•  The moon has vast deposits of Helium 3, which is an isotope placed there by the solar wind.


•  Helium 3 can be mined and shipped to Earth, its value such that the construction of Lunar mining towns and a transportation system would be economical.

 

How long did Crater take you to complete?

About a year.  I could have written it faster but I took my time because I wanted to make certain my characters were sufficiently interesting that they could be sustained across a trilogy.

Do you have a favorite character in Crater? Why?

Other than Crater himself, my favorite is Maria.  She is the granddaughter of the man who owns the mine where Crater works and could live an easy life.  Instead, she signs up to be a Helium 3 convoy scout along with Crater, knowing very well that danger awaits her and everyone who ventures forth on the long highway across the dust.  Another favorite is Captain Jake Teller, the convoy commander.  Captain Teller is a proper gentleman, strait-laced, and bound by rules and regulations.  It was fun to let him grow as the novel went along.

How much research did Crater take?

A lot.  I read everything I could find about recent discoveries on the moon, including new sources of water.  I also consulted lunar experts at NASA.

What was the most interesting tidbit that you learned while writing Crater?

That water may lie beneath the moon is vastly more abundance than we have yet imagined.

How many books will be in the Helium 3 Series?

Right now we're calling it a trilogy.  But should there be room for a fourth book, we'll see!

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

The biggest challenge I have, frankly speaking, is that even after all my success as a writer, some people think of me as more of a scientist or engineer than a writer. This, of course, is the result of October Sky, the movie based on Rocket Boys and is understandable. Since my greatest passion has always been writing, I confess this sometimes makes me a little grumpy, Actually, I know I'm very lucky with a writing career most writers would love to have. I am continually reminding myself to count my blessings which are abundant. Otherwise, my challenges are very small since I love to write more than anything.

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

I love the whole process of creation, of watching my story unfold. I also absolutely love to rewrite. Going back and working over my words until I get them just right is pure heaven.

What writing clubs or organizations do you belong to?

I'm a member of the Author's Guild.

What were your favorite books as a child?

From the moment I learned to read when I was five years old, I read everything I could get my hands on from The Hardy Boys series to anything John Steinbeck wrote. I can recall reading Cannery Row in the third grade. I sneaked it off the bookshelf at home. I didn't understand it all but I sure liked it, anyway. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer were childhood buddies. I liked some science fiction, too, especially Robert Heinlein.

What is your writing style? (Do you outline? Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants? Or somewhere in between?)

Before I begin, I usually have in mind who my characters are and what challenges they're going to encounter and how they'll end up. That tends to change as the characters develop and the storyline matures. That's why I love rewriting so much. I go back, enhance and fix what I've done, then keep going. When I get stuck, I plow on, knowing that I can come back and make it work.

Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?

Oh, yes, and sometimes I realize they aren't quite who I thought they were when I invented them. That's always fun when they take on personality quirks I hadn't imagined but I do remind them occasionally that I can send them back where they came from if they give me too much trouble. I've done it, too.

What other new projects do you have on the horizon?

Very soon, I'll start writing the second novel in the Helium 3 trilogy but I don't lack for other writing to do in the meantime. I am the co-writer of the stageplay of the big new musical bound for Broadway called Rocket Boys the Musical (http://www.rocketboysthemusical.com) which is based on—what else?—my memoir Rocket Boys. I also have a novella and some short stories in my hopper along with a screenplay based on my novel The Dinosaur Hunter.

Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?

As an avid reader, I've been immersed in the styles of many writers but probably the one whose influenced my style the most is John Steinbeck. I suspect that's true because after I read one of his books, for the next day or two I find myself writing bad Steinbeck.

 

What message would you like your readers to take from Crater?

Well, Crater isn't a message book in that it wasn't written for any reason other than to tell a cracking, good, page-turning story.  With that said, however, I confess there is an underlying theme and that is we all have a lot more courage than we think we do  We just have to dig down to where we keep it hidden away and use it.  Prayer helps us to find that courage, too.

What is your greatest achievement?

I hope I haven't achieved it yet.  However, if my life ended tomorrow, I'm sure most people would agree my greatest achievement was writing Rocket Boys.

What is your goal or mission as a writer?

To write books that readers love.  If, at the end of reading one of my books, the last page is reluctantly turned and the last line read with quiet satisfaction, I figure I've done my job.

What do you do to get away from it all?

Head down to our place in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.  Frankly, however, that doesn't completely work in this day of the Internet.  No matter, my work is my play.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I really hope my readers will enjoy Crater and spread the word to other readers if they do.


 
Crater - eBook

Crater - eBook
Homer Hickam
CBD Price: $5.99

October Sky (orignally published as Rocket Boys)
October Sky (orignally published as Rocket Boys)
Homer Hickam
CBD Price: $6.29

Rocket Boys - eBook

Rocket Boys - eBook
Homer Hickam
CBD Price: $6.54

We Are Not Afraid: Strength and Courage from the Town   That Inspired the #1 Bestseller October Sky
We Are Not Afraid: Strength and Courage from the Town That Inspired the #1 Bestseller October Sky
Homer Hickam
CBD Price: $7.19