I love authors and sharing these discussions with my readers is my passion. Today I am speaking with an award-winning author of science fiction, Sam Polakoff. I look forward to learning more about Sam, and I think you will too. Sit back and enjoy our chat. I invite you to you share it with your friends. Please share a bit of your background with my readers, Sam.
Thanks, Rox. I am the third-generation owner of Nexterus, America’s oldest privately held third party logistics firm. I started here full time as a teenager in 1981. My dad told me I could come into the family business if I wanted but if not, he’d support whatever I chose to do. I told him I wanted to write novels. He said, “What?” You’ll starve!” Sage wisdom from Dad, for sure. Four decades later, after a push from a mentor, I attended a writer’s retreat in the Berkshires for first-time novelists. From that process I created Hiatus, a story fashioned after a recurring dream I had for many years. Now, I’ve hit my stride and I’m working on novel number four.
Sam, thank you for sharing that with my readers. You are the President and CEO of a supply chain engineering and technology company for more than four decades, when do you have time to write fiction?
Work is busy for sure, but I have two things going for me; I’m an empty-nester and I don’t sleep. Most of my writing takes place in the wee hours of the morning before work and on weekends.
Was there an event in your life that drove you to write?
I’ve always been a creative person and I’ve always enjoyed writing. While there isn’t a defining moment, I did write my first story when I was a young boy.
What is the biggest inspiration to your science fiction writing?
It’s funny. Pure sci-fi fans would not look at my work as science fiction. I categorize my stories as thrillers with a science fiction thread. I like the thread because it enables me to create impossible scenarios and make them seem plausible. Over the years, I’ve been inspired by concepts like reincarnation and overcoming end of world scenarios. I like taking current issues and projecting them into fictitious conflicts in a manner that keeps the reader turning pages. These issues can range from climate change to politics.
You currently have three novels available on Amazon, do you have a favorite?
I love them all. If I was forced to pick a favorite, I’d probably go with Shaman. It tackles so many interesting themes and it was a blast to research and write. In this book, I was able to explore shamanism in both modern day and in an ancient Inca civilization, Akashic records, weaponizing climate change and politics. I also had the pleasure of interviewing a practicing shaman and two Akashic readers.
You have strong characters in your novels, are they modeled after real people?
Not really. All of my characters a product of my imagination although I do subscribe to the theory that an author throws a little bit of himself in every character he creates.
I noticed you also created A Christmas Tale. Are childrens book’s an avenue you might explore more in the future?
A Christmas Tale is a children’s book. It was the first book I published, and it was quite unintentional. At Nexterus, every day for years and years, I have sent our employees and a few friends a timed daily email at 5:00 am called the Morning Message. It’s generally a quote or an inspirational short story to get people’s day off to a great start. In 2007, I wanted to write something original for the Christmas season. That became A Christmas Tale. One of my friends on the distribution list was a children’s author. He called me and suggested I convert the story to a children’s book and donate the proceeds to our non-profit foundation fighting glaucoma. And that’s what we did! Each season, the book sells, with all the proceeds going to the fight against glaucoma.
When available, do you enjoy face-to-face readings and book signings with your fans?
I think science fiction can offer significant challenges. What do you find the biggest challenge with this genre?
It’s researching the science. I want to avail myself of creative liberty but at the same time, I want everything to be semi-plausible to the layman. For each book, I have sought out and interviewed experts including chemists, physicists, biologists, and marine biologists. The fun part is learning new things. The challenge is in boiling it down to basics that won’t overwhelm the reader.
Do you have any desire to take any of your novels into a series?
One day, maybe. I know readers enjoy the continuity of a series but I fear I may get bored with my own characters. That wouldn’t make for a good series, would it? I love the thrill of creating new characters, new plots and immersing myself in new everything as I begin writing a new story.
Most authors I know also enjoy reading. Do you have any favorite authors who have inspired you?
Yes, I am an avid reader. Authors I enjoy today range from Stephen King to Dan Brown. Years ago, I loved reading Robert Ludlum, Ian Fleming, James Clavell, and Arthur Hailey.
Your covers are compelling and succinct. Who does the designs, you or a favorite graphic artist?
All three covers for my novels were designed by Gwyn Flowers of GKS Creative. Gwyn is awesome because she takes the time to read the manuscript, engage with the characters and create those compelling designs.
Have you considered turning your stories into audible renditions?
I’ve considered it but time and budget constraints have gotten in the way.
Who is the target audience for your stories?
I think anyone who enjoys a good mystery, crime story or thriller will enjoy my stories. Readers who like dystopian stories and the paranormal might also partake.
Are there other genres you really want to explore creating?
One day, I might try my hand at historical fiction. I love history and think I could create some magic in the genre.
Can you share with readers your writing process and maybe tips other authors might consider?
For me, everything starts with a basic idea for a plot. From there, I take my time, sometimes months, to really discern how to create characters and the “why” behind their actions. Once I get comfortable with all that, I choose my POV characters, usually three, and outline a path for each. I tend to write every third chapter from a different POV and I do this sequentially so I go in and out of “character” enabling the story to flow freely from one POV to the next until it all intertwines at the end.
Do you use beta readers and if yes, how do you find them?
I do. I have an author mailing list and the opportunity to be a beta reader is offered through that channel. Prior to beta readers, I have an inner circle of close friends and family who will read early drafts. These are people I know will give me the unvarnished truth.
I know you are an award-winning author. Is there an award you are particularly proud you earned?
Most recently, Shaman was fortunate enough to be selected by the prestigious and well-respected Rave Reviews Book Club as the 2nd place finisher for 2020’s Rave Award for Book of the Year. Escaping Mercy, released on July 17, 2021, has been nominated for several awards so hopefully, more accolades are on the way.
What writing is next in line for you and when might we see it available?
My fourth novel is in process and will be called An Inch from Oblivion. Like my first three novels , it will be independent of the others and is in the sci-fi thriller genre. No timetable has been established for availability but my best guess is Summer of ’23.
Are your books published in multiple languages?
At the present time, just English.
Do you read your book reviews and if so, what do you get out of them?
Yes, I read them all. I am a big fan of honesty, so I value whatever people have to teach me. I also find that some readers offer interpretations I hadn’t necessarily intended. That always gets me thinking about how to write at a deeper level.
What sort of groups are you involved with and why?
I don’t have a ton of free time, so I pick my spots carefully. Generally speaking, I love to meet and interact with other independent authors to exchange thoughts on the writing and publishing process. We are all learning from each other.
You and your wife are invited to an exclusive luncheon in Hershey. You are seated at a table with your two favorite authors (living or dead). What burning questions are you finally going to ask and why?
I often ponder the challenge of James Clavell or Arthur Haley inwriting novels in the days before computerization. I can research and literally visit any place on the planet from the comfort of my home office. In yesteryear, creating a work of fiction on a typewriter and having to travel the globe for perspective, interviews, etc. is a tremendous difference. My questions to my favorite authors who are no longer with us would center on that.
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming authors?
Write with abandon. Don’t be handcuffed by “Traditionalists” who tell you how a book should open, where the story should go or whose point of view to write from. Break the rules. Create your own genre if need be. Follow your passion. Whatever you do, just do it in a manner that embraces the highest quality possible.
Where can folks find you and follow you.