A former rocket scientist, Susan Kaye Quinn’s career path morphed into writing once she became a mother. Pursuing the indie route, she is a bestseller in the science-fiction and speculative-fiction genres. Quinn is the author of the Singularity series, the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, and the Debt Collector serial, as well as other novels and short stories. Quinn’s work has appeared in the Synchronic anthology, The Telepath Chronicles, The A.I. Chronicles, and has been optioned for Virtual Reality by Immersive Entertainment. She talked to us recently about her career and writing.
Why did you decide to self-publish instead of going the traditional route?
I’m primarily an indie author, but I’ve traveled both paths to some extent. My first book was published through a small press. Unfortunately, sales were disappointing. I queried and shelved my next book (middle-grade science fiction), discovering in the process that agents could love a book and still have no idea how to sell it. Then I queried another (Open Minds, young-adult SF)—while agents were enthusiastically asking for full manuscripts, self-publishing started to break out. Suddenly there was this alternate path available, and authors were making real money at it. I evaluated my options, pulled my manuscript from agents, made a business plan, and leaped with both feet into the indie pond.
You're a former rocket scientist. Describe your work there.
My degrees are in aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering (MS), and environmental engineering (Ph.D.). I’ve worked at NASA on hypersonic ramjets, General Electric Aircraft Engines on combustors, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research on global warming. Lots of geeky, fun stuff, which I loved.
How did your career affect your writing? Did it influence you to write in the speculative fiction genre?
I didn’t pick up the pen until after I had quit working full-time to raise babies. I had always planned to go back to engineering, but the writing bug bit first. I’m a lifelong science-fiction fan, and that’s truly why I write speculative fiction. I’m trying to re-create that mind-blowing feeling the classic SF stories of my youth induced—only updated for the modern era and made even more humancentric rather than technology-centric.
What has been the most difficult aspect of self-publishing?
The pressure. Being so close to the market, controlling all aspects of publishing, is fantastic for someone who loves challenge and wants to run their own business, like me. But like any small business, the pressure can be daunting—there are no limits anymore. As fast as you can write, as many hours as you can put into marketing, those things will make a difference to your bottom line. I see many, many authors burn out from the pace of self-publishing.
What measure of success have you enjoyed?
With 62 titles on Amazon—including all the anthologies and serial episodes—my business has more titles than some small publishers. The success I value most highly is the ability to write the stories I love and make enough money at it to keep writing more stories that I love. My first goal in my business plan was to replace a part-time job in engineering so I could continue to write—I surpassed that a long time ago, but it’s still the most important milestone to me, personally. Because it means I get to roll out of bed, stumble downstairs in my PJs, and do work I love...every day.
Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor with a passion for books.