Interview with author Timothy N. Stelly, Sr.


When I read a book, or when I’m thinking of reading a book, I find that I would love to know more about the author.  What do they think about? Why should I care about what they have written? What insights can they give me about their process, characters, and reasons for even putting their words on paper and sharing with others? Here are some questions I have asked some of my favorite authors. I hope you enjoy their responses as much as I have.

Why should I read your book?

TS: Because HUMAN TRIAL and its sequel, HUMAN TRIAL II: ADAM’S WAR are stories about people whom we all know, will root for and whom we can compare our sense of values to. They are a cross-section of America. The book asks the reader to ponder what they would do in a similar situation. While the book is of the sci-fi genre, it focus more on human behavior and group dynamics.

Are you a cat or a dog person?

TS: Cats. Outside of cartoons, or the movies The Uncanny and Sleepwalkers, when have you known felines to turn on their owners or maul someone?
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

TS: Actually, it chose me. My usual genre is social and political satire, and crime or family dramas. However, HUMAN TRIAL was inspired by a dream: An optical one and my desire to write a book about good v. evil and the group dynamics involved. The next two parts of the trilogy were inspired by T.C. Matthews who informed me that today’s better-known sci-fi works are trilogies. Also most of the people who read the initial draft were not sci-fi readers, but critiqued the manuscript anyway. Since then, I have banged out another sci-fi tome (A Junkie’s Paradise) and an anthology of Stephen King-esque stories (Strange Pictures.)

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

TS: I wanted to present two enemies: The earth’s assailants (and I kept them unseen as long as possible), and then the proverbial “enemy within,” portrayed as mankind’s tribal instinct and personal prejudices. I tried to juxtapose the two to let the reader determine in his mind what is the biggest threat to man’s survival. I also wanted to have an impact on how the reader looks at the things around him or her: and I get e-mails all the time from readers who state that every time it gets hot for any length of time, they think of HUMAN TRIAL.

Second, many of the people who read HT are reading the sequel, HUMAN TRIAL II: ADAM’S WAR, and have told me that the sequel is even better than its predecessor.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

TS: Brutal honesty interwoven with humor. My work allows the reader to think, because it raises the question, “What would I (the reader) do in this situation?”

What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn’t so?

TS: That science fiction has to place the emphasis on “science.” Not true. I try to create an ever-so-slight exaggeration of reality or what is possible. From there I add the human variable and let them work out how the dilemma is overcome. Luke Rhinehart’s Long Voyage Home is an excellent example of this.

How did you get to be where you are in your life today?

TS: My parents shaped my future. They filled out home with books and all the other tools needed to be creative: Paper, pens, crayons, staplers, jigsaw and crossword puzzles, art paper, scissors, glue, scotch tape, a reel-to-reel tape deck, typewriters and even a mimeograph machine. I have ten siblings and we also collaborated on creative projects—even making our own board games.

I have relatives who have written scholarly tomes, a script fot the TV series Good Times, and others in my family who oil paint (portraits and landscapes),  and who are excellent singers. When people visited us and we were all at hoime, it was like watching a talent show. And as Walter Brennan might say, “Dat’s not brag, brudda…that’s fact.”

I also had wonderful teachers who actually took an interest in my writing and intellectual development.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

TS: My literary influences are an eclectic lot: Rene Guy De Maupassant, Richard Wright, Donald Goines and Stephen King. The latter is big oin character development, which I think drives a story; Goines was not afraid to “tell it like it is,” nor was Wright, who wrote about many intriguing but flawed characters; and Maupassant’s short stories (The piece of String; the Cake; Old Toine, et al) showed us the “complex simplicity” of life.

King has definitely influenced the writing I’ve done over the past three years—from three sci-fi novels, a horror novel and an anthology of unusual short stories.,

How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

TS: The printed book might not be dead yet, but it is comatose and has undergone an amputation. I like the print model is something you can keep on the shelf at home and literally pass down; whereas e-publishing has an impersonal quality. However, ebooks are the future, and the first hint of that truth was when the hyphen between e and book was eliminated.

As for self-publishing, I don’t really think that’s for me. I was elated to be published the “traditional” way, and I have enough rejection letters to prove it.

What do your plans for future projects include?

TS: I have my two “babies”: A semi-autobiographical coming of age novel, People Darker Than Blue, which interweaves the stories of two cliques—one black and one white—at a desegregated high school in the 1970’s. The second is a crime-drama titled Under Color Of Authority, about a desperate small-town police chief who hires soldiers of fortune to clean up the streets, where two competing gangs have not only endangered the citizenry, but have bought off some of the towns law enforcement officers.

As for sci-fi, I am getting ready to shop A Junkie’s Paradise, the story of a viral pandemic that wipes out half the earth’s population until it is discovered that those with immunity are the dregs of society. Also I have my sci-fi anthology, a compilation of 18 stories that address everything from a man who wakens to find himself as the lone remaining human being to a septuagenarian serial killer to drunken women who conduct a lynching. I just recently finished a “zombies in the hood” tale titled, The Undead.

I have a number of screenplays, and have developed two ideas for television shows: Of the latter, one a comedy centered around movie critics and the other, a family comedy that I call a cross between “What’s Happening!” and “Married…With Children.”

Will the “mechanical” standards of writing hold? Grammar, sentence structure, etc.? Does it matter? Why or why not?

TS: God no. We now live in a world of texting where kids are encouraged to spell words incorrectly! Who’d have thought that being a bad speller might someday be a good thing? Okay, jokes aside—no, grammar and punctuation are a dying art. They don’t teach it in school (at least, not very well), and the poor quality of writing (particularly in urban fiction) is creating a new generation of authors antagonistic toward acumen and accuracy.

What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has? Write it out here, then answer it.

Q: “When will we see your work on the big screen?” The answer is simple: When the public no longer accepts Hollywood’s regurgitation—sequels and passing off TV shows from the past as “new blockbusters.” Today there is a dearth of creativity in Hollywood. The scripts are formulaic and pigeon-holed and too damn expensive to make. For example, Judd Apatow is doing is what Adam Sandler was doing ten years ago, and Sandler is doing what John Hughes and John Waters did–although with more crudity.

Black cinema is deemed “unsaleable” unless it starts a rapper, or brothers posing as ne’er-do-wells who live by the gun. (The exception being Tyler Perry., but his work is geared toward black women, a demographic all its own.)  Occasionally we’ll see a reworking of the blaxploitation genre, but few real meat and potatoes dramas; another Shaft rather than Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored.

Personally, I’d match my story, The Undead against Twilight or Zombieland and let moviegoers decided which is the fresher tale. I’d pit Human Trial I or II against Independence Day any day; or either of my TV shows against the schlock that today passes as “comedy.” The art of joke writing has been replaced by crudity and men being portrayed as buffoons. Okay, let me jump off my soap box….I have some rewriting to do.

Mr. Stelly can be reached by e-mail at, or you can check out his blog: or you can go to, click on BOOKS and type in “stelly human trial” and read the reviews.My essays can be found at


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