Duncan Long is an internationally recognized technical and fiction author with over
seventy books and manuals that have gone into print. He also "moonlights" as an illustrator
(more on this here).
Long's books deal with a variety of subjects. Title subjects include everything from
chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons to health manuals to gun books.
Long even has a manual in print that explains the ins and outs of becoming a freelance
writer. He also wrote the nine-book action/adventure Night Stalkers series (published
by HarperCollins) as well as the SF novel, Anti-Grav Unlimited (originally with Avon
Books, now published by Duncan Long Publications). Long's Spider Worlds SF trilogy
was marketed by Harper Paperbacks.
Presently Long is ghostwriting books on a variety of subjects. You can learn more
about this process of ghostwriting here.
"Sometimes I talk to other technical writers who tell me they could never write fiction,"
Long says. "Others say they could never do technical work. Personally, I find that
being able to write in both forms (and maybe even create the illustrations for them)
makes it possible to create a 'story' atmosphere in the nonfiction and a more realistic,
hard edge to the fiction."
(For those who doubt this, Long points out that he wrote everything in this "interview"
just to help you imagine a conversation that he might -- but did not -- carry on
with an interviewer.)
"I have trouble remembering how many books I've written," Long admits. "It must be
somewhere around 100 that have gone into print now. I guess after the first few,
the new wears off. At any given time I'm working on several book ideas." And he's
also generally editing or writing another book or newsletter.
"It takes a lot of organization and 'plotting' to keep on schedule," Long says. "But
I enjoy the challenge. It's like preparing a major battle or mounting an expedition
- without the blood. But everything has to be planned carefully if you're to meet
the deadlines and see success."
When Long isn’t writing, he’s usually drawing or watching movies. He has illustrated
many of his non-fiction books and also regularly creates pictures for other authors
short stories and book covers as well as artwork appearing at a number of sites on
the Internet. "There are even a few rock CDs with Duncan Long-drawn covers," the
author admits, somewhat sheepishly.
Asked when he started writing, the author gives a funny look and then says, "As long
as I can remember. I got a pencil and started drawing stick figures shooting at each
other. When my mom told me how to spell two key words, ‘ow’ and ‘pop,’ I was set
to add the dialogue and sound effects for the shoot out. Hopefully my technique has
improved a bit since then - though I have critics who might maintain otherwise,"
he adds without cracking a smile.
Long majored in music (“meaning I was destined to teach forever or starve”) and started
writing a small manual he sold by mail order to make some extra money on the side
while he taught school. He gradually started writing for other publishers and quickly
abandoned the mail order business so he could write full time.
Along the way he discovered, often the hard way, how to make money, research quickly,
and get jobs instead of standing around waiting for work, eventually making a living
"Things aren’t easy in the publishing business right now,” Long notes. “Some publishers
are floundering because they’re failing to make the transition into the Internet
age. Most still sell books with the same return system devised in the 1930s; tear
off the cover and return it for a full refund - with the rest of the book or magazine
tossed into the waste bin. Many print runs see half the books or magazines tossed
without making a penny. In today’s economy, it’s hard to make money that way. Little
wonder some sections of the publishing industry are near panic right now. But there
are opportunities, and the small publishers seem to be taking up the space abandoned
by the large publishers.”
Long sees pluses. "One of the many neat things about writing is that you can do it
from almost anywhere in the world and at about any time in your life. It tends to
be something people get good at later in life, unlike many professions where it seems
the youngsters have better potential than the oldsters and once you hit 30 you’re
a has-been. Writing is something that, once you get the knack, you can continue until
they carry you out feet first or you no longer know who you are during the Springtime
of your senility."