SKYRIPPER was a more important book for me than I’d realized until this moment. In 1981 I was driving a bus for the Town of Chapel Hill, having decided that being a lawyer was killing me–and quitting the law business. I’d turned Time Safari in to Jim Baen, SF editor of Tor Books. He and Tom Doherty, the publisher, were pleased with the result.
At the time, technothrillers were a hot new genre. Tom, Jim, and Tor’s financial backer decided that they wanted in on it and I was the guy to deliver for them. Jim called me, telling me what they wanted.
I was a little doubtful. I’d decided that I would write a mainstream historical novel set in the 1690s in England and India. I’d done an enormous amount of research and had well over a 100K words written. Tor agreed to buy that novel also (Court of Diamonds–my title; The Diamond Court as it appears in Tor documents) when it was finished, but I should get onto the technothriller first.
I dived straight in. We’d vacationed in Algeria the previous summer, so I set the book there. I did my usual amount of research. One day a woman on the bus I was driving insisted on learning what book I was reading on a layover. Parenthetically, driving a bus wasn’t a bad job, but dealing with the public wasn’t a part of the task that I ever warmed to. The woman shut up when I handed her How to Kill, Volume III.
The book proceeded. It was immediately evident not only that I didn’t need to drive the bus for the sake of financial security, I actually lost money because my time would have been more productively spent in writing. I kept the job, however, because I was afraid that if I didn’t force myself to get out and interact with people I’d get dangerously weird and reclusive. (My friends are probably chuckling as they read this.)
Then management dealt with a disciplinary problem (which had nothing to do with me) in a fashion that made my life there much more difficult. I exploded, “I don’t have to take this crap!” And I didn’t.
I gave my two weeks notice, and since then have been a full-time freelance writer.