Murray Suid, author of Summer of the Flying Saucer, took time out from picking blackberries to answer a few questions posed by the publisher, Monday Morning.
MM: How much of the story is true?
Murray: Well, if you’re talking about a scam in which three people steal a town’s gold, that’s entirely made up. But the description of Seaview is based on real places in West Marin, where I live, particularly Point Reyes Station and Inverness.
MM: Could you give us an example?
Murray: Sure. On the Main Street of Point Reyes Station, you’ll see an automobile repair shop that dates back to the early part of the 20th century. I had the repair shop in mind when I described the Green & Son truck dealership. And it’s true that in West Marin, there are more cows that people.
MM: Where did the idea for the story come from?
Murray: When I was in college, my roommate did a study of flying saucer clubs across the U.S. During one summer, he interviewed many people who ran these clubs and who claimed that flying saucers were real. The idea of spending a summer learning about flying saucers stayed with him, and eventually it became the story.
MM: It sounds like your story is very different from the academic research that your roommate did.
Murray: That’s right. But I think quite often a fictional story will grow from something real.
MM: You tell the story in the first person, in the voice of Dan. Why did you decide to use that point of view, especially since Dan is so much younger than you.
Murray: I hate to admit it, but I find writing in the first person—using “I”—much easier than writing in the third person. For one thing, it simplifies the way information is presented. Everything that we learn comes from Dan: what he sees, what he thinks, what he hears. The first person provides a focus for all the material.
MM: What was the hardest part of writing the story?
Murray: Lots of things were difficult for me. For example, I find it easy to fall into using clichés, but for a book to be memorable, the writer needs to say things in new ways and also to create scenes that may seem unusual to the reader. But the single hardest part of this story was to handle the big surprise.
[Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read the book, you might wish to stop reading this interview because it will give away an important part of the book.]
MM: By surprise, you mean revealing who the Smiths really are?
Murray: Yes. If I didn’t give plenty of clues about the Smiths early on, when the truth comes out, readers might say, “That’s unfair. There was no way anyone could have guessed that.”
MM: So how did you solve that problem?
Murray: The solution was creating the character of Grandpa. He’s present throughout the book, and he’s constantly warning Dan that the Smiths might not be who they say they are.
MM: Do you have a favorite part?
Murray: Not really. But I guess if I had to pick one scene, it would be when the community rallies around the Smiths and blocks the Ufologists from doing their work.
MM: Do you believe in flying saucers?
Murray: I don’t really like that question.
MM: Why not?
Murray: Because I have to admit that I don’t know if they’re real. I believe that some people who claim to have interacted with extraterrestrials are making up things to gain fame and sell their books. But I also believe that we don’t know everything about the universe, and that it’s possible distant civilizations could invent ships that capable of traveling huge distances in space.
MM: Would you be happy if extraterrestrials existed?
Murray: Yes, if they were peaceful, but no if they came for the purpose of waging war.
MM: Are there any authors who inspired you to become a writer?
Murray: Many, but two of the most important are Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury. I also learned a lot from movies such as When Worlds Collide, War of the Worlds, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
MM: Are you planning to write a sequel to this book?
Murray: Yes. I have a good start, but I’ll want to see if the first book entertains anyone.
NOTE: Murray has agreed to answer questions submitted by readers. You can send your questions to email@example.com.