Friday, July 5, 2013

Author Interview – Thomas Thorpe

at 6:30 AM

What audience do you anticipate for your book? Anyone who wants adventure, insight into history, mysteries to solve and the story of a married couple facing adversity on an equal footing while struggling with the customs of different ways of life.

Why do you think mystery novels are important? When I managed Mars Missions for NASA, I was often asked, “do you believe in the face on Mars?” A fellow by the name of Hoglan made lots of money speculating on the possibility that the face was constructed by aliens. Such imaginings are not all crazy and have spurred the investigation of canals on the planet for hundreds of years. People strive to understand their environment and nothing excites the mind like solving a good mystery. Mankind seeks enlightenment, answers to the unknown, it is in his nature. No matter if you’re a scientist trying to understand the universe, a police detective solving a life or death case or just someone looking for missing car keys, we learn from the process and recover from our mistakes. So my answer to “do I believe there’s face on Mars” is, no, better camera resolution  shows it to be a mesa covered with rocks, but then again, what about those microbe fossils in the Allen Hill meteorite and traces of methane in the atmosphere?

Tell us about yourself. I was the Project Manager of NASA’s highly successful Mars Global Surveyor Mission – a spacecraft that orbited Mars for nine years, returning two hundred thousand images of the planet and relaying pictures from the Mars Rovers. I have published six historical mystery thrillers of the Darmon Mystery series about a couple from Kent that solves international crimes during the 1830’s. These novels include: Message of the Pendant, The Forth Conspiracy, Patriote Peril, Fair Wind to Bahia, Desperate Crossing and Without Redemption.

Tell us about your background. I grew up in North Hollywood reading science fiction. As an amateur astronomer, I built telescopes and spent many a cold night in Fraser Park taking pictures of nebulae, galaxies and comets. During summers while attending UCLA, I worked at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center with the original seven astronauts, at Lowell Observatory and JPL. Upon graduation, I started employment at Eastman Kodak (Lunar Orbiter) before returning to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. There, I spent 38 years participating in the defining moments of Mars exploration by Mariner, Viking and Surveyor spacecraft. Ultimately, I managed the Mars Global Surveyor Mission through most of its ten-year operational life. I have published numerous science articles on Mars photometry and also taught astronomy in Glendale College’s extended day program for nearly forty years.

Why write historical fiction? With a career in space exploration, you might wonder why I chose to write books of historical fiction rather than science fiction. Historical and science fiction share a common thread: confronting the unknown. It is a circumstance that both frightens and fascinates. Our vision of exploration comes from  experiences of our ancestors who tamed wildernesses and created colonial outposts. Imagine being plopped onto a foreign shore during the early 1800′s. The physical environment is tough and tasks we take for granted today were overwhelming obstacles. Beyond these trials came threats from indigenous cultures, disease such as cholera, lawless frontiersmen and regimes on the verge of collapse.

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Genre – Historical / Mystery / Thriller

Rating – PG

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