portrait Interview with Steven J Frank

interviewed by Richard Luck

Published in Issue No. 9 ~ October, 1997

Richard Luck: What was your impetus for writing The Uncertainty Principle?

Steven Frank: To celebrate the soul of the techie, and to offer an entertaining glimpse
at their world for people who ordinarily might be turned off. My hope is
that a romance set at MIT, with interesting characters chasing the unknown
as well as each other, will reveal that passion for science is passion,
period — and that’s something everyone can appreciate.

RL: How did you begin writing? Did you intend to become an author, or
did you have a specific reason for writing this book?

SF: I had long wanted to express myself as a writer, but for years found myself
unable to write anything I’d want to read. One day I realized I had it all
backwards. To me, a novel (unlike a poem) isn’t about transforming
inspiration into words. It’s about telling a story. And that’s hard work.
It takes discipline to keep the inspiration below the surface, letting it
fuel the plot without bubbling through. The best-crafted plots are the
ones that don’t seem crafted. They acquaint you with characters and
transport you through their lives, and when you’re done, you can’t imagine
the story unfolding any other way.

RL: What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a
strong influence on you or your writing?

SF: I like writers who tickle both sides of the brain: Joyce, Kafka, Tom Wolfe
and John le Carré when I lean to the left; Nabokov,
Raymond Carver and Tom Robbins when I’m feeling more
rightsided. My favorite books of (relatively) recent vintage have been
Possession (A.S. Byatt) and The Mambo Kings Play Songs of
(Oscar Hijuelos).

RL: Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a
day do you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a
keyboard (typewriter or computer)? Do you have a favorite location or
time of day (or night) for writing? What do you do to avoid — or seek!

SF: I write on the screen in the morning, and edit at night on
paper. A typical writing session involves equal parts inspiration, despair,
terror at writer’s block (which I call idea deficit disorder), soaring
satisfaction followed by waves of abject disgust. Then I eat lunch.

RL: Tell us why YOU
feel this is a book people should read (besides so you’ll make

SF: Uncertainty is everywhere around us. Paul Bustamante, an inveterate (and
at the outset, girlfriend-less) techie, thinks he’s got it all figured out.
He thinks he can take all the mystery out of life, love, even the weather
… and maybe get his MIT degree in the process. But first he has to learn
to impress kooky profs and open tight wallets. Will Paul find the key that
unlocks the future? Or must he find happiness in a world of uncertainty?

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Richard Luck is the Founder and Technical Director for Pif Magazine.