THE WRITING PART
Q. Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Briefly, about yourself?
Thanks, Aman, for the opportunity to tell your readers a little about myself and my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow. I’m a retired children’s psychotherapist with over forty years in the field of child advocacy. Quite a bit of my nonfiction in this field has been published: investigative reports, service delivery models, research, statistical reports on child abuse and delinquency…. I’ve also had a few poems published, including one that won first place in an international science fiction poetry competition. I started writing short science fiction adventures in 2006. Three have been published in magazines. Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel, a traditional small press publication.
Q. What genre is your book?
So far, all of my stories have been adult literary science fiction. I sometimes use the term social science fiction since that is a similar genre and more common usage. However, I read in most genres and I look forward to trying out a few.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
I love a literary element in what I read and write, but I like the action and plot of genre fiction, as well.
Q. Briefly, what led up to last/latest book? Also, please describe what the story/book is about in one sentence.
I started writing short stories as a child. I won my school’s eighth grade short story competition and have dreamed about publishing a novel since then. Life got in the way. My nonfiction subdued my drive to write fiction. In 2002, I accepted a job as a children’s therapist for our local mental health center. It was a tough job, working with children with serious mental health concerns, most of them had been victimized, some sexually. However, this job didn’t involve much writing like the jobs that I held before it. The drive to write fiction rekindled and by 2006 I was about to bust out with creativity.
Part of my job at the mental health center was facilitating group therapy sessions. One day, a skinny little girl sat around the table from me and as she worked on her written therapeutic exercise, instead of focusing on her maltreatment by a very mean daddy, she spoke instead of her hopes and dreams for the future. My protagonist, Lacy Dawn, was born that day and I’ve been writing about her ever since.
In addition to its social commentary, Rarity from the Hollow has strong elements of political satire. One evening, I was watching T.V. and The Apprentice featuring Donald Trump came on. I projected a future universe with a center of economic governance based on extreme capitalism / consumerism. One of the main characters in the story was named Mr. Prump. As I’m sure you are aware, Donald Trump is now the President of the U.S. My novel predicted the rise of his political power. The political allegory in the story is much more obvious now that Donald Trump is a household name. Your readers may want to check here.
In a nutshell, Rarity from the Hollow is an adventure about an empowered victim who saves the universe against all odds.
Q. What was the time frame for writing your last book?
I write fast. It took a little over six months to write the first draft of Rarity from the Hollow. It took another six month working with its first editor. The original edition was released as an eBook and a week later that company went defunct. It took two years before another publisher agreed to pick up the project, a year of working with a different editor, and then another year after the ARC was released to the public before the final edition was published as a paperback and eBook in December 2016.
Q. How much research do you do?
I love Google, but I’ve never calculated how much time has been spent on research for writing my fiction. With my work experience and since I do not write hard science fiction, I mostly write what I know best.
Q. Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
No. When writing, I try to force myself to stop so that I take care of basic responsibilities and get enough sleep.
Q. What is the easiest thing about writing?
Just letting it flow like an open faucet.
Q. What motivates you to write?
My motivation to write has changed over the years. As a child, I wrote to escape a harsh real-life reality, poverty and domestic violence. When others appreciated my stories, improved self-esteem was a motivator. In college, I was motivated to impact social policy at a tumultuous period, civil rights and anti war. During my career, writing was part of my job and further motivated by my desire to contribute to systemic improvements in the failing child welfare system, such as the practice of incarcerating kids in adult jails and children bouncing from one foster home to the next with no sense of permanency. As I mentioned before, I then was motivated to write fiction as I approached retirement in pursuit of a childhood dream. Perhaps to minimize guilt about retirement from children’s services, I dedicated half of author proceeds to child abuse prevention. That commitment has sustained my drive as I’ve faced the realities of the fiction marketplace. Given the obstacles that I’ve faced, I may have given up on publishing if I had not been raising funds for such a good cause.
Q. When did you decide that you want to be a writer?
I decided to be a writer in childhood, but it was much later in life that I decided that I wanted to pursue becoming a published author. Since there is less than a 1% chance that any aspiring novelists will have a book placed on the shelf of a bookstore, I’m still struggling with my decision to perform as an author.
Q. What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Rarity from the Hollow has received a great deal of praise, including having been awarded Gold Medals by two major book review organizations and being picked along with The Martian by Andy Weir and Revival by Stephen King as one of the five best books of 2015 by a Bulgarian book review site. On 1-6-17, the first review of the new edition was published, five stars: “…Brilliant satires such as this are genius works of literature in the same class as Orwell’s Animal Farm. I can picture American Lit professors sometime in the distant future placing this masterpiece on their reading list.”
It has also received critical reviews, mostly because my novel did not meet the mainstream expectations of some reviewers. The ARC of the first edition that was reviewed had a serious formatting error – the italics for the internal dialogue were missing. I blame myself for bad reviews for two reasons. I’ve been overzealous in requesting reviews by some reviewers who had not previously reviewed semi avant garde titles; and, because I must not have presented my pitch clearly enough. I’ve modified the pitch several times.
The novel has also received negative reviews that I believe were not based on having actually read the novel. In a few situations, I’ve felt angry at book reviewers, but I refrain from comment pretty well.
Q. What do you prefer: Pen or Computer? And how do you stay organised (any methods, systems, tools you use)?
Computer. I make notes on a paper pad and check item off as steps are accomplished.
Q. How do you relax?
To relax, I read, listen to old rock music, and vegetable garden in warm weather.
Q. How did you find your agent?
I don’t have an agent. Robert Stephenson from Australia was initially involved and was talking about putting together a submission to TOR, but he passed away before much except advice about initial rewrite of the first chapter.
Q. What were your few biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
As a debut novelist, I was totally naive about everything related to publishing. I thought that the challenge would be to write a great novel. Surprised is too mild of a term to describe how I felt once it soaked in that writing a great novel is just a tiny part of becoming a successful author. I’m still on the learning curve.
Q. What would you have done differently if you could do it again?
In hindsight, and this answer causes me to feel a little weird, but I would probably write a debut novel closer to mainstream consumer expectations. I’m glad that I didn’t.
Q. Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
Despite accomplishments, I have never grown past childhood self-esteem issues caused by my family’s poverty. When in a social situation with people that I characterize as “rich,” I “fake it” to interact.
Q. What’s next? What are you working on at the moment?
I always have several projects, but self-promotion of Rarity from the Hollow has consumed most of my time. The next full-length Lacy Dawn Adventure is Ivy, set in an almost forgotten town and the base of operations for a misguided alien invasion.
THE READING PART
Q. Do you re-read books? One book that you would read again & again?
My wife and I have so many books that we’ve run out of space and live in a library. There are so many great sounding books out there that I rarely re-read books. A couple of exceptions are Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins.
Q. Your influence(s)/ favourite author(s)?
Gosh, the answer to this question could take a year to answer. To pick one, it’s Vonnegut.
Q. What book(s) are you reading at present?
I just finished a novel, I think it’s his first fiction: Hit and Run by Dr. Bob Rich. He’s a prominent Australian psychologist and the story is a semi-diary based psychological memoir. I really liked the work but it may be too slow on action for some readers. I haven’t picked my next yet. So many books……….
Q. Best piece(s) of writing advice we haven’t discussed?
I recommend that aspiring author stay determined in this highly competitive marketplace, but to not invest so much at any given point that one risks a quick burn out. As an observer, there appears to be an ever changing catalogue of new authors and those who have faded into the sunset. I believe that nothing is going to happen overnight for any of us and that the odds are improved with consistent longer-term efforts, but I’m certain not an expert.
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