This week we had the chance to talk with a fellow, writer, blogger, and author interviewer, Alexander M Zoltai! Alexander is the author of several short stories and the novel, Notes from An Alien. He is also the creator of a blog filled with helpful information about reading, writing, and publishing.
Today I think we’ll start out by asking the question you most often ask in your interviews:
When did you begin writing and can you remember how it felt inside, back then?
My earliest memory of writing, at the age of thirteen, was asking my Mother, in the middle of a church service, for a pencil (I had the paper)—she gave me a soft shush and the pencil. I wrote a poem… It felt like a holy experience; and, the poem has continued to reveal new meanings, even after nearly 60 years…
You’ve written a novel, many short stories, and some poetry, all in several different genres. Do you have a favorite genre? One you feel more drawn to then the others?
My novel is sci-fi and a whole collection of short stories are fantasy… My poetry is “romantic” realism and my other story collection is a real mixed bag… I suppose I’d have to say I use whatever “genre” feels right and I definitely am willing to bend all genres.
Who do you like to read when you’re not writing? What authors do you feel like have had the greatest influence on your ideas or work?
Well, I prefer sci-fi or fantasy. C. J. Cherryh has had the most lasting influence—naturally, not the influence to copy style; just the influence of a model storyteller. Though, recently, I’ve begun reading Adrian Tchaikovsky and I feel C J. and Adrian are tied for first place.
You started a series called Friday Story Bazaar in which you write a new story every Friday. Can you tell us a little bit about how you come up with so many new ideas in a short amount of time? What do you do when you feel blocked?
Well, I never feel blocked; but, I get bombarded with story ideas, all the time; and, I keep a file of the ideas… However, not to be misleading, I don’t “write a new story every Friday”—that’s when I publish what I worked on for a week 🙂
Your novel, Notes from An Alien, is free to download on your site and from Smashwords and other retailers. What made you decide to offer your work for free in digital form?
I do offer all my work on my blog for free—it’s a decision I made many years ago, when my greatest efforts to sell books had absolutely no effect. The decision was easy when I realized no traditional publisher would publish me and my own promotional efforts were swamped in the mad swirl of self-publishing. Plus, I exist on a small military pension, so I can “afford” to give away my writings…
Can you tell us a little about Notes from An Alien? What was your inspiration?
My inspiration was the world we live in. I’d tried to write the novel three times—same basic themes, radically different environments—until I happened on the quite welcome environment of a set of planets 12 light years from Earth. Having the setting be an alien environment, gave me the creative license to shape the story closely to the themes while still making strong analogical connections to our earthly culture.
Here’s my standard blurb:
Start with a 500-year Inter-World War.
Continue through ecological disaster and the decimation of populations.
Follow the institution of a Worlds’ government that helps bring a glimmer of hope.
Discover the challenges and failures of unifying three very different Worlds.
Explore what it takes to give birth to a lasting peace.
This is what reading Notes from An Alien promises.
And, this story could help Earth…
You write about writing on your blog, what is the most overlooked piece of advice given to new writers? Or what do you wish you knew when you first started out?
Well, when I started writing full time, I started way late—mid 50s—because I’d been carrying around the fallacious idea that my work should flow out perfectly—I was anti-editing… It took from 13 to 50-something to wash that idea out of my system and realize that revision and editing are the most important creative tools a writer has…
Most overlooked advice for a writer in our advice-infected world? Read; and, make it works of creative writing; not works about how to write…
How was the publishing process for you? Do you have any advice for authors looking to self-publish?
My publishing process was only tedious for the novel—everything else is on my blog; but, that same blog has links to a free course on self-publishing. I, personally, don’t recommend traditional publishing, unless you have an inside connection or you love waiting years and putting up with massive rejection…
In your blog, you challenged writers to ask themselves, what do you want from your writing? It’s a good question that not many people sit down and really think about. So I’ll ask you the same, what do you want from your writing?
I want to present compelling stories that let the reader absorb a moral or lesson—even if the events of the story thump them on the head or in the heart, the moral should just be absorbed…
What’s next for you?
Well, I have 18 more Tales in the Story Bazaar cycle and a new manner of blogging—less of the reporter, more of the old guy in the cave sharing experience. Beyond that, I have to leave it up to my Muse…
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Read—read widely—read deeply. If you must read about how to write, don’t believe a word of it until you try it out in the privacy of your own practice. Stay true to what stirs within you. And, Read…