My Interview with Zharmae

I’m probably jumping the gun by blogging this before TZPP has the opportunity to post it to their website, but I think it’ll slip under the radar… okay, probably not. Anyway, here goes nothing. By the way, RealLies is now available through most major booksellers. Click here for more information.

Things We’d All like to Know

We would like to understand what makes you tick…your character, what, why, and how you write. We’d like our readers to get to know you. With that in mind, we’d like you to please answer the following questions as thoroughly, and as humanly, as possible. Go ahead, be yourself!

You, the Author

  •  Why do you write?

It’s not really a choice. Runners run. Politicians lie. Writers write. I suppose if I had to “squeeze the universe into a ball” and provide just one sane answer, I would say that writing enables me to better understand myself as an individual. It’s cathartic. There’s also the impulse to play God and reshape the world through storytelling, and the same sense of escapism we hope our readers enjoy.

  • What do you write?

Anything, really. I’ve been a ghostwriter, editor, and English teacher. When I have a choice, it’s either Sci-Fi/Fantasy or Postmodern Satire. I try to write stories that take genre fiction in a different direction or make a (sometimes difficult to accept) statement about the world in which we live.

  • Who inspires you?

It’s not really a “who” so much as a “what”. Much of my writing is reactionary. I see something odd or out of place, and I feel the need to treat the issue in fiction.

There are plenty of people in my life that inspire me to create characters, however, and most of them are blissfully unaware that I plan to profit from their idiosyncrasies, and will probably not even recognize themselves in fictionalized form.

  • Who are your influences?

A short list includes Chuck Palahniuk, T.S. Eliot, Ray Bradbury, China Mieville, Tetsuya Nomura, the Wachowski brothers, Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, Gene Roddenberry, and, at one time, George Lucas (original trilogy).

  • What are your three most favorite books and why?

Fight Club and Heart of Darkness: because both protagonists struggle with many of the same issues I have in reconciling with the disparity between our patriarchal legends and reality.

The Name of the Wind: because it is a celebration of words, love, learning, and music and renders each one as its own brand of magic.

The Mechanics

  • How do you write?

The process is a bit strange. I wrote the first two-thirds of my last novel on an old Royal typewriter just to get a feel for what that would be like. Sometimes I use journals for a first draft and then type up the text a chapter at a time. Occasionally, when the Muse is hovering over my shoulder with pompoms (or has a bullwhip slung over his shoulder), I just sit down and bang out 5,000 words, but this is not typical. Most writing days, I just begin with editing the last chapter I wrote before diving into the next scene. Many of these practices are just ways I’ve learned to trick myself into editing.

In the end, everything I write, good or bad, goes through its final draft on an old 2001 Sony Vaio desktop computer that I stubbornly refuse to part with—the inspiration for the AI Victoria in “The Wolf of Descarta”.

  • Where do you like to write?

Any cool, quiet space will do when my mind is in the right place. I used to have an office (man cave) filled with Final Fantasy action figures, anime wall scrolls, replica swords, and the like. I later realized that this location helped to set the initial mood, but was unimportant once I began working on a scene. I believe that writers don’t exist in the same space as their bodies during the task of writing. Right now, I am just words chasing a blinking cursor, hoping to one day catch it.

  • Do you set a goal of so many pages per day, or something else?

A kindly old writing professor once brought to my attention this quote from Hemingway: “I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

I keep Hemingway’s advice in mind when I consider my daily page count. If writing ten pages will dry out this proverbial well, I write eight. Better to write less than to write dry.

  • What program(s) or tool(s) do you use to write?

Microsoft Word 2000 is still my favorite. I like the way the fonts look on my old fishbowl monitor. I even have a favorite page layout that emboldens me to write—this, of course, is always destroyed when I get ready to submit a piece to a publisher.

  •  What do you do when you get stuck on a problem which blocks the writing process?

First, I get away from the computer before I can do any damage to the story. Then I think about what actions I’m having my characters take—and why. Writer’s block is usually a bi-product of a plot-driven story in which the characters are being forced along a path they would not naturally take. It’s also a necessary part of the writing process that will ultimately add depth or subtext to the work, so it’s nothing to be afraid of.

  • Do you envision the entire story at once and just fill in as you go, or do you just see where the writing takes you and troubleshoot as necessary?

Tough question. I like my writing to have spontaneity, but marketable writing must also have clear direction. I usually have a broad vision before I start and key scenes in my head that will serve as milestones for the plot. Then, when I sit down to write, the story takes over and shatters most, if not all, of my grandiose designs. Regardless, I think it’s still better to have a starting point than to write in a vacuum.

  • What do you have the most fun with during the creative process?

Reading drafts to Emily, who has (God help her) been my captive audience for ten years, and watching the reactions on her face.

  • Do you have any special rituals or superstitious behaviors you must follow while writing?

When I get to the phase where I’m working on my desktop, my area becomes my own little private bomb shelter, and must contain glutinous snacks, caffeine, more caffeine, and a device which plays heavy metal music.

Human You

  •  What is a cherished memory from your life you’d like to share?

Nothing really ever trumps the birth of your children. I have two daughters, Aurie and Kiera, and they are my greatest creations (one might say I co-authored them).

Both were at one point under the impression that my real occupation was “fighting bad guys”, and were devastated to learn that I’m just a high school English teacher with a penchant for the dramatic and a deep bag of props.

Aurie, still skeptical at age five, asked me, “What kind of English teacher goes to work in a suit of armor?”

I replied, “A good one.”

Hey, we were studying Le Mort d’Arthur that week. Made sense to me.

  • Do you prefer coffee, tea, or something else entirely?

Java Monster is my poison of choice.

  • What comes first, the chicken or the alien egg?

I take them at the same time with a side of bacon. I believe bacon adds the proper context to any theological discussion.

  • What is your favorite line from a movie?

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

This Particular Story

  •  Who do you most identify with in this work?

All of these characters are me in some way or another—this is the limitation of any writer. Reese’s Quixotic sense of the hopelessly romantic is undoubtedly me, but so is Hayes’ intelligence (and arrogance), Brea’s stigmas and insecurities, and even Brimmer’s inexhaustible envy, which comes to light in the full version of the story.

  •  Why this story?

The idea of escaping an unfulfilling life through video games, Facebook, Smartphones, etc. is becoming increasingly prominent in our society—so too are the government’s attempts to regulate and control these aspects of our lives. I wrote the first draft of this story in college, and over the past few years, some of my predictions about the future have already begun to manifest. This, of course, is what makes Science Fiction so great.

  •  Who do you think would be most affected by or touched by this work?

It’s hard to make assumptions about the audience for any work. I would imagine that gamers and hackers would particularly enjoy being rendered as heroes, but Reese as a character represents everyone who has been the underdog—undervalued, marginalized, struggling just to make ends meets and care for his “nontraditional family” (i.e. Victoria). This story is a love letter to all the noble knights of the digital age, in whatever shape they assume.

  •  What is a profound memory from this title’s writing process?

During college, I received three upper division credits for meeting two other writers (one of them was my professor) at a bar, where we bounced story ideas off one another. Most of my encouragement for this novelette came from that “study group”.

  •  What do you hope the reader will take away from reading this story – is there a theme, or philosophy?

The theme of the novelette appears to be “the unsung hero”, but as the story continues beyond Reese’s internment, many other thematic elements surface. These range from “love in a postmodern universe” to “the nature of truth” to “connectivity of mind, body, and spirit”. In many ways, “The Wolf of Descarta” is just the first step into a much larger world.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Fantasy, My Writing, Publishing, Rants, Reading, Science Fiction, Writing

5 responses to “My Interview with Zharmae

  1. TAE

    That is one exhaustive and interesting interview. I hope you had a little party or something to celebrate. Congrats!

    Like

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