Monday, August 31, 2009

[Interview_1] John Miller

Author John Miller has more than 40 publishing credits to his name.

His stories have appeared in magazines that include Necrotic Tissue; The Devil's Food Anthology; Three Crow Press; Tooth Decay Anthology, and Sonar 4 Magazine.

In addition to writing, Miller also edits the online literary magazine, Liquid Imagination as well as 2M Magazine,which is available in print. He is also on the Board of Trustees for Silver pen which is responsible for the Liquid Imagination sister publication, Silver Blade.

He is also the author of the fantasy/horror novella 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah (Sonar4 Publications, 2009).

In this, the first of a five-part interview, John Miller talks about his writing:

When did you start writing?

I began writing twenty years ago, but I do not feel I actually became a writer until 2007. Let me explain:

Twenty years ago my best friend Rich suggested I start writing. We used our Comodore 64 computers. I just knew I was going to be a writer, and I received a Brother word processor for my Christmas/birthday present one year (my birthday is close to Christmas being January 1st). Next I joined Long Ridge Writing School, having passed their writing test to get in. In my mind, I was on my way.

Long Ridge used published writers as teachers, and students worked via snail-mail correspondence. I learned the beginning, middle and ending of a story, but I wasn’t mature enough as a man nor writer to absorb the information. I complained to Rich saying, “This writing course has ruined my ability to write.” In fact, what it did was begin to instill within me the components of a successful short story.

I sent two short stories out. The first one was rejected with a note saying the work was sought after by another editor at a different publication. I sent that story to him and he wrote back saying he would be more than delighted to publish it, but he’d been in a car accident and lay in a full-body cast in the hospital. His publication was doomed!

I gave up citing how I hated rejection. See? Not enough maturity.

I went through life, got married and divorced, and found myself with three young children living with me (full physical custody but joint legal custody). Many jobs from police dispatcher to church work to big-box grocery store management. Add to that factory and foundry work, and you have a strange assortment of job skills. How many people can say they can drive a forklift, use a hoist to lift 3 ton engines off conveyors and set them on metal skids, budget hours and sales for a business, and handle the stress of incoming 911 calls?

I matured.

In the process, I began playing a role-playing game with Rich called “Mage: the Ascension.” Like “Vampire: the Masquerade,” it was put out by the company called White Wolf. One aspect of the game emphasized “storytelling.” I wouldn’t do the same “game” over and over; I changed stories up, changed characters. I developed evil characters, good characters, and gave them different motivations. Some of my favorite characters came out of those roleplaying sessions, and I can recall Stephen Blackwell, Blake Edwards and Shung-Li (also known as Grasshopper). While I haven’t published anything with these characters, they live on in my mind.

Along the way I found myself at one of those websites promoted as online diaries. I used mine to blog about my life, but I also did poetry and fiction. I learned, grew, and utilized the characters I’d developed in role-playing. Eventually someone invited me to Edit Red. There I wove tales based on what I’d learned at Long Ridge Writer’s Group and role-playing. Something fused and melded into one cohesive theme: storytelling. Another writer had an idea to begin an anthology and it was “invitation only.” I was one of those invited, and it lit a fire beneath me.

That is when I began submitting stories to publications, back in September of 2007. In a year I had over 30 publishing credits, and my enthusiasm hasn’t waned; if anything it’s grown. So while I usually refer in my BIOs about beginning writing in 2007, my love affair with words began over twenty years ago. It wasn’t until someone expressed interest in my writing that I became serious and began submitting stories for publication.

I used the Writer’s Market put out by Long Ridge Writer’s Group to find publications to submit to. I also used Duotrope and sometimes Ralan. I made mistakes sending the same story to different online magazines who did not accept simultaneous submissions (and apologized profusely). I learned a painful story about proper formatting when Doorways Magazine wanted my story “Cat Eyes” if I would just format it right. I formatted it and sent it back in. Three months later I queried and was told they’d passed on my story. Lesson learned: read the guidelines and understand formatting manuscripts!

Now I have a private web office at Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope. Anyone can join the free website. There are writers like me as well as directors, script writers, artists and poets. We’re all critiqued and reviewed by our peers, creating stronger works. It has been the most wondrous place I’ve ever discovered! My private web office has no directors, but it has around 260 writers, editors, artists and poets. My online magazine Liquid Imagination was birthed in this office. Submitting stories is like rolling the dice; eventually someone will like what you write (or publish).

My online magazine Liquid Imagination had its debut issue September 26th, 2008 and as of February 27th, it has 100,000 internet hits. Our sister publication, Silver Blade came out December 15th, 2008 and it, too, has 100,000 internet hits. This led Dark Myth Production Studios to hire me as General Manager for the new print 2M Magazine.

So while I claim in my BIOs that I didn’t start “real” writing until 2007, I’ve been practicing my craft for twenty years. I keep learning and growing, and every six months I learn new and exciting techniques. It’s like, yippie!!! And the reader experiences whatever the writer does. It’s contagious!

How would you describe your writing?

I am writing in different styles, experimenting constantly, pushing my limits in every way feasible. Recently I read Poe’s Children edited by Peter Straub, and after that Best American Short Stories guest-edited by Salmon Rushdie. Realms of Fantasy Magazine is a wonderful read, too. I joined a literary writer’s group to experiment with literary prose. This is all to learn, grow and push myself as a writer and publisher; to know and understand literary fiction that is submitted to me, and to better understand what motives lay behind the fiction I read.

So I have a love affair going on with literary style writing, but my true love is speculative fiction. Specifically dark fantasy on epic proportions set in the modern world. This really gets my blood burning. Fantasy that breathes with epic proportions, tales like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, and fantasy worlds linked up to our modern society—these are the stories that do it for me. And because I read such tales, it is only natural that I write them as well. This is what I do best. While I play with literary prose, my “home” is speculative fiction. Plot-driven stories in which only essential characters and elements to that plot drive this type of writing, and I love it! In today’s fast-paced world of fast food and instant breakfast—a world full of video-generation kids parented and grand-parented by baby boomers—we seem to want/need a quick fix in streams of consciousness via words and images. Speculative fiction has the capacity to do this, to pump the storyflow into the reader’s mind through pages which, like IVs, bring the constant drip-drip-drip of action, horror, suspense and emotions. Is it right? Is it wrong? It doesn’t matter. It’s life. And I love it!

Related resources:

Author's page, Edit Red Writing Community
Author's page, Sonar4 Publication

Interviews
  • John Miller [Interview_2], Conversations with Writers, September 2, 2009
  • John Miller [Interview_3], Conversations with Writers, September 4, 2009
  • John Miller [Interview_4], Conversations with Writers, September 7, 2009
  • John Miller [Interview_5], Conversations with Writers, September 10, 2009
Possibly related books:

,,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

[Interview] Esther David

Jewish-Indian author, sculptor and art critic, Esther David writes in English and Gujarati.

Her novels include The Walled City (Syracuse University Press, 2002); The Book of Esther (Penguin Global, 2003); The Book of Rachel (Penguin Global, 2007) and Shalom India Housing Society (Feminist Press, 2009).

Her work has also been featured in anthologies that include City Stories (Scholastic India, 2007); Growing Up as a Woman Writer (Sahitya Academy, 2007); and India’s Jewish Heritage, Ritual, Art and Life Cycle (Marg Publications, 2003).

In this interview, Esther David talks about her writing:

When did you start writing?

I grew up in our family house in the old walled city of Ahmedabad, where we had a beautiful library with leather bound books and I spent all my spare time reading whenever possible. At sixteen, I went to art school at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Vadodara, where I started writing. I realized that I could write. But I became a sculptor and could not change my profession as I soon married and divorced and was a single mother of two children, so I taught sculpture and art history in an art school in Ahmedabad.

In 1979, I became an art critic for The Times of India, Ahmedabad edition. Soon, I started writing for myself and at the age of 46 I wrote my first novel, The Walled City. I felt, it was a miracle that it was published and I became a full time writer as other books followed.

How would you describe your writing?

It is a sort of writing or literature, which has emerged from conflict of being Jewish in India.

My parents were not religious, so I did not have religious education, but at the age of 46, I felt the need of knowing Judaism and as a form of research for my novel Book of Esther, I took regular education from the cantor, Johny Pingle of the Magen Abhraham Synagogue in Ahmedabad. Later, I came to know his wife, Julie -- through her, I discovered traditional Jewish cuisine. I mingled with the Jewish community and made notes of their life styles. I am still not religious and uncomfortable during religious functions, but I like to observe and study the Jewish community of India.

I would say, I understand myself and my religion better, through my novels.

Who is your target audience?

My audience is the world, which is still ignorant about the existence of Indian Jews.

I was motivated to write as I was confused about my own cross cultural conflict of being Jewish.

Which authors influenced you most?

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabelle Allende, Amy Tan, Tony Morrison, Salman Rushdie’s novel titled Shame, R. K. Narayan for creating Malgudi and Arun Joshi who wrote The Strange Case of Billy Biswas … they write about loss of the homeland.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

My own cross-cultural conflicts and minute observations of the Jewish community in India has influenced my writing as seen with the belief of Prophet Elijah, so much so that now even I have a connection with the prophet. He appears to listen to me!

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Preserving the Jewish tradition, rituals and artefacts in India, the preservation of the heritage of architecture, oral traditions and cuisine, I also study the fast changing lifestyles in a micro-miniscule community and try to work out these problems, through my writings.

I find myself most comfortable while writing about Jewish subjects and that is my challenge. I solve this by mingling and mixing with the people of my community and listening to their problems, beliefs and stories.

Do you write everyday?

I make a general form, before I start a novel, but do not do any detailing. I start work at 3 p.m. I write my newspaper column in the morning. I have lunch and start work and go on up to midnight if possible with a tea break at 5 p.m.

Writing takes form on its own, when I switch on my computer, it is a secret, about which I myself do not know how it happens, but it happens.

My career as an author started in 1997 when my first book, The Walled City, was published by East West Books, Madras. Till then I had been a sculptor, an art critic for leading English dailies and a professor of the history of art. The Walled City, which has so far been translated into French and Gujarati, brought in much of the imagery that I had practiced as a visual artist and received critical acclaim. This was the story of three generations of Bene Israel Jewish women living in the city of Ahmedabad, India.

The book was translated into French by Sonia Terangle titled La Ville en ses Murs, and published by Editions Philippe Picquier. The French version was also short listed for the Premier Liste de Prix Femina in France. In Gujarati, it was translated by Renuka Sheth.

In the USA, the novel has been republished by Syracuse University Press in 2002. The Walled City is going to be republished with Westland Books in 2009.

Book of Esther is taught in the course of Gender and Literature Post-colonial South Asia and beyond, at department of English, George Washington University, USA.

All novels are researched by Shalva Weil for her chapter,” The author who grew up with a tiger” for her book, Israeli Scholarship in India, co-authored with David Schulman, Jerusalem University, Israel.

I also contributed "The Worry Box and the Laughing Lady", a short story for the anthology, City Stories, published by Scholastic India. [The] commemorative volumes by Penguin India for 20 years in publishing, [feature an] extract from Book of Esther. [In addition to this, I have also been] published in Jasbir Jains anthology, Growing Up as a Woman Writer for Sahitya Academy New Delhi, with my story "Nanki Chirai" in 2008.

[Other books I have written include] Book Of Esther [which] explores Jewish family life in India and is loosely based around my own family; India's Jewish Heritage, Ritual, Art and Life Cycle -- I was on the team of writers of the book edited by Shalva Weil for Marg Publications, Mumbai, January 2003; Book of Rachel (Penguin Viking, 2006; Penguin Global, 2007) translated into French (La Livre de Rachel, Editions Heloise d’Ormesson, 2009) by Sonja Terangle; My Father's Zoo (Rupa, 2006); Shalom India Housing Society (Women Unlimited, 2007; Feminist Press, 2009).

How long did it take you to write your latest book?

Man with Enormous Wings took me 7 years. It will be published sometime in 2009 or 2010 by Penguin Viking. It is about the riots of 2002 in Ahmedabad.

It was hard and needed research, so my research assistant Namrata Dwivedi helped me.

Which aspects of your work did you enjoy most?

My first novel The Walled City, because it had an element of mystery as I did not know if I would make it as a writer, so, it is my most precious book.

It was an abstract book and written as I felt at that moment, confused and in conflict of being a Jew in India.

It is different from my other books as it was written without research.

What will your next book be about?

Jewish life, food, love and loss.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

That my novels speak to my readers ...

Possibly related books:

,,

Related Resources:

Author's website
Author's page, Feminist Press

Related Interview:

[Interview] Masimba Musodza, author of "Uriah's Vengeance", Conversations with Writers, June 20, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

[Interview] Jeani Rector

Jeani Rector's stories have been featured in magazines that include, Horrormasters; Hackwriters; Bewildering Stories; Aphelion and All Destiny.

Her work also appears in the anthologies, The Ethereal Gazette: Issue Three (Lake Fossil Press, 2006) and Fiction Prodigies And Legends Volume 1: Interviews with the New Voices In Horror (New Voices In Fiction Magazine, Edition 1, 2008).

Her books include We All Fall Down (AmErica House, 2001); After Dark: A Collection of Horror (PublishAmerica, 2006); Open Grave: The Book of Horror (PublishAmerica, 2008) and Around a Dark Corner (Graveyard Press, 2009).

In this interview, Jeani Rector talks about her writing:

When did you start writing?

In fifth grade, I wanted to be an artist. My teacher told my mother: "Encourage her writing, not her art, because she is better at writing than art." How is that for a twisted endorsement?

I started by submitting short stories to magazines. I highly recommend that route for new writers, because no one takes you seriously unless you have a resume of where you are published. It is difficult to be published without being published; that old Catch 22. But magazines and online zines are the answer to that problem.

How would you describe your writing?

Most people do outlines first. I never do that. I just start typing and let the stories tell themselves. Of course, by using that free-form method, not all of my stories are winners. No indeed! I have a junk file of completed stories that would be an embarrassment to me if they were ever read by anyone! But once you write a good one, you know it in your gut. Those go into my "Good Stories" file.

Who is your target audience?

My audience is anyone who is interested, but my genre is horror. The most true thing I have ever heard is this: "Write what you love." So in essence, you should be your own audience.

The second most true thing is: "Write what you know." I always thoroughly research my subjects. Today's readers are highly sophisticated and if you don't get your facts right, they know it.

Which authors would you say influenced you most?

Absolutely Stephen King. King is versatile. He explores human nature as well as the scary stuff. And sometime that scary stuff is in human nature.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concerns are clichés. I feel I have grown a lot. I don't make cliché mistakes too often any more. But I have learned that by putting my work out to critics. That is how come I have grown. I listen to the critics. They don't hurt my feelings; they help me. Thank god for magazine and zine reviewers (and those on Amazon). If any of you reviewers are reading this right now, thank you.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

Oh I just love this question! The answer is an absolute yes. For example, the story "A Teenage Ghost Story" out of my latest book Around a Dark Corner, I sat inside Kilgore Graveyard in Rancho Cordova and wrote the cemetery scenes. Kilgore is a haunted pioneer cemetery, all run-down and deliciously spooky.

But mostly, the characters are out of my life. People I know or have known. Sometimes they are myself. I won't reveal which stories are which, but some are autobiographies.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

The biggest challenge is that most magazines and zines want first rights to stories and do not accept simultaneous submissions or previously published stories. There are so many magazines that I would love to see my work in. However, I would have to spread myself pretty thin to have brand new material for every single magazine that I would love to be published in.

How many books have you written so far?

We All Fall Down (AmErica House, 2001). This is an old book, but a good book that people are taking a renewed interest in. This is the complete novel from which I took the Around a Dark Corner story, "A Medieval Tale of Plague." If any one wants to read Elissa's entire story about how she survived the 1348 black plague in medieval England, We All Fall Down is for you.

Open Grave: The Book of Horror (PublishAmerica, 2008). This is a good book with a bad publisher. I want every new writer to know: Never use Publish America no matter what. First, that publisher gets no respect with reviewers because I think PublishAmerica takes on just about anybody as a client, and second, they are a huge rip off. Third, Publish America puts such a hefty price tag on your book that no one in his or her right mind would pay such an exorbitant amount for a paperback book. However, you can pick up used copies of Open Grave: The Book of Horror on Amazon for reasonable prices.

Around a Dark Corner (Turner-Maxwell Books, 2009). This is my best work yet. So far, all the magazine reviewers who have checked in so far have liked it. And magazine reviewers are unbiased. I personally believe this is indeed my best work. Try it, you’ll like it. You can find this book at www.aroundadarkcorner.com.

Currently this book is published in England but it should be Coming to America (minus Eddie Murphy) in April 2009 through New Voices In Horror Press.

Do you write everyday?

Yes. Writers write. No excuses. I have heard too many people say "Some day I want to write a book." Some day is today. Good writers are obsessed with writing. They simply have to write. It is in their blood.

What is your latest book about?

Let me describe Around a Dark Corner as thus:

Imagine a world where there is only the daylight to banish the darkness. And when the sun goes down, what lurks in the shadows around a dark corner? This book of nine scary tales and one novella is storytelling at its finest, with the dark magic of Cabala and Palo Mayombe, haunted cemeteries, bubonic plague, maggots, madness, and the mysteries of what happens to bodies after death. Timeless in their style, these stories are relentless in their approach to basic fears. From dark fantasy and pure suspense to classic horror tales, this collection of nine short stories and one novella surprises its readers with Hitchcock-style, twisted endings. So let’s go around a dark corner to discover tales of terror.

Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult?

Honestly? In Around a Dark Corner, I branched out. I took risks. I became a bit more, well, free with descriptions of gore. I usually just stick the atmospheric fears, but in Around a Dark Corner, I went further. In this book, I went everywhere.

What did you enjoy most?

I just love plague. Bacterium and viruses are fascinating. I know that sounds strange, but think about it: wasn't Stephen King's The Stand his most amazing work? Now picture it as not a story, but as a real life event. That's "A Medieval Tale of Plague."

I also love true stories. Imagine a plane crash. What would people be thinking, feeling, experiencing, before the plane hits the ground? And what if these people live to tell about it? "Flight 529" from Around a Dark Corner is such a story, based upon a real event out of Atlanta, Georgia.

I have a good friend who is a retired County Sheriff. Now, wouldn't his be a great brain to pick? What happens when real cops find dead bodies? Not the movie cops, but real cops? That is where the idea for "Lady Cop" came about, again in Around a Dark Corner.

So, you see where I get my ideas? Ideas can be found everywhere. All’s you have to do is to play with those ideas.

What sets the book apart from other things you've written?

Around a Dark Corner is my best work. It is the scariest; the most visceral.

What will your next book be about?

Ha. Here is the thing. I have an idea about the 1918 flu pandemic. Again, bacterium and viruses are fascinating. I have already done Ebola in Open Grave: The Book of Horror.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

That's easy. Being read. I am grateful to my readers, who frequently email me. I freely offer my email address to anyone interested in talking to me.

Related books:

,,

Related resources:

Author's Open Grave website
Author's Around A Dark Corner website

Get your copy of Around A Dark Corner from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

Friday, August 14, 2009

[Interview] Chris Wood

Writer and journalist, Chris Wood lives in Manchester, England.

He has written about film and books for a variety of publications and is the author of The Ingredients Of A Good Thriller (LDB Publishing, 2008) and Sherlock Holmes and the Underpants of Death (LDB Publishing, 2009).

In this interview, Chris Wood talks about his writing:

When did you start writing?

I was fascinated with books when I was younger. Later on I found I had stories I wanted to tell -- just ideas to explore, usually, and one thing lead to another.

At first I did book reviews for a number of places, which I still do occasionally. After having no luck with regular publishers (except in France) I decided to publish my own. It means you can present things as you want.

How would you describe your writing?

It's very varied. I've written a genre guide and a humour book, and hope to have my first serious fiction out later this year, so fingers crossed for that.

My target audience is people who share my sense of humour, which is a really unprofessional answer, but it's true. It's not very focused, but I don't think I can give any other answer.

In the writing that you are doing, which authors influenced you most?

I think P. G. Wodehouse, because his playful use of language is incredibly funny and also massively inventive. Spike Milligan as well, because his approach included absolutely anything he wanted, no matter how surreal it was.

James Ellroy has an economy of style that makes his work very powerful. Each phrase has impact and in places, it's as though the author has reached out from the page and slapped the reader. It's so effective.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Not finding an audience is one concern.

Also, is the work too varied to build up a following? It might well be, but it's what I'm drawn to write, so I go with it. Provided I feel I've written a project well, and have taken pains to get that right, then that's the only way to deal with that concern.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Deciding how to approach different parts of the writing is a challenge. That feeling of staring at the computer screen and not knowing what to do next. Following a different direction or changing some aspect of the approach seems the best way to deal with that.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

That basically life is too short and uncertain not to be doing the things you want to. The projects people nurture in their minds mean a great deal to them, so not following that instinct is a mistake.

Do you write everyday?

I try to write everyday, and it ranges from a few small bits and pieces to long swathes of text. It ends when it stops flowing.

How many books have you written so far?

The Ingredients of a Good Thriller came out in November 2008, by LDB Publishing, which is my imprint. It's a guide to thrillers in books and films, for people who want to write them and just enjoy the area. I'm happy to say that feedback suggests it's a good read for people who just like thrillers, which is fantastic.

My second book is Sherlock Holmes and the Underpants of Death, which is a daft parody of the great detective. The first story can be found on the SlothJockey.com. The volume was published in February of this year, again by LDB Publishing.

How long did it take you to write your latest book?

My latest is Sherlock Holmes and the Underpants of Death. I wrote the first story twelve years ago, and in between more serious projects added a new story every now and then, largely for some friends and myself. Two years ago, some of the material was published in France by Edition Rivages, and it has appeared on some websites. As people responded positively, I love writing humour, I thought I'd put it out.

Publishing myself has been a lot of work, some expense and a huge pleasure. It does mean it's very limited in terms of distribution for bookstores, but at least it's on Amazon.

Which aspect of the work did you find most difficult?

Not knowing how many people would appreciate the humour and the range of jokes, as it varies from literary parody of the Holmes style to potty humour and slapstick, which doesn't usually appear in books.

I can only do what the people who enjoy them respond to, and hope others appreciate it too.

What did you enjoy most?

Selecting the pictures for the book. I used some of the original Holmes illustrations and set my own captions to them. For example, there's a drawing of Holmes studying a windowsill with his magnifying glass as two policemen look on, and the caption reads: "Look, he's found the window!"

What sets the book apart from other things you've written?

It's very daft, and most of my other work isn't.

In what way is it similar?

I enjoyed writing it.

What will your next book be about?

It's a political satire looking at parts of the War on Terror and the way the media has distorted some things. Parts of the press are a disgrace and highly misleading.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Whenever anyone posts a review or sends me an email saying they really enjoyed reading it. Then I feel ten feet tall.

Possibly related books:

,,

Related resources
Get your copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Underpants of Death at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

Interviews
Interview With Author Chris Wood: A Look at Comedy, Self Publishing and The World of Crime, by Dulcinea Norton-Smith, suite101.com, April 16, 2009

Reviews