That word sends shivers up my spine just thinking about it. Set ‘Author’ in front of that word, and I suddenly go blank. What’s my name? I have no idea. Look on my book cover; I think it’s there somewhere.
However, I need to put my big writer-girl pants on and finally dip my big toe into the inkwell and just practice in the web journal mirror.
Okay, first of all, I need to thank Elisabeth Barette for compiling the questions I will be using in this series. Like in school, I did a count-out, and each question got a number from one through five. Today, I address the ones.
Now, let me introduce myself. My pen name is Jessica Alter. I have, as of today, published four science fiction novels:
The Dome Trilogy (Dystopian Earth Future Science Fiction)
- Nightmare Specters (2012)
- Solaray Dawn (2014)
Available in print and ebook formats.
The Cryptid Series (Paranormal Science Fiction/Fantasy)
- ‘Til Undeath Do Us Part (Release Date: April 1, 2015)
Available in ebook formats.
Well, that’s done. We’ve answered the biggest question of all: I’m a published author. So, let’s move on to those interview questions!
How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
Well, I’ve been a science fiction and fantasy reader since childhood. I also enjoyed reading fairy tales and mythology. Over the decades, I have collected many compilations of fairy tales and myths. Weird tales fascinate me.
The Dome Trilogy came to me in a dream in the mid-1990s. The story mulled in my mind until 2003. After the dramatic changes in society since the millennium, I ached to express what I saw unfolding socially. I drafted the trilogy as a single work in November 2003 and broke it apart into three books.
The Cryptid Series came from my exposure to the paranormal. As I left behind the possibility that unique cryptid beings existed because their existence defied scientific facts, I considered what it would take to make this impossibility viable. I asked myself the question: “What if they were real, and we could study them scientifically? What would they actually be like?” The three main characters materialized to do my dirty work, and the series has evolved since the first notes I drafted in 2008.
What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
We’re social, storytelling animals. Our inquisitive minds seek answers as we see patterns in the world around us and try to understand them. I consider that storytelling isn’t a result of culture but a driving force which helped develop culture. The stories we tell reveal the societies in which we live. We transmit not just facts but truths: the emotions, social norms, and evolution of our cultures. While these truths are mutable, they still encourage that inquisitive mind to extend itself and journey through the imagination alongside another inquisitive mind.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
Much of the plot in each of my novels revolves around the social interactions and conflicts between characters. My novels are dialogue-heavy as a result. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad, but that’s core to my writing voice–expressing my characters’ independent beliefs and ideas as they react to situations.
[Note to ‘blog readers: This was a really hard question to answer. I consider it a fault of my writing style, one I have worked hard to fix by turning long conversations into action sequences or cutting down the unnecessary fluff found in normal conversation. I work to slice repetition, try to keep the story flowing smoothly. Slogging through long conversations is agony, and I recognize that. Most of my characters’ conversations are broken up with gestures and everyday actions.]
Are there misconceptions that people have about your book? If so, explain.
So far, I have not heard anyone complain. I know complaints are coming, but I have received only positive feedback on my storytelling. I am aware that my first book has many technical issues which could have been addressed by a professional proofreader. My writing style evolved from mistakes I made in that book. I’m comfortable in my writer’s voice today; I wasn’t ten years ago, so Beneath a Sunless Sky is a slow, dense read. By the time I published Solaray Dawn, I had developed a voice of my own. It is a much faster read despite being nearly twice as long as the Dome Trilogy’s first book. Despite my technical problems at the start, I believe the Dome Trilogy is a great story. I’m proud to have written it.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
Oh, gosh. So many great writers . . . well, here’s a short list and why those authors could be considered as major influences on my storytelling:
- J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit was one of my favorite childhood everyman-as-epic-hero adventures. Bilbo Baggins’ evolution from sedate gentleman to seasoned adventurer is an extraordinary example of the power of the outer journey used to develop the inner one. I reread it every few years, and I still enjoy it as much as I did when I first read it at eight years old.
- John Christopher. The Tripods Trilogy, an epic science fiction adventure which has been a regular re-read of mine from childhood into adulthood, is intense and memorable. Aliens overwhelm and enslave humanity–physically and mentally. An adolescent boy, about to enter the mind-controlled society, abandons his home because he wants to retain his free will. The message that independent thought and free will are priceless and worth fighting for resonates deeply with me; this story hits home every time I read it.
- Stephen King. He starts with the ordinary and inserts the extraordinary. The tension, the conflict, and the powerfully terrifying images in his storytelling have kept me up nights to read until daylight. The emotional intensity of his prose chills and thrills every time.
- Ray Bradbury. He added the human experience to to his often grim tales of the breakdown of our supposedly bright, technology-dependent future. I consider him a master of the genre, for he scrutinized society through science fiction.
- Terry Pratchett. Discworld is so entertaining, and its characters have their own unique voices and ideas. His stories flow so easily that it’s hard to stop once I start, and his turn-of-phrase is delightfully witty and consistently hilarious.
Other powerful influences include Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Aldous Huxley, Madeline L’Engle, and Ursula K. LeGuin. The list, however, goes on and on.
How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
Ebooks are brilliant for readers: One totes a massive library of literature in a portable, slim electronic device. Ebooks are nightmares for writers: So many limitations are inherent in every digital format, no matter which platform one uses. I am brought to tears of relief every time the indenting consistently holds across epub formats, something I took for granted when I published for print. When I write, e-publication is now foremost in my mind. I hope some day that ebook formatting will rise to challenge print formatting in quality. Until then, I will happily adjust my writing process to bring the best quality I can to digital format, for ebooks are what today’s readers want.
As for alternative vs. conventional publishing? I spent a few years tossing short stories at magazines, receiving rejection after rejection. The Catch-22 nature of the publishing industry as it stands is disheartening: I need an established agent to approach a publisher, yet few agents who have pull in the big houses are taking submissions. I learned that one has to be plucked from the slush pile to even get an agent. Are these true? I’m not sure, but I sure saw a lot of publishing houses and agencies in the Writer’s Market books have that dreaded, “Not Accepting Submissions.” Some had conditions added, but I could not meet them as an untested author. So, I decided to publish for myself, to see my book in print.
Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.
In one word? Immersive.
I write by the seat of my pants, go back and make notes, research and edit, redraft and polish. When I write, I am writing the story as if I were reading it and transcribing it. That sensory immersion into the story which I experience when I read is present when I write. Sometimes, I will finish a draft and reread it with awe. In front of me is a book which wasn’t there a month before, a completed story I barely remember writing. That is baffling yet amazing to me that I even was able to type while it played out in my mind.
So, I suppose I would be considered an intuitive writer. It means a lot of editing and back-filling, but I always have a completed work to edit.
What do your plans for future projects include?
While I have notes for multiple series and dozens of completed novel drafts and redrafts, the Cryptid Series is the literary horse I’m betting on at this time. It’s packed with amazing mythological and unbelievable creatures from all around the world. At this point, I have four books outlined chronologically–all with rough drafts to draw scenes from. If the series fails at Book Four, then it can be put on the back burner. However, I hope it doesn’t fail. Books Six through Ten, which are little more than summaries at this point, are going to be fantastic. I’m also going to ease down the dark drama and bring up the levity in coming releases.
I cannot wait until the Cryptid Series’s second book, His Brother’s Keeper, is on my work table again, getting its turn on pink pages. I’m taking three months off to read, read, and read now that ‘Til Undeath Do Us Part is available for pre-order up to the official release date on April first of this year. Then, I’ll be ready to take on Book Two and its mystery monster (Spoiler: It’s not a werewolf!) with gusto. I can’t guarantee a Fall release, but I am going to try my best to have it out by Halloween 2015.