Friday, January 9, 2009

[Interview] Ivor W. Hartmann, author and editor-in-chief of StoryTime

Ivor W. Hartmann is a Zimbabwean writer, visual artist and literary activist. He is also editor-in-chief of StoryTime, an ezine that seeks to showcase new African writing.

In this email interview, Hartmann talks about the ezine and about how it is being received by emerging African writers.

What is StoryTime all about?

To quote the StoryTime About page mission statement if I may, since I put the effort into re-writing it recently:

The StoryTime African New Fiction FreEzine is all about new African fiction reading and writing. For our readers we provide a free weekly ezine showcasing the works of some of the hottest new African fiction writers. For our writers we endeavour to find them, and then encourage free online fiction publication at ST, as a multi-purpose means to improve writing ability and their exposure.

For the ST readers, my aim is to publish at least one great fiction story every week from an African writer, usually early morning Sunday (+2GMT).

I also do the occasional special edition on days like Valentines, or like the last one on President Robert Mugabe's Birthday. ST featured a cutting edge farcical story written for the occasion by Zimbabwean author Masimba Musodza ("Robin Hood & The President's Birthday Bash").

Also in the works is an annual ST Book Anthology called African Roar, which is set to be published by The Lion Press in early August 2009. It will then be launched at a new Zimbabwean Writers Festival in that same month being organised by The Lion Press.

For the writers, I actively look for new and established talented fiction writers to showcase at ST, and welcome all fiction submissions within the ST guidelines. Once the authors are accepted into ST, I then provide an interactive online home for them and their stories. Firstly, we showcase their stories by publishing them in the ST ezine.

In addition to that, for each ST author, I create a special author bio page that showcases them specifically. This includes an autobiography with their picture, all their stories at ST, and as many related links (I updated them monthly) to good content about the authors and/or their works. It includes, extra to the main ST feed, a specific feed only about them from ST.

The author page also gives them a space and the freedom to communicate with their readers in personal posts at their page, and in comments on the story itself. Taken all together, ST hopes to serve as a promotional interactive conglomerate of their online authorial presence and work.

How did StoryTime come about?

Like most ideas, this one grew out of necessity, or the dearth of good fiction-only magazines, coming out of South Africa and understandably, Zimbabwe. Not that there aren’t any, but they are fewer and far between in comparison to the rest of the world.

Frustrated as a new fiction writer madly writing with so few local outlets for my work, I started thinking about how I could remedy this dire situation.

Being strapped for cash back then (as a new-ish dedicated full-time writer and living in a new country), basically made me realise that a proper print magazine was out of the question to start with. So I took a look at online publishing which led me to Google's Blogger framework, and so the first incarnation of StoryTime was born.

Right from the outset my intention was to use the Blogger framework to publish a real ezine. I also definitely wanted to avoid personal blogging in the ezine and feature only fiction works, even if they were only mine to start with.

How long have you been working on the project?

I published the first ST ezine in June 2007.

Initially, I wanted to create a fiction ezine that would consist of an eclectic collection of world fiction, run directly by its authors for their readers, and create an online home for all the authors involved.

Over time and after gaining a bit of experience in this new field of online publishing, I came to realise what I wanted ST to be. That being, primarily a focus on the poorly represented and yet amazingly rich and diverse, fictional literature coming out of Africa and from the far flung African Diaspora. So I changed the ST emphasis to African writers only and the rest was history.

How do you find contributors?

I actively seek out talented writers and invite them to ST, and constantly look for free ways to promote ST and all our authors by all means at my disposal, on and offline. Then there's the relatively new development of the ST book anthology, African Roar, something I have wanted to do since the very beginning. In this regard I have just put out the call for ST fiction submissions to be published first in the ezine, and thereby gain entry into the selection process for the printed anthology. This came about thanks in no small way to Sarudzayi Barnes at The Lion Press, who secured us the funding to print publish with LP, from the U.K. Arts Council. Though in the long run I'd like the anthology to not only pay for itself, but also offer a decent percentage return for all the authors published in it.

Which writers are you currently working with?

This is a great question and maybe I can also explain something of how ST works. Firstly let me do the honour roll for everyone ST is actively working with:

Igoni Barrett, Adesola Orimalade, Ayesha Attah, Ayodele Morocco-Clarke, Beaven Tapureta, Chris Mlalazi, Colin Meier, Esi Cleland, Emmanuel Sigauke, Masimba Musodza, Nigel Jack and Sarudzayi Barnes.

It is these authors who have made ST what it is by joining, contributing and working with ST. Two members of prime contribution are Emmanuel, who is co-editing the upcoming ST anthology with me, and Sarudzayi, whom I mentioned earlier.

Now when I say our authors work with ST, what I mean is unlike traditional publishing, ST runs under a Creative Commons 3.0 licence (Attribution, Non-derivative, and Non-commercial). This means that in effect, the author joins ST and then together we showcase their work in the ezine, directly under their own names and copyrights. The authors then, forever, have complete access to all their works at ST and can edit them or remove them entirely if they so choose. This I feel is an important part of the capabilities of online publishing, giving the authors direct control over their work.

Hindsight can also be very illuminating, especially as one improves as a writer with each new work. At ST as the author you may make changes, normally reserved for a second revised edition in the print world. So the ST authors are their own editors, and I approve their works for publishing in the ezine as editor-in-chief of ST.

What challenges do you meet and how do you deal with them?

ST always presents many daily challenges which I try and deal with as swiftly as humanly possible. But I suppose the prime challenge from the beginning, has been my choice of the Blogger framework to publish ST for free. In doing so I have had to constantly search for ways to present ST as an ezine and not a generic blog. Luckily though, I am also a visual artist and have tried to make ST on the whole look as un-blog-like as possible. Not to mention the utter helplessness when faced with problems beyond my control, because it’s a free service. However, that's also the good thing about ST in its current form, apart from my own time and that of the authors; it's totally free for us and therefore our readers. This might change in the future, if we can ever afford a dedicated .com domain name and full website etc., which will bring its own set of new challenges no doubt. Though, unless we start printing a magazine solely, I'd like to keep the ST ezine free for the authors and all our readers.

There is also an inherent challenge in letting your authors have complete access to their works. One only has too view MySpace to see how out of hand this can get if left unsupervised. So behind each story I work a bit of hard-learned but simple HTML magic to make sure it complies with the ST layout standards, and doesn't jam the feed readers.

In general though, I have found the ST authors more than willing to help solve any problems that may arise, which makes life a lot easier.

How would you describe the standard of writing at ST?

So far, I think we have maintained a fairly good standard of writing at ST, but I can only believe that this will become even better as ST grows. It is also my intention with the first anthology to raise the bar significantly, by only print publishing the 'eclectic' or very best, of all the works published in the ezine since our beginnings. Subsequent to the first anthology it will be the best of that year.

Who is your target audience?

On the whole I'd say we already have enough variety to satisfy nearly every fiction genre taste, and so this would put us squarely in the fairly broad realm of all those who read fiction/literature magazines and ezines.

Furthermore, with our solid presence on Facebook and by using the Blogger framework, we are introducing ST and our authors to whole new generations of online fiction readers.

Which aspects of the work do you enjoy most?

There are quite a few reasons why I was motivated to start ST, but one of the big ones was to start communicating with my fellow Zimbabwean writing peers in Zimbabwe and those spread throughout the world. I had the idea that together we could do what artists are at least in-part meant to do, and that is being a voice for the voiceless; to bring to the world light, the very real catastrophe of our Zimbabwean situation through our arts, in this case, writing. Therefore, I have slowly but surely opened the lines of communication between several Zimbabwean writers and myself, and together we have achieved some measure of real progress. This is surely what I enjoy most, seeing and being a part of something greater than myself, which actually does cause positive change.

Ultimately, like most Zimbabweans, I have a great desire to return home permanently from what is effectively an economic exile.

What sets ST apart from the other ezines and literary magazines?

It would have to be the complete control the authors have over their work, and the strong sense of close community that ST engenders in both its authors and readers. We like to help each other out where we can, and most of us bring an existing entourage of readers to ST when we join. I believe it is this spirit of openness and community, tempered with real authorial control, which draws readers and serious writers to ST. This, therefore, raises the bar with the addition of each new talented writer, and our growing experience in online and print publishing.

Possibly related books:


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

[Interview] Lucien Black

Lucien Black currently resides in Orange County, Ca with his wife and children.

He started writing in 1991 and helped to produce an independently published comic book. His own first book, No Vacancies, Vol. 1 started off as a series of comic book scripts.

Currently, he is working on the second volume of No Vacancies.

In this email interview, Lucien Black talks about his concerns as a writer.

When did you start writing?

I started writing in 1990. I had no aspirations to be a writer at first, but after a writing course in high school I started to enjoy the idea. My teacher at the time, Terry Fugate, was a great influence and after I graduated I started composing scripts for comic books.

I joined up with a few friends and about two years later we published our first independent comic book. We were very excited but our investor backed out at the last minute and left us to fend for ourselves. We were able to get book one printed, but subsequent issues were shelved.

I eventually tried to move out on my own and get my own comic book scripts published. I had four or five story lines I was developing and really wanted to break into that industry. I submitted work to all the major publishers like Marvel and DC Comics and even the smaller shops but no bites on the work.

So I continued to write as a hobby and started and restarted my stories over and over again until about two years ago.

My wife convinced me that I should convert my scripts to short stories and publish them that way. After some hemming and hawing I started re-writing them and developed the first version of No Vacancies. What I decided to do was keep the serial feel of the comic book and develop some stories that would continue in future volumes of No Vacancies.

How would you describe your writing?

My works are fictional stories with action adventure, horror and superhero themes. Future works will include other genres but for now the majority will focus on those.

I love the superhero genre and try to find new ways to tell those types of stories.

Who is your target audience?

Anyone that likes action adventure stories like Indiana Jones, horror, comic books, short stories, mysteries.

I truly think my work can lend itself to a pretty wide audience. I think that anyone that can be hooked in by an action packed story with fantastical occurrences will enjoy the work. Once they are hooked, I believe they will come back for more.

Which authors influenced you most?

It's difficult to narrow down one or two main influences to my work. There are many comic book writers such as Chris Claremont and Alan Davis that were very inspirational to my earlier endeavors. Beyond that Lee Child, Lorenzo Carcaterra, Stephen King, Stephen J. Cannell, Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, etc.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My biggest concern as a writer is definitely confidence in my work. I am without a doubt my own worst critic and tend to really be hard on my work.

Writing a story that draws the reader in, gives them an exciting ride and leaving them wanting to either know more about a particular character or to read the next part of a story and doing it well is a major obstacle. In the end I just have to let the chips fall where they may and see what turns out.

How have your own personal experiences influenced your writing?

Absolutely, yes. I think what personal experiences bring is that absolute sense of realism. One of the main problems in comic book writing is that many writers miss adding in those life experiences. If you are trying to accept characters as real, there has to be that human element.

Divorce, death, loss of jobs are all critical aspects of life that should be blended in with the action or horror. When I started re-writing these stories and redeveloping my characters, I added in many elements from my own life that I thought would add that sense of realism.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Simply finding the time to get the work developed. Thankfully, I have time during my lunch hours to focus on work, but between work, school (still working on my degree) and life it is difficult to find time to focus.

How many books have you written so far?

My first book, No Vacancies, Vol. 1 was published in October 2008 by

I took cues from the serials of old, and used the concept of serialized fiction to introduce readers to my work. No Vacancies is a compilation of four short stories and some poetry that somewhat fit into each tale. The genres are action adventure, superhero and horror tales.

"One More Sunday" follows Detective Sam Arkwright as he attempts to put together the missing pieces of a murder. "Outcast and Devotion", which is set in the fictional city of Hudson, NY, and in which a serial killer is leaving behind mutilated bodies and the police are baffled. In "Devotion", Dr. Alastair Cromwell struggles to resurrect his late wife, Annette. Will he succeed and at what cost?

Part 1 of "High Stakes", introduces a louse of ma, Jack Ander. Abused by his father; branded a coward. Is he destined to be a hero?

Do you write everyday?

I work a full time job outside of writing and I actually use my lunch hour for writing. It is a solid hour of me focused on just my writing and what is great about it is that I actually have it scheduled every day. There are days when I am not in the office so I may lose a day here and there but that isn't necessarily a problem.

Outside of that time, I generally write in the early morning on the weekends, when the house is quiet.

I find that I have to really focus myself to get quality output.

Since I am working on various short stories at any given time, I tend to flip back and forth between writing one or the other. I find that if I get stuck, it helps me to step away from one story and gain some momentum on another. Typically when I come back to the story I skipped, I am refreshed and have all sorts of new ideas to jot down. I also keep a journal close at hand when ideas pop into my head, this way I don't lose them; especially dreams.

How did you chose a publisher for No Vacancies? Why this publisher? What advantages or disadvantages has this presented?

It was published by in October 2008. It has great advantages to an independent writer to complete a script, submit the book and cover art and then within a few short hours the book is available to the public.

The disadvantages are mostly on the marketing side. Finding ways to publicize my work is difficult. There are some packages you can purchase through the publisher but that takes time. At this point, it's basically word of mouth. I have a few other ideas for marketing but it will simply take time to get everything into place.

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

Making sure that the reader was left wanting more. I always want a book or story to end and my first response to be, "Where can I read more about that character".

What did you enjoy most?"

Researching settings. In the story, "High Stakes, Part 1", there is a scene where young Jack Ander, the main character, is waking up and he hears a radio program. So I researched which radio program would have been on the radio at the moment he woke up and who would have been singing/talking at the time. That is a part of the writing process I have only recently added to my work and it just adds so much depth to the story.

What sets No Vacancies apart from other things you've written?

Since this is my first novel, I think it sets the stage for my future works.

Writing these in a serial type format gives me the avenue to explore multiple stories and worlds in each volume. I like having the freedom.

What will your next book be about?

The next book is another volume of No Vacancies which will contain parts two of both "Outcast" and "High Stakes" (two on-going short stories). I will introduce a new on-going short story that is an espionage thriller and two additional self-contained short stories.

I expect that to be completed in the next four to six months.

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

Without a doubt, publishing No Vacancies, Vol. 1 was one of the most amazing feelings. When I got the first copy in hand, I was like a little kid with a huge smile. To see my own finished work was an awesome feeling.

Possibly related books:


Monday, January 5, 2009

[Interview] Sarudzayi Barnes

Sarudzayi Barnes was born in Zimbabwe and was a student at Domboramavara Primary School before going on to Monte Cassino Mission and Harare High School. She is currently studying Law with the University of London.

She runs a publishing company, The Lion Press Ltd, which specialises in African and Afro-Caribbean children's stories in particular and other African and Afro-Caribbean literature genres in general. She also distributes and promotes books written in African languages.

Her books include The Endless Trail (Author House, 2008) and The Village Story-Teller: Zimbabwean Folktales (The Lion Press Ltd, 2008).

In this interview, Sarudzayi Barnes talks about her concerns as a writer.

When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was doing Lower 6 at Harare High School in 1990. I participated into a short story writing competition which was facilitated by the Curriculum Development Unit, which was based at the University of Zimbabwe, I think, but I am not sure. A few months after the competition, I received a prize of $50, which was a lot of money then. The judges invited me to go to the CDU because they wanted to encourage me to take writing seriously, and they also wanted me to develop the story further, but I ignored them. I did not go, I cashed my cheque and blew it up on something else.

In 1996 I wrote a play which I called "Sarudzayi", which I set at the University of Zimbabwe campus, because I thought U.Z. students were detached from real life out there. As students, we lived in a fantasy land, expecting well paying jobs, driving good cars, renting or owning immaculate flats or homes.

When I graduated with my B.A. in 1995, I was posted to teach in a rural school in Mavhuradonha, at Mavhuradonha School, that’s when it hit me that a university degree was not a passport to good living. But luckly for me, I soon left that job and got a better and more challenging job with the National Archives of Zimbabwe. I decided to re-write the play "Sarudzayi", but sadly I could not get a publisher. I wanted the play to be turned into a ZBC TV drama, and I gave a guy called Shoko my manuscript, and he just disappeared with it when he left the ZBC. My hopes were shattered, so I turned my mind away from writing.

In 2002, I was already living here in the U.K., I decided to write Zimbabwean folktales, I wrote about twenty of them (I still have the manuscript), and I began hunting for a publisher. I gave it to a friend, who said the way the folktales ended was too violent and no publisher was likely to publish them. Because I usually ended the folktales with the wrong-doer being punished, either being chased from the village, becoming insane or being killed, just like we were told these stories. I was frustrated and put the manuscript in a suitcase under my bed.

I was participating in a demonstration at the Lords Cricket Grounds in London in May 2003, because we wanted the England Cricket Board to boycott cricket games with Zimbabwe, and because I was one of leaders of the demonstrators, a guy called Ian Noah came to interview me. By then he was working for Intermedia Press, or I think it was his company I really don’t know. We spoke about human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, and I told him about my desire to write something about Zimbabwean politics. He gave me his business card and said he would love to work with me, guide me on the project and help me by publishing my book. So I came back to Coventry full of ambition and hope, that at least I found someone who could help me air my views through writing. I started working on How Mugabe Mugged Zimbabwe (and Made Mugs Out of the Rest of the World), a title Noah suggested, straight away. I was documenting things from a journalistic point of view, so Ian Noah advised me to put a bit of analysis into the book. I approached a Zimbabwean academic called Collin Zhuawu who has a Masters in International Relations and together we worked on the book. We signed a contract with Noah, the book was due to be published on 10 December 2003 as print-on-demand, but that’s when we last heard of Ian Noah. We phoned his mobile several times and left several messages until we got tired, but he did not return our calls. The book appears on online bookshops but we never managed to buy copies of the book. I don’t really know what happened. Ian Noah was very keen to see the project succeed, and many of our friends who ordered the copies never got to get any, so I don’t really know what happened to Ian Noah. I don’t think he sold any copies at all. Whatever happened, I think, was something beyond his control, because he was a genuine person. Again after the failure of this project, I shelved writing, but in 2007 I decided to write again, because I had learnt about self-publishing. I thought of what could be a more pressing issue among my fellow Zimbabweans, then decided to write about problems faced by Zimbabweans who emigrate to the U.K., S.A., Canada, Australia and America etc, for both political and economic reasons, how they are leaving children to fend for themselves in Zimbabwe, or husbands and sometimes wives, for many years while they work and send money to their broken families. I thought about things like immigration issues, HIV and AIDS because the whole separation process bring in temptations. I also realised that HIV and AIDS are things many Zimbabweans are not comfortable to talk about, yet it’s something affecting us. So I wrote The Endless Trail and paid Author House £635 to have it published. They gave me 20 copies for free, and I sell the book through Lion Press Ltd.

My book was published on 13 March 2008. I was thrilled when I received the first copy. I went everywhere with it, showing anyone who cared to listen or to see it. But there are some people, I thought they were my friends, whom I gave free copies and up to now some of them haven’t even bothered to read the book! That’s when I realised that a lot of Zimbabweans don’t have a reading culture. I told myself that if I am to continue writing, I should aim to make my writings international and not Zimbabwean centred.

In July this year I decided to register my own self-publishing company, The Lion Press Ltd, so now I self publish my books and I also help other writers to get published. On 30 September 2008, I published The Village Story-Teller: Zimbabwean Folktales (which is basically that manuscript I had put in my suitcase in 2002 because I could not find a publisher). I improved on the stories and published them. The book has been well received by African children here in the U.K., some African-American children as well, who got the copies through my friend who is a talk-show producer, Fritz Kanyile Ka-Ngwenya of the Afrodisak Show. The book has been well received.

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

I write about what I see everyday. I fictionalise things that I see or hear. So my work is a kind of socio-economic history. In The Endless Trail I wrote about real historical events, the formation of the MDC, the 1998 and 1999 ZCTU mass stay-aways, the queues for fuel, the tense political situation in Zimbabwe leading to the brain-drain.

I wrote about how Zimbabweans in the U.K. see Gatwick as maenzanise, where everyone works side by side, the Zimbabwean educated and those who were selling crafts in neighbouring countries or vegetable vendors; former house-maids now working side by side with their former employers in nursing homes and factories.

Who is your target audience?

Initially I wanted to target Zimbabweans and other Africans. Now I write for everyone, and I have changed my writing language and style as well, because in The Endless Trail I wrote a lot of Shonglish to retain the Africanness flavour, now I write standard English for all communities to read.

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

Tsitsi Dangarembga, Alexander Kanengoni, Alexander McCall Smith, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Kei Miller (especially), Andrea Levy, Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiongo.

I love Caribbean literature and I want to write my next book in Jamaican Patois. Kei Miller writes about everyday in Jamaica. He writes about the plight of gay people, gangsters, Rastafarians, oppression etc. I am a Rastafarian Sistren myself, and I kind of identify with a lot of things he writes about. When you read his books it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction. When people read The Endless Trail, they ask me if it’s a true story, and I say, no, it’s fiction, and still they want me to tell them what happened to Jenny, because I leave them in suspense, and I say I don’t know. So they want me to serialise the book. So now I am working on Just Another Day, which a sequel to The Endless Trail.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

It is very difficult to get published. If you do self-publishing, marketing is another big hurdle to cross. Unless you are well known and well connected, you can easily become frustrated. People generally look at your book, if it is published by a very big company. To make matters worse, it is difficult to get a wider African readership. They would rather read Danielle Steel than look at a fellow African writer, and it’s worse if they know you. They judge you by your appearance. I am not really bothered about making money through writing books, because I have realised that one can’t make a living from writing alone unless you become big like J. K. Rowling, so I will continue to write, work hard and self-publish, give a few free copies away and sell a few. One day my turn will come. Someone out there will realise my talent and who knows? Besides, when I write, it’s a legacy for my children.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

I write about things I see and hear. That influences my writing. I studied history, and I write social history through fiction.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

The biggest challenge is writing something which is appealing to my readers. I overcome this by circulating my manuscripts to a few people of different backgrounds to get their opinion. In The Village Story-Teller: Zimbabwean Folktales I asked a few children to read my stories and asked them to jot down comments. So I got five children between seven years and 13 years to review my book, all from different backgrounds.

How many books have you written so far?
  • How Mugabe Mugged Zimbabwe (and Made Mugs of the Rest of the World) by Sarudzayi Chifamba-Barnes and Collin Zhuawu (Paperback - 10 Dec 2003).
  • The Endless Trail (Author House U.K., March 2008).
  • The Village Story-Teller: Zimbabwean Folktales, The Lion Press Ltd, U.K. September 2008 by Sarudzayi Chifamba-Barnes, Lynne Sykes, and Jeffery Milanzi.

Do you write everyday?

I don’t write everyday. I might go for weeks without writing. I write when I feel the urge to write, like a mother giving birth when she feels the urge to push. If I plan to write something, I sit by my computer and only end up playing Mahjong Solatire online. I end when I feel that my head is empty. I don’t stop until I empty my ideas on paper. I can go for the whole day or night, or just for an hour or less. It depends.

How did you chose a publisher for your latest book?

My latest book is The Village Story-Teller. I self-published it under my own publishing company, The Lion Press Ltd because I don’t want to go about looking for a publisher again. I want to control my sells, my profits or my losses. I like it. The disadvantage is with marketing. I am not good at marketing. I am good at telling stories.

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

Everything was cool with me. I work with a team of illustrators and I use the same editor. Raising money for production costs is the only difficult thing, but I have a steady job even though I don’t like it.

I enjoyed writing the stories, because I am a natural story-teller.

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

I wrote it for children, especially African kids in the Diaspora because I realised that with the amount of work we do here, it’s a ‘shift’ all the time and parents don’t have time to tell their children those kind of stories we were told under the moonlight in an African village. So I have kind of assumed the role of the village story-teller.

What will your next book be about?

I am writing a sequel to The Endless Trail, which focuses on the daily challenges faced by people in Zimbabwe, health issues, political issues and social issues.

I am writing about the challenges faced by the HIV-positive main character, Jenny, in her day-to-day life in Zimbabwe, the challenge of caring for two HIV-positive daughters, one who was raped by Tito, the gardener and infected with HIV when Jenny is in the U.K. where she is working as an illegal immigrant, and the other daughter who acquired HIV through mother-to-child-transmission. Through Jenny, I want the world to understand the plight of Zimbabweans who struggle to survive for each day, that’s why my book is called Just Another Day.

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

To get Lord Chris Smith (former Culture Secretary under Tony Blair’s government) to write a review for my book. I felt highly honoured. And also to get Professor Terence Ranger, who is a Professor at Oxford University, to write a review for The Village Story-Teller: Zimbabwean Folktales. I feel highly honoured. It’s not easy to get such big names to sit down and write a review for a book. It is encouraging. Also to see people reading my books. It’s a great achievement. And just to see and touch the book itself and tell myself, this is me, this is my work! It’s a great achievement.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

[Interview] N. P. Michaels

N. P. Michaels was born and raised in Michigan.

He made his debut as an author with the release of Shadow Haven: Battle Across The Sands (PublishAmerica, 2008).

In this slightly edited email interview, he talks about his concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

I started writing in 1999, though I didn't become serious until 2005.

In 2005 I was writing a story which is the pre-story to Shadow Haven. At the time it wasn't though. Other stories began to sprout during this time and then my mother fell ill of cancer. It was her that pushed me to believe I could be a published writer and during the years that followed, I re-designed the story to the current one.

I started by getting the 'main story' down and plotting it through each book. Other major and minor stories would come as I continuously re-wrote the story. As soon as my first book was complete I sought a publisher.

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

An adventure for sure, but it’s really hard work and takes a lot of time. But when you see your book take shape, it makes it all worth it.

I write what I love, and I think that’s important to any writer. I love to write stories and seeing readers getting excited about the world I created.

In the writing you are doing, who influenced you most?

My father and all the weird and fascinating shows I watched growing up. Though I would have to give a nodded to J. R. R. Tolkien and the world he created.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

My mother’s death would be the biggest by far. She really is the spark of everything to me.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Right now, being everything which includes: writer, editor, promoter, webmaster, etc. To some, this may be easy, but to me it's not.

How do you deal with these challenges?

Take it day by day and stay positive.

How many books have you written so far?

Shadow Haven: Battle Across The Sands (PublishAmerica, 2008) which tells the story of a Great War that plagued the world of Esura because the wizard Aurum had turned evil and created a super race known as the democ. And over many years, Aurum and his forces destroyed many kingdoms and races. But just when hope seemed to have been lost, a new order of wizards called the Autar were sent down from the spiritual realm of Heldaia to re-organize the forces of good. They fought Aurum for five years and, in the final battle, they defeated him and the world was saved. But now, six hundred years later, the world starts to hear whispers of the dead wizard's return.

The novel raises the question: Did Aurum do the impossible and return from the grave? Or is some other shadowing threat involved?

Do you write everyday?

Monday to Friday. I try to take the weekends off.

How does each session start?

I open my notebook and read over my last few paragraphs. Then I look over my notes for the chapter and turn on some music or talk radio and try to create new things within a chapter.

The session ends after about eight or 10 hours. Or, generally, when I run out of ideas.

How long did it take you to write it?

Pre-story and all, about six years.

How did you choose a publisher for the book?

I rushed into that a bit, and rushed into it honestly.

Why this publisher? Nothing in general caught my eye. My book was ready and I needed a publisher.

The advantage is that my book is in print and can be read by all. The disadvantages are I never expected to have to do more than the publisher when it comes to editing and promoting my work. I am pushing harder on myself than I ever thought possible, to do what must be done.

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

Humor and war really are my weak points. I’ve never been a good joke teller or even creative enough to make one up and when it comes to war, that’s something I never experienced.

I had to use what experiences I had that were funny and try to make use of them. For war, I read up and watched as many movies as possible. The only other way was to join the war and that doesn't sit well with my beliefs.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

Writing the mythology of the world in Shadow Haven, from the very origins, to beyond.

I love, as a reader, finding out things beyond the story of the books -- where it started, where it’s ending and how it got to where it is.

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

That’s easy! It’s the world that surrounds it. It’s so indepth that I could make many more books before and after the current series is over.

What will your next book be about?

It will continue from where the first book of Shadow Haven left off.

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

Hearing my readers say they enjoyed my book and world as much as I.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Keeping the story original and entertaining.

I deal with this by constantly thinking ahead and using my experiences, new and old.

Related books:


Related articles:

"Shadow Haven: Battle Across the Sands by N.P. Michaels", Book Review, by Janica Unruh, June 6, 2008,