Interview with Author Alex Bledsoe, Conclusion

Welcome back for the conclusion in our chat with Alex Bledsoe, author of The Omai Gods, which is part of the steampunk anthology, Steampunk World .

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.

 

Airship Ambassador: When you are writing these days, is some aspect still a challenge?

Ales Bledsoe: Dialogue has always come easily for me, whereas the basics of plotting are still a struggle. My approach to world-building is to build only what the story needs, so I don’t have page after page of reference material for my made-up worlds. My first drafts tend to be very short, and then they flesh out in revision.

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AA: What story would you like to write but haven’t, yet?

AB: A western. I’ve done a western short story, and an unpublished western novel with dinosaurs, but I’ve never written a pure, John-Wayne-could-star-in-the-movie western.

 

AA: Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?

AB: When I teach writing, I tell the students that I don’t believe in writer’s block. When writing is your job, you show up and do your work, even when you don’t feel like it, just like you would for any other job. Some days it’s easy, some days it’s hard, but you do it every day regardless.

 

AA: That’s worth remembering for any job! How is Wisconsin for writing?

AB: I love Wisconsin. The town I live in is very supportive of artists of all types, and with Madison nearby, there’s access to all kinds of writing-related events. As I said above, I like to think I could write anywhere, but it’s certainly easier in a place that doesn’t look down on it.

 

AA: In your experience, does it seem like readers prefer a print or electronic format? Do you have a preference?

AB: My readers like both, and as a writer, I don’t really care what format people choose. As a reader, I’m still a physical-book user, mostly out of habit.

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AA: Have you been affected by electronic piracy of your work? Aside from the loss of a sale, how does this affect you/make you feel?

AB: There’s seldom a day I don’t wake up to Google alerts for pirated copies of my books and short stories, and I’m certain it’s hurt my, and everyone else’s, sales. The sheer entitlement of the people who use this to get their books infuriates me. If it’s for sale, and you didn’t pay for it, then you stole it. Any excuse you make to justify it is just that: an excuse.

 

AA: If you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing now?

AB: Probably working for a newspaper somewhere. It’s really the only skill I’ve got.

 

AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?

AB: I had a day job up until the birth of my younger son; I was a legal copy editor, and that was just as exciting as it sounds. When my son was born, we ran the numbers and discovered I didn’t make enough at my job to cover his daycare, so we decided it was the perfect time for me to be a stay-at-home dad and full-time writer.

 

AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?

AB: Ha! As I said, I have three school-age children (4, 8 and 12), so I don’t have time for many hobbies. Maybe when the youngest gets into kindergarten I’ll be able to have some.

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AA: Hang in there – not long to go! What other fandoms are you part of?

AB: I’m a lifelong Star Trek fan, and I still love shows from my childhood like Space: 1999 (though only season 1) and UFO. I came to Doctor Who late, and have kind of wandered away until the Moffat era is done. Similarly, I loved the original Star Wars trilogy, but with each movie I find myself less and less interested. I also love Twin Peaks, classic blaxploitation, the Underworld film series, 80s Hong Kong action movies, and George Romero’s zombie series. And it’s no exaggeration to say that I wouldn’t be a writer today without Kolchak: the Night Stalker.

 

AA: Ooohhh, Kolchak! I watched that religiously in the 70s! What is on your to-be read or watched pile right now?

AB: Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, the novel “A Thin Bright Line” by my cousin Lucy Jane Bledsoe, the Hank Williams movie “The Last Ride,” and the rest of season one of “Supergirl.”

 

AA: Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?

AB: I admired the late Steve Irwin for his never-ending enthusiasm for his work. I admire Kenneth Branagh for making Shakespeare accessible. I admire Bruce Springsteen for his dedication and for the way he never forgets what it’s like to be a fan. I admire Andrew Vachss for his unflinching artistic gaze, and his real-life work with damaged children. I admire George Romero for refusing to make the same zombie movie over and over.

 

AA: What event or situation has had the most positive impact in your life? What has been your greatest challenge?

AB: Moving to Wisconsin was a tremendous boost. I’d lived all over the south, and if I’d stayed there, I don’t know that I’d ever have written about it the way that I have. And my greatest challenge was never giving up and holding onto that image of myself as a published author, even as I stared down the barrel of middle age.

 

AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite cheese (since you are in Wisconsin), vampire story (other than your own), and TV show from your childhood?

AB: Provolone, “Carmilla,” and “Jonny Quest.”

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AA: Those are three great things! Any final thoughts to share with our readers?

AB: If you’re a writer, never give up. Giving up is the only way to guarantee you fail. And if you’re a reader, leave honest reviews when you finish a book. They don’t have to be detailed, but each one does help.

 

Thanks, Alex, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts. We look forward to hearing about your next projects!

Keep up to date with Alex’s latest news on his website and Twitter.

You can support Alex and our community by getting your copy of Steampunk World here.

Published in: on November 10, 2016 at 8:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Author Alex Bledsoe, Part 2

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Welcome back for part two in our chat with Alex Bledsoe, author of The Omai Gods, which is part of the steampunk anthology, Steampunk World .

Read Part one here.

 

Airship Ambassador: How long did it take to write, and rewrite, The Omai Gods?

Alex Bledsoe: Not long; for me, short stories tend to come quickly. I knew the deadline from the start, so I worked toward it. Having worked as a journalist, with deadlines of hours, having weeks or months to finish a story is no problem.

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AA: Some people find writing a short story with memorable, meaningful characters and concise story to be a challenge, while others find that easier and writing novels is the challenge. How is that situation for you, and what is your approach to make it easier?

AB: I think every story idea is inherently either short or long, and part of the trick that comes with experience is being able to recognize the difference. This story was conceived from the start as a short one, so I knew the time frame would be compressed, and that the location would essentially stay the same, and that the word count would be approximately 5,000 words. Like Nicholas Meyer says, “Art thrives on restriction,” so having those parameters set actually made the process go more smoothly.

 

AA: If someone likes “X”, then they’ll like The Omai Gods. What is “X”?

AB: If someone likes old-school SF that showcases the way technology, in this case alien technology, affects a society, I think they’ll enjoy this story. It’s very much an attempt to recapture the feel of the first SF stories I read.

 

AA: How are new readers finding you?

AB: Mostly word of mouth, I think. It’s kind of hard to tell, but I know a lot of the ones I meet mention hearing about me from friends. Certainly cons, and blogging—and interviews—help. Social media is a big thing, too.

 

AA: What has your general publishing experience been like?

AB: I took the long way. I started writing my first novel, THE SWORD-EDGED BLONDE, when I was 17, and it was published when I was 44. The only “trick” I used was not giving up. I had no industry contacts; I got my agent through a blind submission.

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AA: That is the long way around, but not only are you published, but there’s quite a few short stories and novels out there in print. For the aspiring writer, what lessons did you learn about having an agent and editor, their feedback, and your writing?

AB: Because both agents and editors serve as gatekeepers to publication, a lot of new authors see them as adversaries. That’s not true: they don’t make money unless the author does. They’re on the author’s side, and any suggestions they make are to improve the author’s work, not damage it. Plus, improving manuscripts is their job; they do it all the time, so they’re good at it. Trust them, don’t work against them.

 

AA: Have you been on book tours and to conventions? What has that been like, and the fan reaction?

AB: I’ve been to lots of events in the last ten years, and the fans have always been gracious and kind. I don’t think the stories and novels I write lend themselves to that slightly unbalanced fandom some authors experience, and I’m grateful for that; my fans tend to be pretty smart and level-headed.

 

AA: What do you do to keep a balance between writing and the rest of your life?

AB: I’m the stay-at-home parent of three small children, so the balance asserts itself.

 

AA: Just taking care of three children would be quite the balancing act in itself! Do you get to talk much with other writers to compare notes?

AB: I have a friend who’s a playwright, and we meet at least once a week to talk shop. I’m also friends with a newspaper editor who’s an avid reader, and it’s fun to trade recommendations with him.

 

AA: Some people might say that writers need to be readers, too.

AB: Oh, definitely. It’s like any professional development, you never stop learning. Particularly in genre fiction, you need to know what’s going on out there.

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AA: As a reader, what has made you stop reading something before finishing it? How do you try to avoid that issue in your own writing?

AB: One of Elmore Leonard’s rules is to “leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” As a reader, when I’m confronted with page after page of text with no dialogue and few paragraph breaks, I tend to skip ahead to the next time someone talks. As a writer, I try to never include passages like that.

 

AA: What do you consider your first real writing experience? Was it the back-to-school exercise of “What I did this Summer” or something you just did on your own?

AB: I took a Batman comic book and rewrote it as a prose story. I used up all the ink on my dad’s manual typewriter, which he kept for typing up the church session minutes. So in a way, my first story was an offense to God.

 

AA: LOL! Somehow, I think God would rather read your creative story than meeting minutes. How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

AB: I’ve gotten less patient with inanity as I’ve gotten older. I hope that shows in my work, and it’s gotten deeper and better as a result.

 

AA: In your experience as a writer, what have been the hardest and most useful skills to learn?

AB: The most useful skill is the ability to write anywhere, at any time. When I hear beginning writers say they “can’t” write unless everything is JUST SO (right tea, favorite pen, special desk), I know they’ll never make it. I can write as well at a McDonald’s as I can at home in my study.

 

The hardest skill remains evaluating my own stuff with an objective eye.

We’ll pause here in chatting with Alex. Join us for the conclusion where he talks about remaining creative, and other interests and hobbies.

Keep up to date with Alex’s latest news on his website and Twitter.

You can support Alex and our community by getting your copy of Steampunk World here.

Published in: on November 9, 2016 at 8:22 pm  Comments (1)  
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Interview with Author Alex Bledsoe

Welcome to our chat with Alex Bledsoe, author of The Omai Gods, which is part of the steampunk anthology, Steampunk World .

 

Airship Ambassador: Hi Alex, thanks for joining us!

Alex Bledsoe: Appreciate you having me here.

 

AA: Readers may know you from one of several ongoing series, including the Tufa novels, Eddie LaCrosse, and Memphis Vampires. There’s also a couple of hundred short stories, one of which is The Omai Gods. What is it about?

AB: It’s set in a vague preindustrial past, and is about a warlord who lands on a Pacific island where the natives have giant statues of their gods, that turn out to be alien robots. The natives use them to fight back.

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AA: Giant robots would get any steampunk’s attention. Why specifically choose steampunk for this story?

AB: I was invited to contribute to the anthology, so the non-western steampunk aspect was a given. That in itself was an intriguing challenge. I’d also worked with the editor before on another anthology and enjoyed it.

 

AA: How does The Omai Gods express your vision of steampunk, and what does it add to the existing works in the genre?

AB: I don’t know that I have a genre ‘vision’; this is my first real foray into it. I’m drawn to the genre for the way it recaptures the ineffable sense of wonder you still find in Verne, Wells and even some Lovecraft.

As for what my story adds, I’m not sure an author can ever truly evaluate that; it’s for readers to say.

 

AA: What are the Omai based on?

AB: They were inspired, fairly blatantly, by the Easter Island statues. I didn’t have time to do the research necessary to really make them Rapa Nui characters, so I invented my own culture, which was really freeing. It meant I could make up all the details.

 

AA: The Easter Island statues have always been fascinating, and even more so when I learned that they have full bodies. Just because those stone statues haven’t moved yet … What are the key themes in The Omai Gods?

AB: The importance of standing up for yourself and your people, the willingness to sacrifice for the greater good, and the way friendship and love spur us to have more courage than we might think.

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AA: Looking behind the scenes, what did you do to increase the reader’s mental or emotional connection to the characters? How did you keep them as relatable yet still grounded in the circumstances of the story?

AB: Mainly, I didn’t try to write any faux native-speak; the characters talk the way we talk, which is how they’d hear it in their own language. That, hopefully, lends an immediacy to the story.

 

AA: Are there any objects which play a major role in the story?

AB: There are the title characters (well, not really “characters”), the Omai gods themselves. They are alien robots left behind eons ago, yet still remain functional.

 

AA: When including giant robots, I don’t suppose there’s much room left in a short story for more. What kind of back story is there for The Omai Gods which didn’t make it into the final book?

AB: There’s a whole backstory of how <CHARACTER> originally found the robots and figured out how to turn the machinery on, which is referenced but not explained. There’s the story of how General <CHARACTER> ended up lost after losing his last battle. And there’s the relationship of <CHARACTER> and <CHARACTER>, who have grown up together.

 

AA: When people read The Omai Gods, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?

AB: See, I think that’s something the author can’t, and probably shouldn’t, ever say. I’ve written enough novels and stories by now to know that whatever themes I think I’m working with, a reader is likely to find something entirely different. And that’s okay: once you finish the book, it’s no longer yours, it becomes the reader’s.

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AA: Are there any plans for more adventures? Maybe about those <CHARACTERs>?

AB: I don’t know. I might try to expand it at some point, maybe to a novella.

 

AA: What kind of research went into creating The Omai Gods world?

AB: As I referenced above, not much, certainly not enough to actually set a story on Easter Island. I’ve followed recent archaeological discoveries about the moai, so I had the broad strokes already in my head.

 

AA: What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel The Omai Gods history?

AB: There are references to past events, to things that were left unresolved and must now face a resolution because of the story. At the end, we go forward in time so that the main events of the story become part of the protagonist’s history.

 

We’ll pause here in chatting with Alex. Join us for part two where he talks about his writing process.

Keep up to date with Alex’s latest news on his website and Twitter.

You can support Alex and our community by getting your copy of Steampunk World here.

Published in: on November 7, 2016 at 8:55 pm  Comments (2)  
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