If you enjoy sci-fi or if you're a closet Young Adult reader, you'll enjoy this interview with Adam Alexander, the author of Archangel.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I did a trek through northern England and Scotland, once, chasing after Beatrix Potter. It was a friend's passion, rather than mine, so I'm not sure that it counts. As you know, I love space and SF, so visiting the locale of my favorite novels is presently impossible. BUT, fingers crossed, if I save up enough pennies, I might be able to take a quick up-and-down trip before it's time to shuffle off this mortal coil. I am an obsessive follower of the private space companies. When will they launch? How much will it cost? When will the price come down? I'm personally rooting for Blue Origin. Their rockets are the best looking! If I could see the curvature of the Earth, the sun sparking off the top of the atmosphere just once, it would be enough.
What is the first book that made you cry?
If you'd asked me that question a few weeks ago, I'd have said there wasn't one. I can cry at the sappiest movies, but books, for some reason, don't have that effect on me. Then I read Night, by Elie Wiesel, the holocaust memoir. It is a short, searingly unsentimental book, and it is that very lack of sentimentality that makes it hit so hard. I haven't stopped thinking about it since.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Energizes! I love to write. And I love to write where there are people, in coffee shops, in the park, in airport terminals. Even though I don't interact much when I'm writing, it still feels like a social experience. I think I'm a bit like my cat. I like to be on my own, so long as there are people around!
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I think you have to do both. Readers want (and are entitled to) something that is well-written, well-characterized, and has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The basics of good story telling are well-settled and have been for thousands of years so, in that sense, I am trying to give readers what they want. On the other hand, sci-fi is very much about ideas. If the story is the vehicle, the idea is the passenger. The ideas, I hope, are all mine!
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don't feel emotions strongly?
You know, I'm honestly not sure. People are motivated by emotions more than anything else, so if you don't have a "feel" for emotions, it would be very difficult to write a believable character. But to feel emotions "strongly?" That's trickier. When you write a novel, the emotions that count are the character's, not your own. If your emotions are too powerful, they will ruin what you're trying to write. At the heart of every novel there is a conflict of some some sort. In real life, people on opposite sides feel very strongly that they are in the right. Writers, of course, have to write both sides. If, as a writer, you feel very strongly that one side of the conflict is "wrong," it becomes very difficult to write those characters in a believable manner. It is impossible to put yourself in their shoes. They become cardboard cutouts, cartoonish. Characters like that make a novel worse rather than better.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I'm in the process of publishing The Deep Tunnel. The Deep Tunnel is the second book in the "Andromeda Brown" series for middle-grade readers, and is set in present-day Chicago - with aliens, of course! I'm also 40,000 words into a straight sci-fi novel called Starship 4. It's set on a ship nearing the end of a 134-year interstellar journey. The ship is old and beginning to break down, there are factions aboard who can't/won't deal with the fact that journey's end means they will have to get off, and even though the ship is still in deep space, it might not be alone. Hopefully, there's a novel in there somewhere! I've also got some ideas in my head for the Archangel sequel, but they're not fully formed. At least, I hope not!
How do you select the names of your characters?
I try to use "real" names, at least for human characters. I've never quite understood why sci-fi (as opposed to, say, fantasy) is populated with so many bizarrely-named people. William Shakespeare died 400 years ago, but the world is still full of Williams, and Shakespeare is still a surname. Why would that be different 400 years in the future? What will be different, I think, is that people's ancestry will be thoroughly scrambled. So, if my setting is in the future, I do try to "mix and match." In Archangel, for instance, Yasmeen Robertson is Arab and Scottish. Aundray Dhillon, is African-American and Indian, that sort of thing. Also, because I am, in fact, Scottish, it is a fair bet that one of my major characters will always be descended from one!
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
I was going to say "my eyeteeth, so long as I have a dentist to replace them with false ones." But I'm too squeamish even for that! I guess I'll just have to muddle along as I am.
ABOUT ADAM ALEXANDER
A compulsive writer not yet disowned by his family, Adam Alexander lives in Chicago, Illinois with his wife, child and two embarrassingly large dogs. You can get to know more about Adam, who was hailed as "an especially gifted author" by the Midwest Review of Books, through his website.