Welcome to the first in our series of interviews with unpublished authors, Fresh Voices. It is fitting that Jeremy is the first writer featured since reading his vignettes were the thing that convinced us that we really NEEDED to do this series. We're sure that you will love Jeremy's voice as much as we do. You will find links to his fiction at the bottom of the interview.
1. What is your ultimate writing goal?
I have to say that I don't really know what my ultimate goal would be. Or perhaps I have a number of goals. For now, I would love to see a print journal publish one of my stories. Eventually, I would hope to have a novel published which is actually read and enjoyed by people. But first I would have to finish a novel. (Finish writing one, that is. I've finished reading two or three throughout my life.)
2. Why do you write?
I think I write because I've always had a voice in my head telling me, "That's something you can do." I don't listen to everything that the voices in my head tell me, but that's one of the things that have seemed pretty reasonable.
3. Your writing has a lot of atmosphere. Have you worked to achieve that or is it just a natural style for you?
The things that I've put up on my blog site (warach.com) are basically exercises. Throughout my life, I've started and abandoned many stories that I got stuck on (I have even written forty thousand words of a novel which I orphaned when I ran out of steam and enthusiasm for the story).
Starting and giving up on stories was very disheartening. But I found that I often had these little scenes or settings or just phrases pop into my head which sounded like they would be fun to write, so not very long ago, I decided that I would write them out just as isolated fragments of stories. No context, no character development, very little plot, and certainly no climax or conclusion: just vignettes. The intention was to simply set a scene descriptively. I also like giving them little cliffhanger-type endings, intentionally leaving the reader asking "but what happened next?" or "why did that happen?"
The decision to write these vignettes is what has kept me interested in writing. And in a way, they have propelled me further. An online friend who is a published author (Elissa Stein, coauthor of "Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation", see flowthebook.com) read my pieces and asked me to collaborate with her on a series of children's fiction books. Having a collaborator waiting for me to finish a piece of work was what gave me the incentive to actually muscle through and finish the initial draft of the story. And the rewarding feeling of finishing that initial draft is what gave me the impetus to continue writing. I have now completed a few more stories that I've submitted here and there for consideration.
Another encouraging person was Cristina Deptula from Synchronized Chaos (synchchaos.com, an interdisciplinary artist's webzine), who published one of my vignettes at http://bit.ly/bEvOzE. Having someone like my work enough to actually ask me if she could publish it was very gratifying.
4. Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?
I always have a problem with the word "favorite". In whatever realm being considered (authors, movies, music, food), I always have multiple favorites, and my favorites change over time or depending on my mood.
When I was younger, I was heavily into science fiction (I'm a nerd and proud of it). I devoured most of Isaac Asimov's novels, as well as many of those by Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Vernor Vinge, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven. I also love Tolkien, although I'm not a hardcore fantasy reader.
Later I read a few of the classics, like Dostoevsky and Moby Dick. (I can still remember a conversation with someone who asked me, "Why are you reading Moby Dick?" My answer of "Because it's a classic so I wanted to see how good it was" just confused her.)
In recent years, I've been reading more historical fiction and what I guess would be called "literary fiction". Umberto Eco, Iain Pears, David Liss, Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Most recently, Carlos Ruiz Zafón has just blown me away with the way he strings words together (at least in translation – I don't read him in the original Spanish).
I also enjoy reading science fact. I can get completely drawn in by a book on evolution or cosmology or quantum physics. Seriously.
5. What most attracts you to the life of a writer?
I don't know that I'm attracted to the life of a writer. Toiling for hours, days, weeks, months on a piece of work that people may dislike, or worse, completely ignore, certainly doesn't sound very attractive.
It is the end product that attracts me. Having a finished piece of work (as finished as a piece of writing ever is), published by someone who believes in it, read by people who enjoy it. That's what I look forward to.
6. If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at a different career, what would you choose?
That's easy: musician. I've dabbled in music throughout most of my life, and I played in a few bands over the last several years, but I am at best mediocre at it. And I learned that being in a band is work, as well as being drama-filled. Once it stops being fun, I see no reason to continue with it. But if I knew I could make a good living at it and be happy with the situation, that would be a dream job.
7. If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?
I hope that an accurately descriptive term for my writing is "anti-soporific".
8. What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
I've read a lot of good advice about writing. Some of the best advice even completely contradicted some of the other best advice ("Use outlines" versus "Don't use outlines". "Be very descriptive" versus "Be very plain". "Don't use parentheticals" versus "No, really, don't ever use them".)
What I've distilled out of all of that, for myself, would be something along the lines of: To be a writer, you must read (and you must read like a writer). To be a writer, you must write. Every day, even if it's just two sentences. I try not to edit very much as I'm going along. Editing while writing was one of the things that used to get me into a paralysis and prevent me from making any progress.
"Write what you know about." I didn't take this to heart for a long time. Since I was heavily into science-fiction for many years, my first (and second and third) attempts at writing were in that genre. But one thing about science-fiction readers is that they're sticklers. You have to get the science right. Even if it's science that you're making up, your stuff has to at least be feasible and consistent. If you're going to defy the known laws of physics, you'd better have a good rationalization for how and why that works.
When I tried writing sci-fi, I got bogged down in the details and distracted, endeavoring to make everything work, and the writing just wouldn't happen. ("How fast would a space station have to rotate to provide the same gravity as on the surface of the Earth?" Turns out that someone actually posted a calculator on their website to figure that out for you.)
Fiction which takes place in a different time or location has the same problem. If your main character is a silversmith in 1500's Spain, then you'd better know what it's like to be a silversmith in 1500's Spain.
So I decided to write in the (more or less) present, about situations which don't require any specialized knowledge. I did that with my vignettes and with the other stories I've recently written. They're just stories about people (whom I hope are interesting) doing things (which I hope are interesting).
I live on Long Island with my wife Abby and two children. By day, I am in the computer programming field, and in the evening, I squeeze my brain, hoping that something interesting will pop out.
You can read some of my things on my blog site at http://warach.com. One of the vignettes I happen to like is "Frost", which can be found at http://bit.ly/cjjVd0
Thank you for reading this edition of Fresh Voices. Feel free to follow the Fresh Voices list on Twitter or nominate yourself or another author as a Fresh Voice.