Friday, May 7, 2010

Fresh Voices: Interview with Adrien-Luc Sanders

"we do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." - E.E. Cummings

Welcome to the latest edition of Fresh Voices. We are delighted to share with you the crisp and recherché voice of Adrien-Luc Sanders.
1. What is your ultimate writing goal?
Wow, you'd think this would be the easiest one to answer. I used to be able to glibly trip off, "To be a full-time writer!" Well, now I'm a full-time business writer (and fiction editor), but that was never really my goal. And although I'd love to be a published YA fiction writer, I don't think that would satisfy the goal either--as any published writer can tell you it's not exactly a profitable full-time job. Plus while it would be nice to be published...I think what would bring me the most satisfaction is to finish every story I've got brewing in my head. I have so many ideas that the hardest part for me is following through on all of them, but I think if I looked back in 50 years I'd be more satisfied with finishing two dozen stories than publishing just one. So that's my goal: to follow through on all my unfinished stories, while striving to improve my writing skills with each one. If one happens to get published it's a nice bonus, but considering the odds in the publishing industry I'd like to think my goal is more attainable. Does that mean I'm going to stop trying to get published? Heck no. But finishing the work is more important.

2. Why do you write?
I write because I enjoy the emotional reaction that good storytelling evokes--and because I'm too impatient to draw. I used to think I'd be a graphic artist, even tried putting together a comic, but I draw very, very slowly. In the time it takes me to draw one multi-page scene I can write five chapters, and frankly I'm a better writer than artist. So I write, hoping that when I share these stories they'll draw a strong reaction from the reader. I love to imagine stories and situations that evoke emotions and tangible response, whether it's a startled burst of laughter, the soft hitch of a heartbroken breath, or the white-straining knuckles of adrenaline and excitement. If I succeed in conveying that to a reader, in drawing that from them, then I'm happy.

3. Your writing style is elegant. Have you worked to achieve that voice or is it just a natural style for you?
My writing? Elegant? Since I've never tried for elegance, I guess you could say it's natural--though it feels like hubris to claim something like that. I do struggle to progress my writing and improve overall, though I'm seeking more lean, effective prose that's concise while still remaining evocative. I think my style has grown from a complex combination of factors: the variety of things I read as a child (including the encyclopedia), the broader range of things I continue to read in my adult life, critiques from friend and professionals, my life experiences with various storytelling styles from different languages and cultures, and the influences of various English instructors starting at the grade level and moving through college. It's as natural as any process of evolution could be, but I wouldn't say it's self-generated, if that makes sense.

4. Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?
Oh dear - how much space do I have here, again? I love so many authors in so many genres, but for the sake of brevity I'll pick just three. Four? Five? Okay, three.

Diane Duane: Her Young Wizards series is one of my childhood favorites, and one of those that still stands the test of time even when reading from an adult perspective. Her prose practically effervesces; there's a joy in her writing that sweeps you up and carries you along. You can tell she loves her stories, her worlds, and her characters, and her wordcraft is beautiful: clean, yet so vivid and compelling. There's a breathless wonder there that captures the imagination of youth without dumbing down the story in the slightest.

C.S. Friedman: Her dark portrayals of antiheros and the gray area between good and evil are amazing. While her writing can be a bit heavier, she delivers descriptions that border on the tactile, rhythm and sound combining for something lush and decadent that makes her books a thrill to read. Her worlds are well-crafted, just familiar enough to be comfortable while alien enough to intrigue, with unique spins on old tropes that reinvent them as new. I love her dialogue, her characterization--even when I hate the characters. I hate them as people with traits I despise, not as poorly-fleshed-out characters. They're very real, and even when I loathe them I love them.

And now I can't pick between Julian May, Charles de Lint, and Richard Adams. Er. Problem. Well...Julian May is one who uses the English language beautifully, creating intelligent yet immersive prose in complex science fiction worlds that provide dramatic tension without venturing into space opera (though I do love a good space opera). Charles de Lint's stories of the Animal People and the world beneath the world we know have always pulled at my part-Native heartstrings; and he creates a very strong mythic voice that combines ethnic mysticism and folklore with gritty urban realism. He grabs your heart and holds it in Jack Daw's beak, or Coyote's trickster jaws. As for Richard Adams...while many might groan to find him on the required reading list for school, I enjoy the intricacies of his world-building and cultures. Maia in particular has an exotic flavor that combines political intrigue with diverse cultures to create a colorful and powerful world.

That was three, right? ~shifty eyes~ Oh, hush, I'm allowed to break a self-imposed limit. Stop looking at me like that.

5. What most attracts you to the life of a writer?
The glamorous image of me as a long-haired Bohemian boy, sitting out on my balcony with my laptop, a cigarette, and a martini, pondering word choice while studying the glittering lights of the city below. Um. No? It doesn't work that way? What? That's never going to happen and I'm out of my mind? Oh. Okay. Well, for a more realistic answer: it's sure as heck not the money or the work hours. I sleep so little that it's becoming a running joke on Twitter. I can't easily say what's so compelling about this, which is kind of pathetic for someone who's supposed to have a talent for words. I think the only way I can explain it is this: writing is the only thing I do in my life where the frustration makes me happy. I could be stomping around the house at 3 a.m., snarling about how this stupid sentence just won't work or the blasted character isn't developed enough...but despite the eyestrain, raging headache, and exhaustion, I'm in my element and wouldn't want to do anything else. That's what makes it so attractive. It's a job and a life where even the difficulties are enjoyable, and you don't find that in many other places. But ask a professional athlete why they keep pushing themselves, why they keep running or lifting or whatever even when their bodies scream and their lungs threaten to burst; they'll tell you because even the pain is part of the joy of it. For me it's the same with writing and the writer's life.

6. If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at a different career, what would you choose?
Nanoscience. My interest in nanotechnology originally rose from reading science fiction, which led me to get into computer engineering in college...which led me back to writing. If it came full-circle again, I'd definitely go back into computing--even if nanoscience is venturing more into biology than technology these days.

7. If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?
Here we run into that hubris issue again. I don't know if it's really possible for me to objectively describe my own writing, and would feel arrogant choosing a word with a positive connotation. If I had to settle on one, though...I'd say "primitive." Take that in whatever context you will.

8. What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
My freshman university English professor said, "Learn the rules, then break them the best way you know how." I think that applies not just to writing, but to everything. Learn the foundations; learn the right way to do things, so you have a solid base to stand on as you explore ways to break the rules and create something better than pure convention. When you have a strong grasp of the tenets of good writing, you'll know how to bend those laws to your will in ways that are unique, innovative, and compelling without crossing that fine line into disaster.

I'm still working on that part, but I'll let you know if I ever get there.

Adrien-Luc Sanders is a New Orleans transplant currently living in Chicago with one man and one cat, who both make enough mess for two. Or two dozen. A freelance writer and editor, Adrien works for companies such as Lyrical Press and, while harboring daydreams of publishing YA fiction that brings ethnic and LGBT characters into the mainstream spotlight. He finds his own name entirely pretentious, has a secret love of romance novels, freaks out every time he finds another grey hair, and tries to convince himself that 1. they're silver, and 2. going grey at 30 makes a writer look "distinguished." (Really. Let him have his illusions.) He pretends to be professional on his blog, while acting like a total cynical spaz on Twitter. As he's writing this, his cat is trying to chew off his toes.
 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.


  1. Thanks for interviewing Adri! It's really fun to learn more about him and his thoughts on the writing life. The way he described his favorite writers was beautiful and inspiring.

  2. I think that writing goal is perfect. I'd like to achieve that as well, though I think we're both doomed to die with an unfinished story running around our heads.

    Very good interview!

  3. I'm officially keeping this quote:
    "Writing is the only thing I do in my life where the frustration makes me happy."
    ~Adrien-Luc Sanders

    ;)It just explains so much.