There has been an uptick in the Author Tags being circulated recently, so here are a few questions answered on me:
Where do you prefer to write?
I prefer to write at my desk. If a desk is not available, I will write on a note pad, my phone, a napkin or my hand.
What program do you write with?
I mainly used MS Word or Google Docs while away from home. Scrivener is fast becoming my go-to program as it lends itself to story adjustments with ease.
Did you have the support of your friends & family while working on your novel?
Yes, although they often want to know how it’s going, which is difficult while writing. When a whirlwind of ideas are spinning around in my noggin’ it’s hard to say anything is going well until after the storm is over.
Do you let anyone read the novels you’ve done or haven’t completed?
Completed novels? Yes. I’ve had co-workers who are readers that provided valuable feedback on what I’ve written. I have also received further insight by enlisting Beta Readers. Unfinished books get to torture me in the wee hours of the night while I edit attached to a coffee IV.
What made you decide that you wanted to write a book?
Writing a book was a goal I made as a child. I scribbled short stories and jotted down ideas that I thought sounded cool. The notion of writing a book was always in the back of my mind. As with most people, life gave me plenty of ups and downs so I would put my writing aside until there was time to dedicate myself to the task. It wasn’t until I was approaching 40 that I realized years had gone by without writing. The plan to gain experience for my writing backfired, so I made up my mind to try one more time to see if the writing bug was still in me or gone forever. I haven’t stopped writing since. (Yay!)
How many books have you had published?
I currently have 6 books published and a 7th on the way as of the end of 2016.
How do you get inspired to write?
I love stories. Whether they are visual, audio or text, I constantly take in all the fun other creative storytellers have shared. When I’m out and about, I try to see the world from different points of view. I see people and wonder what stories are going on untold. I also constantly ask the question “What if…?” and try to come up with something new. What if we could see what others were thinking? What if we could teleport? What if we could travel to other worlds? I see daily possibilities and can’t help but find inspiration.
What genre do you like to write about?
I mostly stick to SciFi and Fantasy. SciFi stories are set in the distant future (Space ships, future technology and new planets to explore.) Fantasy stories include time travel, teleportation or supernatural elements which include magic or special abilities.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Dreaming without restraint. Most people likely enjoy their good dreams and hate the bad. As a writer, I take them both equally and see if I can use them in my stories. Think of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. She woke up from a bad dream where a man was sewn together from parts of other people. If it had been someone else, they might have tried their best to forget the bad dream. Like Mary Shelly, I treat dreams as fuel for the imagination. Good and bad are simply labels to use when putting a story together.
What are you currently working on?
I’m wrapping up the latest novel in my cat series: The Cat Rule Chronicles. I am editing and working on the illustrations. The title is Reflections in Darkness and will be out by the end of 2016. I am also working on a revision to my first scifi book entitled The Orb and completing a first draft to a new series entitled: Bob’s Job. Aside from that, I try to keep a daily Twitter and Instagram post. Just so I don’t let the days go by without seeing something out in the world.
Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?
I got the idea from a bad day. Simply put: My day started bad and just kept going downhill. By the end, I was completely upset and on edge, questioning everything I had done and wondering if doing the wrong things in life would be a better choice. That gave me ideas far more potent than any dream could. I decided to have one of my characters find someone who had simply been driven over the edge and suddenly embrace “the dark side.” From there, the story just took off.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
Two things: Write consistently and finish what you start. When I stopped writing down ideas, it was like I had been jogging for years and then stopped, thinking I could always start again. Unfortunately, when I tried to start up again, everything was harder. I was out of shape and in need of a boot camp for the imagination. Sparking the imagination needs to be a habit. If you don’t write constantly, you will struggle each time you try. Also, every aspiring writer must see their story through to the end. Finish. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. You need to have something finished in order to edit. I grew up with lots of ideas and wrote them down, but only as ideas. I never pushed myself to finishing a novel until I turned 40. Now I write all the time and love every minute of it.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
Getting writer’s block is like watching a great movie in your head when someone sneaks in and hits the pause button. I keep staring at the blinking cursor of blank screen with growing anxiety. “Wait, where do I go from here? What happens next? Do I just stare at the blank screen until my eyes burn?” Nope. After so many years, I fix this issue by stepping away and taking in as many stories as I can. I read more books, listen to audio books or audio dramas and watch movies both new and old (Thanks NetFlix!) If I try to overcome writer’s block by staring at a blank screen, I just become frustrated and impatient. The best cure for me is to let my imagination have fun with the worlds others have shared.
Who is your favorite author-besides yourself?
Neil Gaiman. I started reading his Sandman series long ago and have always been a fan. The Graveyard Book, American Gods and Stardust are a few favorites I have read more than once.
Would you ever want to become a full time writer and give up the exciting life of an admin?
Yes! Definitely! In a heartbeat! I’d… Well, I expect so. You know, if I HAD to… 🙂
I’d wager most people would drop their regular jobs without a second thought if they could make a living doing what they loved most. It would be like winning the lottery. You get to do what you’ve always dreamed of and get paid. Sweet!
Finally, where can someone find your books?
Amazon.com is the best place. You can always find my books by looking up my full name: Alex G. Zarate. I also have my own web site and take part in social media outlets. (Twitter, Instagram, Google +, Goodreads, Tumblr, Facebook) Who knew back in the day writing books would lead to the World Wide Web? Not I!
Here are a few NaNoWriMo Questions to close:
How many times have you attempted NaNoWriMo?
Including November 2016? 8 times.
How many times have you won?
What helps you finish your 50,000 words?
Lots of caffeine, encouragement from friends and co-workers and sticking to a daily word count as closely as I can. Even when I’ve fallen behind in past years, as long as I make up for it in the days that follow, I catch up by the end.
Did you have a finished novel after the 50,000 or did you keep working on your story?
I usually get to the last chapter by month’s end but I continue after meeting the challenge.
Can you share with us the name of your novel?
2016’s novel was titled “Cured”
Did any of your novels end up getting published?
Yes. Every book I’ve published to date is available on Amazon as soft cover and Kindle E-books.
What made you want to come back this year and do it again?
It’s the challenge that kept me going when I first tried my hand at writing a novel and I can’t let November go by without making sure I put forth another tale.
How many of the 30 days did you work on your novel?
A couple of years back, I lost maybe three days after putting in more than a dozen hours at work then contending with unexpected distractions. All piled up in the middle of the month. By the end, I put in long hours into every night. It was a major challenge to keep producing more as the month came to a close. On average, I strive to produce about 2000 words per day, but when I fell behind I had to produce twice the amount in order to complete the challenge in time.
What (if any) music did you listen to while writing?
Classical, Jazz, Opera, and Celtic. I like all styles, but when I hear words I tend to sing along in my head and lose the story.
How do you escape the daily distractions to find time to work on your novel?
I take my lunch at work with a stopwatch. The keyboard and fifteen minute breaks are used to scribble notes while I write as much as I can.
What kind of advice do you have for those who are doing NaNoWriMo this year?
Maintain that word count, don’t overthink the story, just let it flow (Even if it seems to go nowhere at the time) Keep every character in their own mindset. Each one should have a reason for what they do. Also, look around when you get a chance. If you are at work, a coffee shop or a stop light, just check out what’s going on. Sometimes you can use what is happening as a scene to begin one of your chapters.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am grateful beyond measure to have found NaNoWriMo. Had I not found the challenge, I may never have finally written a novel at all. Many thanks to those who came up with the idea and brought it to the rest of us! You are appreciated!