A little while back I read and reviewed Edward Lazellari’s book Awakenings. I wanted to get him on the site, and he was awesome enough to take some time out of his hectic schedule to do a little Q & A with us. Warning: Game of Throne Spoilers! Enjoy!
1: AWAKENINGS is your first book, and from your bio it seems like you’ve had quite the interesting job spread in your lifetime prior to getting published. Tell us a little bit about your road to publication, and how these unique jobs influenced that journey and your writing in general.
E: My work at Marvel was all storytelling based. Whether I was coloring, lettering, inking, penciling, or
writing, it was all sequential art. It’s taught me to think visually when telling a story. One of the things
I hate is when writers fake choreography. You can tell they don’t really know what the characters are
doing in a chase or a fight. I sometimes act things out, make little thumbnail sketches and then convert
those actions into words. It’s really clicked with some readers. My other jobs, like being a managing
editor taught me about the business end of things… about deadlines and work discipline.
E: It was actually the opposite of a challenge… it was the cure to a struggling voice. I originally started the book in 3rd person omniscient. Then I read Game of Thrones, and realized that was the style I needed to write my novel in (3rd person limited). Some people hate that format and can’t get into it — I know, cause I’ve heard from them in reviews. They can only get into one voice, one point of view throughout a story. For me, I thought it fit with what I wanted to do with this story.
3: The feel of this book is unlike anything else I’ve read. You’ve managed to mix high fantasy themes with a gritty modern world. Where did this idea come from, and was it easy achieving this tone, or was it a process?
E: It’s a little bit of Zelazny’s Amber series, Corwin waking up in the hospital with amnesia — a little bit of Game of Thrones (mostly the back story of the kingdom that’s fractured, similar to Westeros) — a little bit of Neverwhere, where the fantasy elements infringe on the everyday metropolitan world, and perhaps a dash of Harry Potter in that there’s a teenage boy about to be thrust into a dangerous and exciting world of his parent’s that he didn’t even know he was part of. I read voraciously (though not as much as some blogger reviewers, I’ve recently found out). That means Raymond Chandler as well as Tolkien, John Irving as well as George Martin, etc. I get the grit and depth of character from many sources.
4: The ending of this book came quickly for me, and I was surprised to see that the story was really only just beginning when we finished AWAKENINGS. Was this difficult to do, to not cram more story progression in the plotline (I’m assuming there was pressure to add more)?
E: Actually, my publisher was great. They thought, as did I, that the story reached a natural transition point. I mean, it’s no less satisfying than the end of Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo and Sam leave the others to continue into Mordor on their own. Or no less satisfying than the end of Game of Thrones where Ned is dead, Daenerys hatches dragons, and all five Stark kids are strewn across the country. It’s a series. You have to stop somewhere, right? I feel this was uncrammed.
What I do find perplexing is some of the reviews due to this. I recently got a two-star review from a reviewer on Goodreads, who had previously complimented my own faux review of my book, explaining what I just wrote above. She had a problem with the ending, or more specifically “lack of one” as she put it. I asked her about it, and felt a little bad that she didn’t enjoy the book as much as others. She wrote back that she did like reading it and was looking forward to the next one. I ended the correspondence, but was left scratching my head. She liked it, and is looking forward to the sequel, but only gave me 2 out of 5 stars? This has happened with several readers. Some of the reviewers who write about books underestimate their power to influence how well a book does. They may be assigning low ratings based on some internal aesthetic, but are unaware that their ratings are bringing the average rating down and may turn readers off from buying your book.
5: Who is your favorite character? Who was the hardest to write?
E: Daniel’s my favorite. I love him because he’s got this big future ahead of him that he knows nothing about, but he so very much a natural leader. He’s fundamentally good. He’s loyal, he stands up for what’s right and he takes a pounding from life and keeps going. Callum is the hardest to write. I want him to be noble and good without being boring. Paladins are hard to keep interesting. They don’t cheat on their wives, they don’t drink too much or gamble. They tell the truth and always do the right thing. So straddling the line and keeping him interesting is usually tough. I’m also the least like him, physically and personality wise. I’ve got more Seth in me than Callum. I love writing Seth cause he’s snarky.
E: Muse waking is a rare and time-honored skill. I am not always successful. It’s hard when you work a full-time job. Sometimes you’re too wiped out to write at night, and the muse doesn’t want to inhabit a sourpuss. Muses are the daughters of Zeus, and so they are a lot like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian. They come around when you look like you’re hot, having fun, and ready to party. When you’re a drag and all serious, they go kiss some other artist.
7: When preparing a manuscript, do you outline or free-write?
E: I go commando, baby. lol. It’s mostly free writing. I have a loose outline in my head. I have points in
the story that I am writing toward, but I find I come up with more organic stuff if I just write. There’s a saying that if you want to hear God laugh, just tell the world your plans. Trying to write an outline is a little like that. Just when I think I have something of an outline, I write the chapter and the story goes in a different direction that’s better than what I had originally planned.
8: What books are you currently reading? What are some of your favorite books?
E: I am currently reading “A Visit From The Goon Squad,” by Jennifer Eagan.
The Game of Thrones series is my current favorite fantasy. I love the old Stephen King books, like the Talisman and The Shining. The Interview with a Vampire books are among my favorites.
9: What projects are you working on now?
E: I am diligently working on book 2 of the Heroes of Aandor series, “The Lost Prince.” I am also working on a cage match for Suvudu, and this interview.
10: What advice would you give to people trying to do what you’ve done? Any tips for success?
E: Finish a manuscript. Don’t worry whether it’s good or not, get to the last period. Then revise it a few weeks later. Then give it to six friends who are not afraid to tell you when they don’t like something. Then make changes based on parts everyone agreed they didn’t understand or like. Then mail the sucker out and don’t give up until you catch a break. Breaks happen all the time. The way you are ready for them is to just do what you do and worry about the timing later. Focus on the art first, and then switch
to the business when you have something to shop.