Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Author Interviews: Alexander Mori


Alexander Mori is an American author living with his rat dog and two cats deep in the heart of North Texas.  He writes novels for a living, plays music for fun, and can beat most fifth graders at chess just because.  Tyrion is his favorite Game of Thrones character, though Arya is a very close second.  Soccer is his sport of choice, but Dirk is his favorite athlete on the planet.  He's never met a pizza he couldn't eat and is not afraid of really bad 80s movies.  I mean, really, who could be afraid of Bill and Ted?  Check out his blog (www.alexandermori.com) if you want to know more about what makes him tick. And definitely check out his novels, available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and most other e-reading platforms out there!

1. You have published three books, each of which seem to play with our notions of genre. Exchange Day, where the characters attend a school on the ocean floor, providing protection from the war that rages above. In your stand-alone work, The Elephant Keyhole, the contemporary characters explore a jungle where something, or someone, lurks in the dark.  How do you categorize your stories, and does the question and perception of genres help or hurt the marketing of your books?

Assigning a work to a particular genre can be as beneficial to an author as it can be detrimental.  Labeling Exchange Day as a dystopian, apocalyptic fantasy, which it is on some level, instantly attracts an audience who loves those types of books.  However, as the author, I feel Exchange Day is more than that, and I worry labeling it as dystopian may turn readers off before they’ve even explored the blurb.  In the end, identifying genre is important and is a key first step for readers (especially of those who read digital books) to filter through the eventual millions of titles that will become available for e-readers.

2. What's the spectrum of your writing style? Do you stick to specific genres or mediums? (Novels, short stories, screenplays...) How much unpublished work do you have lying around?

I explore multiple styles and genres with my current work.  Exchange Day is written in third person and follows a dozen characters, each story interweaving with the others (much like Game of Thrones) to tell a much larger story.  The Elephant Keyhole is a love story told in first person, and the story is confined to a few days in Thailand.  An upcoming project, called Kasper Spat, is also told in first person, spans twenty years of a boy’s life, and stylistically is much more poetic than anything else I’ve ever written.  As for mediums, I’ve written a dozen or so short stories and three feature-length screenplays.  Of all the mediums, I prefer writing novels.  I enjoy the freedom and voice of a novel, and generally when I immerse myself into a particular story, I like to hang around longer than a short story.  I have six or seven unfinished works.  Sometimes I return to them with a bottle of wine and wonder if I should revisit old projects.  So far, I’ve decided to move on to something new.

3. How long have you been writing, and what is one opinion about the craft you’ve had changed over your career?

I’ve been writing off and on for the last fifteen years.  Only the last two years have I devoted my full attention to writing as my career.  I think the most important opinion that has changed for me over the years is the importance of reading.  And not just reading books similar to what I wish to write.  I am a TRUE believer that writers NEED to read all the time.  Everyday.  Everything.  If you want to write vampire novels, I think you should still read memoirs, young adult novels, and sci-fi novels.  The more diverse your reading, the stronger your writing will become.  I used to coast through a book over the course of a month or two, and now, I finish a book a week.  Sometimes more.

4. Is there any terrible advice you’ve received for your book or career? Bad advice you’ve overheard someone else be told?

I’ve received lots of advice over the years.  I’ve followed some and ignored others.  I think all writers should approach any advice with an open mind, but they shouldn’t be afraid to understand that all writers work differently, and so what works for Stephen King may not work for you.  And just because it’s Stephen King doesn’t mean he’s right.  The one writing rule that I’ve seen and probably agree with, but I still break it regularly, is “Don’t use adverbs.”  I try not to overuse them, but there are points in my story where I want an adverb, so I get an adverb!

5. What are your biggest concerns about the current literary world?

Ooh.  This is a good question.  I am an advocate of Indie Writers and proud to call myself one.  I hope my stories find readers without the aid of the large publishing houses.  My biggest concern revolves around the balance of power between publishing houses and Amazon/Barnes and Noble.  Currently, Amazon/Barnes and Noble have given Indie Writers a way to publish their work, market it, and hope to make a living off of it.  I worry Indie Writers, while currently free to publish work they see fit to represent themselves, may not have that same options in the future.  In the current environment, publishing houses seem to be fighting with Amazon/Barnes and Noble instead of working together to benefit both readers and writers.  Right now, an aspiring writer must choose between being represented by a publishing house that will take considerable royalties for the writer’s work, or she must choose self-publication and be completely on her own as far as marketing is concerned.  Writers need choices, and they need help.

6. What trends, tactics, styles, or genres would you like to see become popular in modern writing?

I want to see the rise of Indie Writing.  And for this to succeed, we need good writers putting out good work to strengthen the reputations of all Indie Writers.  For me personally, a work only needs 1 of 3 things for me to gladly finish reading it: a good story, characters I care about, or beautifully exquisite writing.  If a work has all three, then it should be considered a masterpiece.  As far as specific styles and genres, I truly believe that all stories have readers.  I don’t care for comic books or comic book movies.  But I know there are many who love them, study them, and care for them in ways I will always struggle to understand.  I am happy we live in a time and place where these stories can be released and can find readers.

7. What trends would you like to see disappear?

I’d like to see comic books and comic book movies be stricken from the literary world.  Just kidding!  I don’t see any current trends that bother me.  I want writers to keep writing and readers to keep reading.  It’s a symbiotic relationship that benefits both parties.  As long as we keep writing worthy books, readers will keep reading.

8. Where do you find yourself getting stuck most often—beginning, middle, or end?

I find myself getting stuck most often in the outlining process.  I suppose that would be the beginning, though this often happens before the writing even begins.  For each project, I write a loose outline, a basic map of the story, so I can keep the important plot points in mind while crafting the way in which the story is told.  Once my outline is fixed, the writing happens smoothly enough (knock on wood.)

9. If you could hire someone to do any of the writing work for you, what jobs would you assign to them?

I’m probably too much of a control freak to share writing duties with another person.  A long time ago, a friend of mine and I considered writing a novel together.  He’d write the first chapter and then I’d write the second.  We wouldn’t outline at all, wouldn’t discuss our visions.  The exercise gave us each creative license for our own chapters, and in the end we would see where the story went.  After I wrote my first chapter, I did NOT like where he took the story with the next chapter and thus lost interest in the project.

In the future, I would not be against collaborating.  I can imagine a scenario where another writer and I lock ourselves in a room for a couple of weeks and collaborate over a story.  And once the story was charted, the characters decided, the climax worked out, then one of us would handle the actual writing of the story.  I could see something like that working and being extremely fun.

I do have to admit, though, that I LOATHE the editing process, so I’d gladly assign that job!

10. What is an assumption people make about your career that bothers you?

The assumption that bothers me most comes from my friends and family who assume my time isn’t important because I don’t have a “real job.”  I know they don’t mean any harm, but I’ve had family members ask me to spend a week in a different city to help or spend time with them, and when I tell them I have writing to do, they roll their eyes.  Some are much more direct by asking when will I be done with this fairy-tale writer nonsense and get a real job.  I’ve written three good books and will have three more good ones out by March of next year.  I’m in this for real, and will be excited when readers give my work a chance.

11. Tell us a little about Exchange Day:

Exchange Day has been a passion of mine for nearly a decade.  Ever since I read The Stand in high school, I’ve always wanted to write a post-apocalyptic novel with intermingling stories that build to an epic and possibly unexpected ending.  The story follows a group of teenagers who graduate from a school built on the ocean floor.  They take an elevator to the surface where they will be trained for the war that caused the school to be built in the first place.  But the world on the surface is different than what they were taught in school, and they must relearn how to survive.

12. How fast do you tend to write? How long is your editing process?

I write between 8000 and 10,000 words a week.  My novels average around 90,000 words, so my first drafts take usually 9-12 weeks to complete.  After I complete a draft (and after I celebrate with much wine and music) I let a work sit for 3-4 weeks before I even look at it again.  That’s when the editing/revising process begins for me.  I re-read the work one chapter at a time, paying careful attention to pacing, flow, and characterization.  After 2 weeks, usually, the second draft is ready for my first editor.  I work in this manner with two editors and will end with the final draft, Draft 5, about three months after the first draft was completed.  Revising is stressful, but it is essential for a succinct and well-written novel.

13. You are from Texas, but both books feature unique and uncommon settings. Have you been to the jungle? How has your setting choices affected your writing?

Inspiration for The Elephant Keyhole came from a two-week long trip I took to Thailand a couple of years ago.  I carried a journal with me and catalogued most places I visited.  I took tons of pictures.  TONS.  I try to set my novels in places that I’ve been, places I can sit and reflect over the sights, sounds, and smells of that environment.  Having been to a place elevates to a dramatic degree my ability to describe it, and ultimately the story rises because of that.  I try not to over-describe in my work, as I like writing stories that keep moving forward.  But it’s still important as a writer to sit down and relax, pen in hand, watching and listening to an environment so that when it is time, the writer can bring that setting alive.

14. If you met people like your characters, would you get along?

Many of my characters, both good and bad, are fashioned after people in my life or people I’ve met.  Shh.  Don’t tell anyone, otherwise, no one will want to be my friend…

Depth in characterization is important to me.  I want my characters to be rounded individuals, with good and bad traits mixing together like a swirled margarita.  I want sweet and sour working together to portray a realism readers can relate to.  There are characters in my novels, that if I met in real life, I would fall in love with them.  There are others that I might fight.  But what’s important to me is that these characters are motivated by their own feelings and desires, that there are reasons why they do what they do.  Understanding why a character does something is to understand what makes that character tick.  And when a reader understands a character, they can begin to care for him or her.

15. What was the hardest part in writing or publishing your first book?

Exchange Day was my first book.  I remember the first day I started writing it.  I woke up the same time as I did when I had a day job, which I’d quit the Friday before.  I grabbed my computer and drove around my neighborhood looking for a place to write.  The library was closed.  The bookstores were closed.  The coffee shops were filled with people sipping complicated lattes and surfing the internet on their computers.  Finally, I found myself at the mall at a table tucked away at the back of the food court behind a large fake tree.  Several youngsters scrambled around in the bowels of a Taco Bell, preparing for the day’s rush of shoppers.  I opened my computer and had the hardest time writing my first sentence.  I was nervous.  I felt alone.  I felt like my friends and family were laughing at me, waiting for me to fail.  I, in no way, felt like Vonnegut, Tim O’Brien, or Hugh Howey, three of the more influential writers who inspired me to pursue this crazy dream.  I felt like a high school kid skipping school.  That was the toughest moment for me.


The second toughest moment was when I uploaded Exchange Day onto Amazon and sent an email to my friends and family.  I told them my first novel was available for purchase, and then I had to lie down because I was too scared to do anything else.

Buy his books:

The Elephant Keyhole




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