Author Questionnaire

St. Martin's Press recently had me fill out an author questionnaire. I believe this is standard practice in the industry, and the questions range from normal personal questions, to possible industry contacts that can be helpful in promoting the book, to questions about writing and the book itself. I'd thought I'd post some of the writing questions and my responses:

What was the inspiration for your book?

The concept of the Apocalypse. There are dozens of man-made possibilities for the end of the world, but I was intrigued by the idea of humanity simply giving up and dying out.

Who are your favorite authors?

I love classical writers such as Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Camus, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kafka, Fielding, and Edgar Allen Poe. Some of my favorite modern writers are Richard Ford, David Sedaris, George Saunders, Kurt Vonnegut, Tim Gautreaux, Michael Marshall Smith, Stephen King, Denis Johnson, Lorrie Moore, and Sherman Alexie.

How and why did you start working on this book?

It started as a side project while I was gearing up to write my master’s thesis. I just wanted to write some fun science fiction and this was what I came up with. I remember pacing in my living room in St. Paul and having one of those “A-ha!” moments when I decided the apocalypse in my novel would stem fully from suicide.

What kind of experience has writing your book been for you (fun, exciting, agonizing…)?

This book was more difficult to write than others I’ve worked on. The theme of suicide, and constantly immersing yourself in a world destroyed by suicide, exacts a heavy mental strain. The narrative aspect of the book (following one main character on a quest) seems simple enough, but writing any type of quest becomes a plodding beast in its own right. You feel very workmanlike as a writer, dealing with details ranging from constantly changing terrain, weather, food supplies, and the mental condition of your characters. You have to abstain from too many poetic flights of fancy that more stationary styles of narrative often lend themselves to. The reader needs to really be able visualize the physical journey in order to more easily accept the more fantastic elements of a post-apocalyptic tale.

Tell us anything about you as a working writer that you think might be interesting or unusual:

I try to write everyday. Five pages or about 1,200 words is optimal. If I don’t write I feel guilty, like I’ve wasted the day. While THE SUICIDE COLLECTORS is my first published book, it was actually my fifth novel. I started my first novel when I was 15 and have written novels spanning science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and comedic literary fiction genres. I’m currently working on my 8th book.

Did you have any interesting experiences where you were researching your book, or getting it published?

My agent and I worked on placing the book for three years until St. Martin’s Press picked it up. It originally leaned more toward science fiction than it does now, with a nanobot shaped like a metallic beetle as one of the main characters. On my agent’s advice, I took out the robot character and made the book more gritty and realistic. The book sold six months after that.

What do you feel is the market for your book?

I feel that THE SUICIDE COLLECTORS stands up, first and foremost, as a good literary fiction read. I can also see it being marketed toward speculative, science fiction, fantasy, and horror audiences.


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