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Author Interview: Alexander Zelenyj

I’m delighted to welcome author Alexander Zelenyj, whose short story collection ‘Songs For the Lost’ is published by Eibonvale Press, who published my own collection ‘A Glimpse of the Numinous’. Buy links are at the end.  I’ll hand over to Alex who will tell you more about his intriguing tales… 

alex

About the Author

Alexander Zelenyj is the author of the books Songs For The Lost, Experiments At 3 Billion A.M. , Ballads To The Burning Twins: The Complete Song Lyrics Of The Deathray Bradburys, and Black Sunshine. His fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies throughout the world.

He lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and at alexanderzelenyj.com.

Songs For The Lost Book Trailer

  1. What are the main ideas or themes in your new collection of stories?

Thematically, the stories of Songs For The Lost are woven together by recurring themes of loss of innocence in a difficult and uncompromising world, and the characters’ subsequent need for escape from emotional trauma. These are the collection’s central and unifying themes, and also the tenacity of the human spirit to persevere despite tremendous hardship, a spiritual need for seeking solace and redemption at the end of a difficult life, often through the embracing of a higher power. This kind of desperate spirituality permeates the stories, and lies at the heart of the book, always from the perspective of people who have no organized religious background, who sort of give themselves up to an innate belief in some higher power as a desperate final means of salvation from their tragic lives, although often this salvation comes in a very dark and destructive form.

My poetry collection, Ballads To The Burning Twins, is a companion book to Songs For The Lost, and deals more specifically with the types of sometimes dangerous fringe spirituality that lure in people in great distress. It deals with troubled people seeking escape through the promises offered by cults and other deviant sources; it looks at some people’s spiritual connection to the rural and natural world, as opposed to the decadence of the city; and the perpetual struggle of human beings to find redemption for their past sins, and their seeking of a place where they can reclaim their fractured lives and sullied moral goodness.

  1. What is the setting or context of the narrative? Why is it important?

Well, being that Songs For The Lost is a fiction collection, it has a wide variety of settings, running the gamut from urban environments and rural locales of modern times (often in my home city, Windsor, Ontario, Canada), to stories set in far, far distant places and periods, including ancient Rome, colonial Africa, the Old West, 1960s war-time Vietnam, and to distant future settings. There’s even a story that takes place during prehistoric times.

The eclectic settings were important to me, because I wanted to emphasize the unchanging human element across all the myriad backdrops. That’s something that remains constant no matter where my stories take the reader.

  1. Tell us more about some of the characters and their dilemmas.

The vast majority of the characters of Songs For The Lost are deeply troubled and in search of some type of personal redemption and escape to a better place outside of their current lives. The stories examine these damaged people, and why they embark on these redemptive quests after living lives of woe, regret, and fury. They’re about the desperate lengths some people go to in order to escape the trauma of their experiences for a better place, a Paradise of some kind.

  1. Why did you write this book? Any other issues or ‘big ideas’ behind it.

The book was written in the years following the publication of my previous book, Experiments At 3 Billion A.M. They were somewhat difficult years for a number of reasons, and a lot of the recurring themes reflect those experiences. I wrote a huge amount of material during that time and from that compiled the stories that worked best together, and that best expressed the themes I wanted to talk about. It happened very naturally, and at some point I realized that the stories all worked together and that the book was finished, and that it said exactly what I wanted it to say.

Songs For The Lost - Cover Image For HWA

  1. How do you go about writing a collection and a novel? Is it a simple or complex process?

I find writing short fiction and compiling stories into greater collections somewhat more enjoyable than writing novels, I suppose because it’s an easy way to express a lot of the different ideas I have. Weaving it all together into a thematically concise collection is also really fun. I liken it in my mind to making a record that flows really nicely from the first song to the last.

That said, writing a novel is a very different kind of project altogether, and I really enjoy it once I’m immersed in it. At some point I find that the characters become so familiar to me that they seem to write themselves. In fact, I suppose I feel that way about my stuff generally – when I flip through one of my books I’m amazed that the stories exist, because they feel as if they wrote themselves. I have very little recollection of writing most of my stuff. It’s almost like the stories materialized out of the ether.

  1. What advice do you have for less experienced writers?

Write what you love, and read and write every day.

  1. What are you working on currently?

I recently finished work on two manuscripts – the first is a novel heavily informed by magical realism. It took quite a few years to finish, and went through a lot of changes over that time. The second manuscript is a collection much in the same vein, stories that combine the gritty and realistic with subtly surreal motifs.

Also, I’m putting together another collection that’s much more similar to the type of material of Songs For The Lost, much more slipstream in style that pulls in influences from a lot of different genres. I’m having a lot of fun with this one.

I’m also finishing up edits on a book by the late great Joel Lane – it’s an amazing collection entitled Scar City, due from Eibonvale Press later this year. I’m contributing an introduction to the book as well, along with author Nina Allan, who will be writing another introductory piece. It’s a huge huge honour to be involved with this project.

  1. What would your perfect day be?

A morning of writing; an afternoon spent walking in the woods with my other half, Elizabeth, followed by browsing in our favourite bookshop; dinner at home and a movie; good dreams until the following morning; and repeat.

  1. Name a book or a film that means a lot to you.

Film-wise, River’s Edge, Wild At Heart, and The Isle have always meant a lot to me, because their characters find themselves in situations so much out of their control that they’re forced to look for escape in deviant places. And for some reason that speaks to me, ha ha.

Book-wise, I’d say the dark fantasy stories of Robert E. Howard, because there’s no better and richer world into which I can escape whenever I need to. I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid, and the trips there only get better.

The television series Millennium by Chris Carter means a lot to me – its portrayal of protagonist Frank Black’s struggles to protect his family from the pervasive evil in the world really struck a chord with me. There’s never been a show like it, and there never will be again.
  1. If you could leave a message to the world, what would it be?

There is more than we know.

Songs For The Lost - Cover Image For HWA

What reviewers are saying about Songs For The Lost:

“Every once in a while – if you’re lucky – you’ll come across a short story collection that is so unique and stunning that it’ll make you marvel at its contents.  Alexander Zelenyj’s Songs For The Lost is such a collection.  It’s an exceptionally good and original collection of speculative fiction stories that are marked by intelligent storytelling, supernatural elements and beautiful literary prose.”

Rising Shadow

Songs For The Lost is that perfect, excellent blend of literary and dark that I am always looking for and in my opinion, it is an absolute must-read for anyone who loves dark fiction.  Highly recommended but not just for anyone.  Prepare to be gut punched, and do not read this book while you’re depressed.  Once again, it’s a small press that proves that literary and dark can indeed go hand in hand.”

Oddly Weird Fiction

“Complex and visionary writing…the book touched me with its beauty, its insanity, its soul, its melancholy…Songs For The Lost was one of the best books I have read recently.”

– Porta VIII

“Zelenyj is an absolute master of emotional horror, melancholy, passion, and the delicate art of drawing on classic pop-culture and genre forms to create something highly complex, challenging, and quite visionary.”

– Windsor Life Magazine

“Dipping into the bizarro universe woven by Zelenyj’s inebriating narratives is like peering beneath the cracked and peeling veneer of reality. Zelenyj is a mad yet marvellous seeker, an eccentric impresario, a conductor of dreams as charming and hypnotic as Rod Serling himself. Follow him and you will find yourself among lost souls touring abandoned hopes and forbidden dreams at the edge of an impossible paradise. Each story concludes with a wink signalling that he knows what you have always felt, deep down – that there is more to this life than meets the eye.

And therein lies the power of Alexander Zelenyj. We fill up our lives with the familiar, with mundane routines and ridiculous consumer products, laments and trifles and limitations. Through it all there is an ache deep inside of us. It is the ache of an unspoken truth, the key to surviving the destruction wrought by reality. Stories such as these share that truth, the promise that keeps us going. Life in this universe is more strange and dangerous and wonderful than you have ever been led to believe.”

– from the Foreword, by Brian A. Dixon, Editor, Fourth Horseman Press

“As you read these stories you will find them unexpectedly profound, challenging, harsh, painful, and thought-provoking. Indeed, more than once you might find yourself shaken to the core – summoned to think and feel, or deal with events on levels that are rare for this or any kind of writing. ”

– from “Three Billion And Six: An Introduction” by David Rix, Editor, Eibonvale Press, Author of Feather and  What The Giants Were Saying

Links:

alexanderzelenyj.com

Eibonvale Press

Fourth Horseman Press

Glimpse of the Numinous Prototype

Tegon Maus: Interview with an Author

I’d like to welcome author Tegon Maus to my blog. He’s here to talk about his latest release – ‘Bob’, and about other aspects of writing. See the end of the post for a Giveaway and the purchase links. Take it away, Tegon…

Author Bio:

I was raised pretty much the same as everyone else… devoted mother, strict father and all the imaginary friends I could conjure. Not that I wasn’t friendly, I just wasn’t “people orientated”. Maybe I lived in my head way more than I should have, maybe not. I liked machines more than people, at least I did until I met my wife.

The first thing I can remember writing was for her. For the life of me I can’t remember what it was about… something about dust bunnies under the bed and monsters in my closet. It must have been pretty good because she married me shortly after that. I spent a good number of years after inventing games and prototypes for a variety of ideas before I got back to writing.

It wasn’t a deliberate conscious thought, it was more of a stepping stone. My wife and I had joined a dream interpret group and we were encouraged to write down our dreams as they occurred. “Be as detailed as you can,” we were told.

I was thrilled. If there is one thing I enjoy it’s making people believe me and I like to exaggerate. Not a big exaggeration or an outright lie mine you, just a little step out of sync, just enough so you couldn’t be sure if it were true or not.  When I write, I always write with the effort of “it could happen” very much in mind and nothing, I guarantee you, nothing, makes me happier.

Website: http://tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Maus_Tegon/index.htm

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tegon-Maus/150255051766767

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TegonMaus

Bob

Interview:

What are the main ideas or themes in your book?

I would have to say… fun !  I want my books to be viewed as fun, a coaster ride on one rail, swimming with sharks, falling off a cliff all to be saved at the last instant and you are filled with that nervous laughter of joy to be alive.  That’s what a book should be… if it doesn’t move you – it’s just a text book.

What is the setting or context of the narrative? Why is it important?  

It’s different in each book but I like to take something very familiar and turn it just a little so the reader ‘thinks’ things are okay and then prove to them the world is not what they thought.

Tell us more about the main characters and their dilemmas.

Bob !! My latest book.  It’s about the lights in the night sky over Arizona.  It’s very funny… very action packed…. A little excerpt The first time I heard it, I thought nothing of it at all… nothing.  I’ve been in the newspaper game for more than twenty-seven years and that kind of experience gave a guy an edge but even that didn’t prepare me.I’d been beaten, shot at, even stabbed a couple of times over the years but I always got the story… always.  But this one… this one was big… too big perhaps…  Maybe we were ready, maybe not.  Either way, it wasn’t my call. None of which filled me with the fear, the trepidation… the anguish of five little words that still haunted me today…  “Is okay.  I have cousin.”

Why did you write this novel? Any other issues or ‘big ideas’ behind it.

No… I don’t think so, no big ideas… not really. I’m a ‘what if kind of guy’  I like to make readers feel off balanced… to make them think “what the hell is going on?”  as much as possible.  I have a time travel book called Department 29 and the entire story revolves around a spoon and the trouble it causes… so No  no big ideas here !

How do you go about writing a novel? Is it a simple or complex process?

As a rule I know the beginning and the end before I start… It’s all the stuff in the middle that I have to work at.   It’s pretty simple… just repetitive.

What advice do you have for less experienced writers?

It doesn’t make any difference what you write as long as you write what interest you. You will be terribly bored if you don’t and that will show in your work. Read what you enjoy… read it all and then write and when you’re tired write some more.  Write what’s in your head, what’s a part of you… you’ll be happy and your work will flourish beyond your wildest dreams

What are you working on currently?  

At present I’m working on two books.  The first is the third book in my Series The Eve Project… The Cordovian Effect…  Time has passed and Ben Harris has as well.  He awakes to learn he is now one of Roger’s Dikika people… a machine and has been given a new identity…  Jon Ironwood.  Roger has made arrangements for his finical future and he is now ready to start a new life.  The problem is someone knows they are machines and is murdering the Dikika one at a time.

3 - The Eve Project - The Cordovian Effect by Tegon Maus - 200

The other is the second in my Littlefield Series…  Black Moon and Tucker Littlefield is in big trouble.  Every 28 years there is a solar eclipse in the same exact spot… the spot the Kindred hold sacred.  With the sun’s passing and renewal a new leader… the Sholic…  is chosen and rules over the Kindred until the next eclipse.   With this passing the old Sholic is murdered  and the next in line is accused… threatening to throw the Kindred into civil war. Tucker Littlefield and his Mrs. are in way over their head when he accidently becomes the Sholic.

What would your perfect day be?

Sunday !  All perfect days are Sunday.   I get to sleep in late, I make breakfast for Dearheart, catch up on my reading, catch up on my writing… watch a little tv… let the tv watch me a little… no phones, no visitors…   Oh yeah defiantly Sunday !

Name a book or a film that means a lot to you.

 Lots of both… from Robert Young’s The Canterville Ghost to ID4 !  Depends on the day or my mood.

If you could leave a message to the world, what would it be?

Knock it off ! Get along before I get my belt !   Who knows??   It worked with my kids.

tourbutton_bob

Excerpt #1  ******************

I blinked in disbelief, too stunned to speak.

Standing in front of me, dressed in black jeans, a dark blue tee shirt with a picture of Bob Marley and a backward baseball cap was a small, no more than 5′ 2″, twenty something, black man.

“Hi.  I’m Pete,” I said, offering my hand.

“Ahh, is sad story.  Bob’s cousin not speak English,” Bob said pushing my hand away.

“Awhhh,” the little man breathed hoarsely, turning away, his arms swung loosely in response.

“Bob, he just said dude to me when he came in,” I said, pointing an insistent finger at the little man.

“He tries, broken English not so good.  Is Fred,” he answered, spinning his hand playfully in the air, pointing, draping a large, affectionate arm over the man’s shoulder.

“Fred… your Russian cousin?”

“Da,” he answered simply without blinking.

“Bob… he just spoke to me and it wasn’t Russian,” I protested.

“Ahh, Bob’s friend generous, not make Bob’s cousin self-conscious.  You good man, but Fred speaks no English,” he argued, folding his arms.

“Ahhh, damn it, Bob.  You promised me… you said I could talk this time.  Shit man,” Fred cursed in a raspy whisper, stomping his foot, turning away.

“Nyet, nyet,” Bob scolded, grabbing Fred.  He began to speak Russian, shaking his finger in the other man’s face.

Fred’s shoulders slumped.  His head swung loosely from side to side, avoiding Bob’s gaze.

“Da,” he said dully, turning in my direction once more.

“His English not so good,” Bob added, wiggling his hands dismissively.

“Sounded damn good to me,” I said honestly.

“Bob understands.  Bob’s friend speak Spanish?” he asked with a little annoyance in his voice, threading his fingers through his hair in frustration.

“Nope.  Can’t say as I do,” I answered, folding my arms.

“How you say… no speak Spanish?” he asked, folding his arms as well.

“No habla Hispano.”

“AAAHHH, to Bob, Bob’s friend sound like native.  Bob thought he smelled burritos, heard waves on beach.  Very impressed.  Bob’s friend has gift for language.  Sure not speak Spanish?”

“Fred,” I said flatly, stepping directly in front of the little man.  “Do you speak English?”

“Da. Fred speak no English,” he responded dully, tilting his head from side to side, his arms hung slack, swinging loosely as he spoke.

“Very sad, like Bob say.  Fred’s parents live too close to nuclear plant.  Sure, sure, rent very cheap but Fred… no brain for English,” Bob said, closing his eyes, shaking his head in a pretentious, melancholy way.

“Bob,” I started.

“Very late.  No time for Fred’s story.  Bob’s friend want to see house tonight or no?” he asked, pushing himself to stand between me and Fred.

“Alright, have it your way.  Let’s go,” I demanded now irritated, angrily grabbing my coat off the back of the chair.

“Nyet, nyet.  Bob’s friend almost forget,” he said, turning his back quickly, wriggling his fingers.

“Dear God.  Money?  Now?”  I said, throwing my coat across the back of the chair again.

“Business before pleasure… makes good fences.”

“The saying is, ‘good fences make good neighbors’ not…”

“Bob’s friend knows what Bob say.  Not want money to be sticky bug between us.”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it.  How much this time?” I asked aggravated, removing my wallet.

“Bob not know about such things.  Must speak with cousin,” he said, wrapping a huge arm around the tiny man, pulling him to the other side of the room.

“Bob, you gave me your word,” Fred whispered forcefully, sending a pointed finger into Bob’s chest.

“Fred say, must think about it.  Fred likes Bob’s friend Peter, wants give good price,” he said, smiling in my direction and then began to speak rapidly in Russian.

“Damn it, Bob.  You promised me,” Fred whispered disappointedly.

“Fred say, four hundred dollars,” Bob said, holding up four fingers of his right hand, all the while maintaining his grip on Fred’s shoulder.

“Three hundred,” I countered, folding my arms, returning my wallet to my hip pocket.

“Oooh, Bob’s friend breaks Bob’s feelings.  Bob’s friend would steal bread from Fred very mouth?”

“It’s not in Fred’s mouth just yet… three hundred,” I insisted.

 

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http://tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Maus_Tegon/index.htm

http://www.amazon.com/Tegon-Maus/e/B009PFZILW

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/tegon-maus

 

GIVEAWAY!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8b9ec5be93/

tourbutton_bob