Odds and Ends… Interviews, Guest Posts etc
So, over the last few months I’ve done a bit of press stuff for “Eating Kimchi and Nodding Politely.” It’s all been pretty good – minus an early morning, and cloudy-headed, interview I did for Night Vibe with Pinnacle & Elliott. Here are some excepts from some of those good interviews and guest posts that I’ve done. Thanks for reading .
Author Interview - To Read Or Not To Read
WHAT’S YOUR CURRENT PROJECT AND WHAT GETS YOU EXCITED ABOUT IT.
In May I released my first book titled “Eating Kimchi and Nodding Politely.” It’s a collection of narratives about my two years living in South Korea. It’s sold as a travelogue, but it’s not really. It’s not about me immersing myself in the culture and “going native.” And it hardly says a thing about the different sights I saw there. It’s a collection of distinct and separate stories about my journey to understand more about my life and myself against the backdrop of a new and (at least to me) strange country.
What’s gotten me so excited about it, besides it being my first book, is that everyone else seems to like it as much as I do. I’ve gotten only 5 star reviews in Amazon and the review blogs that have written about it all let me know that I put together a quality collection. I thought it was good, but it’s great to know that other feel the same way.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE WRITING EXPERIENCE AND WHY?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid. If you asked me that questions then, or even five years ago, I would’ve said that I loved the fact that my stories helped release feelings and emotions that wouldn’t have found their escape any other way. That’s still true and it’s the main reason why I write. But my favorite thing about it is simply that I get to create new people.
When I write a story I name the person whatever I want. They look however I want them to look. I give them interesting little quirks and characteristics, and I flesh out their personality through interactions with other people I’ve made up. The whole thing is too much fun, and it only gets better when you become a better writer.
Even in “Eating Kimchi and Nodding Politely” I’m able to kind of create characters. The stories are real, but I’m able to shape the reader’s perception of the people I present. It’s great.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO SAY TO PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR WRITING?
I hope the writing speaks for itself. If someone hasn’t read anything of mine, though, I would like them to understand why I write. I write because it’s the only way I know to make sense of the mess of existence that we all find ourselves in. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I walk around constantly amazed by life. Even small things that I’m totally familiar with leave me with a sense of wonder when I look at them from a different angle. An ex-girlfriend once called me “strange” and smiled as I talked about things we had both seen a million times. I can’t wrap my head around all those big and little amazements, but I try my best by writing stories about them.
I want to let people know that my writing is my way of putting a microscope on some well-trodden aspect of the human experience while yelling at you, “Hey look at this! This is hilarious and sad and awe-inspiring and life is richer because of it!” I would like people to know that my writing is about you, and me and the rest of us here on this beautiful planet.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
Though I’m still promoting my book “Eating Kimchi and Nodding Politely,” I’m also working on a couple of different stories right now. My next project is a short story I’ll be independently releasing as an e-book. It’s titled “Missing Rib” and revolves around a man trying to get over an emotionally draining break up, while being pressured into being an emergency groomsman at a wedding. It asks questions about love, true friendship, and the idea of there being a soul mate out there for each of us.
If I were pressed to categorize it I would consider “Missing Rib” a romantic comedy since it’s full of humor and wit that everyone whose read it so far seems to appreciate, although the romance is bittersweet. It’s a great story, and I’ll be putting it out to let people know that although my first book was a travelogue/memoir I mainly write literary fiction – stories about people living their lives and learning something about themselves and the world they’re in. Both “Eating Kimchi and Nodding Politely” and “Missing Rib” fall in line with that theme.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO WRITE?
I don’t have a favorite yet, just a list of nice places that are all equally distracting in their own way. The closest I’ve come to declaring a favorite was earlier this year. I stayed over at a friend’s apartment in South Korea for about a week and got a good amount of writing done. She had lots of room and huge windows that let the sunlight just pour in. Beside a keyboard and food, that’s really all I need in life and for writing – lots and lots of sun.
“Look, Eat and Smile” - Mother Hoot
In order to create a convincing world through words one of the things a writer must do is look at things. And not to tout my horn on this otherwise useless talent, but I do it very well. I sneak looks when people are being candid; I gawk when something strange is happening; I stare when beautiful or amazing moments grab my attention. I’ve been a great looker since I was a kid, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that people tend to be much happier when they’re eating food together.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Sunday dinners all suggested this to me. I can remember enjoying any holiday where my loosely knit extended family of second Uncles and grand cousins came to the dinner table. People that I only saw during funerals would show up and gossip cheerfully with my parents and other grownups between mouthfuls of hard to make food that I, even now, could never recreate without cutting a finger or burning some important part of my body. Growing up I thought these events were specific to my family, but soon I learned through experience that getting together to eat was something everyone I knew enjoyed.
That perspective of what the dinner table looked like expanded beyond national limits when I moved to South Korea in 2009. I had accepted a job offer to be an English teacher there, and though I had never lived outside of my native New York City, I planned to stay at least one year in a country I knew nothing about. One of the most important things I was exposed to was their food culture, which was very different, but very similar, to our own.
During one of my first dinners there I was offered plate after plate of strange but delicious food while everyone around me smiled and told jokes about horrible things that happened to them. “And I’m just stranded there! No money and my cell phone’s not working cause its Russia! Ha Ha!” The story could just as easily have come from one of my uncles, if I replaced Russia with New Jersey and cell phone with nothing.
Sharing life stories while laughing and learning about the person next to you is universal. I knew it before I left the U.S., but to see it in person was something else. From my adolescent years of being a good looker I knew that people were living their lives in varying degrees of alienation. What I saw on the other side of the world was that if we just slow down and sit with other human beings to do something as simple as feed ourselves those barriers fade slightly (The reasons behind it are a mystery to me, though I suspect everyone has a hidden fear of starving that’s temporary beaten back by the act of eating with others who are eating.).
Noticing such general human trends such as the pleasure of a good meal with good company was one of the reasons I wrote my first book, “Eating Kimchi and Nodding Politely.” It’s a collection of true stories about my time in South Korea. If you didn’t know, Kimchi is fermented (read “rotten”) cabbage mixed with chili power and other spices. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever eaten, but while sitting with some wonderful people I ate bowls of it. I laughed and joked and looked around to see that everyone was smiling – just like they do everywhere else in the world.
Author Interview - Flying With Red Haircrow
WHAT GENRE(S) DO YOU WRITE? WHY DO YOU WRITE THE STORIES THAT YOU WRITE?
Well, my first book, “Eating Kimchi and Nodding Politely,” is a collection of memoir-like stories about my two years living in South Korea, but I generally tend to write literary fiction. I can’t do genre fiction worth a damn, but really, I write literary fiction because I just feel comfortable writing stories about people living their lives and learning something important about themselves and the world while doing it.
I also write those kinds of stories because that’s what I like to read. Even when I’m watching a movie or listening to music I want to be entertained in a way that’s not just transient – something you take in and forget about as soon as you’re done with it. I want to hear songs that will stick in my head and make me see the world differently. I want to see a movie that will make me think. So, that’s what I try to write.
YOUR FIRST BOOK ISN’T LITERARY FICTION, WHICH IS WHAT YOU WRITE, HOW DID YOU APPROACH THE WRITING OF IT?
When I wrote the stories complied in “Eating Kimchi and Nodding Politely” I took to it the same mentality I have when writing fiction. What was important to me was writing stories about characters and growth. So although the main character is me, I treated the Alex of the book as a stranger that I had to explain to the reader.
Alex’s motivations and how he saw the world was a story I tried to tell with humor and in a way that connected to universal themes that we all deal with. Yeah, it’s a travelogue about my time in South Korea, but it’s also a collection of stories that anyone who wants to read will enjoy – and hopefully leave with a smile.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALIZE YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER?
When I was in elementary school I had some issues. Too complicated to get into now, but I used to have to go to the school counselor every week for a sit down talk that sometimes lasted for thirty minutes.
One of these sessions happened during my English lesson. The teacher went over the class’ homework while I sat and talked about sad things in the other side of the school. The session brought me to tears that I tried to hold back while heading to class. Our homework was to write a story similar to the one we read the week before, and as I wiped tears from my eyes the teacher was reading mine to the class. I stepped inside just as she finished and everyone laughed and cheered as I walked towards my desk. They were quoting my little fourth grade story back to me, and telling me how great and/or funny it was.
I was crying before, but because of the reactions from my story I was smiling. Figured I was pretty good at the writing thing so I stuck with it.
WHAT BOOKS ARE CURRENTLY ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND?
I’ve just gotten started reading The Magician by Lev Grossman. I really mean “just.” I’m only three pages into it. A friend recommended the book when I told him that I have plans to write a novel with some urban fantasy undertones. I let him know that I didn’t want it to have a stereotypical fantasy feel since it was going to my more about character and emotions and questioning the boundaries of societal norms.
He bought me a copy of The Magician after telling me that it might help – making me eternally grateful for the free book.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS AND WHY?
George Orwell. My high school didn’t force us to read 1984 or Animal Farm like many other schools. I read both of those books based on my sister having read and liked them. What blew me away at the time was that those stories said exactly what I wanted to say: that the world can be a scary and evil place if people don’t wake up and genuinely work together for something better. That really touched a cord with where my mind was at the time.
What I now see in retrospect, and after having read “Homage to Catalonia” and his other works, is that I enjoy Orwell’s straightforward style of writing. His books aren’t filled with poetical flourishes, but instead Orwell used descriptive language in a very concise and impactful way to tell great stories.
Yeah, George Orwell. Definitely.
WHY DO YOU WRITE?
There are a few reasons I write. Most importantly, it’s an outlet.
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but didn’t take it seriously until 2011. I had an awkward date with a beautiful woman, and couldn’t sleep cause I kept playing over in my head what I had done wrong. After a few hours of tossing and turning I went to my computer and wrote a short piece titled “13” (you can read it on my website AlexClermontWrites.com). After it was finished I slept like a baby.
That’s what a lot of my stories are: a release of feelings, emotions and observations about the world around me that might drive me insane if kept them inside my head. “13” helped me remember that. I’ve been taking writing serious every since.
DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC OR HAVE ANOTHER FORM OF INSPIRATION WHEN YOU ARE WRITING?
Generally, I do listen to music when I’m writing. However it has to be either a song that I know forwards and backwards so it doesn’t distract me when I loop it, or a real mellow track that hopefully sets a mood for what I’m writing.
For my upcoming novel I’ve been listing to “In The Waiting line” by Zero 7. The song speaks of the alienation brought on by conformity in our modern society, so it helps with inspiration. Plus, it’s a damn good song.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE READERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU THE WRITER?
I would like readers to know that I take the craft seriously. That when they see my name as the author they should know that whatever they’re reading has taken time and a lot of my energy. They should know that whatever I write has layers in it and that there are surprises to be found when you read it a second or third time.
For the most part though, I just like playing with words, so readers should know that they’ll find a pretty phrase or two in whatever I write.
DO YOU HAVE A SYSTEM FOR WRITING?
Yup. I think any serious writer should. I’ve heard flowery statements against a practical system that usually start with, “write when your inspired. Writing should come from your spiritual need to blah, blah, blah…” That kind of thinking will have you stuck writing horrible prose and weak stories because you never practice enough on the craft of writing, but indulge in it like a child in a kiddie pool – never learning how to swim.
First, I profile the characters so that I have a solid idea of who they are in my head. Even if the characters are real people, like in my current book “Eating Kimchi and Nodding Politely,” I still need to have an idea in my mind about what motivates them and what type of personality they have.
Then I outline my stories. Beginning, middle, and as much of the end as I know. This works as the skeleton of the story, and over a period of time I write scenes and other ideas that come to me, and stick them within this skeleton to flesh it out as much as I can before I get to the actual job of writing. The time all this takes depends on how long the story I’m writing is. For short stories most of this is done in my head, and the process takes about a few days. For the longer stories, like what I’m working on now, I find it takes about a month.
HAVE YOU EVER HAD ONE OF THOSE PROFOUND “AH-HA!” MOMENTS WHILE YOU WERE WRITING? WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO SHARE IT?
I wrote my book “Eating Kimchi and Nodding Politely” as a series of creative writing pieces on my site over the course of two years. A lot happened in those two years. One thing was that I became a much better writer who started producing a good amount of work. When I decided to compile the stories into a book I had to edit the hell out of the first few stores because they we so bad.
It occurred to me how much better I had become. I had reached a point where I was 100% confident in my skills as a writer. It was definitely an “AH-HA” moment for me.
DO YOU TEND TO BASE YOUR CHARACTERS ON REAL PEOPLE OR ARE THEY TOTALLY FROM YOUR IMAGINATION?
I think any writer would tell you that it’s a combination of both. Or maybe that’s just me.
When I write characters their general profile is usually from pure imagination. However when you get to writing them you have to give them life and personality, and in my case that personality comes, largely, form me and people I’ve met. If I write about someone’s reaction to a tragedy I’m going to have to pull that emotion and descriptive language from how I might feel as human being in a similar situation. We’re all human and so we all have the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others. Some people have atrophied that part of their mind, but I think a good writer has that muscle flexing all the time.
I twist and turn around whatever is Alex in that character till it’s unrecognizable, but there is little bit of me in every character I write, for better or for worst.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO SELF-PUBLISH?
I got frustrated with the constant rejection letters that come with submitting to literary journals and other publications. It’s tiring to spend months sending out a single story to 30 different publications and have them all reject you. Gertrude Stein spent 22 years submitting before getting a single poem accepted. After some research it seemed like self-publishing could be a better route.
THAT’S PRETTY AWESOME BUT SINCE YOU’RE AN UNKNOWN IT MUST HAVE BEEN HARD FOR YOU TO GET ATTENTION ONLINE. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR MARKETING PLAN?
Well I thought about two things: First, what mediums can help me reach an audience of people who’d be interested in what I’m writing about. Second, what’s free. The free thing was really, really important. From that I devised a plan that included the creation of my blog, a Facebook fan page, a twitter account and a bunch of other stuff that creates a brand image of a cool guy that writes deep stories about you, me and the rest of us.
My blog was really essential since it was both personal but also contain short stories that gave visitors an idea of my writing style. I tried to avoid what I saw as flaw in other indie author blogs. I didn’t try to write about my process of writing. At this beginning stage of my career that wouldn’t attract fans, but other would-be indie authors who aren’t interested in becoming my fan. I also tried to keep the quality of the stories on my site on a professional level. People who often self-publish creative writing on their website/blog put up amateurish poem and quickly put together stories. I wanted my blog to really put on display my abilities, so I put up almost the same quality of writing that I’ve submitted and published through others.
WHAT DID YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH BY DOING SOCIAL MEDIA?
Branding was my aim with social media. I just wanted people to know about me. I needed to project three or two essential and likable characteristics about myself that people could gravitate towards. I figured if i spread that image around enough, backed up with content, I could create a fan base. You know, book groupies.
DO YOU LIKE DOING ALL THE MARKETING BY YOURSELF?
No. I hate the fact that I can’t focus on writing all the time but I like having direct control of my image plus I get all of the revenue.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON TRADITIONAL MEDIA?
I think traditional publishing is going down a very dark road and more people [writers and readers] are looking at ebooks… As an author you have more of the revenue and more of the control and you don’t have to wait around for success. A lot of great authors like Michael Crichton got many rejections before someone printed their novels…. Publishers aren’t the arbitrators of anything.
WOULD YOU CONSIDER ALL THIS A SUCCESS?
I do. I can connect with my audience and built a long-term career. People are reading [my work] now, buying it now, commenting on it now, as we speak.
Alex spoke to me about his average monthly sales and I have to admit I’m impressed. It’s easy for best-selling authors to sell online but for an independent author to write, publish, market and sell a book by himself it proves that the world is changing. Producers and consumers are interacting in more direct ways and it seems like we’re all the more better for it.