Interview with Aleph

What motivated you to become an indie author?
I couldn't have delivered these books any other way. No publisher in their right mind would let me. Nothing about this series is targetted at a marketable audience. It makes no pretense at being high art— I drive myself crazy trying to get it right, but ideally it's just genuine to the perspectives involved. A publisher would be taking a risk on a complex work like this, and I couldn't justify it enough to pitch the idea. I'm not a good gamble. My health would never let me be reliable with deadlines.

I can't ask anyone to back me under those conditions. I'm still not sure I'll have enough time left to finish the entire series. The plots are scripted out, though, from beginning to end, so Syl will be able to tell people how it ends if I don't get there. If she chooses to. It will all belong to her, when I'm gone.
What is your writing process?
First and foremost, I treat it as work. I have to. I get over myself, put my back into it, and get to work on the story. I have a plan, I have a structure, I have things I want to say. There are notes I need to hit in each book, foundations that need to be laid. Then I walk through the events with the characters, and help them express what's going on. I couldn't treat this as my baby, because I have to gut it and rearrange it when the pacing comes out wrong, or when something is unclear in a way I didn't intend. I try to tear out every unnecessary word, everything that doesn't serve a purpose or help vividly express what's going on. Then I hand it to my team and ask them to help me hunt the repeated words and aphasic blunders I miss. Thus, the editing fun begins.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing in general is finding my way through the world with the characters I meet inside my head. Malakhim in particular brought me this incredible little boy. He's riddled with anxieties, feeling like a total screwup, but still so sweet, so clever, and so beautifully brave. I love all of the protagonists (and even some of the villains), but Ben is the one who truly captured my heart. I honestly cannot imagine life without him.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I used to do a lot of drawing and painting, but as my health and sight began failing, that became a struggle. These days, when I'm not writing, I'm generally researching. I think a writer has a duty to at least try to understand what they're portraying. I research all kinds of subjects, and try to weave bits of them together into something that accepts and reflects as much of the real world as possible. Fantasy is no excuse to be lazy! I make mistakes, but never from any lack of effort. The rest of my time is spent with my violin, and enjoying the companionship of loved ones at home.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I want to be faithful to the Nook, I really do, because I like the way Barnes & Noble put together a response team to deal with abusive materials, and I want them to succeed against the pedophile-peddling Kindle. Nothing looks as good as iBooks, though. My iPad Air has replaced all other devices.
Who are your favorite authors?
Edgar Allan Poe, Terry Pratchett, Mark Twain, Maurice Sendak, and Kurt Vonnegut. Out of hundreds of authors I've enjoyed, these are the ones who truly stuck in my head over the years.
What do your readers mean to you?
I'm hoping to start discussions they might not otherwise have. To turn a few thoughts toward the impact they have on others, about the emotional footprint they leave in the world. To address humanity, rather than the false divisions people make for themselves. Between the perspectives of Nathan, who sees all of humanity as one animal, and Ben, who can find reflections of himself in anyone, I think there is a lot of room to find ways to see ourselves and each other differently.

To me, my readers are just people who happen to enjoy what I do. That's more than enough for me. They matter. I've never met an insignificant person. Good or bad, everybody has an indelible impact on the world they care for or neglect within their own reach. If we all appreciated that more, we might treat that impact more responsibly.

In the end, though, it's up to them what they take out of these stories. I'm blessed to know that some people find comfort in what I write. That sustains me, when I need it to.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I'm sure neither was the first story I ever read, but there were two books that loomed large in my world when I was very little. The first was the Pilgrim's Progress, which my father read to me during the quiets between the storms in my abusive household. To a four year old, it was a foothold, it was a sort of hope that the horrors of childhood would eventually give way and lead to something better. He stopped reading to me long before Christian made it, but I kept reading, both parts. Ironically, one of the scars he left me was inflicted because he caught me reading it without him.

The second was an anthology of Poe. I still feel guilty about nicking that from the school library, but we paid for it as a lost book. Poe gave me a different kind of hope, wrapped in the melancholy lace of Victorian sentiment. There was a sense of justice running beneath his horrors. There was sympathy for the wrongly treated, condemnation of the cruel. There was an outlet for pain, a way to put less obvious torment into pretty words and ideas. Poe's stories offered mourning for those lost, and left without love. More importantly, his stories whispered a promise: when the pain became too great, Death waited to carry us gently away. You could die of a broken heart in Poe's world. I lay in bed some nights, trying to let out that last breath of life with a heavy sigh, to let all the pain and fear leave with it. Death obviously stood me up, but, you know. First loves. They never really let you go, do they?
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I can't always manage to. I write from bed a lot of the time. Thankfully there are still people who believe in me, and who want what I'm creating. That helps me feel like I'm doing this for a reason. Even without a reason, though, I'd still be writing this. I fire up the word processor day after day because I made a promise. I promised this story to someone, and they're not here to let me free of that promise. It keeps me moving forward. One foot in front of the other. There's a path ahead and I'm committed to it. If I make it to the end, I can rest easy. If not? I can go out knowing I did the best I could.
Why are there so many kids getting hurt in these books?
First of all, let me say, I try to limit anybody human getting hurt to 14 and above. Not that it's better, but because I hate seeing kids get hurt in stories and I just can't stand it below that threshold. There are so many books out there right now that depict kids literally having the weight of the world, the fate of everyone, placed on them-- and we're supposed to see that as a good thing. I don't. I think it's a terrible message to send to kids, when all the adults cower in the corners and send their children to defeat monsters. I think it reinforces the attitude that kids don't really need to be guided and protected. I think they need both.

So why are there young victims in my books?

As one astute reader noticed, there is an underlying architecture to these books, and part of that architecture begins by dealing with a lot of what we face down in childhood. A lot of us are children of broken homes, abuse, and abandonment. Sad to say, Ben's suburban tragedy is idyllic compared to what I went through, and what some of my best friends went through. Nobody is literally represented here, not by far, but there are expressions hidden throughout here that speak to the pain that comes when a childhood is left unprotected, or worse, targeted by hateful things.

Most of it is in metaphor and allegory. Some of it is straightforwardly delivered. I want to stop and empathize with people who are hurting because they were left vulnerable and unprotected in a world that's harsher than anyone wants to admit. My core readers have told me it's comforting, when someone out there gives a little voice to their pain. That lifts my heart. Sometimes what they draw from it is actually unexpected, too. I'm sure not everyone will find what they're looking for in my stories. I don't speak for everyone, nor to everyone. I don't think anyone can.

Volume 6, "The End of Everything" marks a turning point in the trend of younger victims, though. The story moves past them because they're no longer overlooked victims. News has gotten out that they're being targeted, so they're no longer a stealth option. The underlying architecture moves past this point because broken children don't stay children. They grow around the breaks. Sometimes they grow well, sometimes poorly, but they are always changed. The ones who survived go on, and become what they make of themselves.

These books aren't about children. They're not a life lesson, nor a polemic against parents. They're not about the underlying architecture either. As Book 2 tells you, you shouldn't be wondering what I'm trying to say, or what I want you to think. Hopefully the reader figures out very swiftly that the 'third person' exposition actually exposes a wide variety of viewpoints within the living and unliving worlds. The 'third person' is never truly 'third person', no matter who's writing. Rather than just scribble my own viewpoint all over everything, I allow the viewpoints, bias, and personality of the characters to provide the 'voice' of the text. So the 'third person' will conflict itself, and that's not an error. It holds a broken mirror up to the lives we all live.
Published 2017-02-13.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Malakhim Volume 6: The End of Everything
Series: Malakhim, Book 6. Price: Free! Words: 104,640. Language: English. Published: February 13, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Occult, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
The movies lied to Ben. They sang to him of impossible dreams. Ben's heavy, dense translation of Cervantes broke that promise. It broke Ben's heart. It's hard to let go of the idea that everything works out in the end. It's time to do that, though. Everyone knows it's time to let go. Knowing and doing, though. They're very different things.
Malakhim Volume 5: Super Human
Series: Malakhim, Book 5. Price: Free! Words: 68,350. Language: American English. Published: February 13, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Occult, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
Ben couldn't save Nathan, when the angel needed saving. As usual, he couldn't do anything on his own. Now, Ben's getting stronger. He's not powerless anymore. He's learning to move the world the way angels do. A little dead boy entrusted with celestial might. What could possibly go wrong?
Malakhim Volume 4: In the Blood
Series: Malakhim, Book 4. Price: Free! Words: 82,030. Language: American English. Published: February 13, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Occult, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
A promise to an angel. One Ben didn't want to make, and one he really doesn't want to keep. Everything's going so wrong, and all Ben's supposed to do is watch it happen. Can he really manage to do that? Can he keep himself from giving in while everything he has left just slips away?
Malakhim Volume 3: Fool's Errand
Series: Malakhim, Book 3. Price: Free! Words: 72,810. Language: American English. Published: February 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Occult, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
A soul is a fragile thing. Gossamer and light, rising on breathless air. They all go up, why do they go up? Not Ben's, though. So many captives crying out. They must be answered. Shall we play a game? Heads will roll. Tails will turn. The stakes must be raised. It's not gambling if you can't lose.
Malakhim Volume 2: Sight Unseen
Series: Malakhim, Book 2. Price: Free! Words: 108,280. Language: American English. Published: February 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Occult, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
It's been a summer of storms-- dark and terrible clouds overhead, and turmoil in the hearts of those below. A cry of defeat draws two broken hearts together, to search for a broken angel. Now bound to the Death by a promise and a hostage, Ben can only watch as Heaven's war seeps into his world. After all, what else could a little dead boy do?
Malakhim Volume 1: Here After
Series: Malakhim, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 82,020. Language: American English. Published: February 13, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Occult, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
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For a dead kid, Ben is taking this whole war of Heaven thing pretty well. At least, he thinks so. Believing in angels isn't hard-- he's been hearing stories of angels and demons since he was a little boy. But Nathan is not exactly what Ben was expecting from Heaven, and Ben is definitely not what Nathan has learned to expect from the earth.