Interview with Zoe X. Rider

What are your five favorite books, and why?
I loved loved loved Michael Crummey's GALORE. It takes place in a remote village in Newfoundland where the primary source of income is fishing, and fishing's been bad for several years. It opens with the residents carving flesh off a whale that beached on shore during a storm. When they cut open the whale's belly, the body of a man—pale and stinking of fish—slides out. Thinking he's dead, the villagers carry the body up to the tree and pass it around, as is their tradition before laying a body to rest. But he wakes up in their arms. The book, which covers several generations, is gorgeously written, and is my favorite in the magical realism genre.

William Goldman's THE TEMPLE OF GOLD has been on my top five list since I was 12. I'd just seen the 1963 movie version of The Lord of the Flies, and I wanted more like that, so when I saw a bunch of William Goldman paperbacks at a flea market, I grabbed them up...then realized my mistake (GoldING, GoldING) after I got home. I've enjoyed many of Goldman's books since (you're likely to be most familiar with THE PRINCESS BRIDE), but THE TEMPLE OF GOLD (which, as a short coming of age novel, is nothing like Princess Bride) carved itself a special place in my heart and has lodged there ever since.

Joe Hill's HORNS...there was a section in it where it slogged, but I absolutely forgive that because it was such an unexpectedly beautiful love story (yes, yes, I'm talking about the horror novel where the main character wakes up after a drunken night to find he's grown horns on his head) and the ending stuck with me long after I'd finished it. Which is why Thomas Mullen's THE MANY DEATHS OF THE FIREFLY BROTHERS is also on the list. It was also kind of sloggy, but again just beautiful and so worth it. When I was reading it, I was following the band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club around on a few tour dates. I don't know how they tour for months and years at a time; less than a week and I'm starting to hallucinate, and that's with sleeping in a hotel every night. At any rate, on the last show I saw them on that tour, I was reading the book before the show, and during both the reading and the show, everything was bleeding together, like they were all part of the same story. It was strange and fantastical and awesome. But even without that, it was a great book.

Which leaves me with one more slot in my top five, always the most impossible to fill. Today I'm going to go with Christopher Priest's PRESTIGE. I love both the book and the movie (and I love how they're different enough from each other that it effectively doubles my enjoyment of the story). Magicians (in the illusionist, not the fantastical sense), rivalry, sacrifice, a cameo from Tesla.... It's awesome.
What do you read for pleasure?
I don't really read by genre; I read whatever catches my eye (and then my attention; I'll walk away from a book if it doesn't hook me in the first few chapters). Right now I'm in the middle of a string of science fiction novels, but near the top of the to-read-next pile is Alice Hoffman's THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS, a collection of m/m erotica called WHET by J.D. Romann, and maybe Edward Frenkel's LOVE AND MATH: THE HEART OF HIDDEN REALITY. Oh, and Philipp Meyer's THE SON.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I've used an iPad, iPhone, Android, Nook, Sony and several versions of Kindle. I'm pretty happy with the latest Kindle Paperweight.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Mr. Rider complains that I don't go anywhere (except for concerts) or do anything, but he doesn't understand that I DO! I go all kinds of interesting places every day. I go back and forward in time. I meet all kinds of people and spend time in their lives. I experience death and grief and love and loss and joy. I just happen to do it sitting in front of a keyboard (which, if you ask me, is the cheapest way to travel).
What do your fans mean to you?
I write for myself first, but fan mail is like putting in a hard day's work, then finding out you're getting lobster and champagne for dinner. That I can do something that's fulfilling and exciting and so enjoyable for myself and then have it make total strangers happy as well—that's just the best thing ever. (And remember: you don't have to stay total strangers! My email address is zoexrider@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you.)
What are you working on next?
I have so many irons in the fire that it's more iron than fire.

I'm getting close to the final draft of THE ROOMMATE SITUATION, a contemporary m/m new adult novel about a freshman in college who's struggling for independence from his over-involved parents...and his roommate, who's putting himself through school by making and selling leather bondage gear. When Shane, my main character, needs to get his hands on some cash that his parents aren't tracking, he offers to model some of Derek's gear to improve the look of his eBay listings.

I have a few other novels in the works—one about a pretty nasty group of ex-Korean-war vets who are now a gang of vampire bikers. When Dean Thibodeaux, a guitarist in a rock band, is attacked by one of them the night before the band heads out on tour, he's not supposed to survive, but he does—though for how long is the question as the biker takes off after the band intent on finishing the job. It takes place in the seventies, which may be my favorite decade ever.

Another is a present-day horror novel/tragic love story about a musician who unwittingly becomes a host to an alien parasite.

There are a few more that I've only just started drafting, one's science fiction and the other's a thriller that takes place in a gritty parallel world and involves celebrity kidnapping and sex trafficking.

For shorter works, I've got a puppy play series started called THE ROCKSTAR'S DOG. I'm hoping to get the first installment up sometime in March 2014. I also have a handful of standalone short stories to finish and get up over the coming months.

And I have an m/m bondage novel coming out from Loose Id this year. More details when I have them myself....
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Ha. When I'm not writing, I'm working my day job, preparing or eating dinner, spending enough time with Mr. Rider that he doesn't feel completely forsaken, and sleeping. Sometimes I manage to squeeze a little reading in (usually while I'm cooking dinner.) When there's a good band playing nearby, I try to get out to their show, and if it's one of my favorite bands, I'll travel to see them.

(Under "writing" I'm including writing-related tasks, like cover design, file formatting, blurb writing, uploading releases, and all the accounting/business side of things as well...plus writing- and publishing-related reading: articles, blog posts, books. Basically I work two full-time jobs. Fortunately for me, so does Mr. Rider!)
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes! It was an assignment in fourth grade, I think. I wrote about a gang. It had no plot or purpose, and I couldn't even think of what to name the characters (my mother suggested just going down the alphabet: an A name, a B name, etc.) because the characters didn't really exist for me. I went a long time reallyreallyreally wanting to write stories but not actually having any stories to write. It wasn't until high school that I started working out stories I could tell. (Too bad they weren't good ones!)

This isn't to say I didn't have stories in my head before that; I just didn't think those were the kinds of stories you wrote down on paper, for public consumption. Apparently <g> I was wrong. These days the stories in my head and the stories that make it onto the page are the same thing, and writing is a lot more enjoyable that way, but it did take until I was in my early thirties to start doing that. Until then, there was a very clear dividing line between what was going on in my head and what I crafted as "real stories."
What is your writing process?
An idea develops in my head, and I let it sit up there, marinating, until the opening words come to me, and then I start writing. When the first draft is done, I put it away for a month or so. Then I read it over and start retyping it from scratch, changing and improving things as I go. By the time this second draft is done, I have a better handle on the problems in the story, and I retype it again, making more significant changes. After that, I stop with the retyping and just start editing right in the draft. There's no standard amount of times I'll go through that draft—it might be one more pass, it might be seven. At some point in this process, I start sending it to a trusted reader for their input, which is valuable for finding stuff I don't pick up myself. (I have one reader who's great for letting me know when I've made a main character who's acting like a wad.) I incorporate their input as I go, trying it out different ways, seeing what happens. Eventually I get to where I'm just polishing. After that, it's ready to be proofread, formatted and published (or proofread and sent out on submission; I like being a hybrid author).
How do you approach cover design?
First I get an image in my head of what I want it to look like. Then I go to the stock photo sites and realize I'm not going to be able to recreate that image. *sigh* So I poke around for hours and hours, playing with comp images in Photoshop, until I find something that's nothing like what I originally wanted but works well enough. Then I purchase the stock images and start creating the cover.

My process involves a lot of smoking, cursing and forehead-bashing, with breaks to light a candle at the altar and say the usual little prayer about how I hope everyone doesn't see this cover and laugh. Because I'm not an artist. I know just enough about light, shading and perspective to fuck it all up.
Published 2014-02-28.
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