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Thursday, 9 June 2011

Author Interview with Ian Alexander


Hello Ian. Please tell us something about you, as a writer.

Hello, Stuart! As a writer, I’ve always endeavoured to bring my readers a page-turning read that not only entertains, but challenges them to think and possibly re-examine their beliefs.  It’s not an easy balance, but because it’s something I enjoy doing in real life, it happens quite naturally for me when I’m writing.

I know you write epic fantasy; perhaps you’d you give us some insight into Once We Were Kings in a few sentences.

Once We Were Kings is an epic fantasy in which two warring kingdoms must be brought to unity, or face annihilation.  This task falls upon two unlikely young people from the opposing nations, who must first discover their true identities before they can put aside their own prejudices and save their people.


How did you come to write this particular book?

Prior to this book, I have written suspense and thrillers as Joshua Graham.  But my son, who was six years old at the time, asked me to write a book for him.  As he loved The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis—and admittedly, so did I—I could not refuse such a request.

Do you have a favourite character from the book? If so, who and why this particular person? 

That is like asking which of your children is your favourite.  :)  I especially identify with both protagonists, Render of the Western Kingdom, an escaped slave who finds a calling greater than he could ever have imagined, and Ahndien, a peasant from the Eastern Kingdom, whose love for her family launches her on a quest for destiny.  But I also enjoyed the acerbic wit of Branson, a character you love to hate.

What qualities does a writer need to be successful?

First and foremost, persistence.  If you cannot handle rejection, you are in the wrong field.  Second, a thick skin.  If you cannot handle negative opinions and reviews, you’d do best to flee with all haste from this profession.  And third, inspiration.  That is not as esoteric as it may seem.  I draw my inspiration from the study of Scriptures and prayer.  I also gain inspiration from  my muse and best friend—that is to say, my wife!

What’s your working method?

Try to stay awake as long as possible.  Seriously, though, I try to conceive a book from the macro level and make my way to the tiniest detail.  It’s much easier to make cosmic changes if you have a overall blueprint (outline.)  I also try to write chapters that are short enough to convey all I need to convey and propel the story forward.  The idea is to make it so my reader never feels the desire to put the book down.

What’s the single biggest mistake made by beginner writers?

Trying to avoid it.  What I mean by that is letting fear of writing poorly stop you from writing.  Bad writing can be corrected and improved.  You simply cannot improve a blank page by any other means than writing something on it.

To what extent are grammar and spelling important in writing?

Grammer an speling ar inportand four reezons that aer axiomatic.

How much do you revise your MS before sending it off?

As much as needed.  Every book is different.  I tend to make my revisions at the macro level, so that by the time I have completed the manuscript, significant revisions are not needed.

As a writer of fantasy, to what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?

The fantasy genre is useful to the publishing world to a great degree, especially if fans continue to demand more.  The problem however, as someone so eloquently put it, is that it is getting increasingly difficult to write anything truly original in epic fantasy.  I think that it’s more important to tell a great story, regardless of how many times the themes have been revisited.  As long as the story resonates, and will continue to resonate, it has value.

Many authors see marketing as a bind. What's your opinion on this, and how do you deal with it?

I am still learning to balance marketing and writing.  There are times where we must relinquish control over things of which we actually have none.  That takes faith.  And there are times we dare not sit by indolently in hopes our books will sell themselves. That takes wisdom.  In my life, I try to maintain a reasonable balance between faith and wisdom.

What sort of displacement activities keep you from writing?

Marketing (see above), paying bills and other such nonsense!

What support, if any, do you receive from family and friends, or a writing group?

I receive incredible support from my friends and family.  One needs only look at the lengthy acknowledgements at the back of my book to understand this.  If not for the prayers, the encouragement, the constant cheering on of my close friends and fans, I would have been discouraged a long time ago and perhaps never have published this book.

Is presentation of the MS as important as agents and publishers suggest?

Absolutely.  Unless your book so resonates with the publisher reading your first five pages enough to make her overlook your typographical or formatting errors (and who really can predict when/if that happens), an acquisition editor is looking primarily to reject a MS and shave down the slush pile towering over her desk.  Don’t give the publisher any reason to reject your MS right from the start.

How long does it take you to write a novel?

Anywhere from two months to one year total.
Who or what inspires your writing?

My wife and children inspire me.  My friends and the Bible inspire me as well.  I often gain insights in prayer as to what I will write in my stories and novels.

Given unlimited resources, where would you do your writing?

In a dedicated library.

Where do you actually write?

My home office.

If there’s a single aspect of writing you find frustrating, what is it?

My inability to write twenty books a month.  I’m working on that, though.

Is there a particular feature of writing that you really enjoy?

When a character comes to life and draws thoughts and feelings from the depths of my soul.  This is when I know they will do so for the reader, so I wait in anticipation of my readers experiencing this.

Do you believe creative writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?

It is both.  Though for me, as a gift it is anything but natural.  I consider it a gift in the respect that it was not earned, nor deserved, but rather, bestowed with a responsibility attached.  My hope is to be a good steward of this gift and use it to bless and inspire people.  But mostly, it is an acquired skill and discipline.  “Lack of Talent” is really just an excuse for lack of persistence.

What are you writing now?

A tie-in novella to Once We Kings.

Do you have a website or blog where readers can visit?



Where can people buy your book?

Currently, Once We Kings can be purchased in ebook format for Kindle, Nook, iPad, SONY Reader, Kobo, etc. 
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/jeio82 (Nook/Nookcolor)
Amazon: http://amzn.to/se4JY7  (Kindle)
Smashwords: http://bit.ly/lUlOM8  (For all other ebook readers)
Apple iBooks: http://bit.ly/k7F5ML

Look for the Hardcover Edition soon to be released.

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