Arshad Ahsanuddin [pactarcanum]
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
My favorite genre is fantasy/science fiction. I tend to gravitate more toward the epic series in form, just so the storyline has room to breathe and develop. If follow quite a number of authors, such as Neil Gaiman,Jim Butcher, P.C. Hodgell, Simon R. Green, and Guy Gavriel Kay in fantasy. On the science fiction side, I like authors like Ian MacDonald, Tim Powers, and Neal Stephenson. A couple of those authors cross genres and write both fantasy and science fiction, so I get the best of both worlds.
For my own work, I tend toward fantasy, though I have incorporated some science-fiction elements as well. You can read more about my books at my website: http://www.pactarcanum.com
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
I'm more of a partial outliner, or a 'snowflake' as it was called by one book I read. I try and design the basic elements of plot and the motivations of the characters before I start and create a rough blueprint of where I think the story should go. Then I sit down to write, and periodically revise the outline as the actual story diverges from my original conception.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
I'm mostly into epic stories, with Great Doings and Great Works, which are usually packaged into serial novels. I like to see the hero (not 'protagonist') triumph over evil, despite Tragedy and Great Opposition. Sometimes, the stories are so grand and inspiring, that I lose control of my emotions just by reading them. The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay actually makes me weep when I read it aloud, it's so powerful and well-crafted.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
Plot, character, structure, setting, and theme, seen through the lens of the author's skill.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
My first manuscript was written entirely in the third-person omniscient, but I was advised that the point-of-view changes would be perceived as viewpoint "violations" rather than an intentional perspective. SO I changed it to third person limited, and developed a system for denoting scene breaks when I wanted to switch characters. It works for me. I leave it up to my readers to decide whether it works for them.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
Public speaking terrifies me, to the point where I have palpitations. If I have a chance to practice beforehand, however, I can usually pull of a remarkably glib performance.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
On the inside, for myself, to try and put form and substance to my imaginings. Writers write because they have stories inside them, trying to claw their way out, and it can be painful to try and drive them back. Better to let them out and show them off to others.
On the outside, I struck up an email conversation with one of my online fans, and now he's my beta reader. My writing is now tailored to him as my primary audience. Someday, when I have a chance, maybe I'll even meet him in person.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
All writing is autobiography. If you couldn't empathize with your characters' situations, you couldn't make them seem believable to the reader, no matter how much research you do. Some part of their psyche must resonate with you, or you won't be able to write them convincingly.
Conflict and conflict-resolution are the basic building blocks of adaptation. If we didn't have those skills, we couldn't evolve as people. So, in that respect, conflict is a creative force, so long as it doesn't overwhelm the mind and shut out reason.
Does reader feed-back help you?
Oh my God. I would be sunk without reader feedback. It's totally useless to try and edit yourself. You have no perspective on what you write. A setting description that has tremendous personal meaning to you could be another man's excess verbiage, to be skipped over on the way to the action. Without that perspective, you'd be writing in a vacuum, and the isolation would definitely show in the final product.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
I tried NaNoWriMo last year, but it didn't suit my writing style. Just because you made it to the magic 50,000 words, doesn't mean they're GOOD words. When I finish a scene, I prefer to feel that I have accomplished an exercise in skillful execution. That can take a while. I made it 50,000 words that year, but I don't think I'll participate again. It just wasn't me.
I should be so lucky to write something good enough to win awards. No, nothing like that, though maybe someday...
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
Yes, I send all of my rough drafts to my beta reader for review and reality check. Once he's satisfied, then I send it to my developmental editor, for an overview of structural issues in the finished manuscript. Once I revise and rewrite, I send the manuscript on to my other editor, who is more focused on technical details and the nuts and bolts of grammar and style, though she also gives me pointers on composition and structure as well. Once, both of the editors are satisfied, I send it to my beta reader again for an overall approval rating, and then send it out for publication. My work is currently self-published, so I can work at my own timetable, as fast or as slow as each step requires.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
Music. Sound is my major distractor, so I surround myself in familiar music to drown out any interference, then tune out the music from my mind and focus.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
I write on computer, and submit to my editors and beta readers by email. When I get their changes back, I print out the manuscript and go line by line through their changes and suggestions, making notes with a colored pen. Finally, I type it all back in to incorporate the feedback that I choose to accept.
What are you working on now?
I'm working on the third book in the Pact Arcanum series, a direct sequel to the first book, which is now with the second editor. I hope to have it to my printer by mid-June 2011. I have already started to generate a comprehensive outline of the fourth book, revising my initial conception as I have new ideas. Once the third book is out, then I will turn my attention to start writing the fourth book, using that outline to guide my thoughts.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
At worst, they laugh. If you can't deal with a little negative commentary, and even outright ridicule, then you can't function as a published author whose work is available to all. And who knows? They might love your work. It can never hurt to make the effort to seek self-improvement, even if you yourself don't have confidence in your efforts at first.