Tell us about your latest novel or project:
My debut Science Fiction and Fantasy novel Challenges of the Gods was just published. I wrote a book that I wanted to read—a fun and upbeat Science Fiction/Fantasy story focused on the characters, but still having an interesting setting and several twists. And on top of that, I wanted the reader to believe that they could end up in a similar situation (ignoring the fantasy aspect, of course) and react perhaps in the same way.
What got you started writing?
I always thought about writing a novel someday, but since English is not my first language, and most Science Fiction and Fantasy books are in English, it was like one of those unattainable goals that we all have.
After I moved to the United States when I was 27, I started reading fiction books in English. Then, one day in November, as I was jogging and listening to an audiobook, I thought that I could write something that was better. Obviously, I was wrong—it takes years of practicing to write a good novel. But after several years and many rounds of edits and rewrites, I finally had something that makes me proud.
What challenges did you face when you first started writing?
Figuring out how to say something in a language that’s not your native language is a big challenge. I’m pretty sure English prepositions were created as a form of torture, and I apologize if you find any problems with them in this interview.
But that wasn’t my only problem. My first draft also had several amateur mistakes—too many sentences starting with the same pronoun, lots of adverbs, filtering, flat characters that sounded the same, etc. I like to think that my first draft was like drawing stick figures, but eventually I improved it with brushes that added color and depth.
Next step is an Oscar or a Nobel Prize in Literature, of course.
Who in your life is your greatest cheerleader or support in your writing?
My wife. She was the one who said I could write a book, and she read the first draft. Despite all its problems, she even cried when she finished it (supposedly a good cry, not a bad one, I hope). Subsequent alpha and beta readers were more critical. I know writers must have a thick skin, but if it weren’t for her support, I might not have had finished the first book. So you can thank (or blame) her.
What was the first thing you did after your first book was published?
We went out to dinner as a family and joked that we might had been spending more that night than the total income from the novel itself.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you handle the good and the bad ones?
Yes. I take every feedback into consideration and I bare no ill will towards the bad reviews. Who am I kidding? I hate them.
But even the bad reviews help us to improve the novels I’m still writing so I don’t make the same mistake again. Of course, we can’t please everyone, but Neil Gaiman says that if someone tells you something’s wrong with your novel, they’re almost always right.
It seems like everything has Easter Eggs (surprise reference to your other work) do you have any Easter Eggs in your books?
Yes! Several. Here’s a few of them -
- I avoided using any trademarks or copyrights, but if you read my novel, you’ll see that I mentioned one superhero group that’s quite famous these days. See if you can find it.
- Red Rising is one of my favorite trilogies, and my novel briefly mentions iron-gold armor shells as a homage to those novels.
- I always jokingly told my daughter Alice that I’m not her friend—I’m her father. In the novel, the main character concludes that “Dr. Alice is not my friend.”
- There’s also homage to Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Stranger Land” (look for the word grok), and to Isaac Asimov’s “The Gods Themselves.”
How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have any secrets to productivity?
The first draft takes about 2 months, but I could never publish it. Then I spend about a year working on it—removing unnecessary characters, adding more descriptions, giving the characters more depth, and working on feedback.
The secret to writing varies from person to person. I need to plan everything in advance—outline, characters, scenes. Others are “pantsers,” i.e. they fly by the seat of their pants.
Where did you get the idea for your first or latest book?
Once I read a book where the main character would go to a different world when he was asleep, and I loved the idea. I also like novels where the main characters hide who they really are, and they unwillingly betray their closest friends. Oh, and twists. Twists that make sense in the end.
If any of your books was to be made into a film, which one would you pick and who would you have play the main characters?
If I could go back in time, I would pick Zach Braff to be Mike. He would be perfect for the character. In my head, Mike would be very similar to Dorian from the TV show Scrubs.
For Jane, I’d probably pick someone like Melissa Fumero and her badass (but nerdy) character Amy Santiago from the show Brooklyn 99.
Ravi would be someone like Rahul Kohli from iZombie, although I didn’t start watching iZombie until after I finished my first draft.
As you can see, I love sitcoms and funny TV shows, so it’s no accident that Kirkus Reviews says that Challenges of the Gods a comedic sci-fi novel.
How important do you think marketing is for authors today?
Even if you’re published with the Big 5 book publishers in the United States, you need to do a lot of marketing. Smaller houses don’t have the same budget, and most authors rely mostly on word-of-mouth, but you still need to do a lot of ground work to get people to hear about your novel.
What quirk or trope of your genre do you like or dislike?
Time travel that undoes everything. It’s hard to find a good time-travel show or movie that doesn’t eventually do that. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban does it right. The TV show TRAVELERS has a great rule that shouldn’t allow it to happen—you can’t go back in time before the previous traveler—but (spoiler alert) they threw it out of the window in the last episode of season 3.
Thank you so much for sharing some of your journey with us.
You can buy Challenges of the Gods Here or click on the image.