In this week’s interview, I’m honored to feature Ira Nayman, author of humourous science fiction and satire. Ira was the winner of the 2010 Jonathan Swift Satire Writing contest and the author of the *NEW* novel You Can’t Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With its Head) the [INSERT GUSHING PRAISE HERE] sequel to Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience) both available from Elsewhen Press (http://elsewhen.co.uk/) He has also penned the short story collections Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be, What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys, Luna for the Lunies!, The Street Finds Its Own Uses for Mutant Technologies and The Alternate Reality News Service’s Guide to Love, Sex and Robots (available online through Amazon, Indigo/Chapters and others).
Ira, I’m really excited to have you here. Apart from your published work, what else should we know about you?
Okay. I have a brain that unfolds in twenty-seven dimensions into the shape of an elephant at the centre of a rose.
I devoted my life to writing humour when I was eight years old; I did it intermittently when I was young and have been doing it steadily since 1984. My main project is Les Pages aux Folles; the Web page by that name, which features weekly satirical writing and absurdist cartoons, has been going since September, 2002 (in fact, it just hit its 600th consecutive week). Although humour is my main genre, I have combined it with a hefty dose of speculative fiction over the last six or seven years. One result of this, an offshoot of Les Pages aux Folles, is the Alternate Reality News Service (ARNS). As you might guess from the name, ARNS sends reporters into other dimensions and has them write news articles about what they find there. ARNS has been described by a couple of readers as “a science fiction version of The Onion.” Five collections of news, reviews, interviews and advice columns in the series are currently available as ebooks and/or in print.
I have written two novels that have been published By Elsewhen Press: Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience), and; You Can’t Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With its Head). They chronicle the adventures of investigators for the Transdimensional Authority (TA), which monitors and polices traffic between dimensions. My current work in progress is my fourth novel, the latest TA adventure called Random Dingoes; depending upon the whims of my muse (not to mention the interest of my publisher), it will either be the final novel in a trilogy, or the latest novel in a series.
Oh, and I, uhh, may have been exaggerating about my brain. It only unfolds in eleven dimensions, and it’s a wildebeest, not an elephant.
I’d really like to have a visual of what a wildebeest looks like. Exercise in lean writing: give us a synopsis of your current WIP in under 200 words.
Transdimensional Authority investigators Noomi Rapier and Crash Chumley are sent to another dimension to track down the kingpin of a cartel that sells a drug called Transdimensional Joy Joy. The drug is said to give users the ability to experience multiple realities at the same time…but at a cost. The investigators work their way up the chain of command and are about to arrest the man behind the drug ring when they are thrown out of the universe; they find themselves back at the point where they entered it for the first time. WTF?! The rest of the novel deals with Noomi and Crash as they try to figure out what happened and deal with it.
I’m definitely joining them in their quest! Are you happy with the pace of your work? Do you aim at a specific word count each day?
This is my fourth novel, and the experience of writing each has been different. My first, Welcome to the Multiverse was a fever-dream experience; it was written in a stupid short amount of time. The second novel, You Can’t Kill the Multiverse, is made up of six chapters, five of which are interlocking novelettes. I wrote the first two, paused for a few months and wrote the others piecemeal over the next several months. My third novel, a stand-alone called Both Sides. NOW!, is made up of 40 sections of roughly 2,000 words each. For the most part, I wrote each section in a single day over a period of about nine months.
So, sure, while I would like to write 2,000 words a day until a first draft of the novel is completed, that has only happened to me once, and I think that experience was atypical of how I write longer works. I expect this novel will be written in fits and starts over the better part of a year. That having been said, I wrote the first 17,000 words of Random Dingoes straight through, and have since taken a break to consider where to take the story from where I left off.
Plotter, pantser or both?
I never start writing a story without knowing how it will end and having at least some idea of the major plot points that will get me there. For Random Dingoes, for example, I knew why Noomi and Crash were thrown out of the first universe they went to, and how their investigation of that would unfold in subsequent chapters. In this sense, I am a plotter. However, because my stories tend to be rich in detail, there are a lot of elements that I do not plan out in advance, elements that I explore in the process of writing the work. So, while I know that there will be an investigation of a drug cartel, how Noomi and Crash actually get to the point where they are about to arrest the kingpin is something I am working out in the writing. I believe that the fun I have in discovering the unfolding of the plot in this way is conveyed to the reader. In this sense, I am a pantser.
Have you experienced “writer’s block” and how do you overcome it?
I am fortunate to have an easy-going relationship with Elsewhen Press; I send them manuscripts as I finish novels. Since we don’t really contract for books until after they are written, the only deadlines I have are those that are self-imposed (and, then, the only one I really have is to write one novel a year). Thus, while I have periods where I am not inspired to work on a novel, I don’t feel any pressure to keep writing it regardless, and I don’t consider these periods “writer’s block,” with all of the negative connotations that the term implies.
One strategy I employ to keep the creativity flowing is to always have several writing projects on the go. In the past year, for instance, in addition to the Web site and novel, I have written short stories and the pilot for a television series based on my first novel, and have developed ideas for an original comic book. When I find myself unable to move forward with one project, I simply work on another one. In this way, I write something almost every day of the year (unlike many novelists, who write for part of the year and research for the balance).
I think of my Web site as “the insatiable maw” which must constantly be fed. Writing humour to a weekly deadline, which I have been doing for over 11 years, requires tremendous discipline, and has helped train my subconscious to find solutions to creative problems quickly. However, when this does not work there are ways of priming that pump. One is to do more research on the subject I’m writing about (often, learning more will spark creative ideas). Another is to think about the problem before going to sleep (since the unconscious mind works best without having to compete with the conscious mind). I have also heard that writing the opposite of what you intended, or just something unexpected or ridiculous, while it isn’t likely to make it into the final draft, can often free up the creative juices, although I haven’t used this technique myself. (Usually, when I come up with something ridiculous, I highlight it in my final draft!)
What’s your worst enemy in getting that first draft finished?
This may sound strange, but too many ideas. I sometimes find myself bouncing too quickly between projects, without making any significant headway in any of them. When this happens, I usually take a nap, because my mind is clearly telling me that it cannot concentrate on anything in a productive way.
As answers to this question go, “too many ideas” is a first! Could we take a look at your workspace? Is there a particular place you find inspiring?
So, this is my workspace. Sure, it looks chaotic, but, then, isn’t the role of the writer to bring order out of chaos? Yeah, I’m not buying that one, either.
In fact, it’s not nearly so chaotic as it looks. The piles of newspaper clippings on top of the box of tissues (mustn’t use the word Kleenex as it’s a brand name!) are potential sources of Alternate Reality News Articles. The small pile next to the monitor are obituaries (which I sometimes feature on my Web site). The small pile next to the printer (which does not print, although I still use it sometimes to scan things) are subjects that should be dealt with immediately while the pile of clippings actually on the printer are potential sources of inspiration. The pile next to the keyboard are clippings that I have already used that are waiting to be thrown out. When any pile threatens to collapse, burying me under the rubble, I toss the bottom two thirds or so and start again.
You see? I do have a system!
Unique! Now your photo is “pinned” on my Featured Writers’ Workspace Board on Pinterest. How do you intend to celebrate writing “The End” of your draft?
By starting to write something completely different.
Is humourous science fiction the genre you will brand yourself with or do you see yourself branching out in the future?
Humour is my main project, and that is the genre I hope to be associated with. I am having a lot of fun writing speculative fiction, so I will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. However, under certain circumstances, this might not be the case. For example: I went through a decade when I was writing nothing but scripts, mostly for original TV series, but also for feature length films. These include scripts for, among other things, romantic comedies, political satire, a sitcom, a humourous anthology series about vampires and some scripts that could be described as surreal. If I was ever in a position to get any of this material produced, the fact that it is not science fiction would not be a concern for me. Not that that’s ever likely to happen, but, when your brain unfolds in eleven dimensions, you have a lot of space in which to dream!
You put a new spin on the term “prolific”. Would you like to share with us links where we can find you and your work?
WEB SITE: Les Pages aux Folles
FACEBOOK WRITER’S/FAN/WHATEVER PAGE: Ira Nayman’s Thrishty Friednishes
BOOKS: Alternate Reality News Service collections (Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be, What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys and Luna for the Lunies!) and the novelsWelcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience) and You Can’t Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With its Head) can be purchased on Amazon.com
ARNS BOOK TRAILER: “A Book Trailer Called ‘Book Trailer’”
ELSEWHEN PRESS WEB SITE: http://elsewhen.co.uk/
It was pleasure talking to you, Ira. Thank you and best of luck with all your projects!