Welcome to what will hopefully be the first of the Annual Authoress’ Success Story blog tours! Those of us who have owed our publishing successes, at least in part, to the Miss Snark’s First Victim contests and blog have decided to come together and help cross promote each other’s work. Every day in the first two weeks of August, a different author will be posting an interview of one of our fellow Success Stories, so make sure to tune in to everyone’s blogs!
Today I’d like to welcome J.M. Frey, author of a number of works including TRIPTYCH and THE DARK SIDE OF GLASS! Toronto-based J.M Frey (pronounced “fry”) is a science fiction and fantasy author, as well as a fanthropologist and pop culture scholar who appears in podcasts, documentaries, and on television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia.
You do a lot of other things besides writing – acting, modeling, singing. Tell us a little about how a life rich with creativity impacts your writing. Also, which of your many non-writing projects was the most fun to do?
Oh, I absolutely have the most fun doing the voice acting and singing. There’s nothing quite so wild and wonderful as standing in an itty bitty sound booth, surrounded by grey eggshell soundproofing with headphones bigger than your head clamped to your ears screaming, laughing, singing, and gasping for breath through a song or a character’s dialogue or a commercial jingle. I genuine do love voice acting so much. I think it’s because you only HAVE your voice to do all the work with. You have no facial expressions, no flicks of the eyes or fingers, no gestures, no costumes to help you convey character. You have your voice and only your voice, and you have to put everything into that.
I think it’s always important to have a way to engage with your story in ways that are different from putting the right words in the right order. I used to sketch my characters and draw scenes, but lately I’ve been creating costumes based on some of the character’s wardrobes, or building jewellery to tie in – it’s a way to be engaged with the world without the stress of having to get the writing right. It allows your fingers to be busy while your mind wanders the paths of the narrative.
As for how it’s helped me: even if I’m not working on my story in particular – if I’m acting in someone elses’ work – my assessing mind is always on. “How is this story, that I’m participating in telling, being told? Why did this person make that choice? Is the choice effective? Is it something I can learn from, or incorporate? Or is it a mistake I’ve just learned to avoid?” Of course, you also have to allow for the differences between mediums; there are things that you can do in novels and can’t do in a film script, or a comic, or while making creative choices in performances.
As an example: I’m writing a feature film with a friend who is more experienced in screenwriting than I right now, and I keep over-describing things. She has to remind me, constantly, not to tell the director, or actor, or designer how to do their jobs. Scripts are really cut and dry. For example, I wrote: “Martin hands his very worn passport to the teller, sheepish at how much use its seen.” When what it really should be is: “Martin hands his passport to the teller.”
Your newest work, THE DARK SIDE OF GLASS, is hilarious. Tell us about some of the challenges of writing humor, especially when it comes to speculative fiction and secondary worlds.
I am positively convinced I cannot write humour. I am, therefore, understandably surprised when people call my work funny. I cry when I write tragic scenes (oh, the weeping over my keyboard in THAT SCENE in Triptych), but I don’t laugh when I write my scenes. Do comedic writers laugh when they write funny stuff? Perhaps I have a gene out of alignment.
At any rate, people have found DSOTG funny, and I did obviously mean for it to be a lighthearted poke at fans, a little “nudge-nudge-wink-wink, we know what we’re like and we revel in it” sort of story like the films Fanboys or Paul. I’m pleased to hear that I seem to have achieved that! Thank you.
One never knows if they’re getting the tone right. It’s far too easy to make a mistake with how far to go, or not go, and then it turns into this debacle of ignorance or picking-on, when all you wanted to do was share a laugh. And as my beta reader Steph is fond of saying, it’s not a J.M. Frey book unless I rip out your heart and beat it against the wall (She’s read every single book I’ve done, even the unpublished and unpublishable ones, bless), so it’s always far more work for me to try to be funny – I fret over whether I’m hitting the right pitch much, much more.
A friend of a friend asks for a good sci-fi book recommendation and I think, “That person needs to read TRIPTYCH.” Who is this reader?
Probably someone who likes classic sci-fi but wants to see it updated for the 21st century. I’m always flabbergasted when I’m compared to Heinlien or Spider Robinson. The thing with TRIPTYCH is that it’s a bit of a romance, a bit of a close domestic tragedy, a bit of an action adventure novel, a bit of a mystery… and there are gender-fluid threesomes with aliens to boot. So, there really is something for almost anyone. I suppose the reader would have to be open minded about gender performance and relationship roles, though.
Generally I think that what I write is literary fiction sprinkled with the tropes, stereotypes, and narratives of classic sci-fi. I want to tell stories that not only hardcore scifi/fantasy fans will enjoy, but stories that also speak to fans of other genres as well.
Tell us one book you wish you would have written.
“The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” by Micheal Chabon. It is such a powerful book on so many levels, and so fascinating. I love books like that, that take me through a character’s who line, and especially ones that wear actual historical events and personalities into the narrative. I’ve heard it described as the perfect Pulizer Bait, meant for old Jewish guys and no other target demographic, but the first person to press it into my hands and tell me to read it was the owner of a comic book store. It speaks to so many people – those affected by WW2, surely, but also those who are passionate artists, those who have been closeted their whole lives or who have suffered for coming out, those who have been bullied or picked on, those who have a deep interest in the early days and current stars of comic books… it speaks to so many people on so many levels from so many demographics. I cried when I finished the book, because it was so good and there was no more.
I want to write a book that makes people cry for the same reason.
The other thing I love about the book is the depth of the world that Chabon created for the tale. It’s so rich. I’m not surprised in the least that there’s such a beautiful abundance of spin off properties. I love novels like that too – where there’s so much room to play and explore within the world. The perfect fanfiction fodder.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received from another author?
“Stop trying to impress people and just be yourself. That’s impressive enough.” I didn’t get that advice from another author, actually, but a film producer friend. She told me to stop trying so hard at networking events and just be myself, that being honest and genuine, that listening to other people and being interested in their passions, is what makes you the kind of person that people want to spend time with – and therefore hire.
The best advice I got from an actual author came from Gabrielle Harbowy. She told me to stop trying to be so damn clever with the way I construct sentences! I do spend less time picking words and more time telling a story, now. It was good advice.
To thank you guys for joining us on the blog hop, J.M. is giving away a copy of THE DARK SIDE OF GLASS! To enter, comment on this post with your favorite sci-fi, fantasy, or other secondary world from a book, movie, or TV show. One comment per person please, but the giveaway is open internationally. The winner will be chosen by random.org one week from today, on 10 August 2012. Good luck, everyone!
Tomorrow’s stop on the blog hop will be J.M. Frey’s interview of Elissa Cruz. We hope you’ll follow along on the tour! Twitter hashtag #MSFV and #MSFVSuccessStory
|Leigh Talbert Moore||@leightmoore||2-Aug|
|Monica Bustamante Wagner||@Monica_BW||9-Aug|
|Angela Ackerman||@angelaackerman & @writerthesaurus||14-Aug|