Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: author interview

Flash Fiction Is Alive and Well

How long is a novel? Brevity-Flash Fiction

Some say at least 50,000 words; but, there are well-accepted novels that are shorter.

How long is a novella?

Longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.

How long is a short story?

Somewhere from about 1,500 words to upwards of (some say) 30,000 words.

So, somewhere under 1,500 words is “Flash” (though, some folks say under 2,000…).

One definition goes like this:

“Flash fiction is an umbrella term used to describe any fictional work of extreme brevity, including the Six-Word Story, 140-character stories, also known as twitterature, the dribble (50 words), the drabble (100 words), and sudden fiction (750 words).”

And, the article on The Review Review is worth reading for an introduction to Flash…

But, I must add the sub-category of Microfiction (sometimes said to be 300 words or less) because of these past posts on this blog:

Breaking Boundaries ~ Microfiction — which has some fine examples of the craft…

Microfiction ~ Revisited — with more fine examples…

MicroFiction Reprise :-)

My Friend ~ Micro-Fiction Writer & Prison Librarian

Author Interview ~ Johnpaul Mahofski — Interview with the Friend of the last post…

Wikipedia lists a number of authors who wrote Flash Fiction

I’ll also share an interview—The State of Flash Fiction—with the author of the book in the image up there (which can be ordered by clicking on the image…).

Then, I should mention that my recent writing endeavor, Story Bazaar, includes many pieces that fall into the category of Flash Fiction (with just a few Micros)
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Author Interview ~ Mary L. Tabor

The first mention of Mary on this blog was in a post in December—A Fascinating Story from Wattpad.

Before the interview, I need to quote the other Wattpad author in that past post:

“Endless gratitude to Mary L. Tabor who I met here on Wattpad and who then took me under her angel/professor wing for over a year, never asking for a thing in return, except for me to show up and work hard. During this time she taught me much about the craft of creative writing, while always being fast to remind me not to mess with that mysterious place of invention.”


Mary had crafted a Self-Interview for the site The Nervous Breakdown (it wasn’t used there)—we’re fortunate to have Mary offer it here :-)


Author Mary L. Tabor Q: Why would anyone want to do a self-interview? Isn’t that the height of naval gazing?

If I were you, I’d scroll through all the other self-interviews on the Nervous Breakdown site and see which ones actually succeeded.

Q. Did you do that?

I did. I liked Karen E. Bender because she told her children to clean their rooms and then she actually revealed something about her life: That her father was a psychoanalyst and that psychoanalysis was the religion in her house. That made me want to read her book.

Here on Alexander Zoltai’s Notes from An Alien site: I think Johnpaul Mahofski’s candor and self-deprecation win me over at the get go. And I love micro-fiction.

Q. Does that mean you think self-revelation is part of the process of writing?

Any writer who denies it, lies. I agree with David Shields who argues in Reality Hunger and he actually says this one—in case you don’t know that book and you should, he quotes mercilessly without formal attribution: “So: no more master, no more masterpieces. What I want (instead of God the novelist) is self-portrait in a convex mirror.”

Q. Did you achieve that in Who by FireWho by Fire

Hard to say. Achievement is a big word. But I would say this: The writer needs to be fearless to be worth reading. That means that all subterfuge about who you are must come off when you write either fiction or memoir. What’s in this book is closer to the emotional truth of my own process of self-discovery than anything I could tell you in this interview.

Q. Give me an example.

I was in Whiting, Iowa, when the fire occurred, a controlled burn. It was a long, long time ago and when I saw it I knew I would write about it some day. I didn’t know why. So now I had the burn. And then I found an article in the newspaper about a baby that had been found in an attic in a house on Veazey Street in DC and I saved it. But now that I look back on the novel, I see my sister who lost a baby, a baby that died after 23 hours, bubbling up in the book. I didn’t know I was hitting that memory when I was writing the book. I was 16 when this happened and I saw the baby with her flash of black hair in the nursery. My face was pressed against the glass. How could that not have something to do with me? It did. It still does.

Q. So isn’t that navel gazing?

One of my biggest worries in the novel is that it’s highly interior. I’m inside Robert’s head all through the book. Because I was so worried about this, I worked very hard on the plot that moves the book forward and gets the reader in real time as soon as I can manage. That means two married couples, a partner in each couple who is cheating on the other, and the narrator, whose wife betrayed him before she died. Robert, the narrator, is discovering how all that happened through memory and through what he finds out after his wife’s death. But truly, only the reader can answer this question.

Q: Are you obsessed with heroes? Your narrator certainly is.

I want to understand what the word hero means. One could argue that we have few if any modern books in literature that folks would identify with a hero, the kind we find more in film than in books, unless we go to the romance novel or supernatural stuff. And I explore that question all the way through the book.

Q: Did you think about your own death; did you, in fact, plot your own death?

Golly, I hope I didn’t plot my own death. But of course I did think about it. In a sense, if I’m in any way Robert’s wife, I do kill her on page one, arguably in the first sentence. So I guess you could argue that’s what I’m doing. But at the time of the writing of the book, I was losing my husband and I now realize that I was writing a love letter to him in the hope that I would get him back. I wrote the book to try to understand him. That’s why I wrote the book in Robert’s voice. But more key is this: I don’t think anyone who is thoughtfully alive and human can avoid considering his own death. Ultimately, I’m writing about love, not death, because love is the answer. But what, pray tell, is the question?


Asking Mary questions in the Comments is perfectly permissible :-)


Mary L. Tabor: Reader, author, professor, radio show host, columnist.

Best advice she ever got? — “Only connect…” ~ E.M. Forster.

Mary is the author of the novel Who by Fire, the memoir (Re)Making Love (Re)making Loveand the connected short stories The Woman Who Never CookedThe Woman Who Never Ccooked

Here are some reviews of Who by Fire (More can be found on the second tab of her website):

Robert Olen Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain: Mary L. Tabor’s Who by Fire is a lovely, innovative, deeply engaging novel about how it is that human beings make their way through the mysteries of existence.

Lee Martin, author of Break the Skin and The Bright Forever, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize: Mary Tabor’s Who by Fire, is a lyric meditation on love and desire, one that will catch you up in the blaze of its eroticism, its tender evocation of love and the passions and accommodations of a life lived through the flesh and through the imagination. Can memory lead to forgiveness? Who by Fire explores that question in a story I won’t soon forget. The beauty of the prose, the nuances of the characters, the ever-building plot—everything is in place for a novel that will touch you in all the right ways.

Marly Swick, author of Paper Wings and The Evening News: Who By Fire is a profound and lyrical novel, deeply felt and deeply moving. Intricately layered, this novel loops through time with the dare-devil courage and grace of a seasoned stunt pilot. In the narrator’s unflinching journey of self-discovery, he comes to understand the past, both his failures and his saving graces. In the end, it is a hero’s journey, both for the narrator and the reader. This is beautiful truth.

Michael Johnson, foreign correspondent and writer for The International Herald Tribune, American Spectator, Open Letters Monthly and The Mary Tabor’s captivating story of love and death tackles the tangle of relationships within and outside the bonds of marriage. Her eye-popping knowledge of men’s and women’s behavior is effortlessly recounted as couples face their anguished choices. Set in a world of art, music, anthropology and science, her novel enlightens the mind while it stirs the emotions. She does all this in a confident style of prose that ranks her alongside the finest novelists working today.

Find Mary on Wattpad, where you may read her memoir serially for free.

Follow Mary on Twitter.

Like her on Facebook.

Visit her website.

Join her book club on Goodreads

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Free Fantasy

I wish I’d heard about this deal before today… Free Fantasy

However, there are Previews, 1st Chapters, and Full Novels FREE Today Only (as long as you’re not somewhere like, oh, Australia, where it’s already the 28th…)…

And, one in particular caught my eye since the author visited this blog recently—Author Interview ~ Adrian G Hilder.

So, only hours left to grab as many as you want at the Instafreebie Fantasy Giveaway!

And, the one I can recommend is the 4th one down, The General’s Legacy :-)


Mr. Hilder kindly commented about the offer in this post:

“Worth a look even after 27th as many authors will have their book available longer.”

If you don’t see a way to comment (or, “reply”) after this post, try up there at the top right…
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Author Interview ~ Adrian G Hilder

I’ve been waiting what seems a long time to have today’s interview…

In fact, regular readers may be surprised there’s no re-blog today.

Well, there won’t be a re-blog tomorrow either—I must leave this interview up both days…

It was in January of this year that Adrian and I “met”—when we followed each other on Wattpad.

Then, about three months later, after quite a bit of conversation, I began reading his book…

From my experience with this man, I can say, with gusto, pay attention to what he says :-)

{Also, Adrian has something special to reveal, for the first time, in this interview…}


Adrian, let’s begin with when you first knew you wanted to write and why you began. Adrian G Hilder - Author

I read and loved many fantasy novels in my teens and early twenties.  My favorite authors at the time were David Gemmel, David Eddings, Raymond E Fiest, Terry Brooks and of course, Tolkien. When I was seventeen (we are talking 1988), I promised myself I would write a fantasy story one day.  I had the urge to create a tale that would be dramatic and gripping the way my favorite movies and books were. I wanted to give the reader a sense of excitement as they read a story I created.

What has the writer’s journey been like for you?

Very long! In some respects it started in 1988 when I first invented a character—a young man with tumbling black hair falling to his shoulders, sitting on a rock and holding a magic sword of some kind.  He had a grave look on his face, and I knew he had an immense challenge to overcome—one that his mentor never resolved.  I even gave him a name: Corylus or “Cory” as he would be called—the Latin name for the Hazel tree, because he would be a tough nut to crack.  That’s all I knew.  Lacking the life experience to create the kind of story I wanted to tell, and then being busy with starting a career in IT and getting married, it remained one of those things I would do “one day”.

In 2009 I had just finished reading Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy. It was brilliant, but slow paced and exhausting for me to read because I wanted to extract the story faster than the dense narrative would allow. I yearned for something faster paced—so hard to find in the fantasy genre. The following day, scrap printer paper and pen in hand, I began writing about Prince Cory on the train to work. Cory had a famous grandfather—a general—who was also his mentor and the war he could not end was the challenge never resolved. I wrote about Cory at his grandfather’s funeral, but soon gave up because I didn’t feel the quality of the writing measured up to published works.  Sadly, I didn’t understand at the time that first drafts are always bad, and you need to take a leap of faith spending time (months or more) writing to develop your “author’s voice”.

Fast forward to October 2013 when the movie Enders Game was released. It caught my attention because Harrison Ford was in it.  I decided to read the book first and then see the movie.  I loved the story and the ending I didn’t see coming.  Orson Scott Card tells us in the forward that he had the idea for the story concept when he was eighteen but did not write it until his mid-thirties.  I was forty-three when I read this, and it struck me that the time for writing Cory’s story was long overdue.  I started to write again and didn’t stop for the two years it took me to finish a first draft of The General’s Legacy.

How do you find the time for writing alongside family and work commitments?

I move work location every once in awhile (I’m a freelance IT consultant) and often work in London (UK).  Commuting there means spending over two hours a day on the train—so there is ten hours a week of writing time.  I listen to music, there are no internet distractions, and I find it a productive place to write.  On the London Underground, sitting at the station waiting for a late train, or in the car while one of my boys is busy with an activity such as cricket practice at the weekend, are all places I can be found writing.  I’m working close to home right now. Fortunately, my wife understands when I spend the same amount of time at the office before and after work keeping up my writing routine.  It can be an inefficient way to write. When time is short, I might only get a hundred words down, but this is better than nothing.

Adrian, you said you wanted to write a story that was dramatic and exciting, the way some movies are. How did you go about doing this?

I felt early on in writing The General’s Legacy that I needed a way to pace the story and have some structure or plan to guide me. By the time I had written the prologue and first two chapters, I was daunted by the prospect of creating a whole story, with all its complexity to manage, without some form of plan. I felt the same way I did when I first started computer programming—you can sit down and just write a small computer program by the seat of your pants, but how do you build a large and complex IT system? At college, I learned how to design software. I was convinced I needed to learn how to design a story. It only took minutes of searching online for me to find Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.  This book taught me how screenwriters and many novelists plan their stories, define their characters, and more. This approach to planning a story forces me to come up with plot twists, conflicts, and dramatic moments that I might not otherwise have thought of. Knowing that these “plot points” are coming, and what the goal of each of the four story phases are, I have plenty of page time to spin the story in their direction.

So, would you describe yourself as a “plotter” rather than a “panster”?

For me, a bit of “seat of the pants writing” is an essential part of discovering character and story, but I need a plan before I go too far. Sometimes the story goes off plan for the better—so the plan is updated. I believe the method and the plan must serve the story and not the other way around… but, as Larry would say, structure is story (a ton of authors might disagree). However much I might stretch the structure rules, all the essential points are there by the end.

Where does the inspiration for what goes into your stories come from?

Mostly, what’s going on in the world around us right now and in recent history.  I’ve avoided creating a fantasy story that draws too heavily on medieval history for storylines and setting. The General’s Legacy is set in a fictional world partly inspired by 18th and 19th century Europe—there is even orchestral music. I’ve used differing fictional religious beliefs, divisions within religions and characters with no religious beliefs for inspiration—without preaching or disrespecting any particular point of view. This also applies to future stories in the planning process.

For some elements of the story, I’ve used my own experiences. Every so often, life can throw many of us a curve ball that we’re not equipped to catch. These can be stressful times—sometimes too stressful for us to cope. I wanted to make something positive out of such hard times. Anxiety and stress come into play in The General’s Legacy, mainly in connection with the use of magic in the story and one character in particular. All great heroes need an inner weakness to triumph over as they try to overcome the antagonists in a story.

Adrian, since we connected on Wattpad, I’d like you to share what your experience there has been like…

At first, it felt like I was publishing story parts into the void.  Hardly anyone took notice of what I was doing. When I had twenty or so story parts up, and I had gone mad following other fantasy and science fiction readers and authors, I managed to secure a few regular readers. Shortly before I published the last parts of the story, the Wattpad Community Team approached me about having The General’s Legacy Featured in fantasy. Many more readers arrived after this and continue to trickle in today. I had been on Wattpad for about eight months by this point. Wattpad has given me many readers, some have commented and voted on the story throughout; and, a few have agreed to review The General’s Legacy Part 1: Inheritance on Amazon and similar sites when it’s published in November this year.

It has been exciting to have someone other than one of my closest friends read and respond to the story.

The highlights of my Wattpad experience have been the day I saw one reader spend sixteen out of twenty-four hours of his Easter Sunday reading and voting on the story, plus the period of time when you were reading and commenting on it—it was a lot of fun!

Well, I was completely taken away by the story, Adrian…

You mentioned there are more stories in the planning process. What does the future have in store for your writing?

The General’s Legacy will be published in two parts – Inheritance (by November 2016) followed a few months later by Whiteland King. The editing process has been consuming much of my writing time since October 2015, but I am planning and “world building” for a series of four more stories to follow on from The General’s Legacy. There are characters, little snippets of information, and bits of history dropped into The General’s Legacy that set some things up for the future stories.

The last thing I would like to share with you and your blog readers is the “cover reveal” for The General’s Legacy Part 1: Inheritance. It has never been shown anywhere else before.

The General's Legacy

And, Alexander, thank you, so much, for inviting me to interview.

It was great having you share your story about your stories with my readers, Adrian! :-)


And, folks, here are some places you can find Adrian and his books online:

Adrian’s WebSite

Adrian’s Space on Wattpadwhere you can read The General’s Legacy, Free…

Adrian’s Facebook Presence

Also, please, do, ask Adrian any questions you may have in the Comments…
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Author Interview ~ Max E. Stone

There are over 70 Author interviews on this blog—writers of all ages and levels of experience

Today’s interview is the third for Mr. Stone—here’s his first interviewhere’s his second interview

And, at the end of this interview, Max is giving away 5 free audio books :-)


Author Max E. Stone

Click Image to Visit Max’s Site

 Welcome back to the blog, Max! Great to have you with us again. For those who might be new to the blog or your work, what genre do you write in? 

Thanks for having me back, Alex! It’s great to be here again! And I write, as a reader once put it, hardcore thrillers. These thrillers are set in New England, for the most part, and are about three seemingly different families woven together by events involving their children. 

What’s the latest in the series and what are you working on now?

The latest in the series is entitled Black Cradle, which is the fourth book and a broader version as well as “second volume” to August to Life which gave background on the families the series centers on: the “old-money” Warrens, the “working-class” Bennetts, and the “nouveau-riche” Johnsons.

As for what I’m working on, during Camp NaNoWriMo this month I’m hard at work on Black Roses, which adds in another family, the Jacobs. Like one of the original families (the Warrens) they’re extremely affluent and are “rooted” in New England. However, unlike the other family, they’re very close with each other. Or, it seems that way until Detective Bennett has to dig through their secrets after the patriarch is murdered. I’m looking to have this story completed by late 2016 to early 2017.

Sounds fascinating, Max. Would you lay out the timeline of the series?

O.K.—four to date. In order, they are: August to Life, The Bleeding, One Minute There and Black Cradle. Black Roses will be the 5th book. Black Cradle ~ Max E. Stone

Coming back to your work at Camp NaNoWriMo, what’s your writing process like?

Lately, my writing process has been more varied and free, especially with location, though music is always a part of it. I have a couple of playlists on Spotify that I always work with and I have them on my phone, iPad, and laptop as well, so I can always write, no matter where I am. So, for the most part, I write with music. It gives my pen or fingers a rhythm…

Have you read any good books lately?

Not too long ago I finished Into the Light by Aleatha Romig. Oh my goodness—it was amazing.  The way it was written—with its suspense and twists and turns—that’s what I’m striving for with each of my books

Anything else new on your writing journey, Max?

The 3rd in the series, One Minute There, became an audiobook not too long ago; and, I’m giving away a few copies of it. Noah Michael Levine did an amazing job, both with it and the previous one in the series, The Bleeding.

How can my readers win a free copy of One Minute There?

I have five copies to give away; so, the first 5 people to leave a comment on this blog post will receive a free copy…

Where can we find you, Max?

You can find me at my WebSite; on Twitter; or, on Facebook.

Thanks, Max, for another interesting interview


And, folks, after you watch these Highly Evocative trailers for Max’s books, why not ask him a question or two in the Comments ( if you’re one of the first five, you can ask an author a question and win a free audiobook :-)

Finally, if you’ve heard of NaNoWriMo and wonder what Camp NaNoWriMo is, the biggest difference I could find is that, at the Camp, you get a cabin :-)

What is a cabin?

How do cabins work?

How do I start a cabin with my friends?

How do I leave a cabin?

What do I do if a cabin mate is posting abusive content or spam in the message board?

What happens to my cabin after the month is over? When are cabins reset?

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