Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Interview with Ara 13, author of Fiction

I recently read Fiction by Ara 13. The book is unusual, as is the author with an unusual last name. I look forward to reading Drawers and Booths, which he was kind enough to send, along with Fiction. He writes metafiction, which is not in the comfort zone of most, but his writing is good, with real great prose and the story was so very different from what I had expected. That is a bonus! Do check out my review of Fiction.

I sent him a few questions for author interview. He responded with the following answers.


As answered by Ara 13:

1) When and why did you begin writing?

I wrote a book as an Independent Project my senior year in high school, twenty years ago. It wasn’t bad for a teenager, but it certainly wasn’t a work I would be proud to put out as an adult. I’ve shelved it and four or more manuscripts since. Drawers & Booths was the first piece that continued to make me laugh, and that I found thematically sound. As with my high-school manuscript, Drawers & Booths is dialogue driven. I was always drawn to plays. Later, my writing was honed by the Defense Information Schools of the military. Journalism is a great foundation for the novel. The style forces a writer to have a point, and to get to it. Many of my favorite writers have a journalistic background.

2) When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think that’s a deceptively intricate question; a great question, in fact. Although I wrote news for the military for years, because of the demands of having to meet a deadline, to produce a certain amount of copy, I never felt like the work was completely unfettered, (though they made little demands about my news voice), and therefore I never considered myself a genuine writer. It wasn’t until I created articles without any thought to the venue of publication, until I freelanced, that I considered myself a writer. But the consideration is not a black-and-white proposition. The feeling of being a genuine writer sinks in with each new venture. Now, with two books in hand, the moniker is becoming more indelible.

3) What inspired you to write your first book?

Drawers & Booths was written as the type of book I’d have appreciated stumbling upon as a reader—an interplay of humor, philosophy, and a nicely paced plot, along with a quirky something special. The particulars of the book came from my military background. The met fiction angle was just a natural progression of my long analyses of the narrative, the supposedly subjective voice.

4) What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The hardest part is convincing yourself that there is a marriage between the artist in you and the businessman. It is easier to be a hobbyist and write solely for yourself—and there is no difference in integrity in doing so—but to consider whether other people will be interested in reading your book, to consider the virtues of publication, can sometimes create a conflict. In the end, you have to hope you’ve taken an accurate personal inventory, and that you’ve created a high-quality piece that will forge its own market. This may be a deeper analysis of what others call “writer’s doubt.” This doubt creeps in each time you hand out a copy. But, even before that point, you must set aside that doubt long enough to get pen to paper, while being honest with yourself about which areas you need most to improve.

5) What do you see as the influences on your writing, outside, inside, whatever?

I am influenced by great documentaries. Though my novels are fiction, I do much research. My motto is If I don’t get my facts right, they will never believe my fiction. So, my news-writing background was essential in laying the groundwork for good writing habits. My other primary influence is the thought of all those voices that were squelched due to historical circumstances, people who would have made the most of my fortuitous position, of not being in a Gulag, of not being imprisoned for controversial views. They keep me honest … I hope.

6) Who are your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I usually answer that question with Graham Greene, who has this beautiful way of painting humanity, often in interesting settings (for this American), and a plot pacing that suits me. Lately, I am blown away by Cormac McCarthy (except for The Road, ironically, since he won the Pulitzer for that one). He’s humbling. There is no other way to put it. I also like Capote, and then many, many particular books, sometimes even hating others by the very same author. A perfect example of this is Ishiguro; love The Remains of the Day and An Artist of the Floating World. Dislike most of his others. Incidentally, I read a lot of nonfiction.

7) Can you share a little of your current work with us and how do you envisage it in future?

Currently, I am finishing the edit of my third novel, which is less absurdist humor, but still has a met fictional bent. I envision it displaying my diversity, as my first two novels had a similar tone. The tone of this novel is less artificial. That being said, humor will always play a strong part in my works, and the third will be no exception. Primarily, my own diverse interests will keep me from being a one-trick pony.

8) Why did you venture out to write metafiction?

Metafiction allows me to delve into the thoughts of the author, my thoughts, and remove the uncertainty of author intent for the reader. I think those authors that gravitate toward metafiction are the ones in class who asked the teacher, “How do we know that the author really meant that?”

9) What book(s) are you reading now?

I am reading Isabel Allende’s short memoir entitled My Invented Country, and have a bookmark in Midnight’s Children, V, a history of medieval life, and I am in a Ulysses reading group, in which we tackle a chapter every two weeks. My reading bounces from textbook type reads to fiction that I think pertinent to be exposed to as a writer.

10) Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

New as in new on the scene or new to me? Since I am not hip enough to know who is new on the scene, I will have to answer this question as if it we are talking about someone I recently discovered. For me, that was Cormac McCarthy. I also discovered The Shadow-Line, by Conrad. My discoveries tend to be for particular books more so than authors. I try to spread my reading around so that I’m exposed to many styles.

11) Do you have anything that you want to say to your readers?

I realize you are taking a chance by purchasing an Indie author’s work, even though mainstream fiction is not impressing me much either, and I appreciate the vote of confidence. Please keep in mind that our marketing efforts are primarily grassroots; and if you like our work (mine particularly), then pass the word. I greatly appreciate it.

12) You have an unusual last name. Can you elaborate on that? (Feel free to ignore THIS question)

I legally changed my last name when I was in the military. I thought it was funny to have a number on my nametape. It made me laugh. It still makes me laugh when people cock their head and digest the notion of 13 being my last name. It is a good barometer to see who has a sense of humor. Plus, it has the bonus of being good marketing. People remember the name; but I changed it prior to seeking publicity, so the conceptual silliness was my first intention. Additionally, it reminds me that the superficial name is of little importance, it is the man behind the moniker that matters.