Ink Drop Interviews had an incredible week last week, between feedback, emails and requests for interviews. I’m thrilled! Slow & steady, word is getting around and the more people who tune in each Wednesday, the more people my authors reach. So, a huge ‘thank you’ to all who have signed up for Ink Drop email, left feedback or liked one of my featured authors. They (and I) truly appreciate it.
This week, I had the chance to chat with an author with a passion for the untold side of North America. Please help me to welcome Zoe Saadia….
ZS – Hi Kathy, it’s great to be here.
IDI – Zoe, when people ask me why I write, for sheer shock value I tell them, ‘I’m either creative or a pathological liar, I’m not sure yet’. Actually, I think (in part) that writing is almost like being schizophrenic, but without the personalities coming out verbally. Seriously, we ‘become’ the people we write, at least for a time. We have to feel what they feel, think what they think and know what they know, so how can we not ‘be’ them? Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts?
ZS – Agree wholeheartedly. We have to strive hard not to let our own personalities into our characters’ behavior. And when we write from the multiple points of view we just have to hop from person to person and let them be themselves, with not a hint of the previously described ‘other fellow’. I think psychiatrists could make a great study on authors.
Writing historical makes it easier to separate yourself from your characters, I think. The cultural gap is too great to let anything of the modern-you sneak into your books. After months of an intense research you truly tend to forget where you are and have difficulty separating both worlds – the modern one all around and the current one you are researching.
When I was working on the last chapters of ‘The young Jaguar’, my second book in the pre-Aztec trilogy, I remember driving my daughter to her afternoon class, my mind on the finishing scenes of the book, when someone honked me and began flirting with me while we waited for the traffic light to turn green. I tried to be nice about it, but then the man peered at me and asked if I was ok and then I realized my cheeks were burning and my eyes must have a wild glint about them. All my thoughts were around some Central American Great Plaza and the impending human sacrifice amidst the roaring crowds, and this modern traffic-light flirting did not sit that well with any of it. At that point I knew there must be something wrong with me.
IDI – What are you the most passionate about within your writing? What keeps you writing day after day?
ZS – Oh, this is an easy question. Two passions ruled my life since I was very, very young (about 8 years old, to be precise). The first one, being an avid bookworm, I had a habit of making up stories, always busy ‘extending’ the plot when a good gripping book was finished and I had a craving for more. At high-school I actually began writing those down, always hiding this fact from everyone except of my mom, as to read, let alone to write, was not considered cool. There I discovered that to write a story is much more difficult than to make one up in your head.
But it didn’t make me want to become a writer. My parents relocated to another country, and by the time I knew the local language well enough to write, I was well satisfied with making more stories in my head and getting on with my regular life.
Yet, there was another passion that ruled my life even more strongly. While being hardly 8 years old, I ran into the books of James Williard Schultz “My Life as an Indian” and the rest of his children stories. Well, those amazingly human, real-life books on the various people and cultures of North America (while I lived on the opposite side of the globe) caught me, the unsuspecting second-grade girl, completely off guard, getting in before the usual Westerns get the average kids, making them play in ‘Indians’ all day long. Those books made me passionate about the untold side of North America to the point of madness.
So, when I had a chance to combine both my passions, I knew what the bulk of my novels would be about. After more than ten years of a research, I want to tell the stories of pre-contact Americas. The stigma on various cultures of this continent is appalling and so utterly wrong. I would love to change it as much as I can and historical novels are a fairly good way to reach people.
IDI – Can we get a sneak peek at your current project?
ZS – Well, I just finished the third book in my pre-Aztec trilogy and I can’t begin to describe the waste sense of relief at finishing such a large project.
I have some excerpts with the relevant posts on my blog at http://blog.zoesaadia.com/ , which is dedicated to all things pre-Columbian, but is recently dealing mainly with the upcoming the second and the third books in the series.
IDI – Zoe, why Indie?
ZS – Well, this is a really heated debate these days – traditional publishing vs independent one. The traditional way seems still to work well with the large publishers, when the writer get to write and let other people with much better connections and tons of experience to promote his/hers work. Even if it comes at the price of censuring, of telling you what should you write about and how, it may be well worth it. But it is not so with the middle-size or small publishers. If you have to do the main part of your own promoting, it seems you can do better as an Independent author.
There are also the readers to be considered. The readers deserve to take their pick without that much censuring from the people who think mainly business. What genre would sell better? What historical period? But whether the leading publishers are right or wrong, the readers deserve to have a wide range of books to pick from. Even if only one percent of people would want to read something less of a main stream literature, this percent deserves to read whatever they like.
So, in my opinion, the ‘indie revolution’ is a step forward. For example, when I tried to publish my first novel ‘The Cahokian’ the traditional way, I was told several times by agents and publishers that the novel is good but the setting is wrong, indicating that they wished I would write something similar onto European setting. They said Europe sells better. They said Ancient Americas were risky, not likely to sell. At that point I knew I’d go Indie and digital. My right to pick my historical setting (a result of more than ten years of an intensive research) was more worth that my yearning for this wonderful smell of the newly printed book. I thought that the readers out there deserve some variation from the usual history that they were taught at school.
So now I’m published through Amazon http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006SNV7O6/ (there are also two books on Smashwords, which provides a very generous chunk of the book’s free sampling http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/119354 and https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/152035) and so far I don’t regret this decision. To build a reputation and a readership takes time and a tremendous effort, but it’s also a fun. I’ve met so many wonderful authors along the way, and encountered so many wonderful books. This Indie word is amazing, and I also think it’s the future of the publishing industry.
IDI – Who’s your target audience? What aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?
ZS – I think everyone, aside from children. Historical novels, if not too ‘heavy’ with history and description, should usually appeal to everyone without forcing their intended lessons on the reader. A good story is always a good story, whether it’s set in the modern-day New-York or the same place 600-700 hundreds years earlier.
IDI – Who is your favorite author, and why?
ZS – That one is easy. James Clavell, the author of “Shogun” and the rest of his “Asian Saga.” He is the biggest of my idols. I can’t count the times I re-read all of his books. My first novel ‘The Cahokian’ was partly inspired by Clavell’s ‘Shogun’. I wanted to create a similar situation of a strong, fairly open-minded man, thrown into a completely different foreign-to-him culture. This way I could present two North American pre-contact cultures at the same story.
Years ago, Clavell made me peek into a part of Japanese history with not a slightest previous interest on my part. He made me discover a fascinating place, a fascinating chunk of history, without me intending to do so. And this is the way I want to catch people with my novels – completely off guard. I want them to learn pre-contact America’s rich but completely overlooked history without them realizing so. I want them to enjoy my stories, to relate to my characters enough to want to rush afterwards to take a peek into Wikipedia.
IDI – How much of ‘you’ will a reader find in any given book?
ZS – I don’t think there is much of me in my books. Well, maybe my fondness for the strong male and female characters shapes some my stories. I’m fond of strong character-driven people in the real life too.
IDI – Other than to take notes, I’m one to wing-it when it comes to writing. Do you outline your book before feeling comfortable enough to write or are you a wing-it, too?
ZS – No, I have no idea what will going to happen when I begin each story. Those being historical, I have the basic set of the occurring. I know what happened to my characters’ city/nation in general at those time (those, of course, would not be the quiet times, so my characters are usually forced to face anything from crushing down of their cultures to their city about to conquer something of significance), but I don’t know what will happen to them on the personal level. I let the events I describe to shape their lives, as surprised with what’s going on as they are.
IDI – Do you belong to any online cafe’s or writer’s groups, and do you find them helpful?
ZS – I belong to a few wonderful writers groups, and those were always of an enormous help, whether with networking, promoting or with the plenty of great advice and a simple cheering up. The life of the writer, especially the Indie one, with no backing of this considerably large and vigorously supporting publishing house of our dreams, is filled with ups and downs, almost on a daily basis, so a great writers group is an amazing thing. There is a limit to the amount of your daily problems or victories you can pour on your family. They have to cope with living with the writer anyway – not an easy feat. Although my family is amazingly supportive. My husband is so involved with my work, I could never ask for a better partner. He works so very hard at his day-job, and at the same time he manages to do my cover-art, to read the chapters of my upcoming work, to comment most aptly when the story us about to take a less interesting path, and all these while cheering me up when my sales are down.
IDI – What advice would you give to new/unpublished authors?
ZS – Write. Write, write and write and hone your skill. It’s so easy to get sucked into this promotional frenzy, trying to sell your first book, dedicating all your time to that end. People often forget what being an author is all about. Being an Indie, you have to balance these two, the writing and the networking. It’s a really difficult feat, but if the scales should tip, as it always happens, it would better tip to the uncontrollable bout of writing, as this what makes a writer.
Ah, and don’t forget to find a good editor, preferably two. And the proofreader. I learned my mistakes the hard way and would love to spare the badly edited first book to any other beginning Indie.
IDI – Zoe, one last question. What message would you like to share with your readers?
ZS – My message? Well, I’m risking to sound obsessive (which of course I am). I want our modern society to discover North America and the people who’d populated it, before the famous contact with the other continents was made. It’s a big part of history that has been horribly overlooked. Ancient Americas had a strong history. It did not sit with its hands folded, waiting to be discovered. That would be my message.
IDI – Zoe, thank you so much for appearing on Ink Drop Interviews today and I wish you the very best in all of your writing endeavors. Please keep us updated on future releases.
Now for this week’s recommended reading. Some of the books I recommend are books I have read and thoroughly enjoyed, while others are books on my TBR list. Here are three I haven’t yet read, but can’t wait to read, just as soon as life slows down and lets me catch up!
Ink Drop Interviews are conducted by Kathy Reinhart, author of the award-winning novel, ‘Lily White Lies’, and ‘Missouri in a Suitcase’.
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If you are a published author and would like to be added to the growing list of authors who have appeared on Ink Drop Interviews, send an email to ladybuggerly at hotmail and we’ll get things moving!