My guest today is A.J. Blakemont, novelist, essayist, and blogger.
SCy-Fy: What is a typical day for you, A.J.?
AJB: Mornings are usually devoted to creative writing. That would include my novels, essays and blog posts (in this order of priority). In the afternoon, I like to take a critical look at what I wrote in the morning and make improvements. When I am happy with the content of my blog posts, I spend some time on the pictures. Sometimes I use my own photos, sometimes I buy royalty-free images.
SCy-Fy: What’s coming up next in your fiction writing?
AJB: I’ve got lots of projects. My SF/F novella Mirror Souls: A prelude is due to be published in September this year. It will be followed by Griffen, a novel set in the same universe. I am very excited about this project and I hope this series will be enjoyable and thought-provoking at the same time. Griffen is an action-packed paranormal thriller, but it is also a reflection on the paradoxical duality of human nature, the inner struggle between our humanity and our destructive impulses.
SCy-Fy: The Jungian thing! I remember we exchanged some messages about that a while back. What about your blogging plans?
AJB: I am working on a series of book reviews and in-depth articles on various subjects related to sci-fi and fantasy. Currently I am interested in urban/contemporary fantasy and dark fantasy. Alternative history is also one of my areas of interest.
SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major future challenges for SFF blogging?
AJB: For me, the main challenge is to find time to read the blogs I enjoy and to write my blog posts. One needs to be motivated to post regularly. My other concern is that few people take the time to write comments. If I had only one message to convey it would be this one – even a short comment is better than no comment at all. You enjoyed a post? Don’t be shy, let the author know!
SCy-Fy: Tips for bloggers?
AJB: Tip No. 1: develop your network! Read other blogs, create links to those you like, and their authors may return the favor. My blog is fairly new, so I haven’t had time to do that yet, but I will as soon as I can.
Keep your posts short and engaging. Sometimes, long posts can be useful, but in that case they should be well structured. Don’t hesitate to add subheadings. Include a summary at the beginning or at the end.
For book or movie reviews, you can start with a tagline that summarizes your general impression. State up-front whether this book is a “must read” and whether you recommend it. Please don’t talk too much about yourself. Some people – in particular on Goodreads – use reviews as an opportunity to ramble about their tastes, opinions, preferences and life experiences. Well, this is not the purpose of a book review.
Also, never write a review just to express your frustration. Even if you found a book disappointing, please try to be objective. In one world – be helpful. Chances are people will be grateful to you for that.
SCy-Fy: Just between us – your secret list of useful resources?
AJB: I am still working on this. Actually, I find that your blog is the most useful resource!
SCy-Fy: Thanks! What potential traps do you see in SFF blogging?
AJB: Let’s be respectful! It is always possible to express one’s opinion or disagreement without hurting other people’s feelings. SF fans tend to be passionate and opinionated, and, sometimes, they get carried away. The current debate about the Hugos is a good example. No one owns the truth: not me, not you, not this guy with hundreds of thousands of followers. No one.
SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?
AJB: That annoying inner voice that whispers to me that I cannot live without reading and writing! Take away my computer, my pens and paper, put me in a dungeon – I’ll keep on writing, even if I have to write on the walls. Tie my hands – I’ll tell my stories to the wind. Some people are born like that; we have to make up stories and tell them. It is our way of making sense of the world surrounding us. Storytelling is an essential part of our experience as conscious beings.
SCy-Fy: Posts of yours that have had the most impact or controversy?
AJB: My recent post on the Hugos: “Is the system broken?” caused controversy. Sad Puppies’ campaign manager wrote to me. Something tells me that my chances of being nominated for a Hugo are close to zero. Well, fortunately I care naught for awards! A writer should care only about readers, period. I wanted my readers to hear my opinion, and if it means being at variance with influential people in fandom, so be it.
SCy-Fy: What approach are you taking with your reading at the moment?
AJB: There are many good books, but few exceptional ones. Best sellers are usually disappointing, so I am trying hard to find new voices, new talents. SF classics remain my favorite books. As for fantasy, I think the golden age of this mode of fiction-making is yet to come.
SCy-Fy: That’s a very thought-provoking viewpoint…
AJB: Authors who have managed to tap into its hidden potential are as rare as stardust. At one point, I was enthusiastic about the New Weird, but now I tend to think this movement didn’t deliver on its promise.
We need more original, bold creations that break the barriers between genres while being engaging for SF/F readers. We need to encourage artistic progress!
SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to?
AJB: My own books, of course! (laughs)
SCy-Fy: All the best for those. And thanks for talking, A.J..
AJB: Keep up the good work, S.C.! I enjoy your blog!