Please welcome Alan Averill to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Beautiful Land was published on June 4th by Ace. You may read Alan's Guest Blog here.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Alan: Hey, thanks! Happy to be here.
TQ: When and why did you start writing?
Alan: I started writing when I was a kid. Like, a little kid -- 5 or so. Then in high school, I realized I could BS my way through most of my classes if I just wrote amusing essays, even if they contained almost no facts about what we were studying whatsoever. This first clued me in to the awesome power of the written word, and I haven't really stopped since. I wrote plays in college, penned articles for Nintendo Power magazine, localized a whole bunch of videogames, and now I have a book. It's crazy, man. Crazy.
As for the why, I don't have any idea other than I feel an instinctual need to do so and I get kind of crabby when I don't.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Alan: Probably that I don't plan anything out. This is a bit of a spoiler for the next question, but I don't really take notes or do outlines or any of that. Instead, I start out with a little kernel of an idea and just see where it takes me.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Alan: Total pantser. My "outline" for The Beautiful Land consisted of about three pages of ideas scribbled down over the four months I was writing it. That's not to say I have literally no idea where I'm going, but mostly I try to approach writing like jazz -- there's a framework of a song when I start out, but the good stuff tends to come from improvisation. I like to think there's somebody in the back of my head working this stuff out while I do other things, and that the actual writing is just the last step in that process.
Of course, this means that I have a whole lot of editing to do when I finish the book, since certain themes or plot points come to the fore after I've started, but I don't really mind. I enjoy the editing process -- I've spent a lot of time localizing videogames, which helped prepare me for what editing a book is like.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Alan: For me, it's all the ancillary stuff -- marketing, talking about my work, writing pitch letters, that kind of thing. In a perfect world, I'd live in an isolated cabin, send manuscripts out on horseback, and then a bunch of happy little elves would figure out how to make them sell.
TQ: Describe The Beautiful Land in 140 characters or less.
Alan: It's a love story where an Iranian-American military translator and a Japanese-American survival expert try to save the world from monstrous bird creatures.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Beautiful Land?
Alan: It's kind of hard to say, because all of this stuff bubbles around in my head before I throw it down on paper. However, certain characters and events were inspired by things I saw or read or otherwise interacted with. For example, Tak O'Leary (the survival expert), was inspired by the television series Survivorman. Samira (the translator) really came into focus after I read The Forever War, a book by Dexter Filkins about his time as a war reporter in Iraq and Afghanistan. The birds came from a series of nightmares I used to have back in high school. (Actually, I've had really vivid, horrible dreams for most of my life, which is probably as responsible as anything else for my being a writer.) As for the book, I suppose I wrote it because writing makes me happy.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Beautiful Land?
Alan: I didn't do a lot of specific research for the book, aside from reading up on PTSD, and then doing a bunch of fact-checking once I was done with the first draft. But I'm doing general research every day of my life. Like with people I see on the street, or conversations I overhear on the bus, or random little thoughts that pop into my head -- all of that is a kind of research, and a lot of it eventually ends up in my work.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Alan: Tak was an utter joy to write, mostly because he's a bit of a nut and I appreciate that. But honestly, I didn't have much of a struggle with anyone. This book just poured out of me -- i don't know if I'll ever be able to do that again.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Beautiful Land?
Alan: There's a scene in the Australian Outback involving Tak and a semi truck. I kind of love it to death.
TQ: What's next?
Alan: I'm very close to finishing the second draft of my new book, which I'll be sending to my agent shortly. I'm also about to start a new videogame project that I'm very, very excited about, but I can't talk about it because I signed an NDA and they would probably have my legs broke.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Alan: Thanks for having me!
About The Beautiful Land
The Beautiful Land
Ace, June 4, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages
Takahiro O’Leary has a very special job…
…working for the Axon Corporation as an explorer of parallel timelines—as many and as varied as anyone could imagine. A great gig—until information he brought back gave Axon the means to maximize profits by changing the past, present, and future of this world.
If Axon succeeds, Tak will lose Samira Moheb, the woman he has loved since high school—because her future will cease to exist. A veteran of the Iraq War suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Samira can barely function in her everyday life, much less deal with Tak’s ravings of multiple realities. The only way to save her is for Tak to use the time travel device he “borrowed” to transport them both to an alternate timeline.
But what neither Tak nor Axon knows is that the actual inventor of the device is searching for a timeline called the Beautiful Land—and he intends to destroy every other possible present and future to find it.
The switch is thrown, and reality begins to warp—horribly. And Tak realizes that to save Sam, he must save the entire world…
He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife Sue, his dog Sam Perkins, and a whole lot of rain. You can find more of his random musings on Twitter at @frodomojo, or at http://www.alanaverill.com.