As you may have heard, Armand (my fellow writer at Greyhart Press) has a new novel out, a vampire thriller entitled “VampCon”.
TR: Hi, Armand…how are things?
Armand Inezian: Hi, Thomas. Things are great. VampCon is doing well, and I couldn’t be happier!
TR: So, how old were you when you wrote your first piece?
Armand Inezian: First of all, before we get into the questions, I want to thank you for having me as a guest on your blog which has really turned into an exciting place for exchanging ideas and finding news about writing!
Now to answer your question, I actually began writing in my early 20’s, as a college undergrad.
TR:What was it, and in what genre?
I became very interested in how genre shapes fiction. For traditional screenplays, there are very strict rules of formatting. For example, at approximately the 1/3 point of a traditional Hollywood script, the hero should be locked into the conflict with no way out. At the 2/3’s point, the final conflict should be looming, and so on. I was drawn to the inherent struggle between the rules of genre and that sense of freewheeling imagination that writers possess. I feel that greatest genre fiction (fantasy, mystery, thrillers) emerges when these two forces clash and then synthesize, producing something amazing.
To visualize: Creativity is like waves pounding the shore, and the rules of genre are all those big rocks on the shore. Each one shapes the other.
I didn’t really get serious about writing fiction, however, until my late 20’s, when I enrolled into the MFA program in creative writing at Emerson College. It was there that I started hammering out my first publishable works, which were mostly short stories loosely based on my Armenian heritage and Armenian post-Genocide-immigration. A number of those stories were published in literary journals. And just for the record, they are nothing at all like my new novel, VampCon.
TR: What pushed you along in your writing?
AI: I feel like most people want to tell stories; it’s just that we tell our tales in different ways. Some people like to sketch or paint. Some people take pictures. Others sing and play music. I happen to be drawn to novel writing, but I’ve always felt like most people want to tell a story! Maybe I’m wrong on that.
If I wanted to analyze myself- something I am kind of afraid of doing- I guess I would say that I have a pressing need to share stories, that I’m good at expressing myself with writing, and that I have the sort of personality that derives an odd pleasure from the slow task of crafting long manuscripts and then revising and revising and revising.
You know, it’s weird, but when I think of writing- serious writing that is- which I have pursued for almost 15 years now, I often imagine myself walking across a huge icefield that just goes on and on. Behind me is an empty landscape littered with my bootprints. Ahead of me is just more blank ice and snow. That’s how novel writing feels to me. It’s a lot of travel and very little arriving. I feel like every once in a while, I run into someone on the road, or arrive at a small camp or town, but then I push off and continue on into the empty landscape again.
The whole experience is oddly lonely and monotonous. You’d think I might hate it, but I don’t. I guess I’m like those damn polar bears. It’s in their nature to amble around on expensive, empty ice fields. It’s in my nature too.
Actually I’m not sure that that last paragraph made any sense, but maybe it gives you a feel of what’s going on in my head.
TR: What have you written since then?
AI: From about 1999-2006, I worked on short literary fiction 9as described above). In 2007, I started a novel that never went anywhere. Then I spent from 2008-2011 working on my current novel, VampCon, a dark fantasy thriller.
TR: What was the inspiration for VampCon?
AI: Well, actually spent a lot of the late 80s and early 90s immersed in comic book and role-playing-game culture. I guess I’m not so different from a lot of the men who grew up during that time, so I have always had an interest in elements of horror, action, and adventure. That sort-of laid the groundwork for my interest in vampire stories.
The initial, specific impetus for VampCon first surfaced 2003. At the time, I was working on my short story collection, but I would occasionally take breaks from it and just engage in some free writing.
One of those bits of free writing was a short scene I wrote about a blue-collar vampire guy being delivered a mysterious message by a giant bat. The message was an invitation to attend a massive vampire gathering. There were some specific images that really stuck with me: the vampire working in a garage, a huge bat, the invitation, and- although I never wrote it-I had the notion that the vampire’s son (who was an ordinary human) would somehow intercept the invitation and show up at the vampire gathering. That was the specific bit of freewriting that gave rise to VampCon.
At the time, I was very busy with other stuff, so those scenes never really got developed beyond sketchy chapters. It wasn’t until 2008, when I suddenly had some extra free time, that I got back to it and started running VampCon in earnest.
TR: Tell us a little about VampCon, and where it’s available.
AI: Here is my one favorite sentence plot summary: Jonathan Stoker, a reluctant vampire, must come to terms with his own dark side, and his responsibilities to his human son while fighting a conspiracy that holds the key to the creation, and possible extinction, of all vampires.
VampCon is a blood and guts thriller with some serious plot twists and swivels, and it’s definitely not a romance. In fact, it’s pretty much anti-Twilight.
TR: Is there a particular place or setting where you get your writing ideas?
AI: Not really. I will say that, before I had kids, I used to feel like I had to prime myself to get into the writing mood. I used to do things like go to coffee houses, or take a nap, or take a long walk to sort of “gather my spirits” and “get in touch with my art” and then proceed to writing.
I wouldn’t mind doing that stuff again, but nowadays, that all seems very dainty to me. I work two jobs (teaching and grants administration) and have two small kids at home, and said home is in constant need of repair (I’m currently rebuilding the front fence), so at this point in my life I’m just a scrappy, opportunistic dude trying to write a page or two whenever and wherever I can.
My writing life is actually very disjointed, and my schedule is very choppy. Because of that, I tend to make more mistakes than other writers, so I spend a lot of time in revision which partially explains why VampCon took so long to finish.
TR: What made you choose either traditional or independent publishing?
AI: As much as I love my publisher, Tim Taylor over a Greyhart Press, I have to honestly say that there was no choice involved. After I finished VampCon, I took in every agent that I could find. My reasons for approaching agents are- for me anyway- pretty clear-cut. The only way to get a major publisher interested in your book is to have an agent, and the big publishers pay a lot more, and they have a lot more support in terms of finding shelf space, and so on. Plus, I’ve just always wanted an agent, just so I could say that “I have an agent!” I yearn for an agent the way some men yearn for an expensive car or to win a political election. At one point I even told my wife, “If I can just get an agent out of this, I would probably just start crying!”
I got pretty close. About 10% of the agents whom I approached asked for the manuscript, and a couple of them praised it, but none of them were able to actually sell it. It just wasn’t happening for me.
Once I had exhausted the agent route, I immediately followed up by going to the small presses. That was choices. I definitely wanted to work with a publisher if I could (as opposed to self-publishing). So, you could say my “choice” was based on process of elimination.
Having written all that, I do have to say that I’m delighted with the treatment I’m getting from Greyhart. They have been super supportive in every aspect of publishing. Greyhart spent a lot of time and money on editing and designing my book. And they have been very active in promoting it. Also, I know that I have my publisher’s ear (that is to say: access to Tim Taylor) in a way that I would never have my publisher’s ear if I were with the major press. Additionally, Greyhart has a very generous royalty program. So, despite not having an agent, I do feel very lucky, and I’m a happy camper!
TR: If you had to choose the most important element in an author’s platform, what would it be?
AI: I have no idea. I would say good writing, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. I’ve seen a lot of horribly written books do well.
Just for me, my goal is to write the best story/ plotline that I can and then make sure that the actual language- the phrasing and word structure- makes the act of reading itself feel seamless. I try avoid being boring at all costs.
As for most of the other stuff that I do, marketing and promotion and positioning myself, I pretty much steal those idea from anybody I can, like from web sites, or how-to books, or other writers whom I know.
TR: What mistakes have you made in regards to publishing and marketing your work, and what will you do differently in the future?
AI: I don’t have a good answer to that one! VampCon is my first book, and I’m in the midst of promoting it right now. Get back to me in a year or two!
TR: Do you have an idea for your next book?
AI: I’m working on the sequel to VampCon. It’s a book called BurnWave, and it follows a number of the main characters from VampCon.
Writing BurnWave is actually part of a promise that I made to myself when I was about one year into VampCon. At the time, I was suffering one of my usual “bouts of doubt”, and, in order to calm down a little bit, I started keeping a little journal of mantras, ideas, and philosophies about writing and life.
One of the little mantras in my book is what I call “The One Book”.
“The One Book” says: “I am not a writer. I am one book.” It’s an important distinction. And that book is VampCon. It really helped settle me down, and it also made me realize that if I wanted to be honest about the whole process, I needed to give everything I had to VampCon. And that included assuming that it would do well enough to require a sequel. In fact, I feel like writing the sequel is part of marketing VampCon.
Anyway, based on my slow-moving schedule, BurnWave should be out in 2015 or so.
Thanks so much for having me!
“Greyhart Press and author Armand Inezian are doing a giveaway! A copy of VampCon (either ebook or printed version in the USA, and in a common eBook format in all other markets) will be forwarded to one lucky commenter (chosen at random). For a chance to win, just leave a comment below this interview. Please also leave your email address, so they can contact you if you win! Contest valid for 3 days (72 hours) after initial posting”