Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Interview With Fantasy Author: Alexander Hammond
I love Writers Face-the online networking website for writers because without that I wouldn't have ever had the pleasure of interviewing fantasy author Alexander Hammond about his newly released analogy of short stories.
I won't bore you with too much of my own commentary. I'll just say i asked Hammond about his background, other bodies of work, writing process and major influences.
On his background Hammond states that:
"I’m a Brit and located in both London and New York. I travel extensively internationally and when I’m not travelling, I’m in either of those two locations….though I prefer New York. Fabulous place.
I’ve been writing for about fifteen to twenty years (I’m nudging middle age). Initially I wrote advertising copy…lots of it…which prompts the necessity for disciplined writing and an economy of words. Nothing is wasted.
I then co wrote a cartoon strip for a number of years and again, I mention the history of this in my bio on that site so I won’t repeat myself. This type of writing requires even more discipline insomuch as the generally required standard for a three box strip in a newspaper is a maximum of twenty five words or less…plus its got to be funny! This was a wonderful experience.
So, my first book was The Zodiac Files. A compilation of the cartoon strips by the same name. Its now long out of print and as I co wrote it with my then wife (who conceived the idea entirely on her own), whilst it was my first book, it was hers as well. Credit where it’s due. We used pen names.
I continued to write, completing two humorous travelogues based on my business travelling. I tried for a long while to get them published but to no avail. This will change this year however as I’m currently discussing their publication with a publisher at present. This publishers interest came about as a result of them knowing about Tales from the Edge of Forever being published. Once one company has ‘taken the risk’ then it encourages other companies. Equally it’s the same with agents. I’ve had two approaches since this book became available.
Once the carton project died I continued to write. Firstly a screenplay which I thought was the best thing ever (it wasn’t!) and then a further movie screenplay entitled Perfect Disability which there is currently some interest in from various parties. The pitch is Notting Hill meets The Usual Suspects.
Two years ago, through a series of personal connections, a party who knew of my ability to write, commissioned me to ghost write a book on behalf of a third party. Sadly I cannot discuss this any more due to legal constraints. It did achieve a modest success…for the person for whom I wrote it."
That brings us to his third book Tales from the Edge of. Forever. Hammond states that this was his personal favorite...
"and very much the sort of thing that I like to read myself. Writing a cartoon strip aimed at a sophisticated adult audience made me sharpen my craft in creating the most impact in the briefest possible space, hence short stories based on my favourite subject (fantasy) seemed like a fun idea. The project was a true labour of love."
Q: What writer's have influenced your writing the most?
"I’ve always loved fantasy and science fiction. My god was Arthur C Clarke who I discovered when I was around eight years old. He took me to places I’d never been before or even thought existed in people’s minds. Philip K Dick was next. I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ way before it was (brilliantly) filmed as Blade Runner and the same can be said of We can remember it for you Wholesale which was appallingly filmed as Total Recall.
First reading Frank Herbert’s Dune was a revelation of almost spiritual proportions insomuch as the originality of the storyline was breathtaking. And so it goes one. Asimov, Carl Sagan’s Contact’. William Harrison’s collection of short stories Rollerball, including the short story of the same name. Firstly brilliantly filmed by Norman Jewison in 1975 and then disgracefully remade in the train wreck that was the 2002 version.
In tandem with science fiction I also loved more spiritually based fiction such as the fantastic work of Richard Bach. Quite frankly, any of his titles are worth reading. A superb wordsmith.
So, that being the case, I wanted to try and create some stories that crossed both genres and this anthology is a result of those endeavours. I started each one with the thought process ‘What if?’ and went from there. Deity was an example of that. In some of the stories I had a very clear view of where I wanted to go. Stories such as Abracadabra, The Man who thought Hell was a breeze and My Special Guest Tonight are good examples of that.
With some however, I had no idea where I was going to go and they took on a life of their own. I would write a few hundred words a day and then cogitate for a day on where I could take the story, or just sometimes try an open myself up and let a direction come to me. It sounds all very whimsical and maybe it, is but creativity is a difficult thing to pin down as I’m sure you’ll know. Consequences, Ambition and The Button are examples of this.
Q: Where did you get your story ideas for this anthropology?
My ideas and where they come from are generated by a (probably) over active imagination and a reluctance to truly grow up. I’ve watched and read far too much science fiction and fantasy in my life. Comic books and graphic Novels are also a passion. Whether it be Invisibles, Halo Jones or, at the other end of the scale….the numbingly good and yet totally horrifying Preacher series.
Additionally I also read a lot of ‘Hard Science’ books. Hawking, Sagan, Fyneman etc etc, which also influenced some of the more exotic physics referenced in the story’s Ambition and An Astronauts Dream."
I concluded this interview by asking Hammond if he could provide any advise for aspiring fantasy writers.
"Well, I know its often said so my advice is not original but, read as much as you and write as much as you can. Persist persist and persist and be brutal with your own critique. Read and re read again and again what you’ve put on the page and think ‘How can I make this read better’. It’s a true chore but definitely worth the effort."