An Interview with Will Weisser, author of Ankaran Immersion
Born into a literary family (both his parents are authors and college professors), Will fell in love with science fiction and fantasy literature during the comics boom of the early 90’s and never looked back. Now residing in the fantastic realm known as the Philly ‘burbs, he uses his geek talents to program computers by day, while by night he huddles over unfinished manuscripts, attempting to engineer characters who touch the human spirit. In his scant free time he enjoys practicing martial arts (which he is pretty good at) and playing guitar (terribly).
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
After at least six re-writes, I published my first novel as The Reintegrators in 2013. While I’m proud of that book and the reader response to it, I’m not sure I would have spent so much time on it given a second chance. On the rare occasion I give advice, I lean toward telling new writers to get more practice writing novels from scratch, rather than re-polishing the same work over and over. I’m living proof you can make any book shine, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best use of your efforts toward developing as a writer.
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
Some pre-planning is always good, but years would be too much. If I let an idea sit for too long it usually loses what made it special to me, and becomes nothing more than a few uninspired sentences in my notes file. Ideas need to breathe as part of a living story in order to remain interesting.
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
These days I do pretty much everything on my Macbook, whether at home or at Starbucks or wherever. I once tried editing on paper, and although it was a neat feeling, once I realized how long it would take to type up the changes I abandoned that process quickly. I’m not nearly patient enough to do twice as much work to accomplish one thing!
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
My wife reads all my books first. She’s an accomplished reader who finishes 50+ novels a year and she doesn’t hold anything back in her critiques. As much as I wish she would sometimes, I must admit she’s saved me quite a bit of embarrassment over the years. For the next phase I’ve been lucky enough to recruit some pro authors to read pieces of or the entirety of works in progress by swapping my own beta reads for theirs. That said, I know I need more “pure reader” interaction from a variety of sources, too, so I’m working on filling out a list of people who could give me more feedback on the next go-around–those who liked my other books, friends in the scifi/fantasy community, etc. With everyone’s shifting schedules and commitments it’s good to have a long list of betas to pad against dropouts.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
I must admit I don’t go to bookstores too often. My shelves are all full and I barely have time to read anymore, even on my Kindle. Instead I listen to a lot of audio books while driving. It’s expensive, but I need to keep up with what’s current somehow if I’m going to continue this writing thing, or so I tell myself.
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind from:
1. childhood? Too many to name, but one that jumps to mind at the moment is The Phantom Tollbooth. I recently read it to my son, and while the writing doesn’t quite hold up, the wealth of amazing ideas blew my mind as a kid.
2. adolescence? I was a big comics fan in my teens, starting with Marvel and DC, branching off into Image and then into independent and underground comics and cartoons. I did read the occasional novel, too, though. I recall reading Jurassic Park about a year before the movie came out, and the thrill the first time I saw that trailer–wow.
3. young adult? After high school I stuck mainly to science fiction. I read a lot of old classics and old Hugo winners, Asimov, Niven, etc. My favorites at the time were probably Neal Stephenson or Dan Simmons, big, sprawling books packed with really out-there imagery.
4. adult? For a long time I avoided fantasy altogether, with a couple exceptions: I loved Pratchett because he made me laugh, and I really dug Tad Williams’s Otherland tetrology, which though technically sci-fi I understand now was written in the vein of his epic fantasies. Beyond that, though, I associated fantasy with certain rather cheesy novels of the 1980s which were mainly stale re-treads of Tolkien. Then one day a friend told me to read a relatively unknown book called A Game of Thrones, which he claimed was “actually really great.” Beyond actually being great, that series opened my eyes to what a new generation of fantasy writers were doing to move the genre forward. Now fantasy is so positively flooded with new and exciting voices–Katherine Addison, N.K. Jemisin, Mark Lawrence, among others–that it makes science fiction look a bit stagnant by comparison. My science fiction novels excluded, of course ;).
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. Do you manage your own profiles or did you choose someone else to?
I have a pretty lame social media presence. I am most active on Twitter where I share random thoughts sometimes, but I’m not what you’d call a prolific tweeter. I also have a public Facebook page but I don’t update it very often, as Facebook tends not to show your updates to anyone, anyway. My philosophy on social media is that I’m happy to engage with any fans/weirdos who want to contact me there, but actually building an audience on e.g. Twitter would require too much of a time investment which, even if it paid off in the end, wouldn’t be worth it from the perspective of maintaining my peace of mind.
About Ankaran Immersion:
All her life, Eveningstar of the Pure has honed her survival skills against the strand, a nanotech organism which infests most of the planet. And she has always shunned the Tainted, those who replace their body parts with tamed strand to enhance their bodies and minds. But then a gang of child soldiers kidnaps her brother, taking him to the distant Gridlands, past a gauntlet of shape-shifting monsters. In an eternal war between technology and nature—between those who oppose it and those who embrace it—Evie will need to break the law, put aside her distrust for the Tainted, and perhaps even take a few of their tricks for her own if she wants to save her brother.