Thursday, May 14, 2009

Say "Hi" to Stephen Zimmer!!!

Join me today in welcoming Stephen Zimmer, author of THE EXODUS GATE, the first adventure of THE RISING DAWN SAGA from Seventh Star Press. In addition to being an author, Stephen is also an independent film maker. His second release, THE SIREN, is one of the two films contained in the feature-length Festival of Horrors Volume One in the new Indie Movie Masters series of DVD's.

And for everyone today, ask Stephen a question and your name will be put in a drawing to win a signed copy of the book; a poster of the cover art; a set of 7 glossy, full color art cards with illustrations from the book; a bookmark; and an 8X10 of the cover art. We'll announce the winner on next Thursday's blog.

Hi,Stephen. Welcome to Something Wicked!

Thank you very much Shirley! I really appreciate the chance to do this interview with you, and rest assured there is definitely "something wicked" going on in my storyline! I also know that there are not many authors who have had a chance to be interviewed by Shirley Damsgaard, so I already can say I've pulled off a very rare accomplishment!

THE EXODUS GATE was recently released. Could you tell our bloggers a little bit about it?

The Exodus Gate is epic-scale fantasy within a contemporary setting. It does have blends of the paranormal, touches of science fiction, and urban fantasy as well. It is the first of a projected 5 part series called The Rising Dawn Saga. It was released through Seventh Star Press, a new small press publisher, in March and is available in print, eBook, and Kindle (and all versions have the 15 full-page illustrations and cover art by Matthew Perry).

As far as the root of the storyline goes:

"What if you were a nationally syndicated radio host, whose show dealt with topics like the paranormal, shadow governments and conspiracies, mythological creatures, and the supernatural?

What if you came into possession of a virtual reality simulator that brought you face to face with the clear revelation that many of the topics covered on your show were rooted in hard reality?

You would then find yourself at the threshold of The Exodus Gate, immersed into the midst of war as old as time itself, between the heavenly realms of Adonai and the infernal dominions of Diabolos, The Shining One. The struggle unfolds in more than one realm of existence, as a shadow is falling across the entire world."

The story draws off of a lot of lore and mythology, from Sumerian/Babylonian myths, Christan/Jewish Mysticism, Asian, Greek, and Persian mythology, Flood Lore, and more. Quite a blend of influences for sure, but the elements have been woven into the plot and setting in a very cohesive manner.

I write in a multi-threaded style, in some ways like George R.R. Martin in structure, in terms of following core characters on both sides of the conflict.

You're also an independent film maker. What inspired you to write your first novel and does coming from the medium of film affect your style as a novelist?

Listening to my mother read me Lord of the Rings as a child was what definitely planted the seeds of initial inspiration, though I did not get into making an effort to write a full-length novel until I was in high school.

While I have had a couple of film projects released before my first novel, I was writing material for novels long before I ever wrote my first screenplay. My basis for everything, even as a filmmaker, is the writing and the story. It is the foundation.

The two mediums are very, very different in nature, and I do not think about anything film-related when working on the books. I am able to keep them separate in my head, thankfully, as the structure of a film/screenplay does not resonate with some things that work very well in a book. This is why adaptations sometimes fall very short of expectations and frustrate fans of a book series.

Most authors always picture their novels as movies. If you could cast your "dream team" to star in THE EXODUS GATE, who would they be?

This is a very tough one! But let's have some fun!

Some of the cast that I might enjoy seeing if the movie were to be made right now: Stellan Skarsgaard as Benedict Darwin, Rhona Mitra as Arianna, Eric Bana as Calliel, Gerard Butler as Xavier Gerard, Liev Schrieber as Jovan Avery, Ian McKellen as the voice for Sargor, Liam Neeson as the voice for Godral. What do you think of those suggestions? Wow, what a big budget I would have to get to gather that group together!

What authors, living or dead, have influenced you the most? And if you could ask them one question what would it be?

In the fantasy genre, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis first, and later authors such as Clive Barker, David Gemmell, George R.R. Martin, Glen Cook, and Roger Zelazny.

I would like to ask J.R.R. Tolkien if he has been working on anything new in the heavenly realms, C.S. Lewis if he could take me on a tour of the real Narnia, and David Gemmell if he found "Jerusalem" (A reference to Mr. Gemmell's Stones of Power series, and The Jerusalem Man)! If I had answers in the affirmative on all three, then I would know that everything is going to be just fine!

Every writer has a "process," and we've talked quite a bit about it here. What's yours? Are you an outliner or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

Both. How's that for an answer? I do have general framework ideas that I jot down, so I do know where the general arc is going. However, I leave myself free to react when I write, when the story tends to tell itself. New characters and threads inevitably crop up during the process, some adding quite a lot to the depth and intensity of the overall arc. I keep the outlining to a very bare minimum, ultimately, and I let the rest emerge during the process.

THE EXODUS GATE is Book 1 of a five part series. When you first conceived of the idea, did the whole story arc come to you, or has it grown as you're completing each manuscript?

The very basic story arc from origin to finale was in my head at the start, so I did know where the series was eventually heading from the get-go. At the very least, that assured me that I was not going to find myself writing the series into a corner.

That being said, the cast of characters has grown, and some threads have emerged that flow along with the arc which were not in place when I started. Again, I leave my mind open so that when new characters and threads introduce themselves, I allow myself to follow them.

When can we expect the rest of the books to be released?

I am shooting for 1 book a year in this series, and 1 book a year in my medieval fantasy series, the first of which is launching later this fall. Book two of The Rising Dawn Saga should be out around February of 2009.

Two books a year will keep me busy, but I do have the sequel to the Exodus Gate already completed, and the first three of the medieval one written (my editor, Amanda DeBord, is just about finished with the first one).

I assure any readers joining me on these adventures that I will not tarry long between releases, and also that all the threads have a purpose, heading towards cohesive finales that will not leave loose ends!

THE EXODUS GATE has terrific cover art and illustrations by Matthew Perry. Did you, as the creator, have input into Matthew's work, or did he simply take the ball and run with it?

Matthew and I are great friends and work very well together. He is also a special FX artist who worked with me on my film projects.

As far as how I work with others, I like to allow people to do what they do. I had input insomuch as I helped Matt find some sections that I thought would evoke good visuals, and then I generally turned him loose. I did not want to interfere much with him as an artist, except on minor points here and there to make sure that the artwork was generally consistent with the book (I.E. The Watchers needed to have six wings, the Avatars are comprised of fire, etc). Matt did discuss book elements with me, to get some more background before he started.

What Matt arrived at is not far off from what I saw in my head, and very, very few minor elements were suggested by me in the way of adjustments. If you look at the artwork, you can see that Matt is very good at framing perspectives, bringing in a more dynamic aspect to the illustrations.

What was your reaction the first time you saw your book as a finished product?

Relief, and a little of the surreal.

It was such a long road to get to that point that it felt like a weight was off my shoulders. Holding it as a book after seeing it as a double-spaced manuscript for so many years was definitely surreal!

Last question, with all you have going on...the films, the series, traveling around the country promoting...what do you do for fun?

I write! Seriously, I have a blast when I'm in my "zone" writing. It's like describing something I'm watching and transcribing what I'm hearing. I really enjoy it.

But I do have many other interests, lest you might think I'm one-dimensional! Believe it or not, I like gardening, a very Zen activity for me (and yes, I have good experience with growing banana peppers which underlies Ian's garden in The Exodus Gate!) I also enjoy endeavors pertaining to the 2nd Amendment (And as an American I take this issue very seriously, as a unique right and responsibility), pestering our wonderful cat Harry, traveling (which I am getting to do more because of the book), movies, my lifelong love of heavy rock music (listening to music and seeing live bands), and medieval history. I do enjoy sports as well, though my schedule hasn't let me be a participant as much as I would like (As a spectator, I like football and boxing most of all).

That about sums it up in general. Shirley, I wanted to give you a big thanks for interviewing me, as it is not the easiest path to take being a new small press author trying to introduce themselves to fantasy readers.

I hope that everyone reading this considers giving the series a shot, and in turn I am committed to delivering all the installments without much delay! (and I won't leave any loose ends in the story either!). Feel free to reach out to me anytime, as I love to hear from readers.

Thank you so much joining us today, Stephen!! And much success with THE EXODUS GATE!! To all our it's your turn...ask Stephen a question and get your name in that drawing!!

Have a good rest of the week and stop back next Thursday to learn who won!!



Casey said...

Welcome to the madness, Stephen! I don't have a specific question, but I wonder if you could say a few things about world-building. When it comes to sci-fi/fantasy, it's absolutely the most intimidating-sounding thing I can think of! Where do you begin? Does it start with character? Plot? And how do you decide what will/won't work in your universe?

Blodeuedd said...

Hi Stephen :)
The book sounds great, I am such a fantasy junkie. It will always be my first love.

I am always so bad with questions, but, have you ever tried to write something else than fantasy and such? or is this the place where you feel most at home

sgzimmer said...

hi Casey,

Thanks for the greeting, and I don't mind the madness as normal is no fun! As far as world-building goes, in terms of both The Rising Dawn Saga and my forthcoming medieval-fantasy series, I start any building from the plot and the characters. The world that impacts the world of the characters begins to emerge, and from there the depth grows. I don't think I would be able to work as well with building a world and then inserting plots and characters into it later. As far as what will/won't work in the universe, once the world begins to emerge from the plot, the parameters begin to form. The structure and characteristics of the supernatural world in The Exodus Gate comes to mind, as does the use of magic in the medieval series.

Blodeuedd: My heart is immersed in fantasy, but I don't rule out other genres. In fact, I am fleshing out two straight out horror short stories to give to my editor on a horror anthology that she is putting together around mid-summer. (I personally think that these stories do show my Clive Barker influence, more so than my fantasy work). I also would like to do a historical fiction/alternate history project at some time, especially with the great love of medieval and ancient history that I have. As a reader, I do read a wide range of material, covering many genres and non-fiction. So no, I have not released anything outside of fantasy yet, but I will soon and plan to venture outside the genre once in a while in the future.

bridget3420 said...

Hi Stephen,

I'm a huge fantasy junkie too. My question is, if you could be any other author in the world, who would you be and why?


sgzimmer said...

Hi Bridget,

that is a tough question! I've never thought of being another author. I'm alright with being me, but I will venture something for purposes of imagination! lol

I could say that I would like to be the author of the Book of Genesis so I knew the basis for the stories in it! (and similarly, the author of the Book Of Revelations, just to know how that one came about!)

As far as fantasy goes, maybe one of the Inklings, like J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, or Charles Williams, and the reason is that I perceive that they had a great environment for being writers. They were all successful, and mutually supportive, and they had a very nice, academic, and relatively tranquil environment to live within while they produced their work. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during their get-togethers at the pub in Oxford. Talk about a writer's group! It was just a great environment for a writer to immerse within, with true writer friends included. I think this is part of why Tolkien was able to craft such a detailed and deep world around Middle Earth. Their atmosphere was fertile soil for writer's with seeds of imagination.

Anonymous said...

"I don't think I would be able to work as well with building a world and then inserting plots and characters into it later."

I can see what you mean. No point cutting a switch to beat yourself with but aren't constraints nice sometimes? (oooh, that sounded a bit risqué)

I see this two ways - if you build your world around your characters then it's like a coat they wear. Comfortable. Which can be good.

But if you build your characters around your world then they're like rats in a trap. Ah, sweet tension!

sgzimmer said...

Hi Anton,

unfortunately, in the real world I have far too many days where I do feel like a rat in a trap! LOL

So I guess I opt for the other option when writing, just to give my own tension a break!

thanks for the comment!

sgzimmer said...

To everyone that participated and read the interview: Sincerest thanks and appreciation for taking the time to find out about a new author with a small press debut. It isn't easy, to say the least, but I promise all of you that I am working as hard as I can to bring some nice new fantasy out.

If you didn't happen to win, I hope that you do give The Exodus Gate a shot, and I will do my best to bring you a fresh epic series that won't leave you frustrated with loose ends!

I'm easy to find off my site, mySpace, Facebook, etc., so I hope to hear from all of you!