Welcome to a new series on our blog. Every 2-3 weeks we will feature one of our authors from the Geneva Writers Group, so that we can all get to know each other better. If you are a published writer and would like to take part in this series please contact Sanda Ionescu. I will be interviewing via email, so there will be plenty of time to polish your answers, although spontaneity is always appreciated! I also look forward to hearing your comments and additional questions.
Welcome to the blog, Massimo, and thank you for agreeing to be the guinea pig for this new series. Tell us, where did your love of books/ storytelling/ writing come from?
I've been writing since I was able to hold a pencil in my toddler’s hand. I daydreamed and always had a fervid imagination. Writing was a way to make everything real. Those written words, though, were only for me. I never shared this with anyone, not even in the family. Being an author was never in my mind and readers are the only ones who can say that of a writer. At what point does a writer begin to function as an author? Being an author means being held to a certain standard of quality, and I do work toward that, the best I can and using proofreaders and working with an editor.
What sort of writing do you do and why?
I write Science Fiction, and my working definition of SF is closer to Theodore Sturgeon’s: “A good science fiction story is a story about human beings, with a human problem, and a human solution, that would not have happened at all without its science content.”
Science Fiction isn’t about squids in space, it isn’t all aliens and spaceships. A large proportion of SF never leaves the planet or encounters aliens. Science Fiction can make you think. One of the biggest unanswered questions is “what if?” SF stories deliberately explore possibilities – time travel, genetic engineering, computers in people’s heads, teleportation, what happens when the oil runs out, what do we do if we’re contacted by aliens. If more politicians read SF, we wouldn’t be in half the messes we’re in now.
Who or what inspires you?
My father and my older brother read sci-fi a lot, so I grew up with that, all the big names: from Isaac Asimov to Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin, Frank Herbert, Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, to name just a few. Other genres too, like Tolkien, Stephen King, Tom Clancy and Italian authors like Svevo, Calvino, Sciascia. I have also come round to Greek mythology, the things I used to hate at school. We live with myths daily, even if we do not realize it.
Tell us a little bit about your publishing journey.
I spent a year in a peer-critique group with other writers at all stages of their writing careers, from debutant to established. I got my skin thicker and thicker, until, one day, the feedback started to change tone and point more to the good things than to the so-so ones. One in particular prompted a change in me: “This is good, you should develop it into a story and publish this stuff.”
So I gathered my thoughts and worked on what was to become a post-apocalyptic novel with an ongoing mystery and suspense till the end, where all “dots connect”, especially with the main character’s past. About half-way through “Daimones,” the arching plot of the trilogy emerged, and I jotted down notes for what could have happened after the events narrated in “Daimones.” (the first volume in the trilogy)
After working with a few editors on the manuscript, I started querying agents specialising in Science Fiction. I received my dose of standard rejection forms, and quite a few personal replies too, some even asking to read the first chapters. Part of the normal process of a writing career, I guess. But when I read those personal rejections more carefully, it seemed there was a different message lurking below the explicit lines: “I liked the prose, almost poetic, but I don’t know how to sell it to the publishers I work with.” So the material wasn’t bad, but the perceived market for it wasn't there... but what if it was?
I therefore explored independent publishing, not the Vanity Presses (any sane person would run away from those scams), but the revolution that Amazon and the like had created in the publishing industry. So I self-published all 3 volumes of the trilogy. The reaction was much better than I expected. I’ve sold now over 10,000 copies of the “Daimones Trilogy" and collected over 1,000 reviews and ratings from the various sites that sell my books.
Then, one day, at a “Meet the Agent” conference, I met a fabulous literary agent who liked my work and connected me with an innovative publisher in the US. I’m exploring and enjoying the traditional publishing journey now and am a member of SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, home of the Nebula Awards, with past winners such as Asimov, Bradbury, Le Guin, Heinlein, Arthur C. Clark, and many more.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Writing is entering a different world, a separate dimension. Sometimes you find yourself in a trance-like state and the real world becomes veiled and obfuscated. It is a dream moment. I do not need to find other means of evasion from the asperity of life when I’m writing.
What do you find most difficult about writing?
Making readers aware that you're there. Writing is easy, being discovered is the hard part.
What is your writing routine?
When I`m writing, I aim to write at least 2000 words a day, in whatever situations, locations, and conditions. When I discuss this with other successful writers, I've discovered that writing habits are as varied as personalities. If any common factor exists, it is their (our) extreme seriousness about their (our) work.
How did you hear of GWG and how has it helped your writing?
GWG has been instrumental in my publishing journey and adventure. GWG came into my world by the way of an ex-colleague. She wanted to be accompanied to a workshop held by this—unknown to me at the time —mysterious group of Geneva writers. We never made it to that workshop, but I discovered GWG and I decided to go to their Conference in 2012. I had already written Daimones and wanted to discover more of the writing, agenting, and publishing world. A community of like-minded people is priceless, extremely important and motivating, which was also the decisive factor behind my latest venture BookGarage.
What (if anything) has surprised you most since publishing your first book?
I've discovered I'm more of a pantser than a planner, which means the story grows independently and I am its first reader. I watch my novels in my mind, hear characters discussing and reacting to what happens to them as in a movie. Sometimes I`m unable to write as fast as the images flow...
What advice would you give to new writers?
I’m not going to repeat what everybody says. Everything can be summarised in two words: Be humble.