Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I’m Australian, born in the pretty city of Adelaide. When I was very young we moved to Victoria where I lived until my parents divorced and then I moved back to Adelaide again. I went to a Catholic high school, where I drove the teachers mad with my questioning of the bible and religion. I left school at the age of 16 because I despised it and worked in a few dead-end jobs I also despised.
The suicide of my best friend/partner in 2001 was a major turning point in my life. It changed a lot of things, especially in regards to how I saw the world and myself. In 2005 I decided to take my writing seriously and I threw all my concentration and effort into it. It’s been a frantic few years and I’m now in the process of going through another self-reflective period.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My first completed novel is still hiding away on a disc somewhere and hasn’t been published. At the time, when I was working on it, it was my pride and joy. I decided that if I ever wanted to take writing seriously then I needed to make the effort. I was lucky enough to be offered a mentorship and I worked with my mentor for over two years learning how to fine tune the storytelling and characterization process. That first novel was my learning curve. Whether or not I’ll ever take it out of hiatus… well, not entirely sure.
My first published novel was The Curtis Reincarnation. I wrote it specifically for Torquere Press after I’d stumbled on their website and read the guidelines. I aimed right from the beginning with ‘Curtis’ for publication, and I was lucky that it paid off.
When did you start writing Gay and Lesbian Romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
It just seemed the natural course to take. It feels more comfortable for me to write gay lead characters rather than straight. There’s a feeling of connection I get from it. The actual romance side of my stories tends to be the sub-plot and not the main centre of focus. I don’t really consider myself a romance/erotica writer. Writing sex scenes, for example, doesn’t come naturally to me and 99% of the time it’s a chore.
Having said that, I do like the process of bringing characters together and I’m a bit of a romantic at heart. I like weaving a love story in between the drama/mystery/suspense, etc.
How long did it take you to get published? How many books have you written thus far?
Once I set my mind to it, I was published fairly quickly. Like I said, I wrote ‘Curtis’ specifically for that purpose and I was thrilled when it was accepted by Torquere Press.
Published novels? I’ve written three. The Curtis Reincarnation, The Slayer’s Apprentice, and Liquid Glass. Each one was a learning curve in itself; they’re all very different stories.
Do you write full time?
No. At the moment I’m not writing at all, which is a bit of a concern! I have nothing to follow Liquid Glass and nothing in the pipeline even close to completion. It would be nice to get my Mojo back and write like I used to. I’ve been on an extended – not entirely optional – retreat for several months. Other areas of my life are taking priority and I’m sure I’ll get back to writing when the time is right.
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
I think writing is something that chooses you and not the other way around. Having Asperger’s Syndrome meant that I was a quiet, unsociable child and writing was my form of expression. In many ways it’s still like that. I’m not a social butterfly and I’m quite happy spending most of my time in my own little world. Writing allows a sense of freedom for me and an opportunity to venture to fictional places that I wouldn’t go in reality.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
There’s nothing glamorous about the way I write. I don’t have any set rituals, I don’t listen to any type of music, and I don’t do anything to prepare. I just sit at the computer and work in silence. When I say ‘silence’, that doesn’t include my mumbled cursing! I know of other writers who use different music, pictures, videos, all sorts of things to get them into the creative mood. It’s far more interesting than anything I do. When I work I usually work for 8-12 hours non-stop. It’d be a very boring time for anyone watching me!
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
I’m a terrible reviser to the point it’s detrimental. I’ll read something over and over again until eventually it starts to appear overly familiar and hence also appears like jibbering crap. I need to learn how to push through the urge to revise and ignore it. It’s something that puts the brakes on works in progress. Maybe I need hypnotherapy or something to break the habit.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I’m not a planner. I swing from the hip and hope for the best! I’m an extremely unorganized writer and I’m likely to throw characters curveballs just to see where they go with it. I like to work on the principal, ‘If I don’t know what’s going to happen next, chances are it’ll keep a reader in suspense, too.’
I do make notes, though, and I try and be very thorough with research. My notes are sketchy and basic. My notebooks are not at all structured and I have scrawls of things written on separate pages here, there, and everywhere. I’m sure I could make life a lot easier for myself if I got a little more organized.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
At first I’ll just do some basic browsing on the Internet to get a general idea of what I’m after and where I may want to go with a story. Along the way the research helps to spark more ideas. Some writers despise research, but I enjoy it. I love learning new things and writing fiction gives the opportunity to learn about stuff you might not have considered researching prior.
The Slayer’s Apprentice, for example, meant I had to do a LOT of research in regards to serial killers and the mentality of sociopaths/psychopaths. Before starting ‘Slayer’ that never really interested me at all, but once I started looking into it, learning the mindset and then placing myself into that mindset to write the story, it proved to be a rewarding experience. To write a convincing psychopath, I had to think like one. It’s a lot like acting in that sense. It’s amazing the dark stuff you can pull from the crevasses of your mind.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
There are aspects of myself and personality that become quirks of the characters. There are also aspects of people I know that weave their way in. That’s all it is. There isn’t a character I’ve written that reflects me, or someone I know, in any true to life sense.
It’s funny actually because Alec Tyler, the lead in ‘Curtis’, is the one character that always tends to bring about assumptions that he’s me under the cover of fiction. We certainly do share similarities, but he definitely isn’t me. Though he does have the rock star career I secretly pine for!
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
How long it takes me to complete a manuscript depends entirely on the story. I like to have one person who can read what I write as I go, someone I can bounce ideas off and tell me if the story is working properly. Other than that one person, I don’t like anyone reading what I’ve written until I feel it’s polished enough to submit to a publisher. Even then, generally no one reads anything I write until it is actually published or made available by me as a freebie.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
Hell yes! I’m currently stuck in a crippling writer’s block phase that, as things stand now, shows no sign of retreat. I’ve tried everything I can think of to get past it and so far nothing has worked. Rather than stress myself out of over it, which I was doing, I’m just going to let it run its course. I’m aware of the outside influences causing it, but those outside influences can’t be changed. I’m going to have to somehow learn how to shut all of that out and maybe then the muse will return.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
I hope a reader feels that I care enough about them to have given everything I have in an effort to provide an entertaining story. I’d like them to forget about me altogether and be – hopefully – completely immersed in the characters and their life. When I invent characters I want people to love them, or despise them, want them as their friend, or fear them as their enemy. I want people to feel they’re real and can be related to in some sense. If I achieve that then I know I’ve done my job properly.
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
- Write for yourself first and foremost. If you write something you would enjoy reading, it’s more likely someone else will enjoy it as well.
- You can’t please all of the people all of the time.
- Keep a separation between your working and personal life.
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?
Again, it depends. Usually I’ll have a working title and that’s apt to change at the last moment. Liquid Glass is the only one that was titled fairly on early on in the piece and stayed that way. Naming a story is like naming a child. It has to ‘fit’ and it has to be something you think you can live with for the long haul.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
I have a slightly warped and many times sarcastic sense of humor. It’s something injected quite often in my stories. I like writing quirky comedies and I’ve been lucky that, for the most part, my sense of humor goes over quite well for a reader.
What makes me laugh? Usually nothing mainstream, as in I generally don’t crack up laughing at TV sitcoms or movies. But I can be the annoying guy who’d fold into fits of laughter if you slipped on your arse in the street before I offered you help to stand up!
What is the most frequently asked Zathyn question?
Are you going to write a sequel to The Curtis Reincarnation?
What are you working on now?
My sanity! Aside from that, the only real work in progress I have is a novel tentatively titled, Village of Styx. It’s a paranormal/horror/mystery with, of course, romance thrown in. I’ve been stuck at the halfway mark for about eight months now. There’s a wall with it and I can’t seem to break it down.
I have a sketchy idea for a ‘Curtis’ sequel. Whether or not it’ll ever see the light day is highly questionable. I absolutely won’t write a sequel if I think it’s a weak storyline. And, so far, I don’t have a strong enough storyline to warrant starting it. I also want to write more free shorts for the One of Those Day’s story, which can be downloaded from my website.
There are a few ideas floating around in my head at the moment. It’s a matter of waiting until the writer’s block goes away.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
I mentioned a mentor before and working with her taught me many valuable things like character development, plot and subplot development, pacing, and tying up all loose ends. But one of the most important lessons I learned is to write honestly. For example, if you want to write something shocking, then write it and don’t hold back. Maybe I’m being presumptuous, but I believe a reader would appreciate that more than sugar coating because you think they can’t take it. Write what you feel needs to be written, not what you assume people think you should write. If you’re true to yourself as a writer then it reflects in the finished product.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
I haven’t gone to exorbitant lengths as far as promotion goes and that’s probably to my own detriment. I don’t have any Zathyn Priest forums or groups or clubs or anything similar. Twitter drives me crazy and my FaceBook page is lucky to see activity more than a once every couple of weeks. I gave up on MySpace a long time ago, so if you’ve added me as a friend there and I haven’t responded, that’s why!
Promotion isn’t my strong point, not by a long shot. I cringe every time a reader is referred to as a ‘fan’ and… oh, I don’t know… it just isn’t something I do well. I need a PR agent! The crux of the matter is that I’m a private person and trying to put myself out there failed miserably when it caused me more stress than it was worth. My Asperger’s plays a big role in my hermit-like traits.
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive – both in your work and out of it?
There’s a good question, and not one I’ve found the answer to yet. Though I have to beg to differ and say that writing isn’t my lifestyle. Not in a personal sense anyway. Maybe it used to be, but not anymore. I’m currently learning how to ‘not’ take my work home with me. When I close down Word, I want to get away from writing and everything that surrounds it. I suppose that’s why authors opt for pseudonyms. I don’t want to be Zathyn Priest all the time, I like to pack him away and forget about him when I don’t require him for work.
Perhaps when I do figure out how to separate work from life is when the creative spark will return. Until then I’m just letting ideas wallow away in my head and not writing anything down. Sooner or later – hopefully sooner – the whisper to write these ideas down will turn into a scream I can no longer ignore. If anyone does have a failsafe way to nudge the creative streak back into the fast lane, please let me know!
What pros and cons surround the e-publishing industry, and how do you envision the future of e-publishing?
It’s probably safe to say that the bulk of print books available now will eventually whittle down to a very small percentage. E-books are cheaper for readers and they’re cheaper for publishers to produce than paperback. They also give a much wider opportunity for new writers to get published.
I think the publishing industry is going through a major shakeup due to accessibility and low cost of e-books. Things are changing, and that’s a good thing for us as writers and for readers. There’s a wider selection of books available, a wider selection of authors, and there’s something for everyone at an agreeable price. E-publishing will definitely become the mainstream in the not too distant future.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I love something with a good dose of drama. I also like having the bejeebies scared out of me as well, there’s nothing quite like a story that has the full-on mind-f*** element! If it makes me a little, or a lot, scared to turn out the light at night, then I’m happy.
One of the best books I read was Memnoch, The Devil, by Anne Rice. I read it years ago and it still sticks in my brain as the best mind-f*** story ever. It left me questioning everything I believed in on a spiritual level. If a story can do that, if the characters and plot are so convincing it can actually leave you questioning long held beliefs, then it’s excellent.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
A rock star! Of course, that career would be extremely limited due to the fact I can’t sing. So, plan B, once my singing career died a quick death, would’ve been acting. Course, that has its issues as well because I’m very shy and not comfortable in front of the camera. Though, I did do theatre acting when I was younger with an amateur drama group and I enjoyed stepping outside of myself and portraying someone else. A movie director is something I’d probably like as well. Whatever I chose, it would have been something to do with the arts or entertainment.
I recently read your novel, Liquid Glass. Where did you get the idea for that story?
The Victorian Era is a personal love of mine, as is Victorian architecture. I got the initial idea for Liquid Glass when I saw a photograph of an old Gothic Revival mansion, which then became Lillyport House in the story. The story went through a few changes as far as the plot goes, but basically I wanted the feel of an old fashioned ghost love story. Even though that’s not exactly how it turned out after it started morphing into necromancy and witchcraft. I also wanted an avenue to create something around my interests, that being the Victorian Era and all things 19th century.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
I absolutely don’t like the naked torso images and I request my stories don’t have that on the cover. I also don’t like character faces because nine times out of ten I prefer the reader to imagine them. The only story I have a face on the cover for is the freebie, One of Those Days. I happened to stumble on an image of a guy who looked perfect for the role.
I have very set ideas of what my characters look like. Because of that I couldn’t live with an image of some guy who looks nothing like the one I have in my mind. Therefore I request covers that depict a scene from the story instead.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I’m a homebody and if I can avoid going out I will. I spend a lot of time on the Internet, playing games or chatting in IMVU. For those of you who don’t know, IMVU is a 3D chat program, although I don’t spend as much time there as I used to. I enjoy photography, painting portraits, and I also have a midi-keyboard I’m trying to master.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
Umm… nope! lol I wish!
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
This may sound harsh, but I’m going to say it anyway. Don’t assume you know everything about writing because you don’t. Writing is a craft that needs to be practiced and there’s never an end to the learning process. If there comes a day when I feel like I excel at my job, then that’s the day I’ll quit for good. I still consider myself a new writer, and I’m always keen to learn new ways of doing things. A lot can be learned simply by reading, too, and seeing how other writer’s do it. Natural talent is a good thing, but it needs to be honed.
What future projects do you have in the works?
Probably the only project I have in the works is the half completed novel, Village of Styx. I’m not on any deadlines at the moment and, in all honesty, I wouldn’t expect anything new from me in the next six months.
Can you please tell us where we can find you and your books on the Internet?
They can be found at Torquere Press, and there are links to print books and freebies on my website at http://www.zathynpriest.com/