Today, I have the honor of welcoming Nicholas Rossis to this segment of 20 Questions. Nick is an award winning author and very active blogger. With 10 published books and more on the way, Nick shares his work, inspiration and a bit about himself in this edition of 20 Questions. Please enjoy.
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I had just finished Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series, and I picked up Jim Lacey’s The First Clash and Herodotus’ Cyrus the Great and Rise of Persia, which describe the fatal battle on Marathon between Greece and Persia in the 5th century BC.
Marathon Bay is a 20’ drive from my home, and I’d often visited the tomb where the ancient Athenians buried their dead, so I thought at the time, “wouldn’t it be great if someone did what Martin did for medieval England, only with the story of Greece vs. Persia? And in space? How cool would that be?” Then it occurred to me: so, what’s stopping me from writing it?
Once I started receiving people’s feedback, I was blown away. This was such great fun—and people seemed to react positively to my fantasies? My mind was made up: I wanted to be a writer!
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
Depends on what you mean by that. I wrote the first drafts for three children’s books during a 10-day holiday. But from that to the finished product it might take months.
Endgame, the final book in my epic fantasy series, Pearseus, will probably take me the best part of a year. Still, I usually publish 4-5 books each year, so on average I’d say a few months.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Alas, there is no such thing as a work schedule—not since our baby girl was born, a few months ago. Before that, I’d wake up early, write, then do day job stuff, then write some more in the afternoon and evening.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My ability to multitask. As I work from home, I may write for five minutes, look after the wee one for another five, then pick up where I left. Then, a client may call and I’ll need to take another break, then back to the story. Strangely enough, I usually manage that chaos reasonably well.
Not so much a quirk as a necessary evil, of course…
Q5) How are your books published? (traditional, indie, etc.)
I’ve self-published my books in the States, and published them traditionally in Greece. I guess that makes me a hybrid author.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
My main sources of inspiration are dreams and other people’s writings—from old comic books to pulp fiction to my favorite source of inspiration, P.K. Dick’s Exegesis. Less often, I may be inspired by a random conversation or something I see on TV.
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you?
The first thing of mine to get published was a short story. A Greek scifi/comics magazine called 9, published it back in 2009. As I was born in 1970, that made me 39 at the time.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Mostly, blog. I love interacting with my followers there, and have formed a wonderful community of people I’m very fond of. I also unwind through long walks, which is the only thing preventing me from finally merging with my computer and achieving singularity.
That and running after the wee one.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
Ooh, that’s such a tough one. I’ll go with Dick’s Exegesis, simply because of the many stories it has inspired in my head. But if I’m honest, I’d have to mention at least a dozen others, from Dune to Foundation to Silmarillion.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
I have this funny story I share about how my dad found out about it. I’d given him the manuscript, then a couple of months later asked him if he’d read it. He said, slightly annoyed, “No, I’m re-reading Martin’s books right now, so it’ll have to wait.”
A further couple of months later, he called me late at night to say, “great book, son, with some fantastic ideas! I was totally hooked. A page-turner; kept me up at night. You know what this guy did? He took historical elements from ancient Greece and created a space opera with them.”
After a brief pause, I asked, “what guy?”
In a confused voice, he said, “why, whoever wrote this. There was no name on the manuscript.”
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That you need to speak loudly when you present your manuscript to your father.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
The first draft. It feels like pulling teeth. Editing, in contrast, feels like a walk in the park, compared to that.
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Ten so far, with another three in the pipeline. My favorite has to be Runaway Smile, my first children’s book. I think it’s brilliant, if I do say so myself. It’s won a few awards, too, so maybe it’s not just me.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
Don’t let your writing get in the way of your story. Too many of us get stuck in rules, and rules can only get you so far. You also need to know when to break them.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
I get a lot of feedback, and, frankly, depend on it. Some comes in the form of reviews. Some comes from my beta readers. I always pay attention to feedback, even if I don’t necessarily always listen to it.
As to what they say, thankfully people seem to respond positively to my fantasies, for example:
“Most avid readers still have books from their childhood which they read over and over again. ‘Runaway Smile’ has joined the list.”
“From the very first sentence I realized I was not reading a book, I was going on an adventure.”
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
People in their forties and older. My books work on many levels and they are the ones paying enough attention to realize that.
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
You need both conflict and interesting character. Stephen King is quoted as saying, “I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.” People need to identify with your characters and their needs, or even the most clever plot twist will fail to impress them.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
An astronaut. In a sense, that’s what I’ve become. Only, my out-of-this-world trips take place in my head.
Q19) Where can we find your books?
The best place to do so is Amazon.
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
This is an excerpt from Runaway Smile. A boy has lost his smile and is looking everywhere for it.
A little further down the road, the boy saw a lanky young man in a black suit. He wore a red tie, pink striped shirt and gold cufflinks. What took the boy’s breath away, though, was the smile the man wore on his face. The boy felt hopeful again; finally, someone who’d be sure to help!
The boy rushed towards him. “Excuse me, sir!”
The young man turned and gave him a perfect smile. The boy’s eyes opened wide and his mouth opened in awe.
“Ahhh…” A sigh full of appreciation for the wonderful sight escaped the boy’s lips and he tilted his head in admiration.
The young man’s smile widened even further – as if possible – and the boy’s mouth opened even wider.
“Aaaahhhhh…” the boy sighed again, and the young man’s smile almost jumped off his face – that’s how broad it became.
“Alright, alright, that’s enough” the young man said and fit his smile back into his face in a hurry. For some reason his cheeks seemed to hurt, and he rubbed them with both hands. “Now, what can I do for you?”
“You wouldn’t happen to have – ”
“But of course I would!” the young man interrupted him. “How can the greatest salesman in the world not have everything your heart desires?”
“Well, what I’d like – ”
“A tie? A watch? A subatomic particle accelerator?” The salesman raised his left sleeve, using at the same time his legs to pry his briefcase open. Watches covered his arm up to his shoulder; so many, that the boy forgot what he wanted to say. The salesman beamed when he saw the expression on the boy’s face.
“So, it’s watches you want! I’ve got big ones, small ones, cuckoo clocks, steam clocks and atomic clocks”.
The boy shook its head. “No, it’s not a watch I want. It’s – ”
“Not a watch?” The salesman’s brow furrowed, then his eyes flashed. “Then you must want a car!” He lowered his sleeve and pointed at the open briefcase. The sunlight danced on sparkling golden key chains for all makes and models. The man reached into the briefcase and grabbed a handful of them. He threw them up in the air, laughing as key chains rained all over them. “Look how many cars I’ve got! All for you! All in just three thousand one hundred and ninety-two easy payments!»
“I’m too young to drive. What I want – ”
The salesman interrupted him. “Not a car, eh? My, you’re a tough one”. He took a silken handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his forehead, finally giving the boy a chance to speak.
“I want a smile!” he said in a hurry, before the greatest salesman in the world interrupted him again.
“But then you can only want a house! That’s it!” the salesman yelled ignoring him, and grabbed the boy in his arms, spinning it around. “A house, the boy wants a house!” he sang.
The boy jumped off just before his morning pancake left his stomach to return to the world. “You’re not listening! I said I want my smile back!” he shouted and stumbled as the world span around him. He gave the salesman an annoyed look.
The man froze in his tracks and his smile faded. “A what?”
“A smile. Like yours”.
The salesman took out a mirror from his pocket and stared at his image. All of a sudden he looked very old and tired, and the boy wondered how he could have missed the thinning hair, thin wrinkles and expanding waistline. The smile melted off the man’s face like morning dew. “And you don’t want to buy anything?” he said, grimacing in a vain attempt to get his smile back.
“No” said the boy, crossing his arms.
“Why are you wasting my time, then?” snapped the greatest salesman in the world. “Time’s money, you know!”
“Never mind” said the boy in a disappointed voice and went back to his cart.
About Nicholas Rossis:
Nicholas C. Rossis lives to write and does so from his cottage on the edge of a magical forest in Athens, Greece. When not composing epic fantasies or short sci-fi stories, he chats with fans and colleagues, writes blog posts, walks his dog, and enjoys the antics of his baby daughter and two silly cats, all of whom claim his lap as home. His children’s book, Runaway Smile, has won the Gellett Burgess Children’s Book Award.
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For more on Nick or just to chat, visit him on his blog: www.nicholasrossis.me or on: