Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
George H. Sirois Interview
3/7/2011 7:59:00 PM
LTS: I’m always excited when I can feature a writer of the sci-fi/fantasy genre, and even more so when this author is receiving many outstanding reviews for his novel. The book is called ‘Excelsior’ and the name of my guest blogger is George H. Sirois. I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, George. Where do you call home and what do you enjoy doing when you’re not working on your next novel?
GHS: I proudly call New York City my home (living in Queens & working in Manhattan). And when I’m not writing, I’m making gradual steps toward my Masters in Communications, reading whatever I can on my new Kindle (Can’t wait to load it up with even more books) and listening to as many film scores as possible to get inspiration for current and future writing projects.
LTS: Has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author a life long dream?
GHS: I’ve always wanted to tell stories in some way, shape or form. I didn’t care whether it was writing them, drawing them or filming them. Once I saw Star Wars, I wanted to be the next George Lucas, and after I started developing my own characters with my friends to pass the time during 4th grade, I wanted to get as big an audience as possible by telling stories about those characters. (When I was in high school and moved from drawing to just writing, I used to incorporate classmates into the stories as supporting characters to get them interested in reading them.)
Being a published author has been a dream of mine since high school when I filled over 100 loose-leaf pages with the (at the time) definitive origin story of my characters. It was so much fun taking the time to start at the beginning and breathe some new life into some older stories, and the more time I took to write, the better the experience and the more I wanted to focus on writing more than anything else.
LTS: I noticed your novel ‘Excelsior’ has been the recipient of many great book reviews. What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?
GHS: The character Excelsior and I go back to 1992, when I wanted to create someone new to go along with the other characters I had created back in 1985. I wanted this particular person to be a real legend in this universe, and after seeing the movie Excalibur with my English class, I realized that my new hero would have a sword.
I’ve always been around the word “Excelsior,” since it’s such a big part of pop culture. It’s on the NY state flag (I’m from NY and was in the middle of my six years in VA when I came up with the character, so this was my nod to my home state.), Stan Lee uses it to end his Marvel Comics bulletins and it was the name of a starship seen in Star Trek III, IV & VI. When you consider the translation – “Ever Upward” – then it fit the character perfectly.
The main human character Matthew Peters is based on my cousin, Matthew Peter Henkel. He survived a bout with cancer when he was 3 years old and went on to become an Eagle Scout, he passed the tests to become a volunteer firefighter and spent the rest of his life as an EMT. Matt left us in March of 2005, and I wanted to find a unique way to honor him, so I used his name as the main character in the book.
LTS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the reader when they crack open ‘Excelsior’?
GHS: Excelsior is a science-fiction young adult novel that focuses on a young underachieving high school student named Matthew Peters. He has spent the past seven years writing and drawing his own web comic about Excelsior, a savior of a faraway planet. On a day like any other, he is told by a beautiful older woman that she is from Excelsior’s planet and that Excelsior’s life force is within Matthew. Everything he has been writing actually happened. But now, Excelsior’s enemies are returning to power on Earth and his home planet, so Matthew must now become what he considered to be his greatest creation.
LTS: Can you share that moment when you held your finished book in your hands?
GHS: The feeling was beyond amazing. While I was holding the proof copy from Infinity Publishing, I instantly flashed back to 1992, when I was filling up steno notebooks that SHOULD have been filled with homework assignments. And now, here it was, and it was in printed form. People I never knew and likely would never know were going to read about a character that’s so close to me. And if they enjoyed this first chapter, they would likely want to read more about some of the other characters and stories that have been in my head for - in some cases - over two decades.
LTS: I’m curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
GHS: Well, during June of 2008, I wrote the first draft of “Excelsior” by participating in the Southern Cross Novel Challenge. It’s the same thing as National Novel Writing Month, except it’s done in June instead of November. I committed myself for that entire month and pounded out that first draft. It was tough at times, but it felt great to stick to that schedule. During the editing process that took almost two years, however, I would just write when it struck my fancy but I would make sure that I got as much done as possible whenever I sat down to work on the re-writes.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
GHS: I’m more of a plotter than anything. I like to have as much of the story figured out before I get to work. In the case of “Excelsior,” I knew how the book would start and I knew a decent amount of how it would end, since this particular story had elements from the original 4-part miniseries I wrote in high school. But there was also a lot that I didn’t have in mind once I got the plot in motion. I realized that I didn’t have that many characters by the time I got to Chapter 5, so I decided to go back to Excelsior’s home planet and introduce some new guys that kickstarted my progress and helped me keep up on my daily goals.
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
GHS: More than anything, music has been the biggest help for me. I can go through my entire film music collection and point to at least one track on half of my CD’s and say, “This inspired this scene” and “this inspired that scene.” I load up my Zune on as many film scores as possible so I can let my mind wander and find out what comes to mind when certain pieces come up.
I think in a very cinematic sense when it comes to my writing. So if the right piece of music inspires a scene that I can see on the big screen of the Ziegfeld Theater, then that piece gets added to a playlist that goes from the beginning of the story to the end. I even put in a song that would likely work for the end credits.
LTS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
GHS: It doesn’t take too much time for me to figure out how to get past a block in my plotting, but it takes a bit longer than that to work up the motivation to actually sit down at the computer and write out my solutions. The main thing I’ll do whenever I’m blocked is to keep busy and have a piece of paper and pen handy so that when the idea pops into my head, I can immediately write it down.
LTS: Who is your favorite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
GHS: This is actually a tougher question than you would think. My inspirations have always been the television shows and films that I watched growing up. But at the same time, I still loved reading so I grew up reading and continue to read either movie tie-in novelizations or “behind the scenes” books about the development of certain movies. During my re-writing of “Excelsior,” I would read various novelizations to get a grasp on how authors take something cinematic and translate it to the written word.
LTS: What is the most profound discovery you’ve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
GHS: The major thing that I’ve learned is that there is always room for stories with their own mythology. There is a reason why so many successful stories knowingly or unknowingly followed the templates laid out by Joseph Campbell in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” and it felt like I had gravitated toward those kinds of stories throughout my life. “Excelsior” is my ode to that kind of storytelling and I can only hope that my readers see what I was trying to accomplish.
LTS: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned on the road to completion?
GHS: The one thing you need, other than the drive to keep working on something over and over is that you have to have patience. The masterpiece is not going to leave your head and be the exact story you want to tell during your first take on the material. Even when you think you’re done, you’re not done, and you need beta readers, a proofreader and an editor to help see you through to the final draft.
I can’t stress how important my editor JeriAnn Geller and my proofreader Susan Yacker have been to me. JeriAnn forced me to further develop my mythology without giving me any answers. She just asked the questions, and I had to come up with the little details that I hadn’t thought of since high school. And after working together for almost two years, Susan came aboard as a pair of fresh eyes - as did my wife Cheryl - and they made sure the details that JeriAnn and I missed were addressed and fixed.
You may think you’ll be able to do it all alone. Trust me when I say that it doesn’t work that way.
LTS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
GHS: Since I’ve always been fascinated by the “behind the scenes” stories in film and television, I spend a lot of my reading time with books like that. I just finished “The War for Late Night,” which is about the battle between Conan and Leno over The Tonight Show. Next on my list is Ann Charles’ latest Deadwood novel, since I was such a big fan of her first one, “Nearly Departed in Deadwood.”
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to ‘Excelsior’ in the near future?
GHS: I expect quite a bit in the next five years. I decided to re-write my first novel “From Parts Unknown,” since I recently re-read it and didn’t like it anymore. So I took it back from the original POD company iUniverse and am working on giving it a full overhaul. It will be re-released as an eBook this year.
Fans can not only expect a sequel to “Excelsior,” but also a second sequel, which leads to a series of stories about the latest version of my characters created in 1985. And that series will lead to another series about the son of the main character from the second series that brings the whole universe together. So I got a lot of work ahead of me, and I hope that everyone who is reading this will be along for the ride…
LTS: Thank you so much for taking the time to share in your writing experiences, George! I’ll catch you on Twitter.
For more information about George and his novels, check out:
Follow George on Twitter: .GeorgeHSirois
Where to buy the book: http://amzn.to/h7rPmA
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