Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with science fiction writer, artist, and graphic designer Lael Salaets. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Lael. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Lael: Hello, my name is Lael Salaets, a science fiction writer, artist, and graphic designer from Oakridge, Oregon. I am a member of the Wordos, a professional writers workshop based in Eugene, and a Writers of the Future XXVI contest winner. I attended the University of Oregon and Lane Community College, where I studied fine art and design. I am also a Gulf War veteran, and a former US Marine.
I started writing back in 1998. I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at a VA hospital. My father suggested freewriting as art therapy. I did so, reluctantly, pouring out my thoughts into a word processor. Within a year, this freewriting evolved into ideas for science fiction stories, constructed from personal experiences. Baring my soul is more fun that way.
Morgen: You predominantly write short stories, did you pick them or did they pick you?
Lael: Usually, they pick me.
Morgen: You mentioned science-fiction, is that the genre that you generally write? Have you considered others?
Lael: Mainly, I write science fiction: a fusion of military sf, space opera, and cyberpunk. I have considered modern fantasy, dark speculative fiction, slipstream, and Japanese fantasy.
Morgen: Is there a particular market you aim for when writing stories for publication?
Lael: I aim for the pro and semi-pro markets.
Morgen: Are there any publications you can recommend for short stories (submissions and reading)?
Lael: Abyss & Apex, Writers of the Future, Asimov’s, F&SF, and Analog, among others.
Morgen: Do you write flash fiction? Can you remember the word count of shortest story you’ve ever written?
Lael: I write flash fiction every now and again. The shortest manuscript I’ve ever written was about 700 words.
Morgen: I’m judging a flash fiction competition but the limit’s 500 words. 😦 What have you had published to-date?
Lael: I’ve had three stories published in English, one of them placed in Writers of the Future XXVI, another was translated in Czech; yet another is currently in translation into Romanian and Greek. I have a new story, which will be released in Abyss & Apex for the first quarter issue this year.
Morgen: Are your stories available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks (novels or short stories?) or is it paper all the way?
Lael: I have two short stories available on Smashwords, Amazon, and iTunes.
Formatting my work into ebooks was not as difficult as I expected, though the process required a slight learning curve. Thankfully, Smashwords offers an excellent style guide. As an artist, I designed my own book covers.
I mainly read short stories either online or in print magazines. As for novels, print all the way.
Morgen: You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Lael: Self-publishing offers me the advantage of delivering my work to a broader readership.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your stories or characters? If any of your stories were made into films (Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain originated as a short story), who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Lael: A favourite of my stories is “The Halo Wave”. If it were made into a film, I can easily envision Clive Owen and Moon Bloodgood casted for the leading roles.
Morgen: Good choice. Is there an author(s) that you would compare your writing to?
Lael: John Barnes and William Gibson.
Morgen: Not authors I know. With your traditionally-published stories / books did you have any say in the titles / covers? How important do you think they are?
Lael: With my traditionally published work, a bio may add interest and depth, though I consider the story itself the main focus, allowed to hold its own and speak for itself.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Lael: Currently, I am working on short stories, and the first of three novels.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Lael: I strive to write every day. Personally, I believe writer’s block is a myth. Consider the creative process a flowing river. There might be the occasional drought or mudslide. Once those are resolved or otherwise endured, river flows again, as always.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Lael: As for short fiction, I allow the story to write itself and see where it takes me. Novels, which are more complex, require an outline to organize thoughts and the overall theme into a solid, coherent form.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Lael: Often I allow my characters to develop on their own as I would with the plot they are involved in.
Naming them (as well as objects, organizations, terminologies, technologies, and places) is actually the most challenging aspect of writing a fictional universe. They need to be readable, credible, and, above all, memorable. I construct names from the phone book, foreign language dictionaries, political maps, baby name pages, and word-mixer and random word generators online.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Lael: I tend to write in layers as I go.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
Lael: I do a fair amount of research, especially science and social studies, among other subjects.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Lael: I often prefer third person. I have explored first person if a given story calls for it. I have never attempted second person.
Morgen: It’s ideal as a short story format. I really enjoy it but then I like ‘dark’, as second person lends itself. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Lael: I have a “trunk story” folder in my computer. I keep those manuscripts handy, just in case. I’ve learned the hard way not to throw things out.
Morgen: I cringe when I hear of authors who have, because I think everything can be shaped… or at least I’m hoping that with mine. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Lael: Surviving rejections is part of the game, and a matter of will. I endured that for several years before I got published. Persistence will pay off; it is only a matter of time. I always keep in mind that rejection is not failure. Failure is when you quit.
Morgen: Absolutely. Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Lael: I highly recommend Writers of the Future.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Lael: Write as often as possible. Write for yourself first. Write what you know and what you believe in.
I highly recommend: “Creating Short Fiction” by Damon Knight, “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. & E.B. White, and “The St. Martin’s Handbook” by Andrea Lunsford & Robert Connors.
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Lael: I would invite The Prophet Isaiah, the Dalai Lama, and William Gibson. I’d cook a vegetarian dish.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Lael: “My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.” – Anais Nin
Morgen: Ah yes, I’ve spotted that one – it’s true. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Lael: I watch animae, read comics, listen to music, drawing and painting, photography and digital imaging, collect research material, hiking, work on my house, and visit with friends and family, among other things.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
- Douglas Smith’s Foreign Market List
- Duotrope’s Digest
- Locus Magazine
- Publisher’s Marketplace
- Ralan’s Webstravaganza
- Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America
- Writers of the Future
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Lael: No matter the ever-changing trends of the market, there will always be a demand for stories.
Morgen: There will, and I think more people are reading as we have more options these days. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Lael: Thank you, Morgen for the opportunity to chat with you.
Morgen: You’re so welcome. Thank you for joining me.
I then invited Lael’s to include an extract of his writing and this is an excerpt of ‘The Halo Wave’:
Fate had screwed Yarii, hard. He wanted his life back with the 107th. Even if he had to pretend, to steal, to use . . ..
He stood in an airlock with his hands on his head while a hovering security drone read him his rights.
Charged with drug possession and data theft, Yarii squinted from the strobe lights.
His stomach sank from the prospect of detention, and the transfer to a federal shelter, where he’d stare at the walls waiting for a mandatory slot in a behavioral modification clinic. He’d have withdrawals there, the horrible shakes and nausea.
The lift fans from the drone’s clamshell housing hummed like an angry wasp. Yarii’s reflection warped across its camera lens, near the pulse barrel.
He glanced sidelong at the open entry hatch behind him, and debated whether to make a run for it. Though, even if he escaped back to Gaifa Space Station, more of these things would hunt him down.
The hatch sealed with a sharp hiss and the space felt tighter. “Dammit,” he said. Beads of sweat trickled down his bald scalp.
A low beep–the disembark tone–chimed from the speakers. The drone dimmed its lights and attached itself into an opening above.
Yarii blinked away the strobe afterimages. The red lamps and the cyclic hum of the engines and air scrubbers gave the airlock the impression of a visceral cavity.
The hatch before him swished open, revealing a slab of white that burned his eyes for a second. A woman leaned against the entryway, wearing a loosely zipped envirosuit. Recent military issue, battle grey, the kind grunts wore in the Fleet. No insignias or nametags.
Her chiseled features and bronze complexion told Yarii of surgical procedures worth a trooper’s annual salary. She sported a headware device, fighter pilot model, personalized with mood paint on the cap shifting in warm colors of an oil slick. Silver beads dangled from the fringe of one headphone to the other, but it didn’t look finished: completed missions, perhaps? He wasn’t sure. Her retracted visor cast a broad shadow over her eyes: camera lens pupils set in electric blue irises.
“Krid Yarii,” the woman said with a smooth, yet lofty voice, “welcome to the Runner Guild.”
Smugglers, Yarii thought, lowering his hands. No honor among them. But, then again, he’d pretty much flushed his down the toilet when he’d started using, and stole a flight simulator program.
“I’m Captain Ima of Ariel’s Edge,” she said. “And we don’t normally recruit on short notice.”
Lael Salaets is a science fiction writer, illustrator, and graphic designer, Gulf War veteran and a former US Marine. He is also a member of the Wordos, a professional writers workshop in Eugene, Oregon. His work has appeared in Writers of the Future XXVI and Abyss & Apex, and currently translated in three foreign languages.
His short stories are a fusion of military sf, space opera, and cyberpunk. Most notable, “The Black Side of Memory” and “The Halo Wave” are of the “Joffan” series, where persecuted bands of refugees struggle to survive and preserve their ancient culture in a war-torn universe.
His website is http://laelsalaets.wordpress.com and his ebook links are:
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