Author interview: “I change their names so often it’s possible they just don’t know which one of them I’m addressing”

Someone needed to interview the guy. We thought, What the hell?

Remember C.E. Alexander’s The music and the spires is available for purchase now, through Amazon (purchase link). Other outlets will follow soon.

Zidi Publishing: What about life makes writing necessary for you?
C.E. Alexander: Are you sure the question shouldn’t be, What about writing makes life necessary? Either one is the $64,000 question, frankly. I think all of us watch our lives from the upper atmosphere, see patterns form, have thoughts we couldn’t possibly trace back to their origins, and put the thoughts to paper. Those of us who have decided we are writers simply keep writing. Others scribble the words TO DO at the top of the page and go fulfill themselves in other ways.

ZP: What would you do if you couldn’t write?
CEA: The glib answer is that I would dictate my fiction to SIRI and let her do the writing. I imagine that violates the spirit of the question, though. Let’s say I was somehow forced to put the flower down, sober up, and leave the lotus eaters behind. I’d probably channel those energies into multimedia art. I don’t even know what I mean by that, so let’s not examine it much further.

ZP: Is there a point in a story that particularly excites you?
CEA: The planning phase. When the narrative, characters, theme and voice all start taking shape, it is intoxicating, an absolute dopamine rush. No other phase of the story comes close to that, be it the initial spark, the writing, the editing, or the publishing. Indeed, writing, editing and publishing are terribly invasive: they spoil the sheer joy of planning out the next piece.

ZP: Whom do you read most?
CEA: I read so little fiction that those books I do manage to finish are statistically meaningless. Written fiction disappoints me. I tend to map out other stories in advance, just as much as I map out my own. When the story fails to go according to my script, when the characters fail to act the way I have planned out, when the voice is wrong or the theme is wrong, I’m disillusioned. The last novel to exceed my expectations was The King, by Donald Barthelme. That was years ago.

ZP: Is there something in your day-to-day routine that triggers the writing impulse?
CEA: I wake up at five in the morning, plug back into my subconscious, and start typing. I routinely blurt out the wrong word or sentence and knowingly leave it, which gives the characters something to banter about. They mock me ruthlessly.

ZP: How would you define the muse? Your muse?
CEA: I’m not sure if my answer is any different from my answer to the first question, or if it should be. I always keep a notebook on hand. In time someone will cut me off in traffic, and I’ll realize that his license plate is short for “Liars And Operators-35 Each.” Within a week or two I’m writing about con men running a phone sex racket.

ZP: Why short stories?
CEA: It’s probably something to do with my terrible ADD. I’ve tried writing novels, but they’re way too long.

ZP: Do characters linger with you after you’ve finished a story?
CEA: I miss Magsa and regret everything I put her through. I wonder about her grandsons and hope my predictions were all wrong. I’ve no idea where Magsa came from. To this day I see her in people I meet sometimes, which endears them to me at once. This question was surprisingly painful to answer.

ZP: Do your story ideas come first as characters or events?
CEA: Events, definitely, and the characters are hand-drawn for the events to work. But from there they refuse to listen to a word I say, although I change their names so often it’s possible they just don’t know which one of them I’m addressing.

ZP: Do you know the progression of a story before you start writing?
CEA: No I don’t. I often don’t know what the story is about, either. Sometimes I’ll have to read an unfinished story like a literary critic, just to sort through the mess I’ve made. I’m prone to lots of abrupt shifts that way, but my publisher let most of them through. We’ll see what the critics think.

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