Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Interview with Leander Watts, MEET ME IN THE STRANGE


Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
Meet me in the Strange is a YA novel. Main character, Davi, tries to help a new friend, Anna Z, escape a cruel and controlling brother, and the teens end up running away to follow the tour of their rock idol, the otherworldly Django Conn. The story is set in a weird and wonderful retro-futuristic city of glam-girls and glister-boys and a strange phenomenon that Anna Z calls the “Alien Drift.”

Do you have a favorite character?
Though I love to hear Anna Z. talk-talk-talk, my fave character is Davi. Some readers see Davi as male, some female, and some just don't notice or care. Never do I reveal Davi's genetic nature (XX or XY chromosomes.) Davi, for me, like so much of glam rock, lives in the wonderful interzone where such categories are slippery, or even irrelevant.

Have you ever had a minor character evolve into a major one? Did that change the direction of the novel at all?
I always start with the main characters - writing pages in their voices, until they start to feel real. So, no, a minor character has never taken over one of my novels.

How long before you got your offer of representation/your first contract? Was it for your first novel?
I sent 60 queries for my first novel: 30 to agents and 30 to editors. I got one nibble from a young agent and went with him. He found an editor who'd take a chance on me.

What factors influenced your decision to go with a particular agent or publisher?
My agent is Christopher Schelling at Selectric Artists. He's smart, funny, hardworking and has excellent taste (that is: he likes my books.)

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
For Meet Me in the Strange, I was very pleased that Meerkat Press had Keith Rosson do the cover. He sent me sketches (a rare privilege for a writer) and executed a great cover.

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
For a few years, I was part of a weekly critique group named The Nameless Ones. We focused mostly on science fiction. Though it could be frustrating at times, I benefited a great deal from our every-Monday-night discussions.

What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence?
I do a thousand words a day. Then I let the book rest for a few weeks. Then I do revision and polishing. My agent sees the first version, makes suggestions, I make changes and it's off. Six months max. Much as I love to listen to - and make - music, I write in silence.                                               
Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
I see the early drafting of a novel as cutting through a wild jungle of possibilities. The main characters could go this way or that, or just sit down and do nothing. I'm never sure where they'll head.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Write - every single day. When I was 18 I decided that I would write a thousand words a day, and I stuck with that for years. I threw out 99.99% of those words, like a musician practicing. No one wants to hear you play scales, but it built up my chops and now writing a novel doesn't seem the least bit daunting.

Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
As often as I can, I find other people to sing shape note music with. The worldwide web of shape note singers is my real community. From the deep south of America, to Ireland, Berlin and beyond, people are still singing these loud, crazy, raucous old fa-so-la hymns. The first time I sang a shaped note tune, we knocked plaster off the ceiling and I thought "I found the sound."

What’s next for you?
I just finished a new YA novel which I'm calling Dynamite Sleeper. It's about punk rock (circa 1979), Buddhism, King Fu, epilepsy, breaking and entering, visions and (gulp) love.

Meerkat Press Book Page: http://meerkatpress.com/books/1232/
Leander’sTwitter account: @leanderwatts1



Meet Me in the Strange
Leander Watts
Publication date: March 27th 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

From the author of Beautiful City of the Dead and Stonecutter comes a dreamy, atmospheric coming of age story that will appeal to readers of all ages.
Davi tries to help a new friend, Anna Z, escape a cruel and controlling brother, and the teens end up running away to follow the tour of their rock idol, the otherworldly Django Conn. The story is set in a weird and wonderful retro-futuristic city of glam-girls and glister-boys and a strange phenomenon that Anna Z calls the “Alien Drift.”



Author Bio:
An avid musician, Leander Watts has played and sung for decades in a wide variety of bands. His interests range from garage rock to skronky jazz, from baroque organ to Appalachian gospel. The first rock concert he attended was David Bowie on the Diamond Dogs tour in 1974. He teaches writing and literature at the State University of New York at Geneseo (his alma mater). Leander Watts is the author of Stonecutter, Wild Ride to Heaven, Ten Thousand Charms, and Beautiful City of the Dead.


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