Hi there! =D
Ok, this was supposed to be out yesterday but I was out the entire day and was so tired out by the time I reached home, it completely slipped my mind. Sorry about it. >.<
Today’s special guest is gonna be Jason Erik Lundberg. If you’re a writer who also happens to be following the Singapore Writers Festival 2012 very closely, you’ll notice that he’s one of the very talented writers on display. 😄
He’s the author of Red Dot Irreal (2011), The Time Traveler’s Son (2008), Four Seasons in One Day (2003, with Janet Chui), and over 80 articles, short stories, and book reviews.
Born in Brooklyn, Jason now potters around Singapore with his lovely wife Janet and a beautiful daughter Anya.
We know you as a writer, editor, and owner of Two Cranes Press, but tell us something that isn’t in your profile.
I’m a huge Nine Inch Nails fan. I bought Broken in a used CD shop when I was an undergraduate at North Carolina State University, and I have followed Trent Reznor wherever his musical path has led ever since. At current count in iTunes, I possess 841 music albums equal to 7,290 songs, and I can guarantee that I have listened to NIN the most out of all of them. Getting to hear the band live for the first time when they came through Singapore a few years ago was one of the highlights of my life.
How did you get into writing in the first place?
It seems like it was something that I was always doing. I wrote all kinds of little stories when I was a little kid; I remember one in particular when I was around seven years old that I even turned into a little book, complete with stick-figure illustrations, called “The Pulsar NX is Missing,” which was about ninjas stealing my mother’s car.
I saw praise for my narratives when I was a student, and even won an at-large prize in a literary contest while I was in high school. It seemed to be something for which I had some talent, and I was encouraged by my parents and teachers to pursue it. I started writing with the goal of publication when I was in college, and I haven’t looked back since.
You run Two Cranes Press with your wife, Janet Chui. What kind of stories do you look out for and why?
Unfortunately, we aren’t looking for any stories right now; since our daughter Anya was born in 2009, the press has been on indefinite hiatus. However, while it was still going, the anthologies that we put together featured strange short speculative fiction (fantasy and science fiction) that dealt with a specific theme.
These days, my editing work is for other publishers. An anthology of Singaporean speculative fiction called Fish Eats Lion will be launched this November at the Singapore Writers Festival by Math Paper Press, and the first issue of a literary journal called LONTAR will be out in March 2013; for the latter, I’m looking for speculative fiction set within Southeast Asia, from both SEA and non-SEA writers. Plus, by the time this interview is posted, I will have started work as an editor for Epigram Books, helping to shape the publisher’s line of novels and other long-form fiction.
The Time Traveller’s Son
In your opinion and in view of the local scene currently, do Singaporean writers stand a chance of having their voice heard in the international world of fiction?
Absolutely. Singaporean writers are already being heard all over the world in a variety of genres and publications. It’s important for emerging writers to realize that they are in no way limited by the shores of this little island-nation. Most literary journals and magazines accept submissions online, so there’s no excuse for not submitting to these venues.
How do you get your audience (and publishers) to take you seriously as a writer?
The most obvious response is to write the best that you possibly can, and never stop trying to improve or learn new things as a writer. Tell only the stories you can in the best manner that you can.
Also, don’t be an assbag in public, and this absolutely includes the Internet. If you want to be taken seriously, period, you have to be as professional as possible, which means reigning in any impulses to let your metaphorical ass show in a public setting. If people see you behaving like a dick, whether in person or online, they’ll be much less willing to want to read your writing.
Four Seasons in One Day
But then this question gets to the whole crux of what “taken seriously” means. I write in the vein of Salman Rushdie, Aimee Bender, Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, and Italo Calvino, which is to say in the style of “magic realism” or “slipstream” or “fantastika” or a half-dozen other similar labels. I use “magic realism” instead of “fantasy” because the gut reaction of many people is to look down their noses at you if you confess to writing in genre. I’m in no way ashamed to be thought of as a fantasy author, but I’d rather try to disarm preconceived notions so as to invite potential readers into my own writing. Then, once they’re hooked, they might be willing to read more fiction in a fantastical milieu in the future.
Which do you think is a better option for local writers: to query a publisher or self-publish their books?
When I was first getting published around ten years ago, self-publishing was still saddled with the stink of desperation and impatience and amateurism. This is no longer entirely the case (although the vast majority of self-published books, either in print or electronically, still display these qualities), and so there are more avenues now for a writer to release his or her writing to the world. The first book my wife and I put out through Two Cranes Press was a self-published chapbook called Four Seasons in One Day, which featured fiction from both of us and artwork by her; it was an experiment to see if anyone would even be interested, and we sold-out our 100-copy print run in just a few months.
However, self-publishing is an immense amount of work. Book publishers take care of editing, cover design, marketing, publicity, and a dozen other duties in order to get the book into as many stores and as many readers’ hands as possible; self-publishers have to do all this work themselves, and it is hard. Amanda Hocking is held up as one of the outlying cases in that she sold millions of copies of her ebooks that she self-published, but she worked damn hard to acquire that readership; plus, it should be noted that she has now gone with a traditional print publisher for her future titles because she was spending so much time on publicity and not enough on the writing itself.
A Field Guide to Surreal Botany
I’ve used both methods, but I’m still old-school enough to believe that if one wants to build a fan base and to see writing as a lifelong career rather than a get-rich-quick scheme, one should go through the traditional channels of approaching a publisher (and for larger publishing houses, this also includes acquiring an agent).
What will you say to a writer who has been rejected many times or even one who has never published before?
Don’t give up. The world is littered with millions of would-be writers who decided to stop at the first sign of rejection. I’m not the flashiest of writers, but I do pride myself on my faith in my abilities and my perseverance. Even when everyone around you seems to be getting published, it’s important to keep at it.
If after several years you don’t seem to be getting any better, and you feel stuck on a plateau of competence, maybe it’s time to take some writing classes, or attend a residential workshop, or join a writing group. You could apply for mentorship programs such as those run by Ceriph or the NAC in Singapore.
Also, try to surround yourself with people who see writing as worthwhile, and who encourage you in your pursuits. Honest criticism is important too, but you’ll need a support structure for those bleak times when you think your writing is shit, and the world’s out to get you, and the whole publishing landscape is a sham. These friends can help you to keep a positive mindset during those moments when the depression comes, to ride out the waves and put you back on track.
Jason Erik Lundberg will appear at the following Singapore Writers Festival 2012 event(s) so don’t forget to grab your tix!
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Music | 7 November 2012 | 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
- Stories from a Shrinking Globe | 11 November 2012 | 11:30 am – 12:30 pm