Twilight Times Special Feature
Interview with Steve Lazarowitz
Steve: "I'm not sure. I certainly don't leave myself much time to experiment. Between a full-time job and a full-time writing schedule, how would I know? Actually, there is one way. I've worked in retail for the last sixteen years and happen to be one hell of a salesman. That's all fiction writing really is - an author selling an idea to an audience. If you believe the reality I've constructed, I've sold you. The same is true in retail sales.
Lida: "Do you feel you were creative, even as a child?"
Steve: "My first poem was published in the school poetry magazine, The Bent Twig. I still remember it. It was called "Fall."
Leaves are falling off the trees
Not bad for a second grader.
I started my first short story in third grade. I was always making up stories. When I was a teenager, this manifested itself in lies. For many years, I was a compulsive liar, telling tall tales to my friends just to get a reaction.
Lida: "Could you share with us the story behind the story? In other words, how did your writing life lead up to your anthology, Tales of Speculation?"
Steve: "The story behind the story is a strange one indeed. I had always wanted to be a writer, but had been talked out of it by my parents. It wasn't practical. It would be hard to make a living. This was particularly strange because my father was a huge SF fan. I grew up in a house with a vast SF library. When I was nineteen, my father passed away and I entered retail to support myself, never dreaming it would become my whole life. Suddenly it was too late to go back to school or even to change jobs. I didn't even realize just how unhappy I was, until Dr. Josh Miller offered me a job.
Josh was a brilliant, but crazy physicist, who wanted me to run his company, Productivity Inc. We were all ready to sign a contract. I was going to escape retail, after all. A short time before fantasy became reality, my unexpected benefactor developed a brain tumor. He had to sell his patent. He died less than a year later. I'm still in retail.
But Josh's death changed me. He made me realize just how desperate I was to "get out." I found myself thinking this way. If I wanted to make a change in my life, why was I waiting? Did I really expect my fairy godmother to appear, wave a magic wand and take me away? I started writing again.
Strangely enough, my real passion was for a novel that I had first written in high school and had rewritten in 1995 shortly after Roger Zelazny died. I was very upset over his death. Zelazny had become my favorite author and the thought of never seeing another Amber book weighed heavily upon me.
The problem was, I didn't think that anyone would give a novel from an unpublished author a fair shake. I needed to get published, so that I could submit my novel. This was why I started writing short stories.
Short stories became a way of life for me. During the first twelve weeks I started submitting my work, I wrote and finished one short story a week. Most of these appear in the anthology. Many are over 10,000 words. I didn't know how to write anything shorter. It took a lot of practice.
As I continued, I did find that I like something about writing short stories. There is an almost instant gratification involved. A novel grows into a completed work after many months or even years. But three months after I started, I had twelve completed short stories. I've since added another twenty to the total, plus countless articles, columns, poems, reviews... hell, I'll write anything!
I've accumulated over one hundred rejection slips to date from print magazines. I still haven't broken the ice with them. That market is extremely competitive. So I turned to the Internet. My first works I gave away. The "Adventures of Alaric Swifthand" was a fantasy serial that I started in November of 1997. It appeared on Dragonsclaw.
When I received my first piece of fan mail, I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke. Sometimes I still feel that way. "Music to My Ears" was my first short story to appear on the web. It was published in A Little Read Writer Hood (May 1998) and then again in the second issue of Twilight Times.
In the interim, I had submitted my short story, "As Luck Would Have It" to Net Novels (which later became Domhan Books), for inclusion into their second anthology. I got in just under the wire. Dr. Siobhan McNally, the owner of Domhan, loved the story and accepted it the very next day. As far as I know, it was the last story accepted. I also had submitted it to Titan Ezine, and it was published on the Web as well. That story came in first place in the 1998 Preditors and Editors (TM) Readers Poll, by the way. I'm very proud of it.
Later, I submitted my short story "Virtual Confusion" to Domhan and it was accepted for their third anthology. Siobhan then found the time to read "Music to My Ears," which she loved. I think it was Lida Quillen (hi Lida!), who first brought up the idea of an anthology of my original work. I've received a lot of support from fans, editors and other web writers.
Lida: "Thanks, Steve. :-) How did you prepare for the creation of your novel, A Leaf in the Wind? How much research was necessary?"
Steve: "Mind you, I'm just finishing up this novel now. This book required relatively little research. All of my years of reading fantasy and my general interest in Medieval history left me well prepared to write this book. In fact, just about the only thing I can remember having to research was whether a ship based loosely on a Spanish galleon could sail into the mouth of a large river. I talked to several people and decided that my main characters would have to use a launch to make it the rest of the way to their destination.
Lida: "What kind of reactions do people have to your writing?"
Steve: "Reactions to my work vary widely. Obviously people that are fantasy and SF fans are most enthusiastic, but I've found that much of my work is accessible to the public at large. I try to tell an entertaining story. There are people that have told me that they don't read science fiction at all and that they don't like it. Yet in many cases, they end up enjoying my stories.
The funny thing is, you never know how one of your stories is going to come across. One of my newer short stories, entitled "Alchemy 101" had an interesting premise. I thought it was well written. When I showed it to my friend Danny (who is a fan of both my novel and "The Adventures of Alaric Swifthand") he told me it sounded like it was written by a hyped-up twelve year old. I still haven't let him live it down.
Lida: "Do you find anything difficult in the writing process, and if so what?"
Steve: "The hardest thing for me to do is to submit. I hate addressing envelopes and making sure that everything is perfect. I hate cover letters and query letters. I hate editing my webpage. I know it's all important, but I'd rather be writing. The only other area that leaves me a bit cold is reading the same piece fifteen times to edit it. That's why I try to read it aloud to friends. This way, at least someone is getting something out of it. Even the best story can't stand more than a dozen readings back to back.
I also hate waiting. I'm not the most patient person in the first place. So, I drop a submission in the mail, I log it in my file and then I try to forget about it. Having a lot of writing projects helps there. What's even worse is selling a piece and then having to wait to see it in print. Sometimes I think that the entire Anthology deal is an impressive hoax perpetrated by my ex-wife! I won't believe it, until I've ordered a copy from Amazon.com myself!"
Lida: "Do you currently have any writing projects?"
Steve: "If I didn't have any current writing projects, I'd be embarrassed. As I'd mentioned, I'm just finishing up the final touches on my epic fantasy novel A Leaf in the Wind. I'm really liking it. I've already written the rough draft of the sequel Consigned to Darkness, but I still have to edit it. The final volume of the trilogy "The Price of Freedom" is about half done. I'd like to finish that off. And I'm about ten pages into a SF novel entitled Confronting the Void.
Also there is a nonfiction book that I'm kicking around that deals with tarot cards and eastern philosophy. I think I'm going to call it The Path of the Third Eye: A Workbook for Life. Something like that.
I have reviews to write for SF SITE, I promised my friend Jason Laseman that I would help him out with his new ezine called The Troll's Sword (he did a wonderful review of The Alaric Series in a page called Troll's Eye reviews, which is how I met him) and I have ideas for another fifteen or so short stories, should I get bored. Oh yeah, and I've been meaning to submit more articles to Jackhammer Ezine, which is one of my faves. And I have to keep up with "View from the Parapet," my monthly column in Exodus.
Aside from that, I'm basically free.
Lida: "Is there anything else you'd like to add?"
Steve: "Add no, but there are a whole plethora of people I'd like to thank. Siobhan McNally, of course and Lida Quillen. Raechel Henderson, the editor of Jackhammer Ezine, who's been a good friend and a great editor, also comes to mind.
My proofreader Mark and the aforementioned friend Danny, who has also helped me proofread a few stories.
Jon Hodges the Editor of Exodus and Jean Goldstrom the editor of AnotherRealm Ezine. And then there are my very supportive group of writing friends; Jonathan Fesmire, Lisa Dummond, Susan Sterling, Christine Richardson, Patrick Welch, Kate Saundby, Marcie Tentchoff, Jennifer Dunne, Nicole Burris and Mark Rapacioli. I guess I should thank just about everyone at Romance Foretold. You know who you are and you know why I'm thanking you. I know that I've forgotten someone and I'm going to get an angry e-mail.
Oh yes, Deems, the artist who did the wonderfully surreal art for the anthology and Linder Gruber, who is a fan, a friend and another great artist.
And finally, I really, really have to thank my wife, who puts up with me spending way too many hours on the computer.
Steve Lazarowitz lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, his eleven year old daughter and enough animals to make a grown man cry. His work has appeared in numerous on-line zines including AnotherRealm, Exodus, Twilight Times, The Dragonsclaw Showcase (which he edits), Jackhammer, Dream Forge, Aphelion, Titan and A Little Read Writer Hood. In addition, release of his short story anthology A Creative Edge: Tales of Speculations is imminent. Steve has written numerous reviews for SFSITE and has recently signed on as the SF and Fantasy Editor for Twilight Times Books.