August 13th, 2019
I asked Zachary where he would like to chat:
There used to be this great cafe in Kraterburg. One of those places where the storefront had to change hands a dozen times before it really came into its own. Then the right young couple moved in, saw their moment, and struck gold. It was properly cosy – two big plate-glass windows either side of the door, south facing which let in plenty of sunlight to warm the room, casting itself all golden in the evenings. Someone had set up nice window-boxes full of succulents under the sill, which happily took advantage of all that extra warmth.
There was a minimalism to everything. The interior design played black and white off each other with the odd pop up natural woods. The chairs were either benches at the larger tables, or what looked to be powder-coated steel lawn furniture – more comfortable than it sounded. The drink menu couldn’t have been more than four items. Never more than three roasts of coffee available, four teas on the shelf in their beautiful airtight jars, two beers on tap and a cocktail special scrawled on the board in fresh dry-erase. Even the music was minimal, calm, soothing. Subtle notes of a piano, perhaps synthetic, lilting up above bass and guitar and drums whose volume was set just below the ambient sound of conversation. There used to be this really great cafe, in Kraterburg.
Laura Mae: What inspired you to enter the world of writing?
Zachary J. Adam: I’ve kind of always done this. I was an indoors child. I read a lot. And being of a somewhat nerdy bent, that also lead to playing a lot of different games. I sort of fell into writing sideways – in school it was always a boring chore, but I was always willing to spend far too long on roleplay-by-Forum or Roleplay-by-Chat. And as things evolved, it just kind of became clear to me that I enjoy this.
L: How long have you been writing for?
Z: It’s hard to put a fine point on it. At this point it has to be more than twenty years – I started writing lazily in grade school. The flip side of that is that I’ve only really been writing seriously for maybe eight or nine years – that is, planning more than a few hundred words in advance, taking revisions, maintaining notes to help with consistency, and the rest.
L: What are you currently working on?
Z: I’m actually working on a third draft of my second novel, From the Ashes. It’s sort of refreshing to have started over on this draft with a blank file – I was really unhappy with the general state of the story, and I’ve sort of taken a sledge hammer to it. Ashes follows onto the first book, Sanity Line, after a few months, and it always felt to me that the world was far too coherent considering what had happened over the run of that story. I’m doing my best to shake that up.
L: Are there any books or authors who inspire your work?
Z: I take a lot of inspiration from my wife, actually. We write together a great deal – it helps with character development – and if I was half the writer she was I could probably quit my day job and do this full time. I probably have a lot of Timothy Zahn influences floating around, too, and while he’s more a screenwriter than an author, I always had a good appreciation for how Aaron Sorkin writes. Of course, given some of the themes of my work lately it would be impossible to say I wasn’t inspired at least a little bit by Lovecraft and Chambers.
L: What has been the most challenging for you so far?
Z: The amount of non-writing that is involved in being an author. For me, writing is one of three or four hobbies I pursue. The novel is one of maybe a half dozen projects I’m currently focused on. And I still do more work for the book that’s already out – Sanity Line – than the book that I’m currently writing.
L: What is your favorite writing trope? Least favorite?
Z: I love huge, expanded, from-scratch worlds. Very often though, with that sort of worldbuilding, you wind up with writing that reads more like a wikipedia entry than a piece of prose. It’s a balance you have to strike.
L: Besides writing, what is it you like to do?
Z: Lots. I’m like a rolling stone – allergic to moss. For the most part I do a fair bit of software development, and other vaguely-related hobbies. The weirdest one’s probably locksport – the hobby of picking locks just for the sake of it.
L: What would you say is your favorite book or series of all time? Why?
Z: If you asked me this two or three years ago, I’d have said the so-called Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn. Now I’m not actually sure. The last book I read that really grabbed my attention and held it – as a surprise – was Eutopia by David Nickle. I’ve heard that has a sequel and it’s high on my to-read list.
L: Are there any regrets you have or anything you wish you knew sooner?
Z: Two, actually. Firstly, there’s no substitute in writing for the use of a paid editor. An editor’s going to point out the obvious and not-so-obvious flaws in your writing. Not just copy-editing, but the weird stuff, like a broken timeline, or the complete failure of any of your protagonists to scan. I wish I’d hired one for Sanity Line. My other big regret, really, is not even trying to have Sanity Line published through a traditional house. It would have made the final process a little more hands-off, I feel.
L: In a brief statement, have you self-published or traditionally published? What was your experience?
Z: I’m self-published. It wasn’t a bad experience – I got to learn a lot about print layout and it taught me to slow down and be especially thorough about spelling, grammar, and just plain typographical mistakes. On the other hand, the follow-on has been really underwhelming. The work of a book for a self-published author starts with publication. I’ve worked way harder on Sanity Line since it was released than I ever did on the original writing. The reason self-publishing comes with a larger per-copy margin for the author isn’t because publishers are greedy – it’s because the author now has to do the work of the publisher, and the marketer, and the editor, and so on and so forth.
L: What are you currently reading?
Z: Actually, I’m re-reading Eutopia, and just got done with The Shining. One of my big complaints for myself with Sanity Line was that it didn’t bring the right level of “creep”. These two stories had that in spades, and I’m re-learing a lot by reading them both a little slower.
L: What genre do you read?
Z: Fiction generally. The usual “safe ground” seems to be Science Fiction and Fantasy, and except for in rare cases I tend toward work that’s already considered a classic in its field. I don’t set a lot of time aside for reading, anymore, so there’s a lot of inertia in picking up a new book and starting to read.
L What does a typical day of writing look like for you? Any rituals or ‘must-haves’?
Z: It looks like a Wednesday, and more often than not hammering out scenes from pre-written notes, on the bus, on the way to work. I’m a boring writer, that way – I can’t dress it up in moods and rituals because if I wait for the mood to strike, everything takes twice as long.
L: Any songs or type of music you need to listen to when you write?
Z: I need something that sets the right tone for what I’m working on at the moment, and ideally without lyrics. I get a lot of mileage out of video game and movie soundtracks, the odd bit of classical music, and sometimes just something chill and mellow and well-looped.
L: What’s a word or phrase that people say that always irritates you?
Z: “Shouldn’t of” is a good one, and seems to be increasingly common. There’s a lot to unpack there. First of all, it’s shouldn’t have. And second of all, shouldn’t by whose standard?
L: Who is your favorite literary character and why?
Z: Socrates, as presented in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I empathize with that characterization and style of writing a lot. Easily my single favourite work of non-fiction. That’s the book I’d force everyone to read, if I had the clout for it.
L: Where would you say you get most of your inspiration?
Z: I have an early morning tradition of listening to music while I set up to leave for work, and on my walk. I do a lot of daydreaming at times like that and wind up sorting out my ideas there.
L: For aspiring writers out there, what would be the best advice you want them to know
Z: Keep writing. You’re going to hate everything almost as soon as you click save, or send, or print. That’s fine. It gets better.
Zachary J. Adam is a tisanophile, author, and security researcher from Atlantic Canada, where he lives with his wife and a very old, very grumpy rabbit. In addition to being an author, he offers his services out to other writers as an editor throughout all stages of development. When he’s not too busy daydreaming about his next writing project, he engages in a variety of hobbies ranging from developing security software to picking locks.
Sanity Line (Arcane Revolution Trilogy Book 1) – When it’s criminals there’s the National Police, when it’s foreign foes, you have the Self Defense Forces. For everything else, the Zaxtonian Union has its Agency Division. The union’s native history runs deep. Whether it’s the busy metropolis of Kraterburg, the dusty wastes of many-deserted Razeland, or the thick boreal rainforest of the Terrwald, ancient secrets, alliances, and lore pervade the undercurrent of Zaxtonian Society. From time to time things bubble up from the depths – dark things, verboten things. Enter Vidcund Därk. One of Agency’s revered Men in Black, Vidcund’s job starts where common sense ends, holding the line against the chaos and insanity that threatens our neatly-ordered world. When his day starts with the release of a new version of a proscribed text, everything seems routine. But the sudden return of an old enemy gets the National Police’s Detective Niles Clayton involved where Vidcund would rather he isn’t, and soon nothing is going according to plan.
Buy it here!