Alexander Zelenyj is the author of the books Blacker Against the Deep Dark, Songs for the Lost, Experiments At 3 Billion A.M., Black Sunshine, and Ballads to the Burning Twins: The Complete Song Lyrics of the Deathray Bradburys. He lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, with his wife Elizabeth, and their menagerie of furry beasts. Visit him online at alexanderzelenyj.com.
- When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
AZ: Some of my earliest memories relate to books, being fascinated by them as a child, drawing and making picture books. I was still a little boy when I discovered comic books and pulp fiction, and became obsessed with all things Robert E. Howard, which was a life-changing discovery for me. So I guess I always wanted to be a writer.
- How long does it take to write your book(s)?
AZ: It’s difficult to say with any degree of certainty, because I’m always working on multiple projects at once. Sometimes I’ll take an extended break from a particular manuscript to focus on another, and then I’ll go back to it later. And of course some books are more difficult to write, for any number of reasons, so those difficulties are reflected in the overall time it takes to finish that project. Other manuscripts almost seem to write themselves.
- What is your work schedule like when writing a book?
AZ: It varies a lot. Like I said, I work on multiple manuscripts at the same time, and pick away at whichever one I feel inspired to work on at any given time, or whichever one might have a pressing deadline. But I write every day, so something is always moving forward. I used to write exclusively very late at night and into the early morning but for the past few years I’ve changed gears and write much more in the morning and afternoon.
- Where do you get your ideas or information for your book?
AZ: I have no idea where the ideas come from. I suppose that the source for some ideas comes from things I see around me in the world on a daily basis. In terms of more general inspiration, that comes from a lot of different sources: the authors I love, films and music. But more often than not ideas will just be there when I sit down to write, and I get them down and move on to the next project, though where they come from I don’t exactly know.
- When did you write your first book?
AZ: My first published stand-alone book was a short novel, Black Sunshine, which was released by Fourth Horseman Press in 2005, though before that book I’d written several full-length manuscripts that I never did anything with. Which was probably wise, since they were probably not very good. I keep meaning to go back and read them again.
- What do you do when you’re not writing?
AZ: As you can guess, I’m a huge reader, so I’ve always got one or more books on the go at any given time. I love music and movies so I’m always obsessing over something in those mediums, too. My wife and I spend a lot of time doting on our pets as well.
- What does your family think of your writing?
AZ: They seem to enjoy it, even if their literary interests sometimes lie in different areas. Generally speaking, they’re really supportive. My mom was always encouraging when I was growing up. My oldest brother, Dan, has always been particularly supportive and encouraging. He’s a voracious reader and has been his whole life, so growing up and having him as a role model was a great thing for me. Some of my earliest memories involve books – my brother reading them, me emulating him and pretending to read them before I could actually read, and it went from there. And my wife, who is also an author, obviously understands the process, and is really supportive.
- What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your books?
AZ: A couple of books ago, when I was finishing up Songs for the Lost, and especially while working on my newest collection, Blacker Against the Deep Dark, I came to realize how angry I was and am about a lot of things I see in the world every day. And that’s very obviously reflected in those stories, that anger at the negative things I see in the news all the time, locally and elsewhere. And from that what became clear to me is that a lot of the stories could be roughly divided into those that are very pessimistic and disheartening when looking at people and the terrible things we’re capable of doing to each other, and those stories that show the good we’re capable of. That dichotomy became more and more clear over the past couple of my books, and more and more important to the structure and integrity of those books.
- How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
AZ: I’m the author of three collections of short fiction, several chapbooks, a short novel, and a collection of essays and poems. I have two new books forthcoming later this year: the first is a chapbook entitled Animals of the Exodus, to be published by Eibonvale Press and due this summer. The second, forthcoming from Fourth Horseman Press, is a full-length anthology comprised of the best stories taken from each of my three full-length collections, three chapbooks, and assorted fiction that has only ever been published in magazines and anthologies, plus some never-before-published material. The book is a celebratory volume commemorating the 10-year anniversary of my first published collection, and the 20-year anniversary of my first published story. This, and the fact that it’s being released by Fourth Horseman Press, who has published so much of my fiction over the years, makes this a very special and meaningful book to me personally.
As for which of my books is my personal favourite, that’s a tough question because I inevitably feel emotionally attached to every one of them, though I suppose I’m always the most excited about the newest book just because it’s so fresh. And I think each book an author writes should be stronger than the last, because an author should be growing with each successive release. So by that line of thought I’d say my favourite book of mine is my newest book, my short story collection, Blacker Against the Deep Dark (Eibonvale Press, 2018). But that will likely change by the time my next book is out in the world.
- Any tips/suggestions on getting started?
AZ: Read and write what you love and care about, and read and write every day. Everything else will fall into place.
- What do you think makes a good story?
AZ: There are a lot of different things: interesting characters, unique ideas, engrossing plots, themes that resonate in some way. That said, some stories have an indefinable quality that sets them apart from other stories; they fill a void that, had they not been written, it seems would represent some kind of glaring absence in the world. So while all those previously mentioned qualities might together make a good story, it’s this indefinable quality that makes a story something more than this, something truly special and great that goes far beyond the mechanics of things.
- As a child, What did you want to do when you grew up?
AZ: From as far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a writer. It’s been the one constant all along, no matter what else I had going on in my life.