"I define success as knowing that right here and now I am writing to the best of my ability, and that tomorrow I will write better. Writing is a craft and I am a craftsman."
Gabriel Valjan is ‘Gnomeo’ to his friends (read, ‘he is short’ but lacks the Napoleonic Complex). He writes short stories, novels and enjoys film noir. He is submissive to two cats -- one is a Bengal and the other, a tuxedo, both of whom also double as his editors. Winter Goose Publishing has unleashed Gabriel’s writings onto the reading public with the Roma Series. Book 4: Turning To Stone premiered 15 July 2015.
What’s inside the mind of a mystery-suspense author?
I sincerely believe that the key to all forms of creativity is intellectual curiosity. Answers, while interesting, are not as important as the questions. I keep alert to developments in science and technology; read about current events, and from there I do a ‘what if’ with what I find. Our world is beautiful, mysterious, and terrifying – it’s just a matter of perspective.
What is so great about being an author?
What other profession allows you to be your own boss, the architect of whatever is inside your head? As a writer I have control of what I put on the page before the reader. As a writer, I have control over what I put on the page, over what I serve up for the reader. It’s like a chef in the kitchen: the reader doesn't have to know a thing about me, but I have a responsibility to feed him or her something that tastes good and is well made.
When do you hate it?
Self-promotion; it doesn’t come easy to me, but it is often harder than the writing itself. I don’t like talking about myself. I’ve always been the gray man, the guy nobody notices but who, they know, can be counted on. I am that guy. I equate drawing attention to myself to wearing a hat rack in a crowded forest of hunters looking for moose. I’d like to think that my work can speak for itself, but I understand that there is a lot of noise out there and writers struggle to be heard – and seen.
What is a regular writing day like for you? Be honest!
We all have our rituals. We get out of bed using the same foot. We stumble half awake to the kitchen to make our morning coffee. I wake up each morning, early, thankful that I’m alive another day. I write within an hour upon waking up. If I’m preoccupied with something in my writing, I’ll work out first to clear my head, otherwise I’ll write four hours a day. By the time most people greet the day, I’ll have been up for three or four hours already and been writing.
Do you think authors have big egos? Do you? How do you know?
Interesting question and good timing because yesterday I was reading an article in which the author had asserted that Fitzgerald and Hemingway knew that they were great writers and had something to say; that they knew this about themselves unequivocally and without any doubt. Hemingway was Type-A+ competitive; Fitzgerald felt that the world owed him a living. We know this from letters and from people who knew them. My point is that there is healthy ego, a sense of honest pride in good work, and then there is an unhealthy ego, which manifests itself in the person’s putting others down. Unfortunately, I’ve met authors who have unhealthy egos: they mistake snark and sarcasm for Wit when they deride other authors. I can only hope that they become the people their dog thinks they are. If you mean ‘big ego’, as in I am proud of my work, then yes, I have an ego. If you mean ‘big ego’, as in I think I am a better writer than other authors? Well then, no. That is for the reader to determine.
How do you handle negative reviews?
I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had negative reviews. I have had criticisms, which I do consider and evaluate before I move on. All my writing goes through several editorial rounds and critiques, but at the end of the day, I know that I am proud of what I put out there. Yes, I look back at my ‘earlier stuff’ and I think how I would’ve done it differently, but it is all part of the process of growing as a writer. If I were to have a nasty review (and reviews of the sort do exist on Amazon), I’d treat it like I would with trolls online: stop reading, don’t respond because to do so is to feed them.
What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?
I usually don’t tell people that I’m a writer. Nine out of ten times the other person will start telling me that they have written something and it comes out that they had given up for whatever reason. Then the question will come up, “Have you been published?” I tell them that I have. They might try and make a distinction: publish or self-publish? I give them my answer and the conversation will either end there, or the person will realize that I am serious about writing. They’ll ask, “How do you do it?” I’ll tell them that I’m disciplined and committed to improve myself somehow 1% every day.
What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?
I’ll revise my work and, if that is too frustrating, I’ll read.
Any writing quirks?
I read passages, particularly dialog, out loud to my two cats, Squeak and Squawk. They listen, make noises, and I pay them with treats. They think I’m crazy.
Have you worked on your novel intoxicated? What was the result?
No, I have never written while intoxicated. I’m too much of a control freak to do that to myself.
What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or if they saw it as nothing but a hobby?
Same thing if the people around me did take my writing seriously: write. I’ve always made time for other people throughout my life, so I look at writing as time for myself. I don’t see that as selfish. The people who care about me know that it makes me happy, which is far better than dealing with an unhappy me. I ignore people who dismiss writing as a hobby; often the same people presume that writing is easy until they try it themselves – if they try at all. There are people who talk about writing and there are those, like myself, who do it daily. We are the quiet professionals. The work has to speak for itself.
Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?
I experience Frustration, but never hate. I love to write, love to create something that another person can sink and disappear into, in which he or she can live among characters they love, hate, or distrust. Even when I am frustrated, I find pleasure in solving problems, in working out the knot in the narrative and plot.
Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?
No. I understand the logic that money for an author implies sales, but there is a thread of fallacious logic there. I think of my friends who have done impulse purchases because they saw an e-book for ninety-nine cents. The books pile up on their reader unread. The author may have made some money, but was he or she read? Did someone leave a review that entices other readers? While money is great, the book then becomes another commodity. Success has to have another definition. I define success as knowing that right here and now I am writing to the best of my ability, and that tomorrow I will write better. Writing is a craft and I am a craftsman. I will always want to improve my story-telling skills. Success is the well-told story, the writing that is admired even when the tale isn’t something that a particular reader seeks out. I’m realistic that not every reader will enjoy what I write, but for every one person who tells me that they enjoyed my work, I am honored that they spent time with my pages.
Leave us with some words of wisdom.
Write what you know. Write what you don't know. Obey the laws of grammar and syntax. Break the rules of grammar and syntax. Speech is what you hear. Dialogue is what you imagine between fictional characters. A beat is time in the corner for the boxer to rest or time for the boxer to deliver the punch. Characters live and breathe by how they act, however flawed or noble they are, and not because someone tells you they do. Point of view is a camera; change the lens and you change what you see and whence you see it. Visual is in the mind and it is also white space on the page. Edit for copy, for structure, but always have someone else do it because you won't see it. Criticism is always constructive, never personal. Voice is yours and only yours, as unique as your fingertips, your earlobes, and your handwriting.
As you can see, there are rules and there are no rules. Writing is about creation and expression; it is a function of the intangible human spirit. The act of creative expression, be it oral or written, nearly always involves the person who is doing that creating through words to be sitting down. Spoken or written, the story is created from a seated position. Tell the story that you have inside you. You have no control over whether you’ll make money (or not), be famous or forever obscure. Read widely other authors and genres to see how they “work” and why what they did did work. Should you be fortunate to meet your readers, stay until you have met every last one of them. You’ll be the better person. Don’t compete with other writers. Somebody will always be better at something than you. Just be you. Respect the time your readers spend with you and be grateful that they chose to spend that precious time with you.
Title: Turning To Stone
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Author: Gabriel Valjan
Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing
Amazon Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/o38tpen
Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/ntwzg53
About the Book:
Bianca is in Naples for Turning to Stone. Loki, her mysterious contact, is now giving her baffling anagrams. They seem to lead to a charismatic entrepreneur who has a plan to partner with organized crime to manipulate the euro and American dollar. Against a backdrop of gritty streets, financial speculation, and a group of female assassins on motorcycles, Bianca and her friends discover that Naples might just be the most dangerous city in Italy.