Monday, July 28, 2014

Interview: Author Sam Reese

Today's post is an interview with Sam Reese, an author and a friend of mine.  We met when we were in graduate school. He was working on his Masters in Divinity and working with my wife at the University Library at the time.  Earlier this year, his book Immolation was published by J. Ellington Ashton Press.

Visit his website to read his blog and find out more about his book, and you can find him on Facebook and Tumblr as well.

Thanks, Sam, for taking the time to do this for me.

What is your book about? 

Well, there’s a long answer and a short answer to this question. The short answer is that it’s about a young teenaged girl who has been abused by her father for four years. On her 14th birthday, she discovers she’s pyrokinetic. Now she has to decide whether or not to exact vengeance or show mercy. To know the long answer, you’ll have to read it, as I think only the reader can properly answer that question.
What aspect of your life has influenced your writing the most? 

Hmm, that’s a difficult one, as I’ve never really thought about it. I think my interactions with people over the years have influenced me the most. I’ve come to realize that human beings are not simple creatures, but rather are creatures of immense beauty and horror, and that you never know how either of those things will manifest themselves, or when.

We met while you were in Divinity school. How has that part of your education influenced your writing? 

In a strictly academic sense, I think it has influenced my writing by helping me understand things like how to research and how to get my point across most effectively. In a deeper, perhaps more spiritual sense, I believe it has helped me to understand concepts like revenge, grace, mercy, love, sacrifice, and hatred and the human need for all of these things more clearly.

You could spend your time doing many other things. So why write? Why do you do it? 

I write primarily because I have no other option. I think only a writer can really understand what I mean by that statement, but I’ll try to explain. Writing-and most likely any creative endeavor-is something like being possessed. Or maybe being schizophrenic is a better term. Something takes hold of you and compels you to tell its story, and it won’t go away and will drive you slightly insane until you get it out. I write because I love it, to be certain, but I also write because I am compelled to do so.

You’re now published. This is your first book? What next? What do you hope to accomplish as a writer? 

Being a New York Times Bestselling Author would be amazing, and I won’t deny that I’d be thrilled to be one. But I think ultimately I want to be able to have a career that meant something to people. I want to write works that people hold dear to their hearts, that they share with their children and grandchildren. I want to write stories that matter, in some way. As for what’s next, I have lots of things in progress. The closest thing to being completed at this moment is another novel that’s some sort of weird Neil Gaiman/Christopher Moore hybrid of fantasy and mythology. It’s likely a YA novel, but with a wider ultimate appeal. At least, I hope it has a wider appeal.

What do you say to those people who are not interested in the horror genre? Why should they read your book? 

Because “Immolation” isn’t just a horror novel. There’s an element of the supernatural, and of course the cover is pretty creepy. But the book is about so much more than being scary. It’s about love and loss and growing up. It’s about family and the damage we do to one another. Many of the people who have left me reviews don’t really care for horror so they say, yet they seemed to enjoy the book. As one of my reviewers said, “I thought this story was going to be about one thing, but it ended up being about something totally unexpected - love. When I was done reading, I was reminded that love is a choice and that it overcomes the evil and hate which is always seeking to consume humanity.” That quote, to me, is why people who don’t like horror should read my novel.

The next question is similar to the last one.  Your book contains adult themes/content. If people are uncomfortable with those elements, why should they read your book? 

Because sometimes we have to face uncomfortable things to grow. I had a lady who read “Immolation” tell me that she had been abused by her father and that if she had known what the book was exactly about she would never have read it, but that she’s glad she did because it made her feel better. I like to think that it helped her heal in some small way. The book does contain adult themes and content, but guess what? So does life. I think we do a disservice to ourselves and to others by trying to act like these things don’t exist. I’m not saying you should go out and, say, watch porn if you have strong reservations about it. But at least understand why people make porn, why they perform, why they watch it. Same for the themes in this book: they’re there because I couldn’t tell the story without them, but I hope that I’ve done it in as respectful a way as possible.

What is your favorite part of writing? 

Creating the worlds. I love telling the story and seeing characters come alive on the page. It’s funny, until you write something, you think it’s all about putting words on paper and making your little puppets dance. But once you start writing, you realize that the characters aren’t puppets at all. I wonder if this is how God feels sometimes: trying to tell a story but the characters keep taking it in weird directions.

Throughout the process (writing the book, editing, submitting, editing, and finally publishing), what is the one thing you’ve learned? 

Perseverance is key, as is having people who believe in you. You have to be willing to be rejected, you have to be willing to deal with things that seem to make absolutely no sense whatsoever. But you also need people who can pick you up when you fall and help you make it through. I often think of the story of Stephen King and the first draft of Carrie, where he threw the first few pages in the trash, thinking it was crap. His wife was emptying the trash and she found them, read them, and told him to keep going. Think how different his life, as well as the horror genre, would be if he didn’t have someone who loved him and told him, “Don’t give up on yourself.”

Within the world of writing, how would you want to be remembered? 

I would like to be remembered as the guy who wrote the stories that mattered to someone. That’s really all I want, is to help people with stories, because stories can tell truths that no other discipline can tell, at least not as effectively.

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