Blakely’s Friday Interview with Alex Siegel

Please give a warm welcome to Alex Siegel, author of the Gray Spear Society series.


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Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re currently working on or promoting.
By day, I’m a software engineer who works in a trading firm in downtown Chicago. I have a wife and triplet boys. They’re twelve and more than a handful.

For the last four years, I’ve been working on the Gray Spear Society series. I’m currently writing book twelve in the series. The first eleven volumes are available as e-books on Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble. The first book in the series, Apocalypse Cult, is permanently free, so I recommend readers start with that one. The complete list of books can be found on my website (see link below).

What genre is your book? Do you write in other genres as well?
I have written science fiction and fantasy in the past, but the Gray Spear Society series is much more realistic. I generally describe it as “supernatural crime fighting” or “spiritual thriller.” Most of the action takes place in contemporary Chicago. Readers who live in Chicago like I do will find the settings to be very familiar, and most of the action is also lifted from the real world. It’s violent fiction, but there is a spiritual element which moves the series away from traditional crime novels. The protagonists literally work for God.

Do you have an agent and/or publisher or are you self-published? If self-published, do you use a professional editor? If traditionally published, who is your publisher?
I’m self-published. Earlier in my writing career, I tried to go the traditional route, and I have a thick stack of rejections to show for my trouble. It almost killed my interest in writing. These days, as an independent author, I’m in complete control of my own career and my art. I’m generally happy with the arrangement.

I employ an editor. She’s a graduate student in literature rather than a true professional, but I’m satisfied with her work. My cover artist actually does it for a living, and she’s excellent.

What advice do you have for writer’s just starting out?
Be extremely persistent and have a very thick skin. I wrote a million words before anybody besides my wife appreciated my work. It takes several years of struggle to learn the craft of writing. Very few authors are successful right from the start.
My other advice is to write what you love. You’ll have to proofread it many times before it’s finished. If you don’t love the material, you’ll be absolutely miserable.

Do you set writing goals and if so, what are they?
I write for at least a couple of hours every day, and on weekends, I write a lot more. I set deadlines for myself such as finishing drafts or publishing a book by a certain date, and I generally meet those goals. It typically takes me a month to do a first draft, three weeks to do a second draft, two weeks to do a third draft, and one week for the final draft. I try to publish four books a year. Of course, I’m an independent author, so this timetable is my own. If I’m late, the only people who complain are my fans.

Do you outline your stories or just go with the flow?
I am an absolute plotter. I don’t begin the first draft until I have a complete outline describing every scene and every character. There are two reasons. First, my books are very complicated with many, many plot points. If I don’t have a clear roadmap, I get lost in the weeds. “Surprises” aren’t helpful when I’m juggling three different story lines.

The second reason is it’s more efficient. I hate rewriting. It’s a waste of time, and my time is very limited. A strong outline enables me to blast through a first draft and produce something close to a finished work in one pass.

What does your writing space look like?
I have a nice, little office in the basement of my house. It’s my personal space away from the family. There are several computers, and my main machine has two large monitors. I like to write on one screen and do social media or research on the other.

Who is your favorite author and why?
I love the work of Terry Pratchett in general, but I suppose if I had to pick one book, it would be the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. Younger people don’t appreciate the enormous significance of that book. It created the modern concept of a graphic novel. It was a brilliant and daring departure from the norms of the day. There are powerful moments in that book which I still reference in my own writing.

What project are you currently working on?
I’m current writing Sharp Teeth and Bloody Claws which is the twelfth book in the Gray Spear Society series. The title comes from the man-eating rats which are featured prominently. This book is a continuation of the ongoing saga. I recommend readers start with the first book, Apocalypse Cult, or the second book, Carnival of Mayhem.

Is being an author your dream job? If so, how long have you been chasing the dream? If not, what would be your dream job?
I’ve been writing seriously for fifteen years, and I would love to make it my profession, but it hasn’t happened, yet. I continue to pay the bills by working as a software engineer.

What has been your best moment as a writer?
When I started to have real fans who loved my work, it was a great feeling. All the years of lonely struggle felt worthwhile. My fans continue to motivate me.

What challenges have you faced in your writing career?
I read a lot as a kid, but I was never into literature per se. I’ve been a computer nerd my whole life. I didn’t even take an English class in college. I had to learn the mechanics of writing late in life, and it was a difficult process.

Is there a message in your book(s) that you want readers to grasp?
There is a consistent philosophical subtext that runs through the entire Gray Spear Society series. In oversimplified terms, the idea is that love and free will are the most important things in the universe. They make the world go round.

What do you do to stay sane as a writer?
Who says I’m sane?


Thank you, Alex, for stopping by!

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