Raymond, welcome to Lavender Lass Books. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and best of luck in the competition!
The Origin of Birds in the Footprints of Writing is the book. Here’s the blurb:
Clarence St. Claire is a programmer who cherishes an orderly life. His motto: ‘work is important; people, not so much’. His determination to be The Most Serious Person on the Planet is threatened when he becomes haunted by a mysterious manuscript from his past: 300 pages of possibly random bird tracks. Risking his career and self-possession, St. Claire dares to pursue the manuscript against the opposition of hackers, the NSA, the ghosts of famous writers and doubts of his own sanity.
Lost in a maze of bird-prints and their possible meanings, St. Claire determines to summon the late writer Jorge Louis Borges to help with the translation. He will dream Borges into existence, exactly as Borges wrote of doing. But this act stirs the opposition of a secret order of past writers, who may, possibly, have their own agenda. The duel between St. Claire’s reality and theirs leads to a final encounter in The Dark Library, before the dread conclave known as The Tribunal of Dreams.
‘Origins’ is a book about books, about magic realism and artificial intelligence, virtual reality and languages, and how sensible people wind up in strange situations by strangely sensible steps. It is built of the words books whisper to each other alone after the library has closed. It ends as it must: with the hero tossed into a pit by Edgar Alan Poe.
Kidding. I mean, that last does happen but the final ending is the hero finding the answer and getting the girl, as well as his sanity back. Mostly back.
From the book:
I sat on the bed in the dark, my back to the wall. I began a new web page. Time to tell the world the truth, I thought, and felt a surge of pride. This would upset the Secret Powers of the world. But hey they had cost me my $400 security deposit. It was payback time. I would tell the world. But tell what? I typed out the flat truth to see how it looked.
There is a secret society of dead writers who live in the wall spaces between realities, in the silence of empty rooms, in the Schrödinger-uncertainty of unopened books. They call themselves the Tribunal of Dreams. Often they appear as birds. They peek out of mirrors and walk the shadows of libraries. They are old and sly and are not retired. They have vast plans. They have me barricaded in my bedroom and they painted my windows black. They are listening at the door now. Send help.
I read it over several times. It expressed all the facts nicely, yet it lacked something. Specifically, it lacked the power to convince the world of anything except that I was insane.
And now to the interview:
1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
This is the 3rd time. Folk say ‘third time’s the charm’. Granted, Einstein said insanity is repeating the same experiment till you get the results you want.
I decided to enter ‘Origins’ because it is literary, clever, and certain to differ from the other entries. I pictured 299 novels at the start line, primping their covers of glowing swords and blood-storm skies…and then as one they turn to stare in puzzlement at entrant #300. What is ‘he’ doing here? they’ll ask. They’ll leave ‘origins’ in the contest dust, sure. But for that one moment, they will know uncertainty.
2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
I write in the genre to conquer it. ‘Fantasy’ is a kingdom I decided to append to my empire of programming and language studies. So far the feisty little readers and reviewers of Fantasy Land have put up a brave fight against my mercenary forces of internet commentary and 5 star quality novels. Fools! They but prolong the inevitable. Nothing can stop me now.
3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
Snobbery. I disdain the clammy handshakes of publishers, the wine-and-cheese affairs of famous effete authors, and the endless toadying of editors, agents and Hollywood media folk. That and submission windows had begun instinctively snapping closed each time my cursor approached the ‘submit’ button.
4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
The advantage is that you can tell the story you wish to hear. The challenge? To tell a story someone else wants to hear.
5. As a reader, and now author, how has the fantasy genre changed over the last several years? How has it stayed the same?
Fantasy has less hope. More shadows. More shadings, more flawed characters. And yet, more possibility. Fantasy no longer thinks it can get by on D&D template character sheets. Of all ‘genres’ from murder mysteries to Austen parlor romances, from Weird Westerns to Eastern Manga… fantasy adapts the most quickly. Shifting, mutating, becoming what is needed. Call it: Evolving with Grace.
6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I was thinking about a comic ‘self-help’ book narrated by someone the reader would come to realize was insane. It would be full of cheerful advice about hats and life and hand grenades; advice that would get one arrested, evicted or dead. My lawyer has advised me to not go there.
7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
When I’m reading, I don’t want to be the one doing the work. I sit and expect the author to bring me what I wanted all along. I don’t know what I want. I just say at the end, ‘Boo yeah! That’s what I wanted’.
Granted, turns out what I wanted was generally good guys stomping bad guys and getting the best lines while doing it. Kinda rare, in life and lit.
8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
I’m half through a novel about the post office in Hell, Texas. It handles some very strange mail. This will be a break. Raymond St. Elmo’s last ten books were in first person. Raymond is weary of 1st person.
9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
Keep your back to the wall, knife handy, and save your game frequently. Above all: make friends with other self-published. They are you high and secret tribe walking beneath the rating stars, a forgotten breed of tale tellers at home wandering the literary backroads, camping before the fire and kindle-glow. And there they perform the ancient miracle that long ago began religions, moved souls, toppled empires… the pure and unfettered magic of making things up.
You can find Raymond St. Elmo’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Origin-Birds-Footprints-Writing-ebook/dp/B01JE3V642