What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
Ira Nayman. Toronto. Still Toronto.
Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
When I was eight years old, I had a conversion experience (you’ve probably heard a story similar to mine: a kid was given a camera when he was 10, and all he ever wanted to do with his life was make movies): in the parking lot of my grade school, I decided that I wanted to devote my life to writing comedy.
And, that’s what I’ve been doing, more or less, whenever I could, ever since.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?
Luna for the Lunies! is a humourous collection of scifi in the form of journalism, opinions, advice columns and obituaries.
Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
My three Alternate Reality News Service Collections (Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be, What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys and Luna for the Lunies!) were self-published. I also have a series of short stories not connected to these books and a novel that is tangentially related to these books for which I am currently looking for a publisher.
Do you have a "lucky charm" or "lucky routine" you follow when waiting for your book to be accepted by a publisher?
I try to have a lot of writing circulating so that I am not fixated on any single work (and I am not as upset when any one of them is rejected). I am also always writing something, so my attention is on what I am working on and not fretting about whether or not a story will be accepted.
What genre would you place your books into?
Difficult. The Alternate Reality News Service combines humour and science fiction. In the form of journalism (fake news articles). That’s the basic mix. However, individual articles may contain elements of satire, horror, surrealism, philosophy and anything else I feel like throwing into them while I am writing. My writing is fun, but it’s difficult to pigeon hole.
Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
I will send reviewers free copies of books if, after a query letter, they express an interest in my writing. However, I do not expect a positive review just because I supplied a reviewer with a free copy of the book; I understand that that is just the way the industry works.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
I have so far because I haven’t had that many reviews. Fortunately, all but one have been raves (and the one that wasn’t made critical points that I happened to agree with). I do hope that there will come a time when there are too many reviews for me to be able to keep track of.
What was the best review you have ever had?
Charles de Lint wrote that my first book, Alternate Reality Ain't What It Used To Be, was a good book to read in the bathroom. While I would agree, I would add that it could also profitably be read on the bus, in a waiting room or anywhere else you have a little bit of time and don’t want to get involved in a novel that you won’t want to stop reading. I think of them as “dipping books:” books you can dip into during short periods of time. (In his review of my second book, What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children's Toys, Mister de Lint said Alternate Reality Ain't What It Used To Be was “one of my favourite books of 2008,” so I cannot begrudge him the bathroom reference.)
Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
Absolutely not. I am fully aware that humour is a very personal quality, and do not expect all readers to find what I write funny. In addition to that, I have been aware for some time that the format I write in (short short fake news articles) has serious drawbacks, and couldn’t possibly fault a reviewer for pointing any of them out. Finally, everybody has a right to free speech; no writer who is serious about what they do could deny that to somebody else.
Who designed the Cover of your books?
I came up with the initial design of the covers for my three books; they were then executed by proper artists. I am very happy with all three; in each case, the artist not only did what I asked, but added more elements that made the cover even better. Where did I come up with the designs? Well, I looked at what the publishing industry wisdom on cover design was, then I did the opposite.
How do you market/promote your books?
Okay. And, reviews. And, I am on Facebook and Twitter. And, for the last couple of years, I have bought dealer’s rooms tables, done readings and sat on panels at science fiction conventions. However, I am still relatively new to promotion; ask me again in 10 or 20 years…...
Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
I’m not a big fan of writing gurus, but Robert McKee’s Story did have one piece of useful advice: if you are having trouble moving forward with a piece of writing, it is usually because you don’t know enough about the characters, setting or subject matter. So, when I find I don’t have the energy to write, I often read, hoping that research will be the spark that gets the creativity flowing again.
One other thing that I have learned recently is that writing involves a lot of administrivia. So, when I don’t have the energy to write fiction, I may write and send out query letters, write answers to interviews, research potential short story and/or novel publishers, etc. Although not fiction writing, this does give me a sense that I have done something productive with my day.
What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby?
I line dance with ferrets. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.
Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
I used to have a rule that I would never write about the people I knew. I thought that this was necessary because I never wanted to people to worry that anything they said or did would turn up in a story I wrote. Oddly enough, many people are not comfortable with that. Then, I had an experience with a good friend of mine that I thought would make a great story. When I asked her if I could use it, she replied, “Of course. I’ve always wanted to be a character in one of your stories.”
And, I thought, “Hmm…”
Now, if anybody asks, I tell them that everything in my life is fair game, but that they shouldn’t worry because by the time something that happened in my life is filtered through my imagination, the source usually becomes unrecognizable. (The only exception to this is political satire, because the guilty should be completely recognizable.)
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
I am a satirist; by definition, my writing has, if not a moral, a point of view that I am trying to convey to the reader. However, I am always mindful that my first duty is to make readers laugh, and I use a wide variety of comic devices to make that happen. If, after readers have laughed at my writing, they come away from it with something to think about, so much the better.
Which format of book do you prefer, ebook, hardback, or paperback?
I prefer hardbacks, but I can only afford paperbacks.
Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
I don’t think books will disappear; they have an esthetic beauty that e-readers cannot duplicate. However, what you find happens with old media that are largely replaced by new media is that they become fetish objects, art works valued for their beauty rather than their contents. So, my best guess would be that there will be fewer print books, and they will be more expensive. (Sorry – my PhD in Communications asserts itself at the strangest times…)
Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? and/or do Imaginative writing?
Children are awesome, with natural gifts of inquisitiveness and creativity. My experience, and the experience of most of the people I know, is that those qualities are driven out of youngsters by a stultifying school environment that rewards rote learning rather than creativity, and puts so much emphasis on learning texts that it completely ignores the fact that reading can and should be fun. My suggestion would be that parents talk to their children, find out what they are interested in and get them books that will appeal to them.
Did you read a lot at school and write lots of stories or is being a writer something newer in your life?
I was the kid who sat on the stairs to the back door of the school at recess and read a book. And, yes, all throughout high school I took every opportunity to turn assignments into humourous pieces of writing. I always did well with those assignments; in retrospect, I believe that my teachers appreciated the creativity. Let this be a lesson to the readers of your blog who are in high school!
Is there a book you know you will never read? Or one you tried to read but just couldn't finish?
I got stuck in the middle of Cervantes’ Don Quixote (which, given the length of the book, was actually about 400 pages in); there was something esoteric and inaccessible to it that I just couldn’t get past. However, I have heard that the second book/part is remarkable, so I hope to continue and finish it some day. Some day.
Are there any New Authors you are interested in for us to watch out for? and Why should we watch out for them?
I have met many great writers at science fiction conventions who deserve more attention. Stephen Pearl, for instance, has a wonderful post-apocalyptic novel (Tinker’s Plague), and a really original horror novel (Nukekubi). William Freedman’s Land That I Love is a very funny science fiction look at war (I hope his next book, Mighty, Mighty will be published soon). Nicole Chardenet’sYoung Republican, Yuppie Princess uses a fantasy setting for some potent political satire. And, I worked with J. M. Frey (Triptych) as an actor, but, 10 years from now, she’s going to be a household name as a writer. (And, I really mean five years from now, but my Canadian conservatism led me to choose the larger number.)
These and other indie writers are worth reading because they tell different stories in different ways than mainstream fantasy and science fiction. But, then, readers who are looking for something different probably don’t need to be told that the indie scene is where great things are happening.
Is there anything in your book/books you would change now if you could and what would it be?
I would have written chapter three of What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys with a French accent.
What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
I used to teach new media part-time at a university in Toronto. I would point out that many now famous artists did not become famous in their lifetimes (ie: van Gogh), or, if they did, only became famous later in their lives (ie: Samuel Beckett), and tell them that being an artist is a life-time commitment. Because of this, you must be both in love with your art and driven to succeed. Thirty or 40 years from now, if you haven’t succeeded, at least you’ve spent your life doing something you love. On the other hand, if you can see yourself doing something else with your life, do that instead, because clearly you are missing either the drive or the love you will need to do well.
If you could invite three favourite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?
Samuel Beckett, Thomas Pynchon and Groucho Marx. If my head doesn’t explode, the dinner wasn’t worth it.
Where can readers follow you?
Your web site?
Your web site?
My Web site, Les Pages aux Folles (http://www.lespagesauxfolles.ca), contains a wide variety of features, including a weekly news round-up (The Daily Me) and weekly cartoons (Delicate Negotiations is currently in high rotation). In addition, new Alternate Reality News Service articles are published almost every week; regular readers can watch the fourth (The Street Finds its Own Uses for Mutant Technologies) and fifth (The Alternate Reality News Service’s Guide to Sex, Love and Robots) collections take shape over time. In additional addition, the Web site has an archive of the entire Les Pages aux Folles project that goes back to 1984. Yes. 1984. I really am that old. I mean, I really have been writing that long. (One last boast: in the first week of September, 2012, the Web site will be 10 years old. That’s positively ancient in Internet time!)
Your facebook page?
Your Goodreads author page?
Your Twitter details?
And any other information you wish to supply?
Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be (paperback): http://www.amazon.com/Alternate-Reality-Aint-What-Used/dp/0595521428/ref=sr_1_1_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331338274&sr=1-1
Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/Alternate-Reality-Aint-What-ebook/dp/B005MQMIS4/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331338274&sr=1-1
What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys (paperback): http://www.amazon.com/What-Were-Once-Miracles-Childrens/dp/1609112342
Luna for the Lunies! (paperback): http://www.amazon.com/Luna-Lunies-Ira-Nayman/dp/147005373X/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331338274&sr=1-5
Luna for the Lunies! (various ebook versions):
“A Book Trailer Called ‘Book Trailer:’” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er2FshjzaWY
This is a trailer for What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys.
“The Weight of Information, Part One:” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GdLRV-S4mY
“The Weight of Information, Part Two:” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIXAi9gnpSk
This is the pilot for a radio series based on stories out of the first two Alternate Reality News Service books.