Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing the Canadian speculative fiction author Alexander Zelenyj.
Alexander Zelenyj is the author of the books Songs For The Lost, Experiments At 3 Billion A.M., Ballads To The Burning Twins: The Complete Song Lyrics Of The Deathray Bradburys, and Black Sunshine. His fiction has been published in magazines and anthologies throughout the world.
He lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Visit him at alexanderzelenyj.com.
Click here to visit Songs For The Lost page on the publisher's website (Eibonvale Press).
Click here to read Risingshadow's review of Songs For The Lost.
Click here to read reviews of Alexander Zelenyj's books on his official website.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ALEXANDER ZELENYJ
1. Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
I live in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, with my other half, Elizabeth. We share our home with two cats and an ever-growing library of books, albums, and movies. I love books, both reading and writing them.
2. How did you become an author? Have you always been interested in writing fiction?
Yes, as far back as I can remember I was always interested in writing fiction. As a little boy I would make picture books and comic strips, and write all kinds of colourful stories. In the late 1990s I submitted a short story to a magazine called Front & Centre – they accepted the story, and that made me realize that there were people out in the world who actually had an interest in what I had to say. So I submitted more and more of my work to different magazines and anthologies, eventually graduating from getting my short stories published to having my books published. And here we are.
3. What are your favourite authors and books? Have these authors and books influenced your writing style in any way?
There are too many to list, but some of my favourite authors to whom I often return are Ursula K. Le Guin, Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, Robert E. Howard, Jeanette Winterson, Joe R. Lansdale, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ray Bradbury, Darcey Steinke, Ramsey Campbell, Frank Belknap Long...The list goes on.
Sometimes it isn’t so much that a great author’s style is influential on my own writing style, but simply the fact that these great works they’ve created exist, so that it becomes influential in a greater, more overarching way. It’s inspiring to know that we live in the same world that Robert E. Howard wrote, say, the short story “The Tower Of The Elephant”. That’s reason enough to get out of bed in the morning.
4. You're the author of Black Sunshine (Fourth Horseman Press, 2005) and two short story collections, Experiments at 3 Billion A.M. (Eibonvale Press, 2009) and Songs For The Lost (Eibonvale Press, 2014). Are you thinking of writing a new book or a short story collection in the near future?
I actually just finished work on two books: a novel and a short story collection that are quite a bit different from my previous books. Both are heavily informed by elements of magical realism.
I’m also working on another fiction collection, which is much more similar stylistically to the slipstream fiction of Songs For The Lost.
5. Your stories range all the way from fantasy and science fiction to magical realism and horror/weird fiction. What inspires you to use different sub-genres of speculative fiction in your stories?
I’ve always enjoyed reading across a wide variety of genres and styles, so I suppose it only makes sense that I’m likewise attracted to writing within those same genres myself. It keeps writing interesting, and endlessly rewarding and fun. I’ve never considered restricting myself to working within one specific literary genre.
6. When I read Songs For The Lost, I noticed that it contained memorable and beautifully written stories about characters who live in a world filled with loneliness and sorrow and who are searching for salvation in different and unique ways. What inspired you to explore themes of loneliness and sorrow? Was it difficult to write about these themes?
I suppose that some of those themes were a product of the period during which the stories were written, which was a difficult one for me. My mom had died, and it was generally a bleak time. So yes, at times it was difficult to work on this type of material, but the more I did it the more cathartic it became. And when I was finished the book I felt really good about it – it felt like a much greater achievement than anything else I’d written before. When I look back on it I consider it a testament to being able to write through any amount of badness the world can throw at me, ha ha. And now that I’m beyond that and all is well and there’s no huge burden looming over me while I write, well...look out!
7. Do you consider speculative fiction to be a good tool to explore difficult issues and themes in an intelligent way?
Yes, definitely. Speculative fiction – and slipstream literature in particular – knows no bounds, and when done properly can immerse a reader in many different levels of narrative. It’s a very rich type of literature.
8. Are any of the characters in your stories based on people or are they products of your imagination?
For the most part my characters are fictional, but I suppose from time to time I might slip in a character trait or two that could be traced back to someone I know personally. My stories have lots of little personal references and occasional in-jokes that no one but a select few readers might pick up on. It’s fun to do that sort of thing.
9. How would you advertise Songs For The Lost to readers who are thinking of reading and buying it?
I would say that it’s a collection of strange stories that examines very human problems in unique and unexpected ways.
10. Is there anything you'd like to add?
Thank you for having me here, I’m honoured!