Welcome to the four hundred and eighty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with science fiction / fantasy author, writing coach guest blogger and spotlightee Nina Munteanu. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Nina.
Nina: It’s a pleasure to be here, Morgen. Thanks for having me.
Morgen: You’re so welcome (I’m always just as grateful to have someone to talk to ). Please tell us about yourself, and how you came to be a writer.
Nina: I’m a Canadian and I currently portion my time between Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and Toronto, Ontario. I’ve always wanted to be a writer since … well, forever! My sister and I used to trade stories at bedtime. We shared wild stories with casts of thousands and worlds only limited by our imaginations. It went from there.
Morgen: That’s the great thing, isn’t it, about fiction; it’s limitless. What genre do you write?
Nina: I write mostly science fiction and fantasy. My heroes were science fiction writer and visionary Ray Bradbury and classic writer Thomas Hardy: their rich metaphor and messages were so potent. I simply wanted to write and stir other hearts and souls like they did.
Morgen: A great combination. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Nina: All my works are under my name, Nina Munteanu (which means from the mountain in Romanian). I’ve published over a dozen short stories, articles, reviews and essays and five novels, in the form of e-books and traditional print books. Most of my works are science fiction. I worked as a scientist for many years and have a strong interest in the environment; most of my stories explore our relationship with our environment and with technology and how these must reconcile somehow if we are to survive and evolve. My most recent book is the first of a paranormal space thriller trilogy that explores dreams, déjà vu, clairvoyance and quantum entanglement.
Morgen: I love technology (I grew up with an older brother). Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Nina: Oh, many! I file them away, I share them in my workshops for good laughs. I lecture about rejection and how writers can use it to help them in their journeys. I start by telling them that we will always experience rejection, even after we have published time and again. Rejection is, in fact, part of acceptance. Consider it a way of learning, a stepping stone toward achieving a relationship with publishers and editors who truly wish for you to succeed.
Morgen: It is, invariably, just the right thing for the wrong person. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Nina: A long time ago I was shortlisted in a science fiction writing contest with The Science Fiction Writers of Earth. Several of my works have been nominated or won awards. They include several nominations for the Aurora Prix, the SLR Fountain Award, the Gaylactic Award, finalist of Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award, the Midwest Review Reader’s Choice Award and the Delta Optimist Readers’ Award.
Morgen: Congratulations. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Nina: No agent. I don’t think they are vital to an author’s success. Of course, that all depends on your definition of success. With the explosion of Indie books and e-books on the internet, an agent is almost superfluous. What is more important is an author’s savvy in the world of internet promotion, SEO, market lists, etc.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Nina: Yes, two of my books (Collision with Paradise and The Cypol) were e-books. The rest of my books are available on Kindle with Amazon. I don’t generally read e-books. I still (and I think I always will) prefer print books that I can hold in my hands.
Morgen: Even those who are avid eBook readers still love print books. I’m sure even those (few) who say they’re eBook only wouldn’t like to see paper versions disappearing. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Nina: a lot! It never ends… Facebook, Twitter, websites, blogs, guest blogging (like yours—thanks!), newspaper articles, interviews on radio, YouTube videos, etc. etc. etc.
Morgen: There are some great opportunities for authors and really we have more power than we’ve ever had. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Nina: Actually one of my books is being considered right now for a movie! Angel of Chaos is currently being written into a screenplay for a movie producer. Wish me luck!
Morgen: Oh, I do! Maybe you could write me another guest blog on the topic. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Nina: I had total say in the titles and mostly in the covers. Although, my publisher and I did have some discussions. Titles and covers are a critical part of a book. They are the first things someone reads and sees of your work and they ultimately summarize your book—the theme of your story, a core aspect that sparks the reader’s interest.
Morgen: They are and I know some people have been put off by either / both. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Nina: I’m finishing the edits of my second and third books in the Splintered Universe Trilogy. I’m also doing the last edits to my latest book, The Last Summoner with Starfire World Syndicate. It’s a historical fantasy about a girl from medieval times who learns that she can change history. I’m finishing a guidebook for my Romanian publisher Editura Paralela 45 on journal writing called The Journal Writer… and collaborating on an Edwardian urban fantasy about a female detective and her very smart cat … And … well, I’m a multi-tasker… LOL!
Morgen: Aren’t you just. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Nina: I write every day, Morgen, and I don’t generally suffer from writer’s block. I have a mechanism in place that helps me. If one project holds me up, I simply move on to another one or do something different in that same project, say edits or research.
Morgen: That’s what I do and works for me (and I write a story a day). Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Nina: I used to just go with an idea and run with it. Now I tend to do a mix of both. I find it far more efficient if I outline to a premise and theme.
Morgen: It certainly makes sense for the longer pieces… mine tend to be 300-400 words so the outline would probably be longer. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Nina: Only that they must be true to their archetype and role in moving the plot and theme of the book.
Morgen: You said earlier you write non-fiction (articles, reviews and essays)…
Nina: I write a lot of non-fiction; anything from scientific and technical papers to reviews of movies and textbooks on writing. I am a teacher of many years and write for several online magazines including Scribophile, A Hopeful Sign, Suite 101, E-Zine, and others. You can find my reviews and critical essays on The New York Review of Science Fiction, Strange Horizons and my own blog The Alien Next Door.
Morgen: “The Alien Next Door” I love it. And you write short stories…
Nina: Yes. My short stories have been reprinted several times and translated into several languages. A collection is coming out this year with Starfire World Syndicate, entitled “Natural Selection”. Each story touches upon issues of evolution and co-evolution, and how we relate to nature and technology.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Nina: I edit a fair bit as I go along. By the time I have a second draft, it’s pretty much fully formed and only needs polish… and polish… and polish…
Morgen: <laughs> You said earlier that you worked as a scientist, do you have to do much research?
Nina: For most of my books, yes. I write science fiction. SF readers are intelligent and rather unforgiving when it comes to science and technology. They expect you to be accurate and able to give them something new but logical. We are expected to be visionaries and provide a fresh new perspective on concepts but with good substantiation. So, I have to be very vigilant, consistent and honest.
Morgen: Because there will always be someone to pick you up on an error. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Nina: Yes, I wrote a short story in second person. And liked it. The POV depends on the kind of story I’m writing. I like both first and third person. Lately I’ve been doing more first person stories. I find them extremely vibrant, personal and deep.
Morgen: I love second person. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Nina: No. LOL!
Morgen: I hope not either… I like to think that everything can be honed (or polished… and polished, as you say). What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Nina: Live and write from the heart.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Nina: One of my favourites is by Auschwitz survivor Victor Frankl: What is to give light must endure burning. To “endure burning” in order to give light is what all artists must do. We must experience life to the depths of our being before we can write anything of substance and merit. The quote implies an element of sacrifice, of destruction, in the creation of enlightenment: a kind of initiation. It invokes transformation in the mythic “hero’s journey”. And lastly, it reminds us that there are always many aspects to anything that is rich and worthwhile. There is dark in light, chaos in stability, self in selflessness.
Morgen: And our writing is all the more richer for it. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Nina: The future is bright for the writer. Society will always need those who can reflect our world back to us. Every culture needs its storytellers. Writers are reporters who challenge us when we get too comfortable and let others rule our lives. Writers are the shamans and creators of our current myths. Storytelling is changing with the internet and with the changing face of publishing. Writers must keep ahead of the wave with our originality and our courage.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your work?
Nina: You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+ and other social networks. I also have several websites and blogs that feature my writing and my views, including www.ninamunteanu.com; The Alien Next Door; www.darwinsparadox.com; www.ThePassionateWriter.com; and www.toulouseletrek.com. I serve as staff writer and blogger on the writer’s site Scribophile, Suite 101, ezine, and others, where I provide advice on writing and discuss issues to do with writing and publishing.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Nina: Just to thank you again for this interview, Morgen.
Morgen: Oh, you’re very welcome, thank you for returning.
I then invited Nina to include a synopsis of her latest book…
Outer Diverse is Book One of Nina’s new paranormal space thriller trilogy Splintered Universe. Thirty years have passed since the mysterious Vos invaded the galaxy to destroy Earth. If not for the intervention of the arrogant Eosians, who drove away the Vos for the right to inhabit Earth, humanity would have perished. But not all of humanity is thankful…
Rhea Hawke, Galactic Guardian, must solve the massacre of an entire spiritual sect, dubiously connected with the crime syndicate Eclipse and the toxic drug Glitter Dust, the resurgence of a dark prophesy and the return of the cruel extra-galactic Vos. Her quest for justice catapults her into the heart of a universal struggle across alien landscapes of cruel beauty toward an unbearable truth she’s hidden from herself since she first murdered an innocent man with her eyes.
“… a master of metaphor, Munteanu turns an adventure story into a wonderland of alien rabbit holes. When the action starts it goes into hyper-drive … A fascinating and enthralling read.” Craig H. Bowlsby, author and creator of Commander’s Log
Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist and novelist. In addition to five published novels, she has authored award-winning short stories, articles and non-fiction books, which have been translated into several languages throughout the world. Recognition for her work includes the Midwest Book Review Reader’s Choice Award and the Aurora Award, Canada’s top prize in science fiction. Nina lectures at university and teaches writing workshops and courses based on her award-nominated textbook The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now! Her award-winning blog The Alien Next Door hosts lively discussion on science, travel, pop culture, writing and movies. Visit www.ninamunteanu.com for more information and to book a coaching/workshop session or class with Nina.
Update December 2012: Hi Morgen. Thanks for reposting this interview. It was so fun! Just as an update, my second book of the Splintered Universe Trilogy is now out. It will be on Amazon in a few weeks. Editura Paralela 45 in Romania has also just published my new guidebook on expressive writing called The Journal Writer; it will be out in English early 2013 with Starfire. It’s been a great year and looking like another awesome year to come. Best Wishes, Nina
Let’s hope so. I have lots planned.
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