Thursday, September 13, 2012

Interview with David Alexander, Part 2

As promised, here’s the second half of my interview with David Alexander. Hope you enjoy!

You also worked on the C.A.D.S. series, published by Zebra Books under the name John Sievert, correct? How did you become involved with that series, and which volumes did you write?

I wrote the last few of these. My interest at the time wasn't in writing the series but in finding a new publisher, as I'd moved on from Leisure, and wanted to contract with a house that would give me broader scope for new and advanced projects. C.A.D.S. was, first, last and always, a "foot in the door" job that, as the description implies, would hopefully lead to bigger and better things. Unfortunately I learned before long that I’d blundered. When a writer accepts a project like C.A.D.S. with only vague promises of "being taken along," and similar catchphrases, that writer will more often than not wind up being typecast as something lower than a Johnny pump before the ink has dried on the first advance check.

Curiously, though, I'm frequently asked by readers about whether I'm planning a C.A.D.S. sequel. I seem to have inherited the mantle of C.A.D.S. authorship purely by being the last man standing, as the first two chroniclers of Dean Sturgis and company seem to have vanished without a trace.

C.A.D.S. was, like Phoenix, a post-nuke action series, only the series was created by someone else (authors Ryder Stacy). Did you approach it differently than Phoenix?

As the foregoing should indicate I approached it in a manner that was in many if not most ways diametrically opposite to how I approached Phoenix. Also, in complete candor, I don't consider C.A.D.S. as part of the cannon of my work. It was work for hire, conceived by others. I was just basically mopping up.

There’s a part in Z-Comm #1 where the hero assumes the covername “Coltray,” which happens to be the title of a three-volume series you later published under your own name. What’s the story behind that series?

Coltray was a specialist operative who worked solo but had ties to official law and intelligence agencies. Coltray was in some ways a one-man Z-Comm, although he generally assembled a team before going into action. The reason that the Coltray series had my byline was because I wasn't putting up with any more of the same house-name nonsense of the sort that had already given the world "Kyle May-ning."

I’m also curious about your work with Gold Eagle, for example the Nomad and Slam series. What was it like working with Gold Eagle? You mention on your site that they edited your manuscripts for Nomad (which you offer in the original forms on your site); what all did GE change, and why?

The Nomad ebooks I've made available on my website for free download are based on the original manuscripts of the four-book Nomad Miniseries that I proofread and lightly edited a few years ago. I plan to revise them in the near future to make downloads more compatible with tablet readers and whatever else is currently the latest and greatest. Working with Gold Eagle is the subject of mixed emotions, but there were some positives.

At any rate, the edits referred to seemed to reflect an attempt not only to Bowdlerize anything even remotely suggestive, but also to grind down any and all the edginess of the writing, wherever edginess was to be found. Beyond this there were totally off-the-wall and gratuitous emendations that seemed to have no rhyme or reason for having been made.

I countered each hatchet job on my Nomad manuscripts with faxed lists of stuff I demanded be changed back to the way I'd originally written it. Comparing those lists against the published books, I found that although some of my demands had been met, others had not.

Were there any other series you worked on, under your own name or a pseudonym?

Possibly. Fortunately or otherwise, I seem to have forgotten them like Nixon forgot the Plumbers in the basement.

In your Writing The Action Scene article, you mention performing an overview of the action-series genre before you began writing Phoenix. You further mention, correctly, that none of them were like Phoenix; which series did you read, and were there any you enjoyed? Did you maintain any interest in what was going on in the world of action-series fiction while you were working on Phoenix and your other series titles?

I enjoyed a number of things in the course of planning and writing the Phoenix series, but not all of them were action series. Other sources of inspiration were fiction and nonfiction books of many types, as well as movies. I liked Rolling Thunder, the '70s movie that they're still blogging about in which actor William Devane returns home as a Vietnam vet and discovers, somewhat like Ulysses at the conclusion of the Iliad and Odyssey cycles, that home base ain’t what it used to be, and needs some serious cleaning up.

The great line in that movie is, "You learn to love the rope." You can Google that and it still gets a zillion hits, just like for, "Say hello to my little friend." In many ways I thought of Phoenix as a character who also had to learn to "love the rope" in order to survive in post-nuclear hell.

I also found inspiration in Mad Max, which had some memorable lines among its riffs and hooks, such as, "He goes to water over a dummy," and, “Perhaps it was a result of anxiety,” which I still quote at times.

I know you have moved on from action-series fiction. What projects are you currently working on? How has your experience been in the world of eBooks?

In fiction I'm currently working on several things, including a project I'd put away some time ago and had believed, until I sought to read it again, that it was only a short proposal. It was, in fact, a fair-sized manuscript. I'd always liked its concept and still do. It seemed to cry out to be completed. As to ebooks, I think they’re obviously the future of publishing, but I also think that printed books will continue to play a significant role in it.

Which of your own books are your favorites, and why?

I've favored Machine Breakers. I wrote it as literary fiction that I hoped would also appeal to a more commercially oriented audience. Despite or because of the different approaches to narrative I took, including an invented language and casting aside conventional sentence structure, as well as using some techniques I devised such as one I call "chaosing," (which, as the term implies, is the deliberate introduction of chaos or noise into the prose narrative slipstream), the book has been remarkably accessible to a wide range of readers, despite my belief that it would appeal only to small number of them.

I'll go so far as to say that I've always considered it an alternative Phoenix story insofar as it's set in a dystopian universe, as well as in the immediate aftermath of a series of apocalyptic events, and the characters that strut and fret their hour upon the stage have also been warped and disfigured by war and technological innovation run amok.

Ultimately I try not to adore any of my efforts either from the past or those on which I'm currently working. I'm too oriented toward scrutinizing them for faults and defects. As Swift observes by way of Gulliver in the land of the Brobdingnagians, even the most seemingly flawless human beings show massive imperfections when an observer the size of a fly crawls across their bodies. That's also something like my point of reference to my own writing, and I think (at least hope) it helps me overcome my limitations and develop beyond them.

Still and all, I have to admit to holding Phoenix in a special place, though I probably couldn't say exactly why this happens to be so.

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