Carmelo Rafala Interview
Carmelo Rafala’s work has been published in various anthologies and magazines, including American Monsters, Part 2, Speculative City Magazine, Everyone: Worlds Without Walls, Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany, Submitted For Your Approval, the Anthology of European SF, The Fourth Science Fiction Megapack, BFS Horizons, and more. Carmelo’s work has also been translated into Romanian.
His debut novella, The Madness of Pursuit, a secondary-world fantasy, was released in April 2020 by Guardbridge Books.
Tell us something about your books, including your genre and your characters and/or themes.
–I have edited a few books for a small press, and many of those touched across the spectrum of speculative fiction. Many of my own stories have appeared in anthologies, and my debut novella, The Madness of Pursuit, is a secondary-world fantasy, though it could probably be considered science fiction. I tend to think of my work as speculative fiction, as I can often dip into either science fiction or fantasy. My themes are usually touch on redemption or the outsider looking for a place.
Where are you based?
–I am in the United Kingdom.
Latest releases and upcoming titles?
–I have a flash fiction piece coming out in the latest issue of BFS Horizons later this year.
What are you currently working on?
–I am working on a short story, as well as a book that is unsure if it wants to be a novella or a novel.
What inspires you to write?
–I love stories, so I suppose that in itself is an inspiration to write. I also have this nagging, inner compulsion to do so.
When and why did you get into writing fantasy?
–I got into writing science fiction and fantasy because these are the stories that captivated me growing up, and is a genre that best offers that rare quality of verisimilitude.
Who are your favourite fantasy writers/ fantasy authors?
–This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I can name a few: Ray Bradbury, Samuel R Delany, Harlan Ellison, Ursula K LeGuin, Liz Williams, Tendai Huchu, Dilman Dila.
What is your favourite fantasy series and why?
–I haven’t recently read a fantasy series, except LOTR a long time ago. Somehow I just haven’t gotten around to reading a long-running fantasy series. But I have read most of the books in the Revelation Space universe, by Alistair Reynolds.
What’s going on in the next few months? Anything on the Horizon?
–The next few months is just filled with writing. If any conventions are allowed to go ahead, I may be there.
What kind of books did you read that contributed to your upbringing, as far as fantasy and science-fiction?
–Good question. The Martian Chronicles, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Songs of Distant Earth, The Hobbit, to name a few.
Was your upbringing pretty geeky?
–No, my family upbringing was nowhere near geeky. Was I geeky? Absolutely. I ate, drank and spoke geek. In fact, if you tapped me for blood, I would bleed geek. Still do.
Why should anyone read your book?
–That’s a tough one. Every writer wants to be read. All I can say is, try something new. Pretty please?
The writing process ( Inspiration, discipline, planning, software, editing)
Do you have a process, do you plan or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
–I usually know how a story will start and how it will end. I let the characters guide me to fill in the rest. I guess that’s by the seat of my pants. If I over plan, the story often fizzles out. My writing has to be organic.
How has your writing process changed since you first started writing?
–Discipline. I make sure I set time aside to write. I was very haphazard in the past. But you can’t be a writer by talking about how much you want to do it. You have to get down to work.
How long does it normally take you to write a fantasy novel, and what proportion of the time is spent doing what?
—Each story is its own beast and each will take more time or less time to finish. The story that gets republished the most I wrote in two hours. My novella took four months.
What is your favourite part of the writing process?
–Discovering who the characters are as the writing progresses. And being surprised by sudden turns that may happen in the story along the way.
Have your previous vocations influenced your writing?
–I was an English teacher, and I worked in publishing. So there is that influence. But really I have wanted to write since I was a kid.
As far as writing goes, what do you use? Software, Apps, Hardware etc?
–Just MS Word. While I have no doubt some Software available is useful to some writers, but some are just expensive gimmicks.
How do you overcome blank writing spells?
–I usually walk away from the computer and do something else. Clear my head. It’s okay to have a day or two off.
A number of fantasy/sci-fi authors have bee known to use art, music, exercise, alcohol and even drugs as a way to find inspiration to enter the zone! Do you use any tools to enter into your creative headspace?
–Before writing, I often listen to ambient music or a quirky film soundtrack, something to inspire a mood. Sometimes I listen to jazz. When actually writing, I either have total quiet or I put on headphones and listen to calming deep relaxation ambient space music you can find on YouTube. The music must not have a beat while I am writing. If it has a beat, I will be unable to focus.
Do you prefer to write in silence and or have some sort of sound in the background?
–Shhh, you’re interrupting my groove.
Publishing (formatting, cover design, formats, marketing)
Describe the road you took to publishing your first novel? And how that has changed.
–When I had a finished product, and it was Beta read and honed, I shopped it around the old-fashioned way. I got three rejections before it was picked up by a publisher in Scotland.
Will your next book be traditional or indie published?
Would you recommend self-publishing to aspiring authors, or would you suggest a more traditional path?
–Self-publishing has come a long way from its beginnings and has lost a bit of the negative connotations that came with it. However, I would still only recommend it if your book has been properly edited by a professional. That will cost money, but if you want to be taken seriously, you need a seriously well-edited product.
What sort of input do you give to formatting, cover design, marketing?
— I give general ideas about the cover, but I don’t want to crush to artist’s creativity.
What legal publishing advice can you give?
–Don’t sign anything if you are giving all your rights away. You will lose total control over your book and it will, in effect, no longer belong to you. Don’t be in a hurry to get your book out there that you sign anything that comes across your desk. Better to walk away.
Advice on making an impact in today busy Scifi and Fantasy markets.
–If you got any, you should package that as a book and sell it. The market likes what it likes, for better or worse.
Must Read Fantasy novels?
–The Earthsea books. Absolutely.
Must read non-fantasy novels?
–Sorry. I don’t think I understand the question…..
Do you read digital, paperback or hardback or do you listen to audiobooks?
–I do have a kindle, but I only read short stories or novellas on such a device. I prefer a real, physical book in my hand. I haven’t had time to listen to audiobooks, but I have listen to two audiobooks recently. I prefer reading a book myself.
What are some difficulties you’ve experienced in your writing career; how do you handle book critiques/criticism?
–Criticism can be a good learning experience for you as a writer. Constructive criticism, that is, not just someone blowing steam in all directions because they have a bone to pick. In general, try not to take criticism too personally. At the end of the day, everyone has their own taste in literature.
What are some encouraging words you’d give to another author/writer?
–Write because you have to. Because it’s a compulsion. Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy the work, then stop. Writing–and I mean good writing, writing a story well–is hard work. Never forget that. If you can’t commit to it, and be dedicated to doing it well, then you will be frustrated.
Get in touch with Carmelo Rafala