[Interview] Angel Martinez, Author of ‘Aftermath’


AftermathNorthern Delaware author, Angel Martinez writes erotic romance novels and short stories as well as science fiction and fantasy.

Her debut novella, Aftermath was released as an e-book by Forbidden Publications in March 2007 .

Martinez has worked, among other things, as a nurse, a bank teller, a retail worker, an office manager and a technical writer.

In a recent interview, she spoke about her writing.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I want to write stories in which my readers lose themselves, to craft characters they long to meet as actual people, to invoke in them a desire to think beyond the everyday. Stories should feed the mind but leave it hungry for more.

What would you say are the biggest challenges that you face?

The business of writing is my biggest struggle. I began in the naive belief that if one wrote well, one would be published. Little by little I’ve come to understand that writing is only half craft these days: the writer, if he/she wishes to become a published author, must be equal parts Emily Dickinson and P. T. Barnum.

Perhaps some writers dispense with the Emily Dickinson half. But self-promotion is key. If a writer can’t grab someone’s attention, publication will remain a pipe dream. And while P.T. seems best remembered for taking in suckers, his true gift was for creating hype about himself. The elevator pitch, the opening line, and the hook have all crept into the writer’s vocabulary these days as if we were hucksters. Self-promotion has never been natural for me; it feels self-serving and strange.

How do you deal with these challenges?

Education… I can’t stress enough the importance of research and peer support. Armed with reference books, websites, advice from other writers and writer support groups, even the most shrinking violet among us can learn to promote.

In the writing that you are doing, who would you say has influenced you the most?

Other women genre writers. Also, in school, I was acutely aware that most SF writers were male (oh, I’m dating myself, I know.) The discovery that Andre Norton was in fact a woman was a bolt of joyous lightning. Ursula LeGuin is my personal favorite for crafting such wonderful stories and for showing me the human side of science fiction.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

Life experience colors all of our writing, I think. Brief experience with the military, with the medical field, with health issues, aging parents, raising children, falling in love — all of these things influence what writers write.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

When I was born… I’ve always spun tales. Even before I could write I told long, involved stories. It took me some time to consider professional writing since I had convinced myself there was no money to be made — as if money could compensate for creative need. After knocking about from one soul-crushing corporate job to another, scribbling when I could, I realized that my compulsion to write had already made me a writer, willing or not.

I think my greatest fear had been that I wouldn’t be capable of finishing a work and that, once complete, there would be no more. I found the contrary to be true… Once I began to write, the dam broke and stories flooded my brain.

The effort to become published happened in slow stages after that and initially it involved a lot of research. It’s a scary proposition, approaching the publishing industry from the outside. Not only does the writer need to research where to submit but how. The industry has standards and rules of behavior, terminology and built-in prejudices, as all industries do. I bought books, researched online, read articles, poured over submission guidelines, toiled over writing outlines and synopses and cover letters.

Through all this, I still believed, naively, that if a work has merit, it will find a publisher. This is not necessarily the case.

The writer, like the inventor, has to expect to slog through a swamp of rejections, from publishers and agents, the vast majority of which offer no insight as to the reason for the rejection. So the writer must be tenacious and confident enough to continue and be brutally honest enough with himself/herself to recognize where growth and improvement are necessary.

A year after considering submission, I had my first rejection letter. I saved it. As a matter of fact, I’ve saved them all.

How would you describe the genre in which you do most of your writing?

I have two. Under the name, Sandra Stixrude, I write SF/Fantasy, leaning more towards the SF side of the coin and under the name, Angel Martinez, I write Erotic Romance, the steamier side of romance. The concept of “genres”, though, has always seemed stifling to me, as if one must fit in pre-determined boxes to be considered worthwhile. The fitting and the consideration of worth, has been done, in large part, by the publishers. To some degree, critics and academics involve themselves in the process of worth (who gets which literature prize and so forth) but between the publishers and the large bookstore chains, the public is told what fits where and whether they should enjoy it.

While I appreciate the need for the bookseller to categorize for the customer’s convenience, one of the unfortunate consequences of this is the genericizing of genres with certain rules and expectations in mass market products. Fantasy reduced to a cartoon caricature of sword and sorcery quest epics. Romances reduced to the same tired plot lines involving beautiful people. This is why, I think all the genre and sub-genre categorization has stifled us somewhat. A good story is a good story, a remarkable work of literature is just that. Imagine if Virginia Woolf published Orlando today, only to have it relegated to the back aisles next to the Dragonlance series.

Who is your target audience?

Much of my SF work, the novel-length pieces, is written for young adults (though I find adults often drawn into these YA stories as well) while the short stories are for adult audiences.

The erotic fiction is, naturally, for adults, mainly geared towards a female audience though I understand from recent statistics the genre is gathering a larger male readership as well.

What motivated you to start writing in these genres?

As a young person, I read collections of fairy tales, myths and legends while my peers were reading books about the ‘real’ world. While by modern standards many of these stories that I read appear flat, with stock cardboard characters, I recognized a template in them, a need filled by these stories to hold back the dark.

I believe that fairy tales and heroic legends have suffered over the centuries because they have been consigned to print and our rich oral tradition, with the craft and skill of the storyteller, have been lost along the way.

Fantasy/SF fills this need in the modern world. The best examples following the old cultural templates in a way that breathes life into the story, gives us people we can empathize with and cheer for, reminding us that, yes, the world is dark and frightening sometimes and it’s healthy and comforting to recognize this in a format where the conflicts and eventual triumphs can be shared safely.

As for the erotic fiction — I began writing erotica as an exploration of character and emotion because one of the most compelling issues for me when I read erotica is ‘why?’ Why did these two people end up in bed or on the table or the forest floor, rather than with someone else? Why does this person have certain needs? Why would someone let themselves be treated that way? Good erotica addresses the why’s and explores the (sometimes quite convoluted) workings of the human heart. Before a sex scene makes sense, the writer has to build the character from the ground up, warts and all.

You’ve said that the craft and skill of the storyteller has been lost but when you add the ascent of the electronic media into the mix, would you say the art of the storyteller has really been lost? Or do we have a new type of storyteller (both with and without corporate sponsorship)?

We do have new types of storytellers. I can’t dispute that. Innovators in film and animation have created marvelous new paths for storytelling.

The storyteller as a physical presence, as a vessel for the collective consciousness of the tribe has been lost, though. The oral tradition offered a different kind of experience where the listener was more directly engaged. Storytellers recited Beowulf and the Iliad by heart, using voice and gesture to excite, extol and explain, never quite the same recitation twice. No special effects. No off button. I think the memories and attention spans of modern humans have atrophied severely due to lack of exercise.

How many books have you written so far?

I think the question should be: How many of your books have been published so far? I’ve written a number of books, only one so far is set for publication. Aftermath was released in March 2007 by Forbidden Publications. This is a male/male erotic romance in which a couple tries to pick up the pieces after one of them is raped.

Aftermath is a shorter work than my Sf novels and only took two months to write. It’s also my first work of contemporary, Earth-bound fiction. Most of my other works take place off-planet or in some other time.

It’s similar to all my other stories in that it is a human-driven story. While there are erotic passages and elements, it’s a story about emotions and human interaction.

Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult? And which did you enjoy most?

The resolution on this one had me stumped for a bit. Often I find myself writing to an ending, that is, I have a clear ending in mind and I simply need to bring the story along in a believable, satisfying way to reach it.

I enjoyed watching the story unfold. A writer’s favorite characters often develop minds of their own. When it feels like the characters have taken over and are writing the story for you — it’s a soaring, ecstatic feeling.

Do you write everyday?

Every single day. Some days don’t afford me much time, perhaps an hour at most. On a good day, (when I don’t have to work for a living wage) I’ll put in eight solid hours.

When I write, the sessions involve realistic goals these days — I want to write a particular scene or finish a chapter and so on. I start by turning on my laptop. This may appear to be a sardonic answer but I’m quite serious. The ritual of crawling under the desk for the power strip, watching the lights blink on, waiting for the thing to get through set up, helps center me. The housework, the yard work, the job, the family, fade in the screen’s light.

I often re-read passages before proceeding. Edit. And then continue. It’s rare that I do heavy editing early on, though. I need to get the story out, to keep the momentum going, if I expect to finish.

If I had unlimited funds and time and a houseful of servants to see to all the day-to-day things, I might never stop. I don’t have those things so I stop when other matters intrude (time to go to work, laundry needs to be done, etc.)

What will your next book be about?

I’m working on two at the moment. One is an anthology of erotic short stories with the working title Lioness on the Knife (a reference to the Greek comedy Lysistrata) and the other is a novel set a bit in the future about an unstable musical composer who alters reality in the throes of composition.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Finding my first publisher. Perhaps this doesn’t sound like much of an achievement but in today’s flooded marketplace, a writer without an industry ‘in’ has a much more difficult time than in earlier decades. (Somewhere along the way, I suspect on a talk show, some idiot said, ‘Everyone has a novel in them’. The public seems to have taken this advice to heart and now publishers and agents are flooded with unsolicited manuscripts. One agency who sent me their regrets over being unable to take on any new clients stated they received perhaps a hundred submissions a month ten years ago and now receive over three hundred a day.)

How did you get there?

Persistence. Writing is only half the battle these days and for the driven author, the writing is easy. The only way to be published, though, is to submit, submit and submit some more. I read everything I could get my hands on regarding how to submit and what is expected — little things like a proper closing can make a difference. I sought out advice, asked questions, and learned to handle rejection in a constructive way.

One of the unexpected things I learned during this process is that most writers don’t operate well in a vacuum. The image one has of a writer is a solitary being, sitting alone and tapping away at the keyboard, an island of isolated creativity. But we need each other. This is why pockets of creativity have produced the most amazing results. The Beat Generation writers in New York and San Francisco were communities of writers who encouraged and inspired each other. Even Tolkien had a group of Oxford cronies with whom he would share his work.

For my own writing to grow and evolve, I found writing groups essential — objective individuals coming together to discuss and argue and sometimes point out what should be obvious.

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

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