Ask a Smart Guy

Time for another Q and A with a semi-famous, mostly obscure novelologist.


@_Mech_ asks “When you have writer’s block, what is your cure?”

A very common question.  I’d love to be able to give you an easy answer, so I will.

Writer’s block doesn’t exist.  It is a boogie man created by people who are too busy second guessing themselves to just sit down and write.  Sometimes, it’s because a person liked the idea of being a writer rather than actually doing the work.  And often, it stems from the false notion that inspiration is required in order to write.

Writer’s block only exists as a concept because non-writers think creativity is a special gift, bestowed from some divine or magical source.  Such is the notion that writers and artists don’t work so much as function as conduits to creative energies.  Even if we remove the metaphysical baggage associated with creativity, there is still the illusion that talent is something you’re born with.  There is some truth to that in the broadest strokes.  A blind person will never be a great photographer.  A very short person won’t be an NBA all-star.  Countless other examples could be used.

But even with talent, you have to work if you want to be good at anything.  Creativity is no different than any other job.  You have to push through the difficult part if you want to get good at it.  You have to deal with a lot of frustration and deal with your bad days as you struggle to find those great days.  If you work hard and if you’re very lucky, you’ll create something worthwhile.  Or at least something someone might pay you for.

I sit down, and I just do it.  I won’t lie to you and say it’s always easy.  But I sit down, I write something, anything, and hope it doesn’t suck too bad.  Often it does.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  But worrying about it is pointless, and you just need to write and give yourself permission to write badly because it’s better to be a bad real writer than a great imaginary one.

So that’s my cure for writer’s block:



@wetblnkt asks “Does any particular book best exemplify your style?Can one book exemplify an author?Is that like picking favorite child/pet?”

Another common question.  I think it is just human nature to want to classify and categorize things, to file them away in neat rankings.  It isn’t something I believe in.  Too often, such attempts end up arbitrary and silly.  I saw Brave this weekend and really liked it.  It isn’t my favorite Pixar film though because it lacks a giant robot fight.  I know such a thing doesn’t belong in the film, but I also know I really enjoy a good robot fight.  In the end, I think we do ourselves and our media disservice by such ranking systems.  They present us with false choices, and I don’t like to play that game.

As for my style, I’m not even sure what it is.  I don’t think of myself as a literary writer (and I doubt anyone else does either), but I also don’t think of myself as a funny writer or a satirist or goofy or any of a dozen other labels that might apply.  I tend to have certain recurring elements (monsters as heroes, weird matter-of-fact fantasy, extended action sequences, Seinfeldien conversations), but even these are not universal to every book and every story.

I don’t strive to create a perfect A. Lee Martinez story.  I don’t strive to master a particular style.  I don’t seek any recurring theme.  I just write stories that I want to read and hope have some originality and fun to them.  Maybe some depth too, if you’re willing to entertain that books about space squids and monster gods can have depth.  Not everyone agrees on that.

I don’t think I’ve written the definitive A. Lee Martinez novel yet.  I hope not because I’d hate to have already hit my peak.  Plus, I’m pretty sure the definitive A. Lee Martinez novel will have robots fighting dinosaurs in it.


@kylenorris asks “Of all your novels, which one was the most fun to write?”

Most of them have been fun to write.  It would probably be easier to say which one was the least fun, which would hands down be Chasing the Moon.  Perhaps because it is a cosmic horror story about the incomprehensible, but it nearly drove me mad at times.  It was still fun to write, but there were moments when I felt overwhelmed by it.  But, as in the “How do you get past writer’s block?” question above, I stuck with it, and I was very glad I did.

Compared to that, every other book has been much easier.


Andreas Ravenwell asks “If you could write a comic book would you like to write an existing character or make your own one up?”

It would depend on who I was writing it for.  If I were to write something for a major publisher, I’d feel more comfortable writing an established character.  I wouldn’t want to create an original character just to hand it over to someone else, and also, established characters already have personalities, origins, and are usually effective story engines on their own.  Plus, if the character isn’t mine, then I think editorial mandate would be easier to deal with.

If I could create, control, and own my character, then I’d definitely want to create an original.

Not that either option seems very possible at the moment.


Brandon Henrikson asks “What is your favorite giant monster?”

As above, I’m reluctant to categorize such a diverse and wonderful category, but I’ll play along just this once.

Godzilla is definitely the king in terms of longevity and quality.  Even most of the goofy Godzilla movies are pretty damn fun, and like Batman, Godzilla has developed a distinctive rogue’s gallery of kaiju.  Yet I have to say that Godzilla reluctantly falls to the less prolific but very badass Gamera.

What puts Gamera ever so slightly above Godzilla is the series of three films that came out in the 90’s.  The Gamera trilogy is just a masterpiece of kaiju cinema.  It is well-worth checking out, and I recommend it without hesitation.  Even if you don’t like kaiju like I like kaiju, you’ll enjoy them.  Unless you don’t have a soul, and in that case, you have bigger problems than I can deal with here.


Phil Krause asks “What are the chances we’d see another novel featuring some characters from a previous novel?”

Tough question.  The odds improve as time goes on simply because eventually some previous character will have a story to tell that appeals to me more than something wholly original.  I don’t know when it will happen, but it will happen at some point.

It might help get the ball rolling if one of my books sold a million copies and had such a proven demand for an audience that my publisher would be willing to throw some more cash my way.  I’m not saying it’s your responsibility, folks, but selling out is a lot more tempting for me and my publisher when there’s some indication that there’s a real demand for a sequel.

I know it’s my own fault for giving you so much awesome stuff to pick from.  I suggest you form some kind of organized club, have meetings, vote on it, and buy as many copies of the selected book as you can get your hands on.  It would probably help, and the fact that I would earn more royalties in no way influences that suggestion.


Finally, Aaron Knowles asks “Are they ever going to turn one of your books into a movie? I would definitely go see it?”

I wish I could tell you.  It really isn’t up to me, but I’m with you on this one.


Keelah Se’lai

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,



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  1. Posted June 26, 2012 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    In regard to the recurring character question, I would love to see an all A. Lee Martinez character mash-up story somewhere down the line! Outside of that however I find it very refreshing that ALM is able to exist in sci=fi/fantasy without having a series to support his career. That his stories are all stand alone in this publishing environment that seems to demand series to keep the cash flowing in the same place is a real tribute the the quality of the writing and the loyalty of the fan base. Fight the good fight and write the good write sir!

  2. Margot
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    “Plus, I’m pretty sure the definitive A. Lee Martinez novel will have robots fighting dinosaurs in it.”

    Pretty much the truest thing ever said.

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