Sergiu Lazin Interview: “Ever since I was a kid, all I ever wanted was to tell stories”

Sergiu Lazin MiracleSaga

Up-and-coming Sci-Fi author Sergiu Lazin gives me an insight into his work as his first novel is launched on Amazon Publishing!  

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards science fiction writing?

Ever since I was a kid, all I ever wanted was to tell stories. I still have my very first attempt at “creative writing” from when I was 8 or 9 years old. “The man who saved nature” – the story of an eco-warrior fighting poachers and polluters around the globe (a kind of mix between Captain Planet, Indiana Jones and Chuck Norris). I only managed to write about 10 pages before my older brother discovered it and ridiculed it to pieces (there were scenes of gratuitous killings, but in my defence, this was around the time of the Rambo movies). In any case, his criticism hit really hard and I abandoned the idea of telling stories with words, focusing instead on drawings. I decided that since he was the better writer, I would become the better artist.

Throughout my entire youth, these two creative outlets have taken turns in absorbing my attention. Whenever I would experience something profound in my life, the urge to capture it would always manifest, either in written or in visual form. When it was time to make a career choice, my heart was still oscillating between the two. My two college options were film school where I would study screenwriting and directing and art school where I would study graphic design and advertising.

I chose what I then considered to be the safer option: art-school, which was closer to home and easier to get in to. I still wonder what my life would have been like had I made the bolder choice.

While my head and my hands were learning how to be an artist in the digital age, my heart was longing for new stories to tell. With each new attempt to revive my passion for the written word, the stories were becoming less and less anchored in reality.

When did you really start writing? What really drove you to put your ideas into a story?

In college I started to write a novel vaguely inspired by that lifestyle. The final chapter that I wrote before abandoning it described the protagonists chasing after the ultimate high – a perfect chemical balance that they perceived as building a space ship. Every ingredient in their drug-cocktail was like a new module in the craft that was to transport them beyond their world.

Once complete, the main character enters a dream-like state where he envisions himself at a rave in a giant capsule orbiting around the Earth. The moment is captured and beamed into infinity at the speed of light. And that comes with the absolute certainty that someone, somewhere and sometime will receive the transmission and will know that humans existed and they relished being alive.

This idea that what we do in our lives can reverberate across infinity was so strong that, from that moment on, I knew that if I was ever going to write anything again, it would be science-fiction.

How does it feel to have your first book published online?

I was honestly expecting it to make me feel much more vulnerable. I have quite a few reasons to be nervous about people’s perception of my work. For one thing, English is not my native tongue (as you can probably guess by my name) Then there’s the fact that my education in literature extends only to the high-school curriculum of Romania (where I’m from). And lastly, this is the first body of work that I’ve taken to a level that I feel comfortable enough to showcase in public. All things considered, I prepared myself for the worst when deciding to self-publish. That was, in my perception, the risk of being ridiculed to pieces again (like what happened with my brother in my childhood) but this time at a global scale.

But I quickly realized that receiving overwhelming criticism is not the greatest hardship. The greatest hardship is getting criticism at all. Ever since I have published, all the time that I used to spend writing my story I now spend trying to get people to read my work.

The scale of the internet is like the scale of the Galaxy. Picture someone starring at the night sky on a clear night with no light pollution around, gazing through a telescope at The Milky Way in full, glorious display. They have to choose one celestial body to study and observe closer while the conditions are favourable. And you are one of the billions of stars within the spiral’s arm (and that’s if you’re lucky and you have star ratings on your book, otherwise you’re basically a piece of moonrock adrift in interstellar space, impossible to detect in this metaphor) That’s what it feels like to have your first book published online.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

Because this is my work of passion, I am not bound by the need to complete the work within a certain timeframe in order to generate revenue from it. This basically allows me to take my time. I actually had the first idea for this series over 5 years ago and have started writing it in one form or another several times. It was only 2 years ago that I decided to really put an effort into finishing a project for once. During this entire time, I have developed the story arc in great detail. So I know precisely what needs to be written next. The first Volume of my story will have three parts out of which the first part is completed and published online. What’s really exciting for me is knowing that the interesting parts are coming next. The first part is more about outlining the universe of the story, introducing the characters and setting up intriguing plot lines for each of them. I genuinely cannot wait to write what will happen next.

That being said, I still very much struggle with tone, phrasing and voice. I consider my writing style to be very lyrical and full-bodied (not a light Sunday read) so I often find myself wrestling to put down even the most basic of sentences. Whenever I sit down to write, I immediately know if I am in the mood for it or not. And if I’m not, I never try to force it. This would have to change if my first novel would become successful and people would want to read more. But if that were the case, I’m convinced that people’s enthusiasm towards my story would clear up any blockage for me.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Unfortunately, I’m very much not a team player. Even in my professional life as a graphic designer, when I used to work in advertising agencies and was part of a creative team, in every brain-storming meeting I would keep quiet and let everyone else talk, and then work on my own ideas alone. This formula has worked well for me in my profession. But, as always, when doing client work, you have to make compromises and ultimately change your work to suit your client’s fancy.

This is something I do not want to do in my writing. I want to tell the story of Miracle Saga alone and in my own way. I’m not interested in writing anything else or with anyone else. That being said, it’s impossible not to recognize the influence of writers and books that I cherish (or worship) in my own writing. Here are some of the books that I know have crept up into my novel, despite my best efforts: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, The Pandora Sequence by Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom, Diary: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk (perhaps my favourite book of all time) and Solenoid by Mircea Cartarescu (sadly not yet translated from Romanian but an absolute treasure of a novel). To even stand in the turbulence of any of these forces of creation would make me crumble in reverence.

What’s next for your writing? Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Parts 2 and 3 of Miracle Saga – Volume 0 are going to be an incredible writing journey for me and as I am typing these words, I feel my fingers tingling with the anticipation of getting back to my story and my beloved characters.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

Between my day job, home-schooling my kid, trying to complete my own creative journey and struggling to promote my already published work, sadly I have little to no time left for reading. I’m also trying to keep my style as free from influence as I can, so right now I’m on a reading strike 😊

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Well, I guess in the end there’s only one thing left to say. I would be humbled and grateful to anyone willing to discover the first part of my saga – how it all began. I truly believe that my novel is unlike anything people have ever read before and that’s what I wanted to do since I was 8 or 9 years old. To tell a story that’s never been told before. Thank you.

It’s been a real pleasure finding out about a fascinating new author, so thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

 

 

 

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Now’s A Great Time To Catch Up On The Best Books Published In 2018

many old books

Look, I know that 2018’s not been the best for most things, what with Trump still in power (how?!) and Brexit still a farce, but there is one upside- lot’s of awesome books were published this year!

So as the year draws to a close, now has never been a better time to seek out all of those brilliant books published over the past 12 months and have a good read. After all, most people will have some time off over the festive period, and so you’ll have plenty of time to really get stuck in and catch up before 2019 rolls around and there are even more new books to check out.

Many of the books published earlier this year will already either be on your shelf waiting, or else in charity shops or discount bookshops such as the Works, so you can pick them up cheaper than before and se what all the fuss was about. The past year has been a great one for readers, with top-class authors such as Stephen King, Lee Childs and Peter James all releasing one or more new tomes to keep you entertained.

There were also some exciting new surprises, such as the acclaimed This Is Going To Hurt, a former Junior Doctor’s perspective on the NHS, which is as funny as it is heart-breaking, and which I would thoroughly recommend you read if you haven’t already.

Among the other awesome releases earlier this year were Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, Stephen Hawking’s final offering Brief Answers to Big Questions and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and all of them deserve you’re attention as the year quickly reaches its conclusion.

So what are you waiting for? Fill your online shopping cart, run to the bookshop or just steal off your friends- whatever you do read some 2018 treasures before the New Year brings you new books to add to your TBR pile.

10-33 Assist PC Review: A Thrilling Realistic Police Procedural

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Written by a real police detective, Desmond P. Ryan, who I previously interviewed, 10-33 Assist PC offers a unique realism, allowing readers the chance to bond with a tough, determined detective and his team as they race against time to stop a human trafficking ring.

The first in the Mike O’Shea detective series, 10-33 Assist PC draws on Ryan’s experience as a detective to show Mike works to crack a prostitution ring. He is on the verge of getting them when an undercover from another unit burns him. With only days left before their pimps shuttle the girls out of the country, Mike pushes his team into overdrive.

Then disaster strikes, and Mike has a personal fight on his hands. He and his team work tirelessly as they race against time to catch the criminals before they leave the country and the team’s efforts are completely scuppered.

Readers will be able to clearly see that the book is written by someone with experience in the police; from the dialogue down to the description of the police station, there is attention to detail that cannot be fudged here. However, unlike some more realistic novels, Ryan has skillfully avoided overburdening the reader with too much detail and tedium. We are all aware of the bureaucracy and general bullshit that goes on in any office environment- we don’t need to read about it, and Ryan avoids this well, ensuring that readers remain gripped and the action is perfectly tempered with just the right amount of detail and realism.

Incorporating undercover officers, the grizzly realities of shift work and the drudgery that comes before the real chase, the novel gives an honest account of the day-to-day work of police officers. The second book in the series is out shortly, and if you haven’t already, I’d strongly urge you to check it and its predecessor out- they’re definitely worth a read!

 

Christmas Gifts For The Bibliophile In Your Life That Aren’t (All) Books!

rare birds books

Christmas is a time for giving, and so I decided to check out an array of gifts for book lovers that aren’t just adding to their collection.

Among these gifts is an innovative book subscription service called The Rare Birds Book Club. Designed for those who want to broaden their literary horizons. Focused on contemporary women’s fiction, the club sends out one book per month which offers readers scintillating stories, courageous heroines and fulfilling endings.

Those subscribed to the book club will receive a surprise book at the start of every month along with a personal introduction to the book from Founder and Avid Reader Rachel Wood, as well as an explanation as to why she thinks it’s special. After completing the book, they can then log on to the Rare Birds digital book club where they can chat about the book with others as well as access members-only bonus content.

british library

For those who fancy giving something a bit more interactive, and which gives back to the wider community, then membership to the British Library could be the answer you’ve been looking for. For just £80 a year members get unlimited access to the library, as well as a range of additional perks such as free entry to exhibitions, listing guests, 20% the library’s restaurants, cafes and shops, as well as entry to the Knowledge Centre Bar and daytime Member’s Room.

Supporting a non-profit like the British Library also means that you are helping to advance and develop as the world’s largest document delivery service, providing millions of items a yea to customers all over the world. It’s always great to give gifts that are more than just indulgences at Christmas, and this is a great one as the receiver gets something too!

maigret three volumes

If you really must give books, at least give your loved ones beautiful ones! The Folio Society produces stunning illustrated versions of classics. There’s something for everyone, and they’re all beautifully crafted, making them a gift that your loved ones will truly cherish.

As a crime fiction fan, my top tip is always going to be the beautiful set of illustrated Maigret novels, with a sumptuous three-volume set introduced by Julian Barnes and illustrated by Harry Brockway. Beautiful woodcut illustrations show the Parisian detective with his trademark pipe, hat and overcoat, set against a grey backdrop to elude to the seedier side of the French capital that Simenon portrays in his dark and insightful novels. The three offered here Maigret and the Calame Report, Maigret and the Saturday Caller and Maigret and the Wine Merchant, are all classic examples of this exceptional writer, and make for great reading.

If you’re not sure of the genre to go for and fancy giving a classic gift, then there are a selection of fine books to choose from exclusively available from the society. For example, there is the beautiful Middlemarch, illustrated by Pierre Mornet. George Eliot’s rich realist work telling the tale of a manufacturing town and the lives of its inhabitants is bought to live in this colourful edition which showcases the true beauty of this evocative story.

Modern fiction loves will be entranced by Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist, which features an afterword and note by the author as well as colourful illustrations by Jesus Cisneros. An intoxicating and deeply powerful story of humanity, love and spirituality, this beautiful edition of Coelho’s classic will brighten any booklover’s shelves.

With such a selection of treats, I wouldn’t be surprised if you ending up picking out a book or a membership for yourself too- don’t worry, I won’t tell! Happy Shopping!

Within The Silence Review: A Chilling Tale Of Family Secrets

Within the Silence

After a spate of them I’ve been a little short on blog tour posts for you, so here’s another- this week, it’s a review of Nicola Avery’s new novel Within the Silence.

Focusing on the secrets that creep into families and tear them apart, the novel focuses on the fractured Stone family. Father Jon’s wife, mother of his daughter Maddy, died in an accident late one night, and he remarried, and is now proud stepfather to the newly engaged Zara Hopper. Keen for another baby, Zara’s mother and stepfather adopted a young girl, Pippa, on whom the wealthy family now dotes.

Maddy has always been secretive, but now she has devastating revelations for Zara. As the novel unfolds, we see the disintegration of Zara’s seemingly perfect life as she works to discover the truth and find out more about what really happened all those years ago, and how it affects her family’s life today.

Avery has a deft hand with characterisation, and is able to easily give the reader a tantalising glimpse of her characters’ morals and minds, whilst at the same time always keeping them guessing.

The family’s secrets are carefully unveiled, and every time the reader thinks they’ve got a handle on the mystery another bombshell is dropped that changes everything yet again. As such, it’s easy to become enthralled by this gripping and tantalising novel, and I personally found myself devouring the novel. Intelligent and strikingly well crafted, the novel is nonetheless easy to read, and makes for a great escapist thriller.

There are some real moments of brilliance throughout the novel, and the plot is ingeniously engineered. Everything from the dialogue through to the settings and the bracing plot itself keeps the reader hurtling through to the nail-biting finale.

With so much going for it, there’s no reason not to check out Within The Silence- I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

Alison O’Leary Interview: “I always knew that I wanted to write”

 

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Another awesome interview for you today as I chat to Alison O’Leary about her novel Street Cat Blues.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?

Like most writers, my writing style has evolved over time so that some of my early efforts are completely unlike anything that I might produce now – thank goodness! Looking back at things that I wrote a number of years ago, they seem quite cringe making, but I think that’s all part of the learning process.

I discovered crime fiction via Agatha Christie when I was about twelve and was totally drawn in to the world that she created. I had nothing in common with it (and let’s be honest, who did?) but I found it totally fascinating. I guess it was a form of escapism but none the worse for that. From Agatha I progressed to writers such as P D James and Ruth Rendell and have enjoyed crime fiction ever since.

As well as being very fond of crime fiction, I am also interested in true crime. Of all the crimes, murder is the big one and I was always interested in how very ordinary some murderers are and sometimes how trivial their motive.

What is your background in writing and how did you get in to writing crime fiction?

I always knew that I wanted to write but, of course, like everybody else, I had to earn a living. I taught law for a number of years but in the background I was always scribbling away. I had more than my share of rejections and learned, like many writers, to live with it. As time went on I began to attract some interest from agents and publishers, which at least told me that I wasn’t completely wasting my time.

It finally dawned on me that the key to success is persistence. I think that some potentially very good writers give up too early. Of course, there are always the stories of the lucky few who land a massive publishing deal plus film rights first time round but that kind of scenario is rare. For most of us it’s a question of keeping on keeping on. And, of course, in the digital age there are increasing opportunities to see your work in print. Apart from the possibility of self-publishing (which has been made much easier now) there are also quite a few smaller independent presses who may be willing to take a chance on a new author because they publish eBooks.

I’m a law graduate and studied Criminology as part of my degree. I also later taught it so I guess I kind of knew that crime was always going to be my genre.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

Without wishing to sound too pretentious, inspiration can come from anywhere – it could be a news story or an overheard conversation. Sometimes it comes from real cases. I always keep a notebook or scrap of paper handy because sometimes a plot development or an idea for a character can suddenly come to me at odd moments; on a train for instance or even sometimes in a meeting when I’m supposed to be concentrating on something else! However, I suspect that, in common with many writers, if I waited until I was in the mood for writing I doubt I’d get much done! The thing about writing is that you just have to do it, whether you feel like it or not. But the joy of it is, once you’ve made yourself sit down at your desk and stop surfing the internet or sending text messages, the thing takes over and you find yourself immersed in the story again.

What style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I like murder mysteries and also psychological thrillers but I’m not keen on too much blood and gore. I’m also probably not a great fan of police procedurals, but having said that, if they’re done well then they can be a great read. These days I think a lot of books cross genres so a romance might also have a crime within it. I’m also a bit of a fan of non-fiction, particularly biographies and autobiographies. I guess when all’s said and done; a good book is a good book, irrespective of genre.

If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Although he’s not a crime writer, one of my favourite all-time authors is P G Wodehouse but I’m not sure we’d get much work done. I think we’d be wasting too much time laughing. He wrote such perfect prose that always seemed to exactly capture the mood. One of my favourites is when he describes his aunt Agatha as having the demeanour of one who, picking daises on the railway, has just caught the down express in the small of the back.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’m currently working on the sequel to Street Cat Blues and I’m pleased at the way some of the old characters are interacting with the new ones. It’s in the early stages so I’m not sure yet where it’s going to take me – the ideas are coming thick and fast.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the future?

I do read things other than crime and have recently discovered Lisa Jewell. I really admire her ability to tie the characters in so well with the plot. I also enjoy Erin Kelly and Claire Mackintosh.

Many thanks for answering my questions- I always love hearing from an Agatha Christie Fan!

 

A Checkered Past Review: Less Twee Than You’d Expect

A CHECKERED PAST front cover

Styled to mirror the writing of classic Golden Age authors, I was intrigued to check out A Checkered Past. Book four of the Emmeline Kirby, which I recently discovered after encountering the author on Facebook, is a scintillating tale of theft, murder and general mayhem.

Protagonist Emmeline Kirby is back in London determined to make a success of her new job as editorial director of investigative features at The Clarion. Three months have passed since the events of the previous book, in which she took a trip to Torquay, which led to devastating revelations that surfaced about her fiancé Gregory Longdon. A dashing jewel thief, he is determined win back her affections with the help of Emmeline’s best friend and Grandmother.

Meanwhile, as Gregory battles to prove his worth, Emmeline stubbornly pursues a story about looted Nazi art and an IRA collaborator. When a stolen Constable painting belonging to her best friend Maggie’s family turns up in the collection of Max Sanborn, the chairman of the company that owns The Clarion, her personal crusade brings danger close to home.

Battling these conflicts, Emmeline colludes with Gregory to uncover the truth from a knotted tangle of lies, deceits and shadowy dealings. With strong characterization of all of the central characters, and a number of the minor ones, writer Daniella Bernett has enhanced a series which, although I’ve not encountered it myself before, has the potential to gain a strong following in the future.

There’s a particularly good balance in the novel between Emmeline’s personal life and her investigation of the case. The two are entwined from the beginning, and yet the author does not allow this to overwhelm or become too soap opera-y, which is always a good sign. I’m not a fan of crime fiction that ventures too far into the detective’s personal life without a reasonable motive, and whilst there was the potential here for Bernett to go too far and make this more of a romance, she manages to just keep it the right side of syrupy.

My only issue with the book is some of the writing style. For example, the opening does not draw the reader in the way it should, with  many of the sentences starting with the same words, and paragraphs, which are traditionally used to break up passages, used haphazardly- a phenomenon which continues throughout the book. As a result, the novel does not flow as well as it should, and it does take a while to really get engaged with the story, but despite this there’s a lot to like in this Golden Age style novel.

In all, I’d say this is a pretty good novel that has not been stunningly crafted, but has the potential to go far. Whilst I personally won’t be going out of my way to read the rest of the series, there is something intriguing about Bernett’s protagonist that keeps bringing me back to thinking of other strong, female detectives modeled on the Golden Age style. And that can only be a good thing.