Interview with Essel Pratt, author of “Final Reverie”

What inspires you to write?

Whenever I am asked about inspiration, my initial response is that everything provides inspiration for me. I know it seems to be a generic response, but I find that it is really more complex. Inside, I have a passion to write. That passion draws inspiration from anything that desires to become a story. It can be coerced from a falling leaf, a sneeze from my kids, a random hair from my dog, or just about anything else. Often, while in my car thinking to myself, something might catch me out of the corner of my eye and instantly relate to everything else that is going on around me, such as the music on the radio, the person in the car next to me, the weather, etc. From that instance, a story is born. So, for me, inspiration is not one thing, it is everything interacting with everything else.

What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

I don’t think of myself as a genre writer. In fact, I abhor the term. Instead, I write what feels right at the time. A story that might start out as a horror short may soon become a novel sized fantasy, and vice versa. I think that flexibility is what makes my writing special. I have stories published that range from fantasy adventure to extreme horror, and everything in between. My first novel, Final Reverie, is a fantasy adventure. My second book, ABC’s of Zombie Friendship, is a children’s picture book. My third novel is slated to be mainstream horror. However, in between each book, I tend to write a lot of short stories that extend across multiple genres.

How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?

Starting the writing is the easy part. Moving forward used to be the difficult process. When I first started writing, I constantly rewrote the first 6 paragraphs of the book over and over again. I never made any progress at all. When I finally decided to put that book aside and start Final Reverie, I made a promise that I was just going to write until it was done. Then I would go back and complete edits and rewrites. I found that the process started to flow and the story developed itself rather easily. Someday I hope to revisit that first book and actually finish more than six paragraphs.

Do you think writers have a normal life like others?

I used to think that writers were a unique bunch, locked in their favorite writing spot, focused only on their latest masterpiece. How wrong was I? I’ve met and befriended a lot of authors from across multiple genres. What I found is they are no different than anyone else. They work day jobs, have families, write when they get a chance, do their own grocery shopping, etc. The only thing that makes them abnormal is the perception by the readers and fans. I think many writers are often uncomfortable with the idea of fame. We just want to share our stories and entertain. Buying our books is praise enough.

Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?

I read every single review I find regarding my works. Whether it is a short story inside an anthology or one of my books, the reviews provide me with a reader’s perspective if my work. Good reviews always put a smile on my face, as they should. However, instead of interacting within the reviews themselves, I tend to interact with fans via social media. It is a way to communicate casually, inform them of current and future projects, as well as openly discuss the books and stories.

Does a bad review affect your writing?

I find bad reviews to be the most constructive of all reviews. I see many authors, especially newer Indie authors, make the mistake of attempting to defend themselves against a bad review. That can never lead to anything good. It is best to let them be, but learn from what the reader did not like. That alone may provide inspiration for a sequel. In addition, some great authors have used negative reviews in their marketing to promote their books. If done well, bad reviews can be just as positive as good ones.

Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier?

This actually happens to me all the time. I drive an hour home from work each day and there are a plethora of ideas that come to me. But, by the time I get home, they are gone. However, I don’t typically let that bother me. Instead, I focus on an existing idea, knowing that the other ideas will come back to me when I need them most.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer?

I like to think of myself as a man with many hats. I work for a community college in Southwest Michigan during the day. At night, I go home to my family and pets, which may be the most important job of all. However, I am also the COO of J. Ellington Ashton Press, which also makes me an editor, formatter, master of many trades. In addition, I write for the Inquisitr and an going to school full time as I pursue my bachelors in psychology. Somehow, despite the hectic schedule life has thrown at me, I still find the time to create worlds within my stories.

Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?

Anyone that tells you their first draft is perfect is either lying or has not read back through his or her first draft at all. Authors are people, thus we make mistakes. Word-perfect is not just centered around grammar. Continuity of the storyline, research facts, and so much more plays into the process. Ask any editor that has read a first draft and you will hear horror stories of just how bad the edits were. The problem is that, as a writer, it is so hard to see our own mistakes. It really does take a second set of eyes to draw out the errors.

Have you received any awards for your literary works?

Just this year I’ve received two first place Preditors and Editors awards for best poem and poet of 2016, along with 4 other top ten places in various other categories. Last year I won a top ten place, actually finishing third, in the Preditors and Editors Children’s book category for ABC’s of Zombie Friendship.

Are you friends with any of fellow authors? If yes, do you discuss your current projects with each other?

I am friends with many authors across various genres. Discussing current projects is always fantastic because we have the opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other. Sometimes, a simple idea may turn into a full anthology that multiple authors contribute to. Other times, we may find that the idea just isn’t right for one person and pass it on to another. In addition, the open communication builds a network that allows the sharing of experience.

In case one or any of your books honor the big screen, which book would you like it to be?

If Final Reverie were to ever make it to the big screen, I would see it as an animated feature in the style of Hayao Miyazaki, with musical score by Nobuo Uemetsu. I can envision it being a beautiful showpiece that would appeal to anime lovers, gamers, and those that simply love a good story.

Do you mentor?

I was a new writer once, so mentoring seems to be the perfect way to give back. Recently, I have worked with a new writer that is now published in at least three anthologies. Another is in the process of publishing his first novel. I am by no means a perfect writer, and probably learn as much from those I mentor as they do from me. So, I see it as a symbiotic relationship.

Do you prefer being intoxicated to write? Or would you rather write sober?

Intoxication and writers is a pretty common stereotype. I’m just as happy with a tall glass of ice water as I am with a nice craft beer. As far as actually being drunk, I can’t see myself writing like that. I want to be coherent while and advance the story, not hinder it with jibberish. However, alcohol may allow some authors to open up in ways they never would sober. So, if it works, why not?

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?

I don’t know how to explain my style, other than to say it is just how I write. Typically, I am at my desk, with life going on around me. I don’t hide form the world, I let it happen. My kids interrupt me, my dogs want to go outside, and my wife is always there to add another item to my honey do list. So, I guess my style is just to let my environment guide me as I go.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

I’m not sure that I believe in writer’s block. When I write, I already have the entire story mapped out in my head or on paper. Sure, there are times that details for a certain scene or chapter may not come to me right away, that happens to everyone. However, in those instances, I simply walk away from the piece for a couple hours or days and work on something else until I figure it out.

Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?

Rejection is part of the game, we all experience it. The key is to not let the rejection get to you. The piece may be fine as is, but not what the publisher is currently looking for. I have been lucky to work with some fantastic publishers that don’t simply reject, but give feedback as to why. It not only softens the rejection, but gives constructive criticism, sometimes pointing out issues that the writer may have missed.

Are you a member of any writing organizations; if yes, define your role?

I am currently a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). Within the association I am the event calendar coordinator and work with members to share their upcoming signings, readings, and other events. Not only is it a fantastic way to network with authors from all over the world, it is also a great way to belong to a genre and gain representation as well.

Do writers become narcissists once their book starts to sell?

I’d like to say no, but some do. As a writer, we have to remember why we started the craft. Hopefully it was not to get rich and famous, but to create something from within our heads and share it with the world; to have fun. I think a writer that becomes a narcissist may have lost focus on the reason to write. In addition, he or she begins to lose touch with the readers, which can have a negative impact on his or her career. Luckily, most of the writers I have met have been fantastic and love to interact with their fans.

Do you see the ‘writing germs’ in any of your family members?

Both of my daughters (14 and 18) have short stories published in anthologies, as does my step son (26). I’ve never forced them to write, although I have encouraged them. Luckily, they also love the craft and are proud of their work enough to share it with the world.

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