Interview with Zelmer A Wilson, author of “In the Middle”

What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

I use my laptop when I start writing the first draft and when I write the outline. Before that, I will make notes in longhand. I wrote the first draft of the first novel I wrote only because I didn’t have a computer or a typewriter. I do have a typewriter and have used it, but I find easier to use my laptop for most of my writing.

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

It dawned on me that I wanted to be a writer in the summer of 1990 when I was fifteen. I wrote my first story then and have been writing ever since then.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

I don’t have a set schedule, but I do try to write every day when I’m writing the first draft of a new novel. I write after having dinner and for a few hours.

Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

There is some truth to it. Writing is an activity done alone and so it makes sense that it would be more attractive to those is less inclined to be social.

Do you think writers have a normal life like others?

No, I don’t think so. Writers do have bills they need to pay and groceries to buy like everyone else, but that is the only thing they have in common with other people. Writers are blessed. They get to have two lives, the one life they have and the lives of their fictional characters.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

When I outline, I do come up with a plot, of a sort. I try to leave some wiggle room in it, though, so that while I’m writing the first draft, if an idea hits me, I can use it.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest thing about writing is finding the time necessary to write and while writing, avoid all distractions.

What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

For me, the easiest aspect of writing is writing the first draft. By the time I start writing the first draft, I’ve already spent time thinking about the characters and the plot. Writing an outline helps when I find myself stuck and not sure what to write next.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I try to read as much as I can, when I’m not writing my own novels. My favorite authors are Christopher Hitchens, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Charles Bukowski, Dan Fante, Hans Fallada, Janet Fitch, Joyce Maynard, and Henry Miller, to name a few.

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

I do both. I proofread and edit the first draft. I keep on re-writing until I’m satisfied that I’m done. I then have it proofread and edited by someone else.

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?

The most important thing about a book is the characters. If the reader can’t connect with the characters or at least the main character, it is impossible for them to enjoy reading your book.

Do your novels carry a message?

I don’t write my novels with a message in mind, because I think the writer runs the risk of the readers don’t getting the message. It’s better, I think, to write a great story with characters the reader can relate to than to write with a message in mind. I leave to the readers of my novels to find any messages in my novels.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

It depends on the novel. In my Miller Hoffman series, I put more of myself and my life in them because the main character, Miller Hoffman, is my fictional alter ego in many ways. In my other book series, the Bobbie Lamont series, I put myself in it through the character of Henry Young, the best-selling author.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

I haven’t incorporated anything that has happened in my own life into my novels yet. And I don’t plan on in the future. I instead rely on my imagination.

How realistic are your books?

I write literary fiction, so I try to make my novels as realistic as possible. All of them are realistic in the sense that they could happen, that they don’t contain anything that is unrealistic.

When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?

Until I was fifteen and decided I wanted to be a writer, I never saw writing as a career or full-time profession. Since then, it has been my life-long goal, writing full-time.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I find writing love scenes to be challenging, because there’s a fine line between writing a good love scene and writing pornography. To avoid crossing that line, I try to write about what the main character is feeling or thinking.

Is it true that anyone can be a writer?

No, I don’t think it’s true that anyone can be a writer. First, you have to be a reader. In all the biographies I’ve read about writers, I’ve yet to read one which tells how a person became a writer without starting off as a reader first. Second, you have to have some creative writing talent. Now, while it can be improved on with help by writing teachers, you have to have it from the beginning. And finally, you have the desire. You can’t see writing as something you want to do, but as something you have to do. Being a writer isn’t what you do, but what you are.

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

No, that’s false. No writer’s first draft is perfect, which is why it’s called the first draft. As Stephen King put it, the first draft is you telling the story to yourself and all the other drafts after that are you telling the story to the future readers.

Did the thought to give up writing ever occur to you?

No, it hasn’t ever occurred to me because being a writer and writing isn’t what I do in my spare time, it is who I am. I will write for as long as I can, until I either can’t write anymore or stop enjoying it.

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