Interview of "Excelsior" by George H. Sirois

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

Welcome back George! Today we are talking about his great book, Excelsior. At the end of this post are links on where you can buy this great book for yourself OR you can enter my blogiversary giveaway for a chance to win a copy!

Now to start this off, I'm going to do a mini-review, since I had the honored privelage to read this book as George gifted it to me. (Best holiday present EVER!)

Excelsior tells the story of Matthew Peters, a somewhat lonely teen drudging through high school. He lives in a world he created from vivid dreams about Excelsior and the epic adventures that befall him. At least, he thought he created it. When one of his comic characters shows up, live and in person, Matthew soon realizes that his dreams were really memories - and Excelsior is a real person from Denab IV!

I was immediately drawn into this story from the first line and it kept me hooked until the very end! With action and more action in this story, it's sure to keep you on the edge of your seat, just like it did me. I read it in one shot, fearing that if I put it down, I would miss a vital piece of information! The world of Denab IV that we visit in this story is truly magical. George put exquisite amount of work and detail into describing the new world and the culture of the Denarians and Krunations. I was sucked into the world and instantly felt a connection to the Denarians and their fight for survival.

I was most drawn to Matthew of course, because I could completely relate with him. Becoming lost in a story and almost obsessed with characters the way Matthew does with this comic, reminds me so much of myself in High School it's not even funny! There is one moment where Matthew has his nose a few inches from the page he's working on, not paying attention in class and I instantly remembered practically the same moment as it happened to me!

All parts of this book pulled me in and I became totally immersed into Matthew's adventure! This is one of the best books I've read in many years and I highly recommend it to anyone - not just sci-fi lovers like myself. I think anyone will fall in love with this book because of it's simple yet complex twists that just suck you right in!

Okay, that ended up longer than I thought! Now, I get to ask George a few questions about the book and his experience with self-publishing.

Okay, George, to start this off today, tell us how did the idea for Excelsior come to you?

I originally created Excelsior in 1992, when I wanted to add someone new to my universe of characters. I wanted to bring in someone special, someone with mythic characteristics. After watching the John Boorman film Excalibur, I wanted to use a sword as a starting point and added a superhero element to the new character, combining elements from Jesus Christ, King Arthur and Optimus Prime. I always liked how the word “Excelsior” sounded and I thought that would be the perfect name for this guy. In the next two years, his backstory came into focus when I was encouraged by my English teacher to write more about him.

That's wonderful that you had such a supportive English teacher. It seems that you have multiple elements help you inspire this story. The combination is truly amazing! Especially in your character development and details. What was the inspiration for the character Matthew? And Jason?

Matthew started out as someone I wanted to use to honor the memory of my cousin Matthew Henkel. He passed away five years ago, one week before his 25th birthday, but before he left us, he accomplished more in his life than most people who live to their 70s or 80s. Matt was the ultimate example of someone who looked very ordinary but did extraordinary things.

I didn’t want to take actual moments from his life, so instead I used Matt’s life as subtext to match what Matthew Peters goes through, how he was never looked at as a hero and yet became one of the greatest ever seen. When it came to the backstory of the character, I used elements from my own life such as the mentioning of having an office in his closet and the conversation he has with Mrs. Webb. (That was a true story. My English teacher gave me two points of extra credit because of the journal entries that mentioned Excelsior and the other characters in my universe.)

Jason was a character born from necessity. When I started developing the story with a 17-year-old high school senior in mind for Matthew Peters (he was originally in his 30s and becoming a superstar in the comic book industry before I thought the Young Adult genre made for a better fit) I couldn’t fathom the idea of Klierra telling Matthew’s parents about the hero he is destined to be. Plus, since I wanted to add in the mythic elements from Joseph Campbell’s writing, it worked better for the story if his parents were out of the picture.

But he had to have SOME kind of parental figure, so I brought in an uncle who has a lot of problems of his own while trying to be “cool” to his nephew. I used the name Jason as a tribute to my friend and cover artist Jason Goodman, since it was his web comic that inspired me to have Matthew writing and drawing his own for Excelsior.

At the end of Excelsior, George wrote a beautiful "Afterward" explaining more about his cousin, Matthew Henkel. It made me cry and I fel honored to learn even a little about such a great man. Since I'm sure this story was a bit emotional for you to put together, how long did it take you to write Excelsior?

After writing the first draft in only 30 days, I was under the belief that I just needed to touch up the book a bit and then shop it around. I got shocked back to reality when a good friend and former co-worker JeriAnn Geller got as far as Chapter 1 before she told me, “There’s a lot of work to do.” We spent over two months completely overhauling that chapter, and during that time we decided that she would come aboard as my editor. After that, it took almost two years of re-writes before the book was ready to go.

Good friends like that can really bring you back to reality with crits! It's great that you had someone so honest to help your improve. What made you decide to go the self-publishing route?

I was originally going to seek out a traditional publisher, but I felt way too attached to the character (can you blame me?), and I felt it best to hold onto his rights and still get the book out there into the world.

I'm sure you're not the only one that has felt that way. Since you had to find your own, what was your experience like working with an editor?

Working with JeriAnn was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. She was the ideal editor, meaning that she was incredibly helpful without doing all the work. Right when we started, she was asking me questions about Denab IV, about the Denarians& Krunations, about their lifestyles, all these elements that I never thought of in the eighteen years that I had known Excelsior. By asking me these questions, she forced me to come up with a much more complex mythology than I imagined. It was great.

That is great that she was able to help you breath so much life into the story. It really shows as I was immediately drawn to the culture of the Denarians and Krunations. Now, since you self-published this, did you share Excelsior with a critique group or beta readers before the editor saw it? Or did you self-edit?

The beta readers came into play during the last rounds of editing. My wife was the first one to read the whole thing cover-to-cover, and her suggestions were fantastic – especially for Chapter 1. After she had done her part, our proofreader Susan Yacker came aboard and helped out with some re-wording here and there.

After that, over two days, we read the book out loud and marked up all the necessary changes. JeriAnn and I read through it again to see how the changes worked, and at the beginning of June, we finally agreed that the book was ready to go.

Oh! You're so lucky your wife read your work. I can't get my hubby to read my fantasy stories to save my life. But, it's just not his thing. I did however recommend Excelsior to him, since sci-fi is a love of his. Do you feel the marketing and promotion you have to do is harder than if you had a traditional publisher? Why or why not?

It is harder, since working with a traditional publisher would have allowed me access to local Barnes& Noble and Borders stores and I wouldn’t have to try and sell my book to each of the indie bookstores. But at the same time, I would still be doing the blog tours to promote Excelsior no matter how this was to be published. Even if I didn’t have to do it, I still would since I knew I was going to have a lot of fun with it.

I bet all that work is worth it though in the end. Especially if you write more about Excelsior. Speaking of which, will there be a sequel to this story or a continuation of some sort?

There’s not only a sequel in mind, but a Part 3 to finish what I’m now calling “The Excelsior Journeys.” The end of Part 3 leads into another series of stories, and that one’s going to be really special for me since I get to introduce to the world the very characters that started out as squares and rectangles in 1985.

Oh fabulous! I can't wait to be able to read that too! Is there an excerpt that people can read to give them a taste of this wonderful story?

Absolutely. You can read Chapter 1 of “Excelsior” on my web site, by going here: Excelsior 2010: Chapter One. Afterwards, you can click on the Amazon link at the bottom of the page and purchase the eBook for 99 cents (price change after December 31) or the paperback for $13.95.

Thanks so much George for coming back to answer more questions for us! It has been a joy to have you here on my blog for these two days! I look forward to reading more of Excelsior for sure!

It was a pleasure, Anastasia. Thank you again.

1 Response to "Interview of "Excelsior" by George H. Sirois"

Alex J. Cavanaugh Says :
December 14, 2010 at 2:21 PM

Gotta love test readers! Don't know what I'd done without mine. And good to see someone else who kicked around an idea for a LONG time.

Post a Comment