Interview with Author George H. Sirois

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

While on Twitter the other day a friend of mine Eisley Jacobs re-tweeted something about a sci-fi writer asking for blogs to add to this blog tour schedule. I clicked the link and landed at the blog for Excelsior, a novel written by George H. Sirois. I was immediately intrigued by the comments others made about the book but still wasn't sure about joining the tour.

I had never volunteered for such a thing before and didn't know if George would even be willing since he didn't know who I was at all. But, I thought what the heck and left a comment.

And then, the most amazing thing happened! George tweeted me and offered to send me a free copy of Excelsior! He agreed to appear on my blog too! So, I got the book and even had to download an epub reader in order to read it.

And OH MY GOSH! The world weaved by George here is simply amazing!

We'll talk more about Excelsior tomorrow, but today I have the honored privilege of asking George a few questions about himself as an author.

So George, to start this off, tell the blog readers out there a little bit about yourself.

Well, I grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York and moved to Richmond, Virginia in 1988. I’ve been a lover of science-fiction all my life, with a lot of credit going to my dad for introducing me to Star Wars& Star Trek. He made sure I was home for the HBO premiere of Star Wars, he and my mom always provided me with plenty of Star Wars toys every Christmas, and he would make sure to tape specific episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series that aired at midnight on WPIX-11, when I had to be in bed.

At first, I would jot down ideas for different battles I would play out with my Star Wars characters, but as I got older – and was introduced to TransFormers in 1984 – I wanted to create my own world of characters. So in 1985, some friends and I started drawing a group of robotic characters inspired by the movies and shows we loved at the time. There was very little detail to them in both name and design; they were as complex as a square for a head and several rectangles for the body, arms and legs. But at the same time, I had a feeling that, even though the definitive versions of these characters were a long way away, they had potential to reach an audience.

When I went to Marymount Manhattan College from 1994 – 1998, my love of writing really took off. I was there to study Theatre with a concentration in Acting, but I found myself gravitating more toward my writing classes in my junior and senior years. When I took “Intro to Creative Writing” and “Writing for Television,” I brought my old characters from 1985 into my assignments and my classmates and professors really responded to them. So my feeling back then seemed to be justified for the time being, but in the next few years, I worked on other projects instead.

My first book, “From Parts Unknown,” came out in 2002 through iUniverse after it was suggested that I self-publish that story instead of seek a traditional publisher. It wasn’t that the story was lacking, it was just catering to a very niche market. An agent wouldn’t exactly see dollar signs with a sci-fi / action / comic book character take on pro wrestling. That same year, my friend Joe Pospisil and I co-wrote the book to a children’s musical called “Halloween at Belvedere: A Monster Musical Adventure.” That show became a big hit in Central Park when we and our friends performed it on Halloween weekend from 2002 – 2004. We brought it back one more time this past Halloween, which was especially fulfilling since we hadn’t done it for so long.

By the time I started writing this novel, I had been a weekly columnist in the Movies/TV zone for, an independent pop culture web site that had gained a very strong following. I wasn’t writing fiction, but the columns and news reports allowed my writing to improve since I had to constantly write something twice a week, and I realized that I worked very well with deadlines. I retired my columns at 411Mania, but I still write there occasionally with DVD reviews or roundtable discussions.

Wow. You're life sounds so much more interesting than mine! With a life so full of adventure, what made you decide to become a writer?

When I moved to Richmond, I kept working with the characters my friends and I created in grade school, and adding more and more detail to them, changing their backstories and making them cybernetic instead of completely robotic. It got to a point where I couldn’t draw them anymore and do them justice in the form of page-long comic strips, with which I started filling pages in notebooks. So the writing was started purely out of necessity. I wanted to tell the stories that were really gaining momentum in my head, but I didn’t have the artistic talent to tell them in a comic form, so instead of using the same notebooks to make comic strips, I started filling them with short stories with the occasional piece of accompanying artwork.

Necessity is why I write for sure. I have to do it or I'll go insane. I'm inspired by music a lot when I'm writing, that helps to calm the chaos of plots in my head. What inspires you to write?

Two major elements: movies and music. I always considered myself to have a cinematic mind, meaning that I could visualize major moments in my stories as if they were on the big screen. And because of that, I would sift through my film score collection and find the right piece of music to match what I was putting together in my head. If the music worked, then it would enhance the idea and be so strong that it would give me chills. After that came the hard part: getting what was in my head down on my computer screen and making sure the reader could feel the same rush that I did, relying solely on the text without the music or the images to help them.

I think that’s why I always read movie tie-in novelizations when I grew up. I would have seen the movie first, and then read the book to see if what was written could match what I had seen. Novelizations take something cinematic and make it literary, and if I could pull that off with what I write, it would be a success. If I couldn’t, then it would be a failure.

I think you really pulled it off with Excelsior. I can't wait to see that as a movie, as I'm sure it will get there! How has your life changed since you've been published?

Well, since I took the self-publishing route, my life hasn’t changed very much. I still have a day job that I’m very proud of, my wife and I are still doing our best to make ends meet, I’m still correcting people on the pronunciation of my last name and my mother’s still telling me that me being a lawyer isn’t such a bad idea.

But there’s one element that has changed my life for the better since this book came out. I’m hearing from people that I otherwise wouldn’t have known, and they’re telling me how much they enjoyed reading “Excelsior,” and how they want to know what happens next. It makes me feel like a proud parent since this character and I have such a long history together. I’ve often joked to friends that if Excelsior were literally born when I wrote the first story about him, he’d be in college now.

Ya know, I never thought about how my character would age if I thought of them as children that grow up. I'd have teenagers by now with a few of mine, which his rather scary thought! Speaking of time, how long does it take for you to write a book and what is your schedule like when writing?

In the case of “Excelsior,” the first draft was done from June 1 to June 30 of 2008. At the end of 2007, I read Chris Baty’s book, “No Plot? No Problem!,” which introduced me to National Novel Writing Month. I couldn’t write the draft in November, since that not only has my Thanksgiving, but also my wife’s birthday and our wedding anniversary. I couldn’t just say, “I want to write a novel” on top of that, so I decided to go with June instead.

The schedule for writing that first draft was simple: whenever I had time, I would open up the document and get to work. I had three computers on hand for it – the laptop, my desktop and my work computer. When I had free time at the office, I would fire out a couple pages just to keep up with my daily deadlines. I even took the laptop with me when my friends and I went to a horror film convention in late June. The whole month, I maybe fell behind a day or two at the most, but by 11:35 pm on June 30, I wrote “The End” and finished the challenge.

For any other writing, I simply write when I have the time and motivation. I need to set more strict deadlines for myself just so I can get the same kind of production that I had when I wrote the first draft of this novel.

That's great that you could still do the NaNo challenge when you had time. For some reason I just can't do the same challenge in any other month besides November. Luckily, my husband's brithday falls on the 30th, so I don't have to worry about his day ontop of writing too much. Do you character plot a great deal or have a detailed outline before you start writing or do you write on the fly?

I had this particular story sitting in my head for over fifteen years by the time I started the first draft. I really liked the concept of Excelsior being a symbiotic lifeform, an entity to enhance the host and give them the tools necessary to accomplish what needs to be done. I knew the basic storyline, how it would start and how it would end. What I didn’t know was the in-between, so it became a journey of my own to see how I would get the story from Point A to Point B.

It was only during the second week of writing the first draft when I re-introduced Grannik& Radifen and created the characters of Zorribis, Karini& Wilitar, since I was stuck after I finished writing Chapter 4 and needed to do SOMETHING with the story. So I brought the reader back to Denab IV and basically sent in the cavalry. These people not only assisted Klierra with Matthew’s training, but they assisted me with moving the story along. I’m not sure I would have done this if I didn’t write that first draft on the fly.

With the sequel, however, I thought it would be best if I did a full outline.

I did the same with my faery series. I wrote book 1 and part of book 2 on the fly then realized I needed to outline the rest of the series or I was going to lose myself in the details. It's great that you can use both methods to your advantage. Now, when you were 'done' writing your story, did you have a critique group, and if so, what is your opinion on the help they give?

I used to be a part of a large critique group, but there was very little focus on it and even less weekly participants. A couple of us decided it would be best to break away from the group - which quickly scattered anyway - and the two that were left proved to be incredibly enthusiastic about writing. Both of them took on the NaNoWriMo challenge and both successfully completed first drafts of their own novels. Their opinions on my book were also very helpful, specifically for the first few chapters.

It is sad when crit groups fall apart. I had a similar experience. It's great that you found a few people that were dedicated to your work to help you critique. What is the hardest part of writing that you've struggled with?

For me, it was all about patience. There were so many times when I wanted to say, “That’s a wrap” and send the book out for publishing. But JeriAnn wasn’t ready to agree until we had gone through every line in every chapter. We even read the book out loud - me, her and another friend of ours who took on the mantle of proofreader, Susan Yacker - and still found a whole lot to fix. You should have seen the manuscript, just bleeding red ink.

So yes, patience was the key. If I didn’t have it, then the book wouldn’t be anywhere near where it is now.

Patience is important in this industry for sure! Thanks so much George for stopping by on your blog tour! If you want to learn more about George and his great book, Excelsior, stop by his blog.

Thanks so much for allowing me to play in your sandbox.

Of course! It was my pleasure! Tomorrow I ask George more questions about Excelsior specifically, so tune in for a mini-review from me and more questions about the book itself.

2 Responses to "Interview with Author George H. Sirois"

Saumya Says :
December 13, 2010 at 8:24 AM

Great interview! That is amazing that he finished his novel within one month.

I also loved your post on The Free Spirit. My M.C. tries to march to the beat of her own drum but is somewhat constrained by her culture and society. Does this not make her a Free Spirit? I'm having trouble placing her in a category/mix of categories.

Wonderful post!

Anastasia V. Pergakis Says :
December 13, 2010 at 3:53 PM

Saumya: Yes, it is amazing. I've done NaNo before, but still never wrote a complete novel in that time, usually hitting the 50K mark long before "The End".

I'm glad you liked the Free Spirit post. Yes, that does make her a free spirit but depending on how she reacts to the constrains of society, she might also be a Bad Girl (Seductress) or some other archetype. I'll be posting more, so keep tuning in to learn about the rest of the archetypes.

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