Science fiction author EJ Fisch specializes in all things futuristic. EJ recently sat down to discuss her growth as a writer and what the experience of publishing has been like for her.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve enjoyed telling stories for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure if there’s ever been a “why” behind my writing, other than “because I want/have to” (because let’s face it – when I get a story in my head, I can’t not write it). I have fairly early memories of trying to write a murder mystery that never went anywhere. When I went through my Jurassic Park phase in 5th grade, I played a lot of the Jurassic Park III PC game “Danger Zone” with my best friend and ended up writing fanfiction based on the player characters from that game. In junior high, a couple of friends and I had kind of a Star Wars role-playing game going with original characters we’d created, and I essentially novelized it (still have it somewhere – it’s pretty terrible!). That Star Wars fanfic was what really got me started, because it became longer and more in-depth than any story I’d told previously. It got me comfortable with the sci fi genre, and I’ve even borrowed elements from some of those old stories to use in my writing today.
What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre that isn’t so?
I think there are certain people out there who think that if sci fi isn’t hard sci fi, it’s not real sci fi. In their minds, there have to be actual scientific explanations behind the technology in the story, or concepts within the story have to be based on scientific concepts we already see today. Any books that don’t fit into that category aren’t true sci fi. I don’t think that’s fair. Sure, it’s called science fiction, but there’s also that fiction part at the end, which means authors have the freedom to alter ideas or even make stuff up entirely. While I find futuristic technology and scientific concepts fascinating, it starts going over my head if it reaches a certain level. I prefer stories with a little less focus on the science and a little more focus on the fiction (so, characters, plot, etc.) and therefore that’s how I write it. I’ve done my share of research on certain concepts that I want to work into my plots, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not as important as, say, the character development. I’ve spoken with other authors who feel the same way. It’s important to remember that science fiction as a genre has many sub-genres, but they’re all still sci fi, regardless of the balance between the sci and the fi.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
As I got older and wrote more, it was always my goal to make my next story longer than my last. I was mostly shooting for quantity over quality, and with those higher word counts came the opportunity for more complex plots and character development. Eventually I realized that some stories could only be so long before they got obnoxiously long, so I shifted my focus back to the quality aspect, and if I still got quantity, great. If not, great. It’s fun to look back at some of my old writing and see how simple the ideas were. There’d maybe be one plot twist that I’d unintentionally broadcasted way back at the beginning. These days, it’s fun to work in a little bit of foreshadowing (I’m notorious for this), create more complex plots and characters, and torment readers with last-minute plot twists that will keep them guessing right up until the end of the book…and sometimes even after! I think some of this evolution can be attributed to a general increase in intelligence (at least I like to think I’m smarter now than I was in junior high!). Some of it is also being able to look back on what I’ve done in the past, see what worked and what didn’t, and know how to move forward. They say one of the only ways to improve your writing is to keep writing, and that’s SO true. Now that I’ve had more practice working with more complex plots, I’ve gotten to where I’m often able to predict outcomes and twists in other books and movies because I recognize how the story structure is working, and that’s always fun.
What have you written so far?
Aside from all of my goofy old stories of course, I’ve published three full-length novels, as well as a Kindle collection containing those three novels and a few other fun little tidbits. I often tell people my series combines the sci fi and spy thriller genres. The story centers around a team of superhuman characters who work in the special operations division of the primary law enforcement agency on their planet. Ziva Payvan, my main character, is essentially an assassin who ends up having to work with the brother of someone she killed. The first book, Dakiti, introduces the characters and back story and gets the ball rolling. The second book, Nexus, has kind of a standalone plot and focuses a little more on character development. Then the third book, Ronan, ties the first two books together and brings the story full circle. The structure was a lot of fun to work with! The three main novels are available in both Kindle and paperback formats, and The Ziva Payvan Collection is currently Kindle-exclusive.
What are some ways in which you promote your work?
My primary marketing outlet is the Internet. As an artist, I like to create cool, informational graphics promoting my books and post them on various social media where they’ll be seen. I have business cards and promotional bookmarks that I tuck into the pages of my books whenever anyone buys copies directly from me. I have copies for sale at a local bookstore and they’ve hung some of the posters I’ve made up in their window. I also have posters hung up in my office at work and have generated a surprising amount of interest that way. Otherwise, I rely a lot on the outstanding network of other indie authors I’ve met throughout the past couple of years and general word of mouth from friends and family.
How do you feel about indie/alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I think it’s great. Many critics of indie publishing cite it as the “easy way out” for people who are too lazy to deal with traditional publishing and don’t want to face the inevitable rejection letters. In some ways, that’s probably true (I mean, who wants to deal with rejection?) but there’s a lot more to it than that. Indie publishing is by no means easy; yes, it gives literally anyone the opportunity to publish, but in terms of workload, it’s probably harder than traditional publishing because, without agents and marketing departments at your disposal, you’re personally responsible for all of that work. But that also means you have the freedom to market the way you want, promote your book the way you want, design your cover the way you want, format your interior the way you want, etc. Yes, it’s a lot more time-consuming, but there’s no better feeling than being able to hold the finished product in your hands and say “I did this. I made this.” That element of control is one of the reasons I love self/indie publishing. I also don’t really have any interest in going big – I just want to share my work and get to know my readers, and indie publishing allows me to do that quickly and efficiently. I’ve discovered a lot of books and authors I probably would have never heard of if I hadn’t gotten into indie publishing, and those books and authors might not even exist if indie publishing wasn’t a thing. It opens doors for so many people who may have never gotten the opportunity to publish if they’d gone the traditional route. I do think this freedom can be abused sometimes though – just because people can publish a book with the click of a button doesn’t mean they should. I’ve come across some indie books on Amazon that don’t seem to have been edited at all, or the cover was just thrown together, or the interior formatting is a mess. Indie books should be given the same amount of work and care as any book that’s being published traditionally. But that’s a topic for another time. Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the indie publishing scene and the experience and opportunities it has given me.
Tell us more about your main character. What makes him or her unique?
Ziva Payvan is one of my favorite types of characters: an anti-hero(ine) who has her own agenda for most of the “heroic” things she does and who refuses to let herself form attachments. Because of the nature of her work, that’s kind of a necessity, but she has also damaged and desensitized herself so badly over the years that it’s sometimes impossible for her to function in a normal capacity. She’s got a lot of secrets – one worth killing for – and hates the idea of letting anyone get close enough to understand what’s going on inside her head. She comes across as abrasive and cold, and I’ve had several readers mention that they actually didn’t like her at first because of this (which was precisely my intention). More clues are revealed about her from book to book; her evolution was a lot of fun for me to write, and I love seeing how readers react to her development.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you cast?
This is always a tough one. Since my characters are all members of this superior, near-human race, they’re all really tall (the four main characters range from 5’9” to 6’8”) and incredibly athletic and thus it’s pretty much impossible to fan-cast anyone based on body build. Therefore I typically focus on faces and occasionally someone’s hair if they have a really unique hairstyle. Rather than a movie, I end up picturing the story being more like a video game where actors are simply face models or voiceovers and sometimes do motion capture. Ziva is described as having pretty gaunt, severe features: high, sharp cheekbones, narrow jaw, rigid nose. I’ve always liked Tricia Helfer’s face in that respect – she can really nail the intense look I picture for Ziva. Her voice would be decent as well. I picture my male lead, Aroska, having pretty chiseled features as well, though his face is a little more filled out. I’ve been watching a lot of Arrow lately and can’t help but picture Stephen Amell with black hair. He can also pull off the necessary facial hair, but his voice can sometimes be annoying. I’ve been pretty set on Ryan Reynolds as Skeet, Ziva’s second in command. For Zinni, the other member of Ziva’s team, I picture a black-haired, stockier version of Kristanna Loken. She’s great for switching from pretty and sweet to I’ll-murder-you-with-my-eyes in a split second. Alas, none of these people would actually be perfect for the characters, but it’s fun to imagine it.
What do you like to read in your free time?
Ha! What free time? As a writer of sci fi, I like to read a lot of sci fi as well, both because I want to stay up-to-date in the genre and because I enjoy it. I try to alternate between reading indie books and bigger stuff – I typically read indie books at night before bed and read physical books during my lunch breaks. For example, I’m currently readingLeviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey and Defiance by Lucas Bale, both of which are sci fi. I sometimes do beta reads for author friends too. Aside from sci fi, I also like to read the occasional thriller – some of David Baldacci’s books have been really enjoyable.
Tell us something unique about you.
I’m obsessed with chickens (they really make the coolest pets). I’m afraid of red velvet cake. My car is named Stella. I’m a filthy Dr. Pepper addict. I believe in Bigfoot. I coach volleyball at the school I graduated from. I’m 5’10” but always hoped I’d make it to 6’1”. I love video games. I now collect bottle caps thanks to Fallout. I once broke my car key off while it was in the ignition (that was fun). I’ve been teaching myself Italian but have been terrible about keeping up with lessons. My favorite TV show is currently The Blacklist. I could probably go on all day…
Find EJ around the web!
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page
Dakiti: Ziva Payvan Book 1 | Nexus: Ziva Payvan Book 2 | Ronan: Ziva Payvan Book 3 | The Ziva Payvan Collection