Name: Adi Alsaid
Name of book: Somewhere Over the Sun
Book genre: Literary fiction
Date published: November 2010
Publisher: Dog Ear
What is your book about? A young writer named Alan discovers his stories are coming to life, so he starts writing stories that will give his friends happier lives.
What is the most challenging part of the writing process? Having a good memory. Every time I name a new character, even a the tiniest of background characters, one who only gets a sentence before the story abandons him, I have to hit Ctrl+F to make sure “Gary” hasn’t already made an appearance earlier in the story. It wasn’t until one of the later rounds of revision that I realized that in the beginning of the book I had written that Alan’s first pet was a turtle, but then contradicted myself with an anecdote later in the book where Alan talks about his first pet, a fish.
Obviously, there were some aspects of the writing process that always threatened to become more challenging than an imperfect memory: constant every day distractions like lovely California weather and The Price is Right. There’s also the challenge of overcoming the sneaking suspicion that everything I write is terrible, as well as overcoming the suspicion that everything I write is brilliant.
What motivates you to write? I wrote a post about this on my site. I write because I must. It’s not even a “must.” It’s something which simply happens, kind of like thinking itself, or more accurately, an extension of it. I have no choice but to think, and sometime I have no choice but to transfer those thoughts into something readable. Now, I’ve got the added motivator of writing being a rather crucial part of my chosen career path: writing.
Did you experience writer’s block? Not while writing Somewhere Over the Sun, at least not anything that didn’t pass after an hour or two of people watching at a coffee shop. Writing is kind of like surfing. You go out there every day with your surfboard, ready to catch the waves. Some days the tide is a little weak, the wind too calm. So you sit there on the ocean enjoying the view and you don’t get too frustrated, because you know the tide never stops.
How long did it take you to write this book? 3 months, then another month of revisions.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? Submerging myself in my writing. For the first time in my life, writing was my life. I loved waking up in the morning and knowing that my obligation was to write, and everything else (excluding certain human interactions) was secondary. I loved hitting word count goals, loved getting positive comments from my editors, loved getting happiness from my writing.
Your book self-published. Why did you choose that route? I wanted to take the traditional route, queried agents for a couple months and even had indications that it could happen (two agents requested the manuscript, but both passed). The deciding factor in the end was time. My visa expires at the end of this year, and I was intent on having a published book as soon as possible so I could have a chance to stay in the country. I couldn’t keep on waiting around for agents, so I went forward with the self-published route.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? To quote Samuel Butler: “And poets by their sufferings grow-/ As if there were no more to do,/ To make a poet excellent,/ But only want and discontent.” You don’t have to suffer to write well. Those three or four months were some of the happiest of my life, and I think the book is better off for it.
Do you plan to do this again? Absolutely. I am working on my second novel now, and I’m sure there are many more books in me.
Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I’d agree, but that’s just out of fear of disagreeing with Oprah. I think luck does exist, because what else explains talent? I don’t think many people would deny that some are born with natural abilities in certain areas, and I think it’s lucky that my area of ability is one I actually happen to enjoy immensely. As far as preparation and moments of opportunity coming into play in my success as a writer, I’ll just say that this book would not have been written without a moment of opportunity presenting itself. A lot of things turned out better than I could have hoped for, and whether it was preparation or luck that caused them, I’m thankful either way.