Friday, August 12, 2011

Dishing it up with Stuart Land

Today I have the pleasure of dishing it up with author Stuart Land.

Stuart’s story ideas come from his vivid imagination, but his inspiration draws from extensive world travel and fascinating careers: from US military medic to hairstylist, then Washington D.C. Police officer to NYC photographer.

Later, he converted a chicken coop in the woods into a live-in studio and taught himsself metal sculpture. That rudimentary craft expanded into the fine arts. Sculptures in bronze and fiberglass led to shows in the US, England and Thailand.

His passion for all arts segued into: costume design (top 100 designers in the book, Fashion: 2001); modeling agency art director; fashion show designer; water feature designer, computer illustrator and a top sculptor for special effects, sets and props in the entertainment industry with work in over thirty major films, hotels and theme parks worldwide.

During his film career, he learned screenwriting firsthand, writing over a dozen screenplays. To explore character and environment more, he took up narrative fiction. He’s completed many short stories and five novels. His writing places high in contests and his screenplays are optioned.

He continues on the journey.

JET: Stuart, can you tell us about your most recent book?

Stuart: My most recent book, BACK FROM THE DEAD: the true sequel to Frankenstein, is coming out this August. Frankenstein's creature, revived from a two hundred year arctic freeze, reveals a different perspective on his origins, why he survived, and what happened to his mate.  How he fares in the modern world is an assemblage, like the creature himself, of psychological drama, horror, romance, science fiction, and Gothic story telling.  It takes you on a trip through present day reality, with sojourns into the past that leaves you pondering the future.

JET: What drew you to supernatural thrillers?

Stuart: I like the quirkiness that the supernatural or paranormal can lend to a story. Myself, and another writer I recently met, call our work, Supernatural Realism, because we like to present the story as realistically as possible but add the supernatural elements. I live “real” life, but I like to create worlds that are different in some way to real life. I like showing how “real” people react to things that don’t conform to “normal” reality.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

Stuart: Getting agents and publishers to read my stories. The gates are so narrowly open, that I hardly ever got my work read. And when I did, it wasn’t what they wanted for one reason or another. One agent sent me back a detailed breakdown of why my book wasn’t any good; the only problem with his critique was that it was for someone else’s book!

After working many years in the movie biz, I realized that an agent or publisher was only trying to foresee the future and what they thought was going to sell. But really, they didn’t know anymore than anyone else, yet almost everyone I encountered had a conceit that they were the only ones who knew the unforeseeable. And then there was personal taste. I had to appease the agent’s personal reading taste in order to get through to the wide varieties of everyone else’s reading tastes. Why was it that ten agents could find my work lacking, yet fifty or a hundred random readers didn’t?

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

Stuart: My favorite moments are the actual writing. I love watching my characters
form from nothing and solve the situations they find themselves in, seemingly, with no help from me. As for marketing, I’ve met some really great people, both authors and readers.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

Stuart: Herman Hesse, Ayn Rand, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Issac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, and many others.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

Stuart: Well, I wrote short stories as a kid, but didn’t get seriously into writing until I worked in the film business in Hollywood and watched writers, directors, and actors create out of thin air. I figured I could do that...big surprise! It wasn’t so easy when I first tried it. But I’m a stubborn sort, so stuck with it year after year honing the craft of screenwriting and novel writing.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

Stuart: I joined a vampire coven, drank baby’s blood, cavorted with female zombies...oh wait, that was my normal Saturday night. I guess I haven’t done anything specifically crazy in research, but most of my stories are based on things that I already did. Now, it’s just a question of interviewing people and tons of online research.

The most interest fact I’ve discovered, much to my horror, was that a hundred fairies can’t dance on the head of a pin. Actually, it’s my own fault, because for some reason, I thought they were talking about the pointy end. So since I found out they were talking about the flat end, well, jeez, of course there’s room for a hundred fairies there. But I was wrong. Only 89 fairies can fit nicely.

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

Stuart: Each novel I write is my favorite while I’m writing it. My stories are all so different and unique, that they stand on their own, so to compare them is an apples/oranges dilemma.

JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?

Stuart: Everyone’s already heard the “don’t give up” advice. My advice goes a step further, but narrower. If you start a project, finish it. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle where you don’t finish what you’ve started. Second advice is to take as much effort in your rewrite as in the first draft. Maybe even more. This is where you can make your writing shine. It’s mandatory to put your first draft away for at least a month. You need to approach a rewrite with fresh eyes. I work with a writers group. It’s important to have outside opinions. If you’re writing to get by, it’s not necessary to take any of my advice, but if you really want to better your craft, you should consider it.

My one (may odd) bit of advice which may be different than most, is directed at those who truly want to better their storytelling craft. To be a better writer, means better at storytelling with efficient use of words, strong, but different plots, solid structure, and with concise and realistic dialogue. You will greatly improve these abilities if you learn the craft of screenwriting. Yes, they are two completely different ways of storytelling, but screenwriting helps define all those points I made above. Screenplays are like the poem of a story. For movies, these poems are interpreted by one hundred to two hundred people as they bring the story to life on the screen. For narrative writers, this shorthand of writing allows them to see their stories more completely, like an enhanced outline. I don’t write a screenplay for my novels, but I can use that ability to flesh out a story as I write it so that I never get lost or don’t know why characters do what they do.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with: Paper or Plastic?

Stuart: I think all blow-up dolls should definitely be plastic. Paper just doesn’t hold air all that well.

JET: Steak or Tofu?

Stuart: Tofu steak smothered in paper mushrooms. Yummy!

JET: Beach or Mountains?

Stuart: I’ve always be partial to mountain beaches. Since I live five minutes from a waterfall, you can guess my preference. Now, Hawaii is no fair because they have mountains and waters right on the beach!

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

Stuart: Country rock. And all other genres.

JET: Top 10 best seller or Unknown Back Shelf Find?

Stuart: The God of Small Things; Flashman series

JET: Zombies or Demons?

Stuart: Demon zombie vampires

JET: Paper or Digital?

Stuart: Both. But it’s getting harder and harder to carry around 5000 paper books.

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

Stuart: YES!

JET: Sword wielding ninja or Gun toting momma?

Stuart: Ninja, blades down.

JET: Coffee or Tea?

Stuart: Cha yen = Thai iced tea.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

Stuart: Just so you don’t forget the novel I put out last month, here’s a recap: EPIPHANY is cross-genre sci-fi/mystery/drama..

Doctor Sam Enright and his geneticist wife, Dorinda, face turmoil in their small town when a dozen adolescent girls show up pregnant at Sam’s office—and they’re all virgins. When their own daughter falls victim to the same fate, the Enrights rush to Homeland Security for answers. As the questions multiply, they realize they are at the vanguard of a worldwide epidemic, and the mystery deepens. As the events escalate, a disparate group of international doctors, scientists, and mothers-to-be are brought together at Dorinda’s genetics lab in Middle America. They race to find the cause and meaning of the mysterious pregnancies, but every discovery reveals a new, worse scenario, leaving humanity's very existence in question.

This story is based entirely on science fact with no paranormal elements.

Now, besides time-sucking marketing, I’m writing a chik-lit rom/com screenplay. My first in this genre, but based on a story by a woman friend, just so you know I’m not making up this female stuff. I’ve also started on the sequel to Original Blood, called Szejna’s Revenge. This story takes place over a three thousand year time span.

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Stuart Land and his work at the following places:

WebsiteBlogTwitter, FacebookLinked InGoodreads, Ning



EPIPHANY in the US.   EPIPHANY in the UK.  and

Next week, I have author Cara Bertoia on tap.

Until then,



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