Welcome to the Literary Library Lounge where I interview fellow authors. Today, I am chatting with Alex Pilalis from Dublin, Ireland.
Thanks for joining me, Alex. Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable.
How long have you been published? What titles have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.
I self-published a couple of children’s story books around 5 years ago or so, but my first release with a publisher was my fantasy adventure novel Island Legends: The Awakening of James Island, in January of 2016. Since then I’ve released a few short stories, all with Solstice Publishing.
Tell us a little bit about your books — what genre you write, if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.
I would say I’m mostly a fantasy writer, although I try to expand a little into action and adventure, and most recently, horror. My ‘main’ books, as I see them, is the Island Legends series, the first of which is The Awakening of James Island. I’m currently around half way through the second book, with the aim of writing around six or seven books in the series.
I have a short horror story, The Boyfriend, coming soon as part of a horror anthology called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, released October 28th. It’s about a guy who meets the perfect girl, but then starts to realize that she may not be so perfect when strange things start to happen around her.
Blurb for The Boyfriend
Mary might be everything that Andy has been looking for; bright, sexy, interesting, and very keen on him. Not usually having much luck with the ladies, Andy might rightly be cautious about this flirtatious young girl who thinks they were fated to meet – especially when things start to take a darker turn, as he gets to know Mary more.
What Andy discovers next shocks his whole existence. Can he successfully navigate his relationship with Mary and still keep his life?
If you thought relationships were tough, wait until you meet Andy and Mary.
Dark Light is about angels fighting demons in modern day London. It’s a bit of an homage to 80s/90s action films, about an angel (who is a big, muscle-bound hero) who falls in love with a human woman, and the consequences that leads to. I enjoyed writing it and I hope people find it to be a fun, action-packed ride full of twists and suspense.
Dark Light Blurb
Grounded to Earth, angels have been battling demons for centuries.
Camael believes that this year will be a turning point in the ongoing war, but when he unexpectedly falls in love with a human woman, the balance between good and evil shifts far greater than any of them could have imagined.
When the sun sets, which force will come out stronger?
A shorter story is Custody of the World, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek fantasy story about a Druid facing off against a Witch, for a final battle to determine the fate of the world. But the Druid and Witch are also ex-lovers. So while they’re throwing magic and trying to kill each other they’re also arguing and bringing up old relationship issues. It was very fun to write.
Those all sound very interesting. I also have a story included in the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep anthology. It’s a horror tale called, Knowledge is Power, that I wrote a long time ago. I write mostly mysteries, but I like to try my hand at different genres. This was one of my few attempts at horror.
Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?
I first got into this writing ‘gig’ to bring to life my Island Legends series, so that’s definitely my priority, especially considering the time-consuming scope of them. Although I’ve found that writing shorter stories can be a lot of fun too, and I enjoy padding out my catalogue with different genres and tones. I hope to meet a lot more authors and people in the community, to become fairly well known in some writing circles, and some day complete my book series.
We seem to have a lot in common, Alex. I am working also working on a series, the Cobble Cove mystery series; but, as I said, I also try writing different genres.
What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
Anyone who is a fan of fantasy, really. The Island Legends series is somewhat of a cross between Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, so you have a big fantasy journey, but with people running around with swords and throwing magic, with spaceships around them. It definitely has some science fiction to it too, so I’m hoping to attract fans of that genre also. In general I don’t really think of an age group for my writing, I’d say it goes from YA and up, as I feel it’s fairly easily accessible, but also can be quite mature and dark in places.
A couple of my works is definitely for mature readers. Dark Light has a steamy sex scene (my only one) and The Boyfriend has some dark and scary psychological moments.
You sound like quite a versatile writer. I normally don’t write scenes with explicit violence or sex, and most of my readers consider my mysteries cozies, but I do have another in the works that’s a psychological thriller. No explicit scenes in that one either, though.
What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
The old adage of ‘never give up’ is definitely a good one. It took me around ten years to fully complete The Awakening of James Island, writing very on and off – but now I’m more in the writing zone I can release a couple of short stories a year, while focusing on the second book in the series. Take inspiration from your life, as only you have the experiences you have and can make your story unique, and studying some basics of storytelling definitely helps – three act structures, character arcs, pacing, conflict, themes etc.
I agree completely. I always wonder about authors who can spit out four books or more a year. Either they don’t work full-time or they don’t do much research. I think quality suffers at such a writing pace. I find one or two books a year is more reasonable for myself. I also write short stories in between and articles as well as my blog. I also like to draw from past experiences and fictionalize them to create more realistic themes.
What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
I learned the hard way that there is so much more to writing than just putting words to paper, and pretty much learnt how to write while I was writing my first book, so there were many, many iterations of it. Using too many words and being overly descriptive was probably my first obstacle. It helps to be able to see the pacing of your scenes as an overview too, to know when to slow down and explain/describe things or when to just keep moving forward. Even things like the size of your paragraphs, and not blocking out a page with walls of text, is something to consider. I’ve found that many different readers can interpret the same sentence differently, so being very clear and concise with my writing is definitely important. Sometimes I might think that a sentence is well written, but find four different reactions to it from readers and try to see where the misunderstandings came from. And of course I’m still learning, always discovering a new trick, and still developing my author voice.
I think we authors are always learning and that’s what makes writing such an intriguing challenge. I still have difficulty creating a strong opening. The last third of my books tend to pick up in pace, and my endings are usually strong. However, readers today like to get to the gist of the mystery early. I tend to take time develop my characters which is sometimes a good thing especially in cozy mysteries and series.
Have you taken any writing or publishing classes? If so, please provide information about them and if you feel they helped you further your professional skills.
I’ve never really taken any classes or courses. It’s mostly been through different articles and forums online, but the most helpful thing I’ve done is put my work out there for others to read and critique. Wattpad has been a huge help to find readers, and Critiquecircle is the most valuable for receiving detailed critiques. I usually post chapters there and critique other writers’ chapters. Critiquing other people’s work is actually a great learning process too.
I know many Wattpad authors and was tempted to join, but I knew I couldn’t devote any additional time with something like that when it’s hard enough to keep up with my blog, social media postings, etc. I have taken online writing and publishing classes through Gale Courses through my library, but I haven’t had time to take any additional ones lately.
What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
I’m an animator by profession, working on children’s television shows. I’m currently working on a couple of show ideas and short story ideas, with the aim of getting something into production. I am also creating art assets for a mobile game concept. I also enjoy working out, various gym sessions and classes – it definitely helps to counter all the sitting around I do on a daily basis! At some point I’d like to go back to creating children’s story books, or even a tween novel.
Very nice. Since I’ve been writing, I’ve also taken up exercise videos and walking in the morning when the weather is nice. It definitely helps to get up from behind the computer when you sit at it at work all day and also write at it.
What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
I love the cathartic process of putting your thoughts and feelings into your work. It can be a really great way to express yourself, and really does benefit your writing when it comes from a deep place within you. I’m a big fan of planning and storytelling, and working out how a story will play out. I also try to leave things a bit open so I have some room to let things happen organically – seeing things change as you write, like you have no say in the matter. It’s a cliché for sure, but characters do sometimes speak for themselves, and you get them in a situation and you feel that doing something feels more natural and organic than what you had originally planned for them to do. It’s great that you can get surprised while writing a story, like how a reader gets surprised while reading.
I do get that dreaded blank page feeling at times. But once I’m writing, even feeling that it’s not great, I know I can see things better when I look over them again later. The trick is to just get words down, keep things moving, and edit later. I’d say my toughest challenge is to constantly improve myself and my work, always striving to learn something new or consider something from a new angle. And I just hope that people find my work and enjoy what they read!
I can definitely identify with all of that. While I don’t plan much except basic themes and character sketches in my writing, I enjoy going where the words take me and, as you said, like surprising myself with where I end up. I also make it a habit to write without censoring or editing my thoughts.
Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc. and include some book cover graphics and author photos if possible.
Social media links
(no link yet for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep/The Boyfriend)
Island Legends: The Awakening of James Island: getBook.at/IslandLegends
Dark Light: getBook.at/DarkLight
Custody of the World: getBook.at/CotWORLD
I am also including my author bio
After completing an Art Foundation course and a BA in Digital Arts, Alex Pilalis pursued his interest of animation with an MSc in Computer Animation and an online course with Animation Mentor. He is currently an animator on children’s television shows.
Alex began his publishing journey with two children’s story books, “Three Wishes” and “Where Dreams May Go,” and was spurred on to write and create more.
As a big science fiction and fantasy fan, and heavily inspired by classic adventure stories such as The Lord of the Rings, the Star Wars films and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Alex felt a great urge to tell his own story. Being an avid gamer, he spent the majority of his time growing up developing a video game adventure concept, and to this day has amassed hundreds of A4 pages, several filled notepads, dozens of word documents and a detailed Wiki, collecting all the ideas and images of the world as it progressed and became what it is today. Feeling the overwhelming need to bring the story to life and out into the ether, somehow, Alex decided to use his passion for writing and storytelling and turn the game into a novel, which has become Island Legends: The Awakening of James Island. Doing so has allowed him to delve into the character’s minds and bring them to life so much more than he ever thought possible back when he was designing hit-point percentages of sword attack combinations, and the result is a much more mature and complicated story than his younger mind could have ever conceived.
Originally from London, Alex currently lives and works in Dublin, Ireland.
Thank you, Alex. I wish you all the best in your current and future writing. It was a pleasure to have you on the blog.