Welcome to Lazlo Ferran
Where are you from and where do you live now? I live and work in London.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. That is a difficult question to answer because I don’t feel limited by genres, have never recognised them and my readers have come to expect that I will cross any genre boundary without recognising it. I have published fourteen books; three collections of short stories, two science fiction stories, two occult thrillers, one spooks thriller, one historical epic, one contemporary literary novel in two volumes, one war thriller and now Lotus. The best way to put this is that I look for a story that stimulates me and tests my philosophical limits. If it doesn’t stretch me, I will not be able to engage and excite the reader. Categorising my books is a constant necessity of modern publishing and a challenge for me. I would say that Lotus is a suspense story. But you will have to read it to decide yourself!
Where do you find inspiration? Inspiration most often comes from dissatisfaction with the world, either general or specific but this will be mixed in with my ideals to make a good story because I don’t want to operate on just one level. If I did, I would alienate more readers than I attract. Occasionally, my need to understand the world around us alone will generate a story idea. Occasionally too, I simply want to write a good yarn, as is the case with Attack Hitler’s Bunker! Lotus, however, comes from none of these places. It comes from a very dark place, a place that needed illuminating, a place that I took 64000 words to describe! I hope it will at least give readers a jolt when they read it. I hope they will say, “Yes, I know this place. I have been there!”
Do you have a favourite character? If so why? No. All my characters are my favourites and they all do things I can’t predict or stop! If my books are my children, their characters are my grandchildren!
Do you have a character you dislike? If so why? Yes. But he is in a book yet to be published and he is the hero!
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? I do extensive research for my books and this usually takes about a year. I generally write about what I know but I want every detail to feel ‘right’ so I dig.
I am lucky enough to know a lot about WWII and the early Medieval. I have always been fascinated by WWII so I have extensive knowledge of it. I know quite a bit about the Medieval because I spent ten years researching my family tree, which I have now traced back to 1240 France. As an offshoot of this, I became interested in the Cathars and early medieval religion so I read widely on the subject, mostly academic works. When I came to write a sequel to Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate, the 13th Century seemed a natural setting for me to attempt. However, I ambitiously decided to depict the Battle of Bouvines. This meant an extra few months of research.
Research is not something I crave, however, so a purely romantic novel is on the cards. That shouldn’t require much research!
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? All my books, apart from the short stories, are available both as eBooks and paperbacks. Too Bright the Sun is also available, with an audio track to accompany the first chapter, on Booktrack.com. I want to do large print books but I simply haven’t had the time, so far. Audio books will be the next step when I find the time and money. I have sampled some mixed media formats, mostly those piloted by the big players like BBC, which look very interesting. These include video, interactive elements like quizzes and forms, slideshows, picture galleries, links and text to tell stories. The BBC had a nice one recently about a murder story in Iceland. I am always looking for new ways to engage with readers and I will be watching for the next format that comes along.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I self-edit initially but then I go to Beta readers. They will have the book for at least two rounds and there may even be a professional editor for a third round, as I had for Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate. I find that I cannot realistically edit my own material because I am too close to it.
Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? Yes, they are and this is a shame. I personally know a traditionally published writer who had to significantly modify a novel in an attempt to get it published. Indie writers don’t have to do this. Of course, we should edit a book so that our main idea will be presentable to readers but we don’t have to compromise. That is why some of the freshest fiction out there is published independently.
The prejudice against indie writers can come from surprising sources and is painful to see. I had one of my kindle books banned (blocked is their term) by Amazon because it deals with incest. It’s set in 17th Century Central Asia (about descendants of the Mongols), and, quite frankly, not only in Central Asia but Europe too, incest was common among royalty. A European king married his sister and had children with her! When I pointed out that Amazon distributes books by both Nabokov and Thomas Pynchon, both of which include themes of incest, the support staff member told me that Amazon makes these choices based on ‘artistic merit.’ I guess I have to conclude that some highly qualified literary critic, employed by Amazon, sat down and read my book from cover to cover and made that choice. It seems unlikely, however, since Amazon had displayed that book for almost ten years at the time without quibble! I had the last laugh because Createspace has a different idea about artistic merit, even though it’s owned by Amazon, and still published my paperback to…wait for it…Amazon! You couldn’t make it up!
Do you read work by self-published authors? Yes. Some indie writer are probably the best out there because they don’t have to modify their work for a publisher. I doubt I would get Lotus published in its present form with a trad publisher and that would be very sad. I can recommend the work of Khalid Muhammad, Kristen Stone and Morgan Wyatt
What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? I began as a musician but found the framework of music and lyrics too limiting so I switched to writing novels. Our modern way of living has become very visual; video games and movies exemplify this way of experiencing the world. But the most profound emotions are not caused by visual, aural or any other sensory input; they simple bubble up from very deep places. This is why books will, I believe, always have a profound effect on us. Although Lotus might make a very good video game or film, some of its deeper elements would be lost or else would need to be forced on the viewer/player, thus taking away their free will and the power of the book to stimulate thought.
What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? I will give just one. Get some Beta readers. Good Beta readers will have a go at your book and give you invaluable feedback; where the novel’s pace is not right, whether you use words that are too big or make the characters speak unrealistically, whether the climax works etc. I have often rewritten up to 50% of a novel based on this feedback. I know my books are better for it. As I think Mark Twain once pointed out, the problem when you think you are reading back your own work is that you are actually reading your own mind. You know what the story should be and this is what you hear in your head. You will not notice when an idea doesn’t get across, which frequently happens. A Beta reader will notice. Without the final 2 Beta readers, Lotus would never be the tight, well-developed story it is now.
Beta readers can also offer encouragement. Lotus has been around for over six years now, initially as a rough draft of one short passage. It existed as a personal sketch and I felt it too outrageous to give to a reader. If I hadn’t taken the step of letting somebody read it, I wouldn’t have heard that phrase ‘You must publish it!’ This is what all writers want to hear.
Book links, website/blog and author links:
Blog and website: www.lazloferran.com