The following is an interview with author, filmmaker, and all-around good person, Stephen Zimmer. He is the author of The Rising Dawn Saga and Fires in Eden series and contributor for Seventh Star Blog.
D. A. Adams: What first got you into storytelling? What was the allure?
STEPHEN ZIMMER: Storytelling has been with me since my mom first read me The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy aloud, a chapter or so a night, when I was about 7. I’ve always tilted towards fantasy, in the movies and television that I’ve gravitated towards, as well as the books I have been drawn to.
The allure is to immerse myself in fantastical worlds, and to depart Mundania (with a nod to Piers Anthony on that word!). I’ve never thought that the world that we live in is “it”, and loads of mystics and theoretical physicists agree with me on that notion! Fantasy gives me the best chance to explore wild and wonderful worlds in this life, and storytelling provides a medium to craft some of these adventures into something that I can share with others. What are we waiting for? Let’s go!
DA: Outside of literary or film influences, what has shaped your artistic vision more than anything?
ZIMMER: Dreams. Literally. I am fortunate to have very vivid, powerful dreams on a very regular basis, some incredibly life-like. The things that I experience and see in them often inspires me artistically, and really has had an impact on me. I look forward to adventures when I sleep, believe it or not! I’m fascinated by consciousness, and feel that it is a true unexplored frontier!
DA: Where would you like to be in five years in terms of your career?
ZIMMER: I would like to have a nice timber A-frame high on a mountain close to the mountain where D.A. Adams’ woodland retreat is located, so we can hang out more often, go fishing, discuss the finer points of rock music, etc.!
Seriously, I would like to have the first 4 or 5 titles out in both The Rising Dawn Saga and Fires in Eden series, continuing a year-round appearance schedule. I would also like to have a release or two out in the horror genre, and perhaps some short stories in some quality anthologies, or maybe even a themed collection of short stories that I’ve done.
On the film side of things, I would like to be making modestly budgeted independent features, most hopefully in the fantasy genre. 1 feature a year would be great. Between film and books, I hope to do just well enough that I can make a living just from my endeavors in these areas.
DA: When I was a naïve college student, my friends and I would discuss creating the literary movement of our generation. Now, as small-press and independent writers, you and I are part of a movement away from the New York epicenter. How do you see this movement evolving over the next generation or two?
ZIMMER: It is a brave new world in many respects. The barriers are falling down in some ways, especially with eBooks. However, as with music, it could result in a deluge of releases, and make it a little more difficult to get your work noticed, reviewed, or seen. I take it one day at a time, as there are so many unpredictable factors that have yet to play out fully. Will eBooks really overtake print, or will they co-exist? What effect will piracy have on eBooks? Without bookstores, who is going to be hosting reading clubs, advocating new authors, exposing new authors via readings, etc. in a digital world? The word of mouth that occurs between people at bookstores, browsing the fantasy sections, etc. can’t be underestimated.
Overall, I would have to say that there is going to be an upswing in credibility regarding small press and independent authors, and the accessibility is going to increase in a digital world, but exposure and promotion are going to be very, very difficult if the music and film worlds indicate anything. My heart goes out to talented, seriously-minded independent rock bands that are in an ocean of bands putting out mp3’s everywhere, who have declining options for live clubs, radio, independent music stores etc. It is harder than ever to be heard and talked about, and I hope that it doesn’t become similarly difficult for authors to be read/reviewed/exposed.
DA: What would like your readers to know about you?
ZIMMER: I wish they could see just how immensely dedicated I am to my work and to them. From the time spent writing and researching, to setting up as active of an appearance schedule as possible, so that the folks that enjoy my work can visit with me in person easier, I really value my readers and want to give them the best work and support that I possibly can. They are my friends, as they enable me to do what I love to do. If they commit to reading my series, I must return that commitment 10 fold on my end to give every aspect of being an author a 150% effort, as they deserve nothing less. Without readers, authors are pretty useless!
DA: We’ve discussed in private conversations the financial strain of being a “new” writer. Do feel like this struggle has had a positive or a negative effect on your creativity?
ZIMMER: I have to say that financial strain is mostly not a positive thing, but it does have its uses. Having to pull a late night drive after an event so that you can save on a hotel room is something that I wish I didn’t have to do, for one example of a negative. I wish I could take advantage of every promotional opportunity I encounter. But having thin resources does discipline you and makes you a better planner, I believe. I can see improvement in my planning in just the past couple of years, and am getting more out of the money I allocate out of my pocket to sustain my activities, appearances, etc.
DA: You and I met on the Con-circuit. Do you enjoy Con weekends? If so, what do you find most fascinating about fandom?
ZIMMER: I really do enjoy Con weekends! It’s my kind of crowd for sure! I love everything about it, the atmosphere, the new friends you meet (like you), the unpredictability, the learning (even when you are on a panel, you learn from the audience!), and so much more. I always hate that melancholy feeling that hits at the end of a con, when dealers are breaking their tables down, and attendees are rolling their luggage out. It is really its own world, and it’s a wonderful one. The thing that fascinates me the most is that there is a real sense of community and “we’re in this together” mentality that resonates through fantasy/sci-fi/horror related Cons.
Also, I do not see the provincialism that plagues other writing circles, in other genres. The fantasy/sci-fi/horror writers really do help each other out and pull for each other, at least from what I’ve seen. (and in doing so, they push everyone higher, as JFK said, “a rising tide lifts all ships”)
DA: Any parting thoughts?
ZIMMER: I really encourage people to give small press/independent authors and publishers a chance. Obviously, I’m a little biased, being a small press author myself, but there is a very logical and objective reason as well. The major publishers are shrinking and paring down their rosters, a trend that has resulted in many mid-list authors that are now working with small press outlets. Additionally, as the big publisher’s rosters are smaller and their schedules tighten, they are not as likely to take big chances with releases unless they can really project some success according to an established model. This means that small press is where a lot of the risk-taking and ground-breaking in the genre is truly occurring nowadays. The quality of writing is most certainly there in the small press world, as anyone who has read, to name just a few examples, Jackie Gamber, Lettie Prell, Elizabeth Donald, H. David Blalock, TammyJo Eckart, or D.A. Adams can attest!