©2014 by Raymond Alexander Kukkee
“ I love authors who differentiate, and are original, writers
who have a completely different approach to writing”
As a writer myself, one of my favourite pastimes is talking to people. There is nothing more fascinating than finding out what makes people tick, especially writers. Here at Incoming Bytes I recently had an opportunity to talk to Ani Alexander. Ani is an accomplished and published author, novelist, writer of fiction, a podcaster and entrepreneur.
I.B. Hi Ani, welcome to Incoming Bytes. First of all, perhaps you can tell our readers a little bit about yourself. From our reader’s point of view, who is the real Ani Alexander?
Ani: She was born in Armenia and lives there now, but that is after she lived in different countries and changed 27 apartments. Real Ani studied business in Brussels, Belgium, and after that worked in a bank, development projects, telecom and marketing.
Real Ani is happily married with one son. She is unstable, creative, impatient and open minded. Maybe that is why working in a corporate setting has never satisfied her. The real Ani is happy now because she is closer to her real self than ever before. Now she is an author, a fiction writer, blogger, podcaster and on her way to become an online entrepreneur.
I.B. : I’m impressed, you are certainly busy and have a lot of drive. So…along with all of that activity, what’s your most favourite sport, hobby, and occupation? Do you go hiking, biking, swimming, or dance the night away?
Ani: I’m afraid I am not very active. And I prefer reading and writing to sports. Swimming is a big no, since I am terrified of water and that is one of the very few fears that I never managed to overcome. I love books, good films and rock music.
I.B. : Who are your all-time favourite authors and favourite books?
Ani: Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, and Janusz-Wisniewski’s Loneliness The Net
IB: How about other contemporary authors ?
Ani: Other writers, let’s see, Neil Gaiman, Markus Zusak, and Chuck Palahniuk .
I.B. As a writer myself, I visit bookstores when ever possible, so I’m curious,—do you spend a lot of time browsing in bookstores?
Ani: Not really. These days I mostly read eBooks and browse Amazon instead. (smiles)
I.B. : As an established writer, how do you feel about the concept of writing courses? Have you taken any specific writing courses that you would recommend to a newbie?
Ani: I never believed in writing courses. I am convinced that it is impossible to teach writing. Even more, I think that they are dangerous. When you are told how you are supposed to write, you might end up changing your style accordingly, not experimenting and as a result following the crowd of ordinary and standard writers, who don’t differentiate and stand out. I’m talking about fiction here by the way, – so there is no confusion. So no, instead of writing courses I would recommend that newbie writers read a lot, and read good books. That is the best way to enrich the language. What I would recommend instead of writing courses are different courses on book marketing and self-publishing instead. Because once you write your book, you would eventually like to put it out into the world and sell it too.
IB: When did you actually start writing seriously? Were you the child prodigy writer, or a late starter? Do you still have the first writing you ever did, that first poem or short story?
Ani : Well… I wrote my first poem when I was 16, and yes I have kept the poem. You can get details of my first writing experience from the podcast episode I have recorded on the topic.
Actually, I think I have kept almost everything I have written so far. Writing had always been a hobby to me. And I realized that it actually was my calling about 3 years ago. That is when I decided to quit my corporate job and write my first novel.
I.B. : Have you always been a writer in your soul, mind, and heart?
Ani : Hmmm difficult to tell. Most probably no. Or maybe I was but I did not realize it back then.
I.B. So, Ani, let’s talk about your process of writing. Do you write quickly? How many words might Ani Alexander the writer get down on paper, or on the computer screen in one day, one sitting?
Ani: Well, it depends. If I have the book in my mind and know the basic plot from start to finish than I can write the novel in one month. What takes time for me is “cooking” the idea and imagining the book in my head. If I start writing a book, only based on the prime idea without knowing how to continue I may get stuck at some point. So if all is “cooked” it will be about 50k in one month. As to short pieces – that may come out of nowhere and I may write it in about 10 minutes. So there are many things the process depends on.
I.B: You’re fast! What actually inspires you to write? Events, people, surroundings?
Ani: I get inspired by good books and life stories. Life itself is full of inspiration and there is always something you can take and elaborate in your books.
I.B. : Who’s your mentor at this time, or do you have one? Several?
Ani : I don’t have a mentor. I am a bit sceptical about authorities and giving power over you to other people.
IB: Hm….not surprising. You’re a writer. A good one. Perhaps natural writers don’t need mentors. How about language? You speak several languages as I understand, but you’re ESL, and you typically write everything in English as your second language. Does that create problems for you?
Ani: Yes, I speak Armenian, Russian, English, Bulgarian and French. I can’t really explain why but I write in English —and although it’s a challenge, it is the language which I feel most comfortable using while writing fiction.
I.B. : Do you have to rely on English-speaking editors, or are you comfortable with self-editing in English at this point?
Ani: Absolutely. My text needs professional editing, both because I write in a foreign language and because every writer needs an editor. Self-editing is just the first stage, the professional editor is absolutely needed, I believe.
I.B. : How about content, what is your favourite genre? If you sit down and start writing, what are you most likely to write?
Ani: It depends on the story. The story and/or the message dictate the genre. And it can vary from flash fiction to a novel, with a short story in between. So things are quite unpredictable with me. In any case I would never make the text longer just because I would like to have a novel instead of a short story. I would rather write as many words as needed and as many as they come naturally —and not a word more.
I.B. : So give our readers an idea what’s in Ani Alexander’s portfolio at this time; —Fiction? Reality? Short stories, Poetry? I mean those manuscripts on the shelf that are covered with dust…
Ani: At this point I have 3 self published books. One is called Emotional Moments and is collection of 20+ short stories. The other 2 are novels (Highfall and DreamDown). I have around 50 poems from my teenage years collecting dust and one manuscript I started a year ago and left unfinished for now.
I.B. : So you are developing a portfolio. It’s time-consuming. Is your family supportive of your writing?
Ani : My husband is the one who provided me with the opportunity to quit my job. He is supporting us financially and he and my son accept the fact that I need time to write and they don’t complain about it. (Smiles)
I.B.: Does your muse sit on your shoulder tapping his fingers impatiently as you write slowly and painfully to catch up, or, more likely, do you have to wait for him? (haha)
Ani : The muse comes and goes and it follows its own schedule, so relying solely on him (yes my muse is male) will mean not being productive. I prefer to keep a balance between relying on the muse and practicing self-discipline.
I.B. : So now you’re a full-fledged writer, blogger, novelist, interviewer and of late, a podcaster! You look like a model too; it seems there is no limit to what you can do, and there’s little doubt you are going somewhere in a hurry. You are one of the most driven people I have ever run into. Amazing. Have you any more secret plans coming up?
Ani : Actually yes. The podcast I started is the first piece of the whole puzzle. It is the first stepping-stone for creating my online business for writers. I have big plans, not enough time, and absolutely no patience. (laughter)
I.B. : Well, okay, never mind that for now, tell me first about the eBooks you already have published. Can you tell us what your eBooks are about, and where they are available? We’ll add some links at the end of this discussion so our readers can find you.
Ani: My books are available on Amazon internationally. The novels are basically life stories. Highfall is based on a true story, which makes it quite special and very emotional. DreamDown is female fiction, where I tell the story of a period of the lives of women from 3 different generations.
I.B. : As an author, Ani, you are aware there is an ongoing, big-time discussion, —almost a battle royale— about traditional publishing vs. small, independent publishing and eBooks. What made you decide to go independent and publish your first books in electronic format?
Ani : I wanted to put my books out there and see what happens. I wanted people to read them. What I did not want was to wait for years, which would be the case if I had started out choosing the traditional publishing route.
I.B. : That’s great! How about your blogs? You have been a prolific blogger too. You have, or have had several, and you also offer web design, one-on-one web design coaching, a whole field of endeavors, —so are you busy, or what? Tell what each of your blogs is about, who makes up your readership?
Ani : I realized that working on different blogs at the same time is not very effective, that is why I have concentrated solely on my website, which features my blog plus my podcast at this point. It covers self-publishing and book marketing topics —as well as posts, which encourage and inspire writers.
I.B. : What about blogging? Some people swear by it, others swear at it because they fail to pick up readership, which is immensely frustrating. What is your perception of the evolution of blogging in the future? Do you think written blogs are becoming passé?
Ani : Many successful writers started from blogs. Blogging helps to develop a regular writing habit and also becomes one of the tools for building an audience and creating an author platform. So I do believe in blogging, although I would not concentrate solely on blogging.
I.B. : Now the really exciting stuff comes up. Tell us about your first novel, Highfall —the one that is going to print. What a great title for a novel! What’s it about?
Ani : Highfall is a real life story with several fictional elements added to it. It is a dramatic and emotional love story with elements of despair and hope. It covers serious topics such as drug addiction as well as an emotional journey of growth and transformation. I can’t reveal any details about the publication of the book, other than that it will be published traditionally very soon.
I.B. : Okay, for the record I understand Highfall will be going to print with a major publisher, perhaps this fall? Are you allowed to tell us anything at all, for example, the launch date? What inspired the story in Highfall or drove you to write it? Why was this story so important that you had to write a whole novel ?
Ani : The idea of Highfall was born after Skype conversations with one of my long lost friends. We had lost each other for almost 15 years —and she found me on Facebook one day. When she told me about what happened to her during those years we were out of touch, I said – “You have to write a book about it” to which she replied: “I can’t but I am giving you the story – do with it whatever you want!”
I.B. : That’s fascinating, so it’s fiction built around a true story…excellent. Did you design the cover too? Will your new publisher use your existing cover design for Highfall, or will there be a new one?
Ani : I can’t reveal this either at this point, so you will find out when the time comes.
I.B. : We can hardly wait to see it. Astute readers will almost certainly know that not every author gets an opportunity to be published by a major publisher, or is offered the opportunity to have a novel translated into Spanish which substantially increases world readership. Congratulations, you can be very proud of this, Ani. I guess it’s difficult to wait, and meantime, is it hard stay focused ? Are you an impatient person, by any chance? (laughter)
Ani : Impatient is a big understatement – I am terribly impatient and love a fast pace, so whenever things move fast and they don’t depend solely upon me to keep things progressing, I can’t speed things up —and I feel very uncomfortable!
I.B. : After Highfall, is there a second book, a sequel in the works? I’m guessing that would also be top secret at this stage ? May I ask if you have signed up for a sequel as well?
Ani : I am afraid I can’t tell anything more at this stage…
I.B. : Ok, that’s fine, Ani. Let’s move on to writer location. With the internet, do you think living in Armenia is a disadvantage for a novelist or any writer, considering the internet is so globalized? As a writer, do you think your location is even relevant?
Ani : Well, in the times we live, with the Internet, the location is not crucial. The biggest things that I miss out on are most probably not being able to go to meet-ups and book fairs. Because I am in Armenia, I mainly communicate with like-minded people online.
I.B. : How about custom writing jobs as a freelancer and submissions to writing sites, have you ever experienced discrimination because of nationality, the country you live in and it’s previous affiliation with Russia?
Ani : Hehe, —no not really. And by the way, many don’t even know about the past Armenian affiliation with Russia.
I.B : As a writer and creator, do you think the disconnect from “good old USSR days” affected the culture, style and even the basic attitude of writers there today? Does it affect your thought processes, your creative muse, —or is that change faded, too subliminal to quantify?
Ani : Soviet times did not encourage creativity and you had to be a rebel in order to keep that inside you —and not let it be suppressed. But now things are different. People write whatever they want, and I personally try not to mix my creative writing and culture. So whatever I do, I try to lean towards the cosmopolitan side, since I, myself don’t feel typically representative of any specific culture, no matter how weird that may seem to be.
I.B. : I understand, and no, that’s not weird at all. I couldn’t agree more. Okay, tell us about your podcasting. What made you decide to get into podcasting? Do you see podcasting as a wave of the future, to take the place of blogging, for example? —or will podcasts simply be relegated to be extra content, a nice touch, a diversion to be added into blogs —just as photographs and U-tube videos have been?
Ani : I personally love podcasting and think that it definitely has a future and will become more popular with time. I decided to create a podcast myself because I wanted to try something new, and I thought this type of media would be in line with my personality.
Write 2B Read, the podcast, is a month old, and was created to inspire and encourage writers to write and share their stories. I am interviewing writers and also trying to provide valuable information about self-publishing and book marketing. So it has both – long interviews and short solo episodes.
I.B. : How do you see your subscriber audience for podcasts developing? Is there a lot of interest out there? Do you think the podcast audience is growing faster than readership did for your original blog attempts?
Ani : Yes, the podcast audience is not only growing faster, but it is also more engaged and loyal. I seem to feel appreciated more and build relationships faster this way.
I.B. : Would you ever consider quitting the written blog in favour of audio podcasting, and build a hybrid, for example, a “podblog’ or ‘podcasting a blog’ instead of traditional written posts?
Ani : Maybe… It all depends on the audience. If they will prefer audio format then why not? I want to serve my audience in the best way I can and since I’m comfortable with using words in any form I am ready to adjust and be flexible.
I.B. : What’s the hardest part of podcasting and why?
Ani : Growing the podcast and keeping listeners I think is the hardest part. The rest is pure fun!
I.B. : You’re clearly on the move with a lot of ambition and have big projects on your plate. Now, your vision. What would you choose to be in the future, a reclusive, but famous author, –or a very public author and radio personality?
Ani : Why choose? I don’t think the two options you mentioned contradict each other to be honest. (smiles)
I.B. : Could that future include a move to North America at some point ?
Ani : In my young years I traveled a lot and changed many countries, so for me, moving is something pretty natural. I actually would be glad to live in a new place again. So everything is possible.
I.B. : That’s a pretty careful answer, I guess it has a lot to do with following dreams. Everyone has elusive dreams, don’t they, —so what are yours? What is the ultimate future you secretly harbor for yourself? Best-sellers, being a famous author, fame and fortune, doing a series of books, radio, television, writing in Hollywood? What’s your ideal dream?
Ani : Hmmmm. I am reading From Day Job to Dream Job now. And the ultimate dream is to do everything possible in order not to be in a position to have to go back to a day job ever again!
I.B. : —And you would like to be independently wealthy and famous too at the same time…I would guess too, not a bad dream, it’s all about reward for the effort isn’t it? Speaking of that, there’s a shakeup occurring with eBooks, self-publishing, small publishers, a proliferation of imprints and loss of market share by the traditional ‘big five’ —and there’s the Amazon/Hachette pricing squabble at this time. Everyone seems to have an opinion. Any comment on publishing, Ani? What do you think the most likely future of publishing will be?
Ani : I think publishing will engage readers more in the future. It is moving toward connecting to readers. Successful authors are the ones who create their own readership platforms, regardless of the fact they are published on Amazon or by a traditional publisher. In the future there will be closer and more direct communication between authors and their readers.
I.B. : What would be the best piece of advice you as a successful author would offer to a new writer, a newbie just starting out?
Ani : Well, the answer is in the question already – just start. Don’t talk about it, don’t dream about it– act. Put your butt on the chair and let your fingers meet the keyboard. Create and share your stories and make sure you don’t give up!
I.B. : Great advice, Ani. Fantastic. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about your exciting venture. I certainly wish you the very best of luck with your podcasts, and the upcoming release of Highfall in print.
—and btw, one last question, Ani, after the launch of Highfall, will you still be as driven, as impatient waiting for progress as you are today ? (laughter)
Ani : Absolutely. That’s part of my personality and the launch of Highfall has nothing to do with it. 🙂
I. B: And that is what I would call a typical “Ani Alexander” answer.” Thanks, Ani, we shall talk again soon.
We have been talking to best-selling author/podcaster Ani Alexander. On behalf of IncomingBytes , we thank her for taking time out to tell us what is happening in her world. We wish her the best of luck with all of her future endeavours!
Check out Ani’s links, and tune in to her podcasts on Write2B Read !
Biography: Ani Alexander
Is that Incoming I hear?
Photo Credits and Right 2B Read logo artwork ©2014 by Ani Alexander All rights reserved
Tags: Authors, books, Ani Alexander, Highfall, DreamDown, publishing, Podcasting, podcasts, Write2BRead, Amazon, ebooks, podblog