Swimming in a Whisper
Author John Zur of The After Hours and Swimming in a Whisper, sits down for an exclusive interview with Pulse Culture.

Q: What got you interested/started in writing?
A: When I was fifteen and my family and I moved to New Mexico from New Jersey, I underwent a transformation brought about by this change in scenery. There was something about the landscape, sitting on what felt like the edge of the world, looking out over the desert and listening to music all afternoon and into the sunset. It felt as though there was something being channeled through me. And the product of this inspiration was poetry.

Q: How long have you been writing?
A: Five years. But, when I was in second grade, I do recall penning a short story inspired by the ďGoosebumpsĒ series I was such a fan of. The story was about a boy who didnít make it home after school one day. (Based on a true experience in which when I was in first grade my teacher shuffled me onto the wrong bus, against my intuition, and the bus driver drove me all over town until it was dark. This was one of many horrifying experiences which made me distrust bus drivers.)

Q: What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
A: I consider myself to be a young writer just starting out as well. So this may be a premature question. But in any case, what I have learned through experience is to take your time. Wait for the inspiration and mood to come. Because if you force the words to paper, itís going to be realized by the reader. But at the same token, continue to write and write often. Even if itís writing in a journal, writing letters, writing thoughts that come to mind. I feel as though every time I put pen to paper I am making an evolution for the better. On the business side of things, the literary world, in my opinion, is currently so saturated with such mainstream works (chick lit, historical fiction, horror), that I believe true artists need to be that much more honed in to their work. And I myself am still fighting to break into this mainstream crowd. I am also a person who doesnít settle for second best and will rise to the top.

Q: Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
A: If I donít write the next chapter or a poem everyday I fret that writerís block has taken over. I just try and put things into perspective. Iím twenty years old, Iíve been writing for five years, I have one novel and one book of poetry published, an unpublished manuscript for a second novel complete, and a screenplay. So when I think of all the writing I have done, I say todayís not so bad if I donít write a word. But if it feels as though I am stuck in the story, I turn to what has inspired me to write thus far. I usually write with a soundtrack that captures the essence of the story. For instance, when I was writing ďThe After Hours,Ē I was listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, and Pixies. So when I desperately wanted to work on the story, listening to these bands would ultimately fuel the brainwaves.

Q: Who is your favorite author and why?
A: The moment I read ďThe Great Gatsby,Ē now my favorite novel, I was deeply enraptured by the age of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He was the spokesman of ďThe Lost GenerationĒ and a man who was able to mirror the vices of his generation in a way in which it is not realized how truly satirical he was as a writer. He unlocks the decadences of the rich and condemns them through their own demise. And this genius has survived generations because the themes he so astutely scrutinizes are just as prevalent today. So in my ascent to ďSpokesman of Generation Who The Hell Are We?,Ē I intend to be that satirical mirror of a society, and a generation, lost in itself.

Q: How did you deal with rejection letters, if you received any?
A: I dealt with initial rejection letters from literary agents and publishers by putting my money where my mouth is and fronting the costs of self-publishing my works. I basically rationalized that instead of my works collecting dust, why not prove that Iím worth the backing of major agents/ publishers with garnering as much success as possible as a self-published author?

Q: What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
A: A writer needs to be original. Plain and simple. I absolutely despise seeing how many dime-a-dozen authors there are whose works are the same story with the same fluff and nonsense. Look at the bestsellers. Another crime story. Another historical fiction work. Another chick lit book. Itís all the same stuff. I can respect a writer who challenges his readers in whatever capacity he chooses.

Q: How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
A: I am often told that I have many strange experiences and stories. And I am an observer of life. So I put the two together, in a quasi-autobiographical sort of way, and the story is produced. I never go into writing fiction with the knowledge of how the story will end. I want to let the story play itself out. So my only set formula is to go through the day experiencing all of the strange things I haplessly fall into, go home, and write into the early morning hours.

Q: What were your feelings when your first novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
A: Okay, cool. Next book. But then it settles in how much work has to be done after the book is published in terms of promoting, marketing, and selling. I want to make it clear, however, that itís not about the money for me. It is about gaining exposure, an audience, and the respect that goes with it. In fact, at this stage, Iím not even breaking even with how much time and money I have put into my writing so far. So the feelings of excitement and euphoria, at least for me, are subdued for a realistís perspective of what has to be done next.

Q: What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A: A keen and well-developed perspective on life. (In order to be original.)

Q: What do you do to unwind and relax?
A: Drink tea, write, play the drums, listen to music, and, most of all, fool with people (especially in public).

Q: Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share with us?
A: In addition to my two published works, I have a completed manuscript for a second novel which took a step forward in terms of maturity. It deals with social relationships and that transition from adolescent into adult. Itís a beautiful piece of work, poetic at times, and driven by three dynamic, romantic, and tragic characters. I refer to it as a modern-day tragedy. Also, Iím about 30K words into a novel based upon my time in Miami. Itís going to be interesting to many to see how exposed I have become to some peculiar underground and intriguing aspects of this place.

Q: Any interesting family history?
A: I owe much of the person I am today to my grandmother, who along with my mom, I was raised by. She was a woman who had a tremendous faith, a cynical outlook, and a caring heart. She was a good woman. My mom has always been hardworking and a creative soul. I suppose my interest in art was piqued at an early age by my momís encouragement. And my brother is my complete opposite. He has empathy, needs structure, respects authority, and is not an aggressor.

Q: What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing? Any special memories that you would like to share?
A: I have always strived for greatness, never knowing the path I would take to get there. I have tried many paths so far, with writing appearing to be the most secure way. I was blessed with an old soul that says this is who I am, I think in terms of black and white with no grey in between, and despite a callousness that some want to see, I care about the state of humanity. I see suffering and disparity and apathy eating away at the fabric of life; and no, I donít mean cotton. I can only hope that my writing continues to help me grow as a person who has the opportunity to bring some good to this wretched place. Every so often, after someone has read one of my works or spoken with me, theyíll either tell me Iím a weirdo or that my thoughts are refreshing. I revel in both opinions, but am especially flattered by the latter because I want to have an affect on people in the domain of public opinion.

Q: Any recent appearances that you would like to share with us about/any upcoming ones?
A: I have a job that I donít take for granted because it pays the bills, but it also is a bit demanding of my time and at this juncture scheduling events such as readings and signings is difficult. And the future is always uncertain; thatís why I worry about life one day at a time.

Q: If you could leave your readers with one legacy, what would you want it to be?
A: The tenth poem I wrote, a poem titled ďDevotion to a Life, Legacy Left Behind,Ē was written just after my grandmother passed away in February 2002. I read this testament as part of her eulogy. And when I wrote it, I knew that preserving my life for all of eternity is something I will strive to attain in however long of a life I may have. I want to leave behind the legacy of not only a great writer of a generation, or a great writer of all-time, but a great man whose humble beginnings, selfless character, and impassioned battle for humanityís victory will surpass even my most obscure visions today.

The After Hours and Swimming in a Whisper are available at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com

Swimming in a Whisper

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