Name: Heath D. Alberts
Where are you from: Rockford, Illinois
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Heath: Currently, I’ve just released my first mystery novel, “Photographic Memory”. It’s my third novel, and I really wanted to give the genre a try. More so because the heavily-dystopian work that came before it, “Last Rights”, was so dark.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Heath: Most kids ask for fun stuff for Christmas – I asked for a typewriter. I had made use of them wherever I found them in people’s homes we might be visiting, but I wanted my own. I would write little stories, mostly to entertain myself. I think I did so because my childhood tended to be a somewhat bleak one. It was an escape from the negative reality often happening around me.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Heath: This might sound trite, but I still don’t consider myself a writer. I am a person who writes. A writer, in my mind, tends be trained in the editing arts, and the art of storytelling. Even so, I’ve been writing for as long as I can recall.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Heath: I had been playing with a few short-stories and essays that developed out of dreams that I had had, of all things. M first book, “Terminal Beginning” developed over a decade from a short-story that I wrote down one morning after having a dream worth remembering. I tend to dream Hollywood-blockbuster style – I always have. Some mornings I wake up, feeling as though I’ve lived an eight-hour movie, with a cast of thousands and never-ending landscapes. It’s kind of a cool thing, now that I think about it more.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Heath: I tend to be a bit wordy. I’m trying to get away from that. I always infuse every work with some semblance humor. I grew up as the fat kid who needed humor as a shield. That still permeates who I am, to this day. I’ve toyed with first-person, but I seem to work better in third-person omniscient.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Heath: My titles, typically, are meant to be clever, tongue-in-cheek references to what’s happening in the story. I still have to explain to some people that Last Rights is a play on words, and not an errant misspelling of the service offered when you’re dying.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Heath: I usually want them to take an introspective look at themselves. If I can get them to do that, then I’ve succeeded. We live in a time where apathy seems to be more and more the norm. I want people to consider the power and privilege that they possess – whether they know it or not. I also want them to be introspective about what they’re doing in their daily life, and how it affects not only themselves, but others. So far? I’ve gotten a lot of the reactions that I wished for. Those moments are exceptionally special.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Heath: With most of my works (the current one in progress being the exception) I try to be as accurate as possible. I take into account time period, and also make heavy use of history, geography, and experts in an effort to avoid a serious faux pas.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Heath: It’s funny. My brother recently commented that he sees a lot of me in my characters – some more than others. Which was odd, because I have never written ‘myself’ into a book – in character form, or otherwise. In hindsight, I guess I do inject a bit of myself into them, disparate though they may be.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Heath: ‘Atlas Shrugged’ tops that list. It gave me a whole new perspective on perseverance, and making your own luck. I tend to turn a blind eye to the hedonism and adultery found therein, however. Thomas Stanley’s ‘The Millionaire Next Door’ is another work that I think everyone with more than $2 should read. Tolkien, Adams, Stephenson, Gibson, Kress, Murakami, Patchett, Hiaasen, and Dorsey are all favorites as well.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Heath: That’s hard. Tim Dorsey has, graciously, over the years interacted with me. He didn’t have anything to gain, but he did it anyway. I think that those acts of kindness to a nobody via e-mail really helped me take the leap of faith to keep publishing.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Heath: Joe Abercrombie’s latest, ‘Half A King’. Abercrombie is the modern day Tolkien. If anyone wants to argue that, I’m easy enough to find. The man is a genius.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Heath: It’s been a while since I have read a book by an author, only to have to read their entire body of work – immediately – because they were so amazing. David Mitchell was the last one. The guy can write about a can of soup, and I’d read it. I’m eagerly awaiting his new novel, ‘The Bone Clocks’.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Heath: Currently, I’m working on something that also spawned from a dream about twenty years ago. The working title is ‘Not On The List’. It centers around an entire society of beings living among us, but who we cannot see. If I had to compare it to something, it’s a little Discworld-ish, in that it offers up endless possibilities, and allows my humor to come through full-on for the first time. It was something that, as a novice author, I don’t think I was prepared for the first time around. A bit of it was snatched from what was to be my second novel. It failed – miserably – and I shelved the whole work, and thought I’d never look at it again. This was more than five years ago. Now, I’m finding that I have the intuition to make not only a good story out of something that I considered junk, but I also see a potential for a serial set of works if it does well.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Heath: Unfortunately, I can’t. Finding support has been an uphill battle.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Heath: Unfortunately, no. I’ve been blessed with a job where I make more money than I probably should. That being said, as I get older, I’d like to become ‘known’ enough to write into early retirement. That would be nice.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Heath: Nope. Not a thing. I’m fortunate to have a great group of readers. There are only four of them, but each brings something unique to the table. With their input, and numerous edits, I feel like it’s a solid product.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Heath: I think it spawned from an interest in reading.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Heath: Sure. Here’s a raw, unedited, segment:
“An Omen Cometh, A Harbinger Goeth
As the Harbinger reluctantly followed the Omen, he considered the fortuitousness of Omens being impossible for humankind to see in their true form. Instead, humanity received only the visible, mental, or audible indicator of their presence.
If it were the other way around, he considered, they would be too busy laughing themselves stupid at the sight of the things.
From lamppost, to rooftop, to tree, to tower the Omen bounded, headed for one of the older parts of the industrial section of town. As the buildings got older, the Omen picked up its pace. It then disappeared into a ninety-degree joint, where pavement met brick wall on a careworn building. It did so at a very steep angle. This led the Harbinger to conclude – correctly – that their quarry was both somewhere near, and below ground.
As an unwritten rule, Harbingers detested moving through solid objects. Where Omens gladly went anywhere, carefree as pixies on cocaine, Harbingers preferred the out-of-doors to communicate their particular portents. Even so, the Harbinger possessed the capability of solid-object traversal and so, true to its orders, it plummeted in the wake of the Omen.
By the time it reached the brick-lined tunnel beneath the building, the Omen was already divulging its foreshadowing of things to come.
“…is seeking you out, even as I speak. This will not bode well for you. No, indeed.”
“Two questions,” a semi-disheveled individual in the company of the garbage troll was asking, “how did you find us, and what in the hell are you?”
“That’s an Omen,” Willy snapped at Jules. “And damn clever of him to send you, blast it,” he scolded the Omen.
“Did it just say Santa was after us?” Jules asked. “I couldn’t have heard that right.” His head was full to bursting with follow-up questions as well, begging to be answered.
“Oh, yes,” Willy sniped. “Best damn bounty hunter around, these days.” Then Willy spied the Harbinger, floating up in a corner, merely observing the goings-on. “And he’s sent a Harbinger too, I see.”
Jules looked up to where Willy’s eyes were locked. “That thing up in the corner that looks like Orko, from the Masters of the Universe cartoon?”
Willy nodded. Clearly, he was sizing the situation up.
“Oh, this whole ordeal just keeps getting better and better,” Jules flustered.
“Let me guess,” Willy spoke anew, apparently having had his required epiphany, “you’re here to find me, in the guise of a warning,” he said to the Omen. “And you’re tagging along, so that you can return to Santa, and let him know where the Omen deceased.”
“Look at the brain on you,” the Harbinger said, nonchalantly as it looked around taking in its surroundings.
“Oh, hey! I know! Does anyone like…” the Omen began.
POP!It was gone in a weak flash of blue. “Surprised he wasn’t more chatty,” Willy said, to the Harbinger. “Surprised, hell – you should have heard him before we arrived. My God, the damn thing wouldn’t shut up. And then it sang the whole way here.” “So, I suppose this means that you’ll be heading back, and divulging my whereabouts,” Willy asked, as much as stated. “Oh, yes. In fact, I had best be off.” And then, as an afterthought, the Harbinger added, “I’ll tell you this, though: I hope you that get well away with Father Time, here, before Santa arrives, because he had me created for a reason that just pisses me off. I feel like a whore. And, if I weren’t about to cease to exist, I would probably give him what-for, right after a series of hot showers to scrub off the taint of existential unpleasantness.” “Those are the breaks,” Willy consoled. The Harbinger nodded, and disappeared through the wall. “What in the hell just happened?” Jules demanded, as much as he dared, under the current circumstances. “What just happened was that Santa somehow got me on his radar, and found a clever work-around to my secrecy totem, is what happened. And the Harbinger just let slip the reason why we were paid this uninvited and unannounced visit.” “It did?” Jules asked, confused, and wondering if he had just engaged in the same conversation as Willy had. “Those men who gave you that drink?” “Yeah? What about them?” “Were there twelve of them?” “Possibly. I can’t say that I counted, but that seems about right. Why?” “Because those weren’t men,” Willy began, “those were the twelve Hours, meeting, and waiting for you. And, apparently, you’re the new Father Time.” “I’m the what, now?” “Son of a bitch,” Willy sighed.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Heath: I find myself using too many adverbs. I also find believable dialogue to be something I need to continue to work on. I tend to slip into a mode where the individual ceases talking, and appears to be reading from a book. Which makes for great information, but a lousy conversation.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Heath: Ayn Rand is probably my favorite. After that, there are a lot of others. Rand’s work really hits home on a lot of fronts for me. It’s powerful, it’s poignant, and it’s relevant to me.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Heath: I’d love to say yes but, sadly no – not yet.
Fiona: Who designed the covers? Heath: I do all of my own layout, cover design, and editing (with the help of my four proofers.) I learned graphic design out of necessity. I wanted great covers, but couldn’t afford to have them done. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t mind a new challenge, so I just bought the software, learned how to use it, and began making my own. I’m actually rather proud of them, all in all.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Heath: The first one? Fear. I was afraid it wasn’t good enough for publication (it wasn’t.) Even so, I found a piece of advice somewhere that said (and I’m paraphrasing, here): “Publish your first work. It will probably fail. It will probably be the worst thing you ever put out there. Then, begin your next one. Learn from your mistakes, and with each successive work, it will get better.” This turned out to be simplistic, but nonetheless true. I have since given the first work a heavy facelift.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Heath: I’ve learned all sorts of interesting things. Half of the things I Google are, I’m sure, landing me on a CIA watch list. Especially with my last two books: poisons, murder, air speed and payloads of stealth planes, white slavery. I often joke about it but – still – they could be reading this right now.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Heath: Keep writing. Writing is work. Editing thrice so. Do it anyway. I follow a great guideline that Neil Gaiman mentions often: “When someone tells you something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. When they tell you exactly how to fix it, then leave it alone.” Also, I would strongly encourage you to re-read the entire work about four time through, minimum. I allow my group of four to do so, incorporate their advice, and then re-edit form there. Then, I do a second pass through. Finally, they re-read it, and I incorporate their – and my own – changes. I have three who are great at editing, one who explains emotional states when reading the work, and one of the editors is also a genius at catching discrepancies in timeframes and facts. My wife (one of the editing crew) is also great at catching repetition of statements and phrases.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Heath: I can only say thank you. I wish there were more of them but – those I have interacted with – have made me feel amazing.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Heath: Oh, I’m sure it was a Golden book or Dr. Seuss. I am told, by my Mother, that ‘Are You My Mother?’ was a favorite as a child. To the point where she probably considered burning the damn thing.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Heath: I actually collect rare, signed, first-edition books. I read a great deal. I am also a rabid audiophile. It’s still writing, but I am a co-administrator of The Rockford Blog. It’s a non-profit that looks to shed positive light on my hometown which, sadly, has been at the top of just about every negative list that you could imagine, of late. I also try to assist my wife with her not-for-profit venture, Tailored To Hire. I don’t do much, but I like to toss in my 1% when I can. It’s been a phenomenal success, and she has helped a lot of individuals by empowering them to help themselves. I’m very, very proud of her.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Heath: I pretty much avoid movies. There are so few worth watching, and I’ve seen so many in my youth (long story, there) that I seldom watch one. Television, for me, usually needs to teach me something, or I’m just not interested. That being said, I do enjoy shows that are well-written (Aaron Sorkin and J.J. Abrams can pretty much take my money if they’re involved.)
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Heath: I’ll eat just about anything. Green. And my iPod makes no sense to anyone but me, given the eclectic nature of the music that I listen to. From classical to power pop, it’s in there.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Heath: I’m actually an Operations Manager at a mid-size manufacturing firm. I sort of groomed myself in school to be in that position, so I ended up right where I thought I would. If I had had the money, I would probably have pursued a degree in residential or commercial architecture. There’s an old joke about being a writer that, sadly, rings true: “So, what do you do?” … “I’m a writer.” … “Yeah, but – what do you do for a living?”
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Heath: I stopped blogging a little over a year ago. My wife, a second partner, and I own a mixed media company (Digital Ninjas Media, Inc.). Not surprisingly, MY website is a pile of suck. It’s all written in raw HTML (I used to do this to keep my HTML skills sharp. I’ve been writing websites since the mid-nineties.) I need to update it, but I can’t seem to find the time. http://www.heathnwanda.com It’s like the old adage: If you want your home to have perfect plumbing, then don’t marry a plumber.
MY Authors page on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HeathDAlberts
Heath: I’d also like to say thank you for the opportunity to be here. It’s folks like you who help us – the authors – gain traction in our mad dash to become ‘someone’ in the literary world. Every time I’m afforded an opportunity like this, I feel grateful that someone actually wants to hear what I might have to say. I truly appreciate it.