Writer Interview: Alex Pendergrass

Friends, this week’s interview comes from Alex Pendergrass, who has written a sprawling fantasy…and those of you who know my reading tastes, know I eat that stuff up!  Let’s hear more about his epic project!

AG: Tell us about your current project.

AP:To Vivify Evil is a dark fantasy novel where centuries of inequality, and opposing ideas on how to resolve the disparity, come to a head with violent impact. The whole world stands at the brink when a monstrous foe from the past returns from the dead, intent on wiping out the bastions of power so that he might rebuild society in his vision.

The novel follows the personal stories of seven characters trapped in the upheaval: a victimized assassin, two young lovers, a vengeful orphan, an industrious thief, a seer whose dreams may hold the key to mounting a resistance, and a hunter whose race was marched from society and granted territory in the inhospitable north.

AG: Is it your first book?

AP: Yes and no. This is the first novel I began writing, over ten years ago under a different title, but it remained stagnant for years during my stint as a competitive gamer. At that time, it was little more than Lord of the Rings fan fiction, simply derivative and poorly written. Then around 2007/2008, I began reading A Song of Ice and Fire. My ideas about what fantasy could be completely changed, and I went back to square one.

I redid most everything, keeping a few location names and characters, and upped the content level. To experiment with a more mature style, I wrote a prequel novel that explores the origins of the villain and his motives. I finished that last year, and revised it, then received my first rejection letter before returning to this novel. I’ll revisit the prequel one day, I’m sure, but for now To Vivify Evil is my main focus.

AG: How did you tackle the revision process before you queried? Did you use CP’s?

AP: I begin revising, in earnest, by printing out the entire behemoth and forcing myself to take a red marker to it. There’s something real about having your story in a physical form, something about the feeling of it against your fingertips that, at least for me, helps illuminate flaws. I make several passes, focusing on grammar and spelling to start, and then one pass for each character to examine the logic behind their arcs, another for thematic cohesion, et cetera.

I’ve absolutely used beta readers. For several years, I’ve shared snippets of scenes or early concepts through various online writing communities including more than one run by one of your previous interview subjects, Benjamin Weller. Sidenote: I’ve had the honor to be one of Cloudnigh’s beta readers and it is glorious.

Recently, after completing NaNoWriMo last year, I joined a local writing group. There I’ve received critiques on the novel and helpful brainstorming sessions. I leave every Tuesday night riding a tidal wave of euphoric creativity. I highly recommend that authors find one of their own to join.

AG: What was the querying process like for you? Any tips?

AP: Still ongoing, and difficult. I’m trying to tell a truly sprawling, epic tale with many narratives, so I have a hell of a time boiling it down to a single page query letter. I’ve only sent one such letter, for the prequel novel, and received a quick, well-deserved rejection.

AG:  Tell us how you ended up with your agent.

AP: Well, not exactly an agent, but To Vivify Evil has been picked up to appear chapter by chapter, in the serialized style of old, for the launch of the website JukePop Serials. I think I benefited by the unique nature of the site. They only asked for the first chapter, so I wasn’t left trying to summarize the whole thing.

AG:  Do you blog? Where can we find you on Twitter and the internet?

AP: I have a writing blog on Tumblr, The Literary Gamer, which I use to give little updates on my writing progress sometimes. But mostly I talk about my favorite things. You’ll find a ton of A Song of Ice and Fire entries. I mostly bitch about my day job and quote my favorite rappers (I might be the only fantasy author to listen to Kendrick Lamar as mood music), with the occasional writing news on Twitter, @ajp88. And I’m in the process of creating an author page on Facebook, which I find incredibly narcissistic and yet necessary. The whole notion makes me uncomfortable but that will go live as the September launch for To Vivify Evil nears, and I’ll be sure to link to it through my other online presences.

AG:  What online resources have you used to help your writing and querying and revision process?

AP: I’ve always frequented online writing communities and forums. Most of them are now sadly gone (but we had a good run, Ben). I check Writers' Digest often for leads on new agents and tips in general. One of my favorite authors, David B. Coe, contributes to a website called Magical Words. It’s a website devoted to helping aspiring authors, run by a collective of writers and agents in the business. They have daily articles about a wide range of topics pertinent to the industry, and quite often they ask for examples from readers’ own stories and give helpful guidance in the comments. Finally, I used author Holly Lisle’s wonderful selection of courses to help create the languages, maps, and cultures of my world.

AG: Any extra info you’d like to add or discuss?

AP: Thanks so much for the wonderful questions. I love talking about artistry of all sorts. Particularly Martin’s novels, so feel free to engage me in debates on all of the various theories!


Don’t you guys love that serial idea?  So Dickens!  J  Go check out Alex and his awesome-sounding serial!

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