Exclusive Interview with Alex Pilalis

Today, we're doing something a little different. This is our 20th guest author interview on the Marie Lavender's Books! blog, and fellow author Alex Pilalis is visiting us. 

Hello! :)


Hi. Thank you for having me today.



Oh, it's my pleasure! 
Can you tell us a little bit about your book? When did it come out and where can we get it?


My novel, Island Legends: The Awakening of James Island, is the first book of an epic fantasy adventure series. Set in a galaxy filled with aliens and different planets, it is part science fiction, but more strongly geared towards high fantasy. I like to describe it sometimes, in a very broad sense, as a cross between Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. I wanted to create worlds with different aliens and cultures, and also have my characters running around swinging swords and throwing magic, which I feel gives it a fairly unique tone. It is a serial book series, where each book tells the next part of a long journey. A bit like if the Lord of the Rings books were split up into ten or so parts instead of three big books.

Along with the fantasy genre tropes of magic and high adventure, it is also a story of self-discovery, particularly for James, and seeks to delve deep into the human psyche to ask such questions as ‘what does it truly mean to know who we are?’ and ‘how important are our past memories for shaping who our present selves are?’ I like to think of it as a character study, inspired by the varied and flawed characters forced to survive together on the television series Lost, or the daily lives of the intricate characters in Mad Men.
The novel was published by Solstice Publishing on January 15th 2016 (time perfectly with my second niece’s first birthday!), and is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats. 


So, did anything prompt this book? Something that inspired you?

I first had the idea of the character of James Island somewhere around twenty years ago, actually. It sounds very cliché but I had a very quick image flash in my mind one morning when I was waking up – of a group of characters on a pirate ship. I drew the image that day (I drew everything back then) and had the name ‘James Island’ for the main character in my head.  I started developing the adventures of James Island as a computer game concept, and to this day have amassed hundreds of A4 pages, several filled notepads, dozens of Word documents and even its own Wiki, collecting all the ideas and images of the world as it progressed and became what it is today.
Being a big science fiction and fantasy fan, and heavily inspired by classic adventure stories such as The Lord of the Rings, the Star Wars films and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, I felt a great urge to tell my own story. The narrative that has become The Awakening of James Island is partially based off of the Heroes Journey (although most stories are) and maintains some of its computer game concept origins, in the sense of a group of characters going on a long and dangerous journey in the vein of a Final Fantasy RPG game. Spending many summer holidays visiting family in Cyprus, I’ve drawn on my experiences there to help shape the world that James Island lives in, forming a culture and lifestyle of a race of desert people similar to a Mediterranean culture, from a skewed fantasy perspective.
It was around ten years ago that I actually started writing the story as a novel – writing very on and off, some years with zero words – until I finally completed it at the end of 2014, having written it pretty much on my own, with little training or knowledge of how to actually write well. I uploaded the chapters onto Wattpad shortly after I discovered the site, and gained invaluable feedback on the writing and story. Through lots of rewriting and polishing, and finding that it still needed A LOT more work, I came across a Copy Editor named Melissa Manes, who looked over the chapters, giving the novel its first professional touch. Through my own edits and with Melissa’s great advice, the final edit removed about 10,000 words to the original manuscript, while still keeping the same story and character development – that’s the power of editing!
That's great!

So, when did you know you wanted to write?  Or has it always been a pastime of yours?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, and English was my favorite class in school. I remember writing short stories with some of the other kids at school in our spare time, challenging ourselves to write the most gory and scary stories we could. I definitely channeled my inner Steven King for those.

When I felt the overwhelming need to bring the story of James Island to life and out into the ether, somehow, I decided to use my passion for writing and storytelling and adapt the story into a novel. Doing so has allowed me to delve into the character’s minds and bring them to life so much more than I ever thought possible back when I was designing hit-point percentages of sword attack combinations, and the result is a much more mature and complicated story than my younger mind could have ever conceived. 
As I’m sure many newbie and aspiring authors can say, I would love to get to the stage where writing can be more than a pastime and graduate to a full time job. It’s a great process, to live and turn your experiences into events and emotions on the page, and reach out to other people in the world and hopefully enrich them a little.

Definitely! ;)

So, do you have any favorite authors?

I’m a big Stephen King fan. If anyone hasn’t read his Dark Tower series, his most fantastical and epic work, I’d strongly recommend it. Especially if you’re familiar with his other work. I highly respect J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter series, and the way those books exploded with popularity, especially given the situation she was in while she wrote the first book. I love Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy too, a very mature and fascinating world that can also be seen as a children’s series – just ignore the terrible film adaptation of the first book!

The author I probably look up to the most right now (except for Tolkien, of course, bow down to him), is Steven Erikson and his Malazan Book of the Fallen series. They are undoubtedly the most epic high fantasy stories I have ever read, with a depth and scope that is unparalleled to any other.   
All right. 

So, just to let you know, we're curious...

Do you write in a specific place? Or time of day?

I actually found my favorite place today, as I’m writing this. It’s a hotel coffee bar, which has large comfy sofa chairs, with fireplaces and books on the shelves, and a nice bar. It was especially nice being there while it rained outside. I like to be in a place that gets me out of the house, has some activity around me that I can zone out, such as people talking or walking around, but that I can also focus on while I search for the right words to type. Things like plug sockets, free wi-fi and good coffee and cakes also help (I generally like to eat fairly healthy and balanced, but not while the creative juices are flowing!). And I prefer smaller, independent coffee shops rather than the big franchises. I find they have a much friendlier, more focused service and a more relaxed atmosphere, which all help me delve into my written world for a time.  
It does sound perfect! ;)

Alex, are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers? Any advice?

You have to really know your characters. Writing a fairly detailed history of their life up to the point of the start of the story helps. Even if none of it makes it on to the main pages, it helps you to know how a character would react to meeting a certain person, hearing a certain thing, being faced with a certain obstacle. If a character had an ex-wife who cheated on him, or saw his younger brother get killed, or was secretly subjected to mind-control when they were younger (without them even knowing about it), it all adds up to who they are. And you’ll find that when they start talking, their dialogue will write itself because you have a good idea what they’ll say, how they’ll say it (as in their word choice) and how they’d react to situations. Maybe I’ve written far too much about the history of my characters (and their relatives and family trees – sigh… I write too much extra stuff!) but it all helps.
Drawing on real experiences too (like someone’s laugh or how they walk) even if they were someone you know and not your own, also really helps add a touch of realism too. You can even take a real person or event and add a fantastical twist to it, if it’s more in-line with your story. 
I also wouldn’t hold too much influence on what one person says, or even on what a few people say. If twenty people say your writing is strong and you have a talent, and two say it’s terrible, people will tend to focus more on the critics, unfortunately. Even if the writing isn’t that strong, say you’re a 15 year old that is passionate about telling stories but hasn’t quite come to grips with the intricacies of writing, my advice is to keep writing and keep reading. 
Read everything that interests you, and even genres that might not be so connected with what you want to write. It all helps. As you develop your knowledge and understanding, your writing will improve too. Start with a few short stories and try something else, keep going and learning, and when you have something incredible that needs to be told in the best way you can, you’ll be ready for it. And even if you’re not fully ready, get it written down and it can always be something that you come back to when you’re more experienced. Some of my earliest writing was just downright terrible when I look back on it! : )
And the old saying still stands: All writing is re-writing!

That's great advice. Thank you!
And thanks so much for stopping by! It was such a pleasure to have you here.  :) 

Readers, here is the blurb for Island Legends: The Awakening of James Island.

After awakening two years earlier as a fully grown man, James Island has managed to make a life for himself in the city he found himself in. Until the day a lost young alien named Evan Goodheart appears, claiming to be on a mission sent by the gods, who have named James as his aid. 
Despite trepidation, James finds an affinity with the lost and bewildered Evan and takes it upon himself to help him find his way; all while attempting to maintain some order in the life he's made and his construction work responsibilities. Throughout the course of the day James will come to realize the extent of Evan’s claims of their fates being entwined, as the truth of his unknown past is revealed to him. 
Island Legends is set in a galaxy reeling from devastating wars, filled with countless alien species, a rich history of powerful magical forces and the interventions of many gods and dangerous spirits and demons constantly at war.
Here is an excerpt.

The wavering sun had now cleared the Dusk Mountains that lined the horizon. The southernmost region, The Ten Fingers, looked to James like the knuckles of a giant hand gripping the earth. He thought of them as a god keeping hold of the planet, if there ever was such a thing.
A rustle from behind shook James from his thoughts.
He turned at the sound, losing his footing. Stumbling back over the cliff’s edge, he found himself falling.
James instinctively grabbed onto his beloved cliff. He hung there helplessly, muscles tight and burning. Dust dispersed around him, several tiny stones falling free, and the muddy smell of the mountain filled his nostrils.
A head appeared over the cliff edge.
It belonged to a small figure wearing a wide rimmed pointed hat, which immediately blew off into the open air, revealing ruffled wavy hair.
James had no choice but to grasp the small hand that reached out, and with an effort he was pulled up over the edge.
Scrambling on his knees, James hugged the rocky ground. His heavy breath brought up dust into his face, causing him to cough and heave. Taking a moment to master himself, he finally saw the stranger in the morning light.
James recognized the boy as a Voarn, the strange small beings he had only read of in books. His ears were pointed at the tips, though much less than his sharply pointed nose. The slant of his large brown eyes gave them a feline quality. A dusty green tunic billowed over his thin frame, baggy trousers tucked into silver highboots, and a short-cape clasped with a silver ornament hung behind him.
James’s eyes were drawn to the large sword on the stranger’s back, and his breath caught. The polished hilt was adorned with intricate gold and jet-black engravings. The sheathed blade was as wide as the decorated cross-guard, seeming far too large for the little Voarn.
James managed to say, “Thank you,” in a shaky voice. His hands were shaking from the near fall, and a shiver ran through him at the thought of what could have happened.
Large, trembling eyes searched James—dusty shirt, long shorts, wearing what must seem like peculiar items on his forearms—with an odd look of puzzlement.
“Where am I?” the Voarn asked finally. His light voice sounded hoarse, as though he hadn’t spoken in a while.
James was taken aback at the question. “Mount Volton,” he answered, though he had a feeling this wasn’t the answer the stranger was looking for.
“Where…” The Voarn searched for the words. “What planet?”
James watched the stranger incredulously. “Carnan. You’re in the Carnan Sand Dunes.”
The stranger continued to search the area with a mixture of wonder and confusion. His open-mouthed gaze accentuated his protruding upper front teeth.
“Unified Land of Medropon,” James added, finding it an odd feeling to explain to someone else where they were. “Who are you?”
The Voarn composed himself. “My name is Evan Goodheart, of the Illan. I have been looking for you, for you are James Island, are you not? You must be. I have come seeking your help.”
Interesting! I definitely want to find out what happens next...
Purchase Links:

Universal Amazon:  getBook.at/IslandLegends

And readers, Alex is offering his book for FREE on Amazon Kindle for the next two days! Check it out here!

Thanks again for visiting us on the MLB blog, Alex, and telling us about your writing adventures and all about The Awakening of James Island!  :)

Author Bio 

After completing an Art Foundation course and a BA in Digital Arts, Alex Pilalis pursued his interest of animation with an MSc in Computer Animation and an online course with Animation Mentor. He is currently an animator on children's television shows.
Alex began his publishing journey with two children's story books, Three Wishes and Where Dreams May Go, and was spurred on to write and create more.
As a big science fiction and fantasy fan, and heavily inspired by classic adventure stories such as The Lord of the Rings, the Star Wars films and Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Alex felt a great urge to tell his own story. Being an avid gamer, he spent the majority of his time growing up developing a video game adventure concept, and to this day has amassed hundreds of A4 pages, several filled notepads, dozens of Word documents and a detailed Wiki, collecting all the ideas and images of the world as it progressed and became what it is today. Feeling the overwhelming need to bring the story to life and out into the ether, somehow, Alex decided to use his passion for writing and storytelling and turn the game into a novel, which has become Island Legends: The Awakening of James Island. Doing so has allowed him to delve into the character's minds and bring them to life so much more than he ever thought possible back when he was designing hit-point percentages of sword attack combinations, and the result is a much more mature and complicated story than his younger mind could have ever conceived.
Originally from London, Alex currently lives and works in Dublin, Ireland.

Author Links:
Alex's Books:


Taking a Break from MLB

Yes, readers, that's right. I'm on hiatus for a while. I know I haven't posted for a bit, and that's really the reason why I...