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Novelist Adrian Gonzalez On How To Write Compelling Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories

An Interview With Ian Benke

Funny dialogue and actions: Laughter is a universal language. It’s important, no matter how serious the story, to insert comical elements into it. For instance, in Unexplainable Adventures, one of the main characters always pulls out some kind of candy bar or snack — even in the most intense scenes. It’s a recurring theme that is able to break up some of the tension when used properly while getting the reader to smile or even laugh.

Science Fiction and Fantasy are hugely popular genres. What does it take for a writer today, to write compelling and successful Science Fiction and Fantasy stories? Authority Magazine started a new series called “How To Write Compelling Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories”. In this series we are talking to anyone who is a Science Fiction or Fantasy author, or an authority or expert on how to write compelling Science Fiction and Fantasy .

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adrian Gonzalez.

An avid reader, Adrian Gonzalez graduated from The University of Miami in 2012 with a Bachelor’s in both Communications and Creative Writing. During his senior year at UM, Adrian was one of only three students selected within the entire student body to work hand-in-hand with American novelist, M. Evelina Galang. He’s the oldest of four siblings. The youngest of his siblings, Brianna and Frankie, are the inspiration behind the book series Unexplainable Adventures. After searching for entertaining self development books geared for Brianna and Frankie, and not finding any available, he and his writing partner Danny Vega decided to write their own.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what first drew you to writing over other forms of storytelling?

Like most of us, I had no idea what I wanted to major in when I started university. I was emailed a list of majors shortly before my first semester would start and had just a week to make my choice. Out of all the majors available, there’s only one that stood out to me — Creative Writing. Keep in mind I had absolutely no experience writing anything other than the traditional essays required in high school. But, I was “the friend” in my group known for telling the most entertaining stories. So… you could say I just kind of fell into it. I’m glad I did!

You are a successful author. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Optimism:

People are often scared to follow their dreams because they’re afraid of failing. Instead of just going for it, they start to get lost in all of the things that could go wrong, rather than believing, even blindly, about all the things that could go right. I noticed this at a young age — even when it wasn’t about dreams. Whether it’s about asking your high school crush to prom or trying out for the football team, you’ve got to just go for it and hope for the best. Ever since I could remember, that’s been how I look at things. And because I’m optimistic about how great any outcome could be, I never leave any space to focus on what could go wrong. You know what they say… “Shoot for the stars. Even if you miss, you’ll land on the moon.”

Patience:

Patience is actually something I developed during my writing studies at the University of Miami. I would spend hours drafting short stories before presenting them to my peers and professors. I could have sworn those first drafts were perfect works of art, but the reviews proved otherwise. There’s a saying that’s all too common in the writing world. “The purpose of the first draft is not to get it right, but to get it written.” I began to learn that even the second and third drafts would still need work, and that it would take patience to get to those later drafts that would eventually turn into gold.

Open-mindedness:

When creating a fictional world composed of fictional characters, being open-minded is everything. Although they’re not real, your characters will grow. They will evolve. They will change. If you’re not willing to be open minded and allow them to develop, then both the realm and the characters you’ve created won’t come to life in the way that they could. You can’t be stuck in your ways. You should be open to change because it’s the smallest changes that result in the greatest impacts.

Can you tell us a bit about the interesting or exciting projects you are working on or wish to create? What are your goals for these projects?

Right now, my partner Danny Vega and I are working on a series of children’s books called Unexplainable Adventures. Unexplainable Adventures is a series of growth and development books geared specifically for children. This series is the first fictional, character-based, publication that sheds light on self-development principles and strategies for kids, all revolving around a select group of fictionalized child characters who possess special abilities.

By interweaving powerful principles and thought provoking ideologies with an entertaining fiction revolving around children and superhero abilities, we’ve found a great way to not only help children want to read more, but learn things that will help them grow better and stronger for the rest of their lives.

Our goal with this book is to help kids gain helpful perspectives from healthy principles that will result in a powerful mindset at an early age. Our plan is to donate as many copies as we possibly can to schools, orphanages and non-profits in the hopes of helping as many children as possible.

Wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define sci-fi or fantasy? How is it different from speculative fiction?

If it could happen in real life, it’s speculative. But if the fiction is created in a way where there is absolutely no possibility of it happening in real life, then that’s where we enter the realm of sci-fi or fantasy.

It seems that despite countless changes in media and communication technologies, novels and written fiction always survive, and as the rate of change increases with technology, written sci-fi becomes more popular. Why do you think that is?

I believe that people of all ages and walks of life never really lose their sense of imagination or wonder. Sure… it may dwindle a bit, but it never goes away. If you pay close attention to your inner thoughts, you’re bound to find yourself indulging in your own creative sci-fi fantasies. These thoughts allow us to get away to new worlds while our physical forms are here on Earth, stuck in cubicles or traffic jams. I believe that sci-fi provides us with a temporary escape from what is real and possible, to what is magical and limitless.

In your opinion, what are the benefits to reading sci-fi, and how do they compare to watching sci-fi on film and television?

Reading sci-fi opens your mind up to things that could never be possible, and leads you to find similarities between the impossibilities you’re reading about and real life. Sci-fi novels or even short stories force you to use your imagination to really create these new worlds and possibilities within your own mind. Although I love sci-fi movies, they do all the imagining for the viewer. There’s is nothing left to wonder about or create. When you’re reading it on the other hand, it’s like having a paintbrush and an empty canvas. Someone is guiding you through the art, but you have a hand in the design too.

What authors and artists, dead or alive, inspired you to write?

My favorite author of all time is Raymond Carver. He has such a minimalist style, yet he wields it so well. He can depict an entire world in just a few sentences while it may take other writers’ pages.

If you could ask your favourite Science Fiction and Fantasy author a question, what would it be?

How much of your stories are based on real experiences you’ve had?

We’d like to learn more about your writing. How would you describe yourself as an author? Can you please share a specific passage that you think exemplifies your style?

I’d describe myself as a mischievous author. I enjoy giving my readers just enough information for them to think they know what’s happening, and then pulling the rug from under them as they near the end of the chapter or final story. I want it to be a surprise. I want you to think you have it all figured out. But then at the end, you find out something else was really happening the whole time.

The passage below is taken from introduction of Unexplainable Adventures: The Power of Influence:

Memphis woke up in his hospital room after being in a coma for five days. He was short for his age, and the adult-sized bed where he lied made him look even smaller. About 60-days ago, a new virus that only infected children spread across the globe — leaving Memphis and thousands of other kids his age bed ridden in hospitals. “Beep… beep… beep,” rang the machine that was hooked up to his arms. Since he hadn’t opened his eyes for 5-days, the light from the bulbs above his bed burned his pupils as he struggled to open them. He couldn’t see yet, and what he could see was very blurry.

The door in his hospital room creaked open followed by heavy footsteps walking approaching. As Memphis cautiously battled to open his eyes, he could only make out a large figure standing by the side of his bed. Although he couldn’t see enough to notice the man’s face, he was able to make out a bright white lab coat. He shut his eyes again and the man began speaking.

“Hey bud. You’ve been asleep for a few days now. Can you hear me?” asked the man in a kind voice.

“It looks like the medicine worked,” continued the voice. “His breathing seems normal and his fever is gone,” the man in the coat continued.

Memphis’s heart began to pace a bit quicker. It reminded him of when he used to sit in the backseat of his mom’s car when she would drive fast over speed bumps in parking lots.

“I’m awake! The lights hurt my eyes. But I can hear you” yelled out Memphis to the man as he tried to open his eyes again. “Where am I? What medicine did you give me,” he continued as he fought the pain from the lights above him to see what the man beside him looked like.

“Wait… how can you hear me?” asked the man in a confused tone.

“Because you’re talking right next to me,” replied Memphis, slowly fighting to open his eyes again. Finally, his eyes were adjusting to the light, allowing him to make out some of his surroundings. A man whose face was covered by a white mask hovered over his head.

The man had small, clear glasses on and his green eyes glowed in curiosity behind them. The boy glanced around the room. His mother’s army hat sat by a green chair to his left. A TV stood on the wall in front of his bed playing the news. It showed a woman walking through a room filled with coughing children in gurneys.

“Memphis… can you hear me right now?” Asked the man in the white coat.

“Obviously… You’re standing right next to me!” Where am I?” asked Memphis.

By now, Memphis could see perfectly. The man he was speaking with had deep wrinkles on his forehead. His hair was short and messy, like he hadn’t combed it in months. And a light scar just over his left temple.

The man in the white coat took the mask off his face, revealing a curly mustache with brown whiskers covering most of his upper lip. Memphis looked into the man’s green eyes.

“I’m not deaf. I can hear you. Can you hear me?” Memphis asked again.

“I can hear you, Memphis,” the man replied. Memphis’s heart began to pound even harder than before. It was as if his mom was driving over a parking lot filled with speed-bumps, going faster and faster because although he could hear the man speaking, his lips weren’t moving.

“The reason I keep asking you if you can hear me is because I haven’t said a word since I walked in the room. Memphis raised his eyebrows in disbelief, recalibrating his eyelids to get a better view of the man’s mouth. It wasn’t moving…

“How are you doing this?” nervously asked Memphis. His voice cracking and his eyes beginning to water. It reminded him of how he felt whenever the bully at his old school started to follow him in the hallways. “Stop it! Please stop it! Where’s my mom?” he asked as a tear dripped down the side of his cheek.

“Calm down, Memphis. Please calm down,” said the man as he aimed his hands at Memphis’s face. The man leaned over the boy, placing his latex gloves behind the boy’s ears to remove the mask he had on. In a panic, Memphis raised his arms to stop the man from whatever it was that he was doing, digging his long fingernails as hard as he could into the man’s wrists. But it was over in a flash. The boy’s breathing slowed once he saw the man was simply helping him.

“The thing is, Memphis,” said the man. “None of us have actually spoken a word… Not a single word.

Based on your own experience and success, what are the “Five Things You Need To Write Compelling Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. A not-too magical world: Even in the most magical of worlds, there has to be enough realness for the reader to relate too. Not too much, but just enough. For instance, Superman lives in a city with regular people. Froto Baggins is searching for companionship while navigating away from bullies. Deadpool is just trying to find the meaning of life. If the reader can not relate to anything in the story, they’re not going to be reading it very long.
  2. Funny dialogue and actions: Laughter is a universal language. It’s important, no matter how serious the story, to insert comical elements into it. For instance, in Unexplainable Adventures, one of the main characters always pulls out some kind of candy bar or snack — even in the most intense scenes. It’s a recurring theme that is able to break up some of the tension when used properly while getting the reader to smile or even laugh.
  3. Diversify your characters: When Danny and I looked back at the first draft of the initial chapters of our book, we noticed that all of the characters were males! We didn’t write it that way on purpose. It just happened. You have to remember that not everyone reading your book is you. You have to think about everyone. So try and make your characters as different from each other as possible so more people will be able to relate to them.
  4. Don’t limit your creative juices: It’s important to remember that at the end of the day, the world you are creating is exactly that — the world you’re creating. Let your imagination run wild. Add as many details as you can, and then add more. This can be extremely helpful if you’re experiencing writer’s block. I know it was for me. When you find yourself in a writing traffic jam, just move to a new lane and fill it with beautiful nonsense until you’re able to get back on track. I promise there will be specks of gold in there.
  5. Revision is art: Creating a great sci-fi story takes time and patience. It has to grow on you. If you think you’re done with a story, go back and read it again — out loud. Once you start doing that, you’ll notice there is room for improvement, new ideas and more. The more you revise your work, the better it will ultimately be.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Entertainment, Business, VC funding, and Sports read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

It may sound cliche, but it would be Stephen King! He overcame some of the most difficult obstacles both in his career and in his life. He broke the mold for writers and made it possible to turn books into film and even theme park rides. I’d love to pick his brain about his writing process, advice for growing as an author and life lessons that lead to being a great man.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit our website: UnexplainableAdventures.com

Follow us on Instagram: @unexplainableadventures

Check out our book and audiobooks on Amazon.com

Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success.

About The Interviewer: Ian Benke is a multi-talented artist with a passion for written storytelling and static visual art — anything that can be printed on a page. Inspired by Mega Man, John Steinbeck, and commercials, I.B.’s science fiction writing and art explore the growing bond between technology and culture, imagining where it will lead and the people it will shape. He is the author of Future Fables and Strange Stories, the upcoming It’s Dangerous to Go Alone trilogy, and contributes to Pulp Kings. The CEO and Co-Founder of Stray Books, and an origami enthusiast, Ian is an advocate of independent, collaborative, and Canadian art. https://ibwordsandart.ca

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Ian Benke

Ian Benke

Writer, artist, origami enthusiast, and CEO and Co-Founder of Stray Books

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