Crystal Cierlak is a first-time author with “Zoe Thanatos”. A part time author, her full time efforts are in the pursuit of a Masters in Media Psychology and as Artistic Manager at Oomph Media Garage, specializing in social media management and design. Crystal has plans on expanding the world of “Zoe Thanatos” into a transmedia project encompassing many media outlets.
MF: Tell us a little about Crystal the person and Crystal the writer.
CC: My full-time work is in academia. I’m a graduate student working towards a Masters in Media Psychology and I do hope to continue on to the PhD program late next year. I love social media and technology and have always loved psychology, so to study the two as a whole is a very enriching experience. I believe that it is my educated that will bring me success in life and writing will be the cherry on top of the sundae. Many years ago my writing was focused on fan fiction, which I believe to be a very reputable outlet not only for creative writing but also for enrichment of the fan experience. It further explores a world that the original spark that created the fandom perhaps didn’t. That type of writing is far behind me now and my goal is to create something truly wonderful and maybe even a bit epic; something that will transport a reader into another world.
MF: What sparked the idea for the Zoe Thanatos?
CC: “Zoe Thanatos” started as a love letter to all of the things I loved in my life. I’m fascinated by multiverse and string theories in physics and the potentiality of our universe. I’m someone who believes there are “aliens” out there because our world is too large for us to be alone, and I am open-minded about the possibility of other dimensions, universes, and so on. It’s all some kind of epic space mythology and as a human I am naturally inspired and intrigued by mythology. I studied art history as an undergraduate and have a tremendous appreciation for myth and folklore and stories about gods and the like. So Zoe started as a love letter to those things that I love and just evolved into my own mythology.
MF: Are there any messages in your novels that you want readers to grasp?
CC: Not necessarily. To do so would be almost like telling people they should feel or think a certain way, and I don’t believe in that. I just want readers to fall into this world and get lost in it, to imagine all of the possibilities and come out feeling like they’ve been on their own adventure. Those are the kinds of stories I like and I’d like to think I’ve written to my own tastes.
MF: On your blog bio you state that you began writing Zoe Thanatos in May of this year and you published it this month, September. That’s a quick turnaround time, explain that process. Did you have the help of an editor, etc.
CC: I can’t sit down to write unless I have inspiration, and that is true regardless of what I’m writing (academic or otherwise). The idea sparked and the novel took on a life in my mind. I happened to be between semesters at the time so I was able to devote myself to writing full time. I had previously decided to only take one class during the summer instead of the traditional two (8 units, as opposed to 12, is full time in graduate school). I continued to write throughout the semester but took two weeks off for finals. But then I just dived back in. It was very quick. By the time I realized I wanted to self-publish I knew I had to set a deadline for myself and in July I decided on September, just in time for the fall semester to start up again. I knew it would be very difficult to carry a full class load and write so it had to be finished by September. Unfortunately I did not have help from an editor. I wasn’t writing and subsequently publishing to make money so much as I wanted to have the honor of being published at all. As such there are likely a few errors in the final version which I will correct in the future. But for now I’m enjoying talking with people who’ve read the book and understanding how they perceived it.
MF: Who designed the cover?
CC: I did. And it was another one of those moments where I had the inspiration for it so I sat down and did it. The cover went through a couple variations but I always stuck with the design of the two planets. Just as I write what I’d want to read, I design what I’d like to see. If I saw my book cover I would want to see what it was about. And truthfully I kept in the back of my mind: would this look like something people would want to post on Tumblr or Pinterest? That’s the media psychologist in me.
MF: What do you read? What do you re-read?
CC: For the most part I read a lot of textbooks. So when it comes to reading for leisure I will read anything that catches my attention, and I’m rather liberal about my choices. I’ve read some things because they were the “in” story to read but for the most part whatever looks appealing is what I pick up. I re-read stories that truly transport me, when I want to go back into that world and stay for a while.
MF: What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
CC: Write what you want to read. I think that is the surest way to not be bored by your own work but inspired by it.
MF: Are you currently working on another novel or writing project?
CC: For the past couple weeks I have been re-editing a series I wrote almost 10 years ago and self-publishing it as novellas. I thought I had finished the story but the fourth installment is missing from my files so I’m looking at it as an opportunity to continue the series with a fresh perspective. I’ve had so much life experience between then and now and I think I could write the series in a great new direction while remaining faithful to the canon of the story. I’m also working slowly on a sequel to “Zoe Thanatos”. I don’t yet have a timeline for it but I have the first four chapters outlined and I know generally where I want to go with the story. I’m taking my time and enjoying the process, trying to not make the same mistakes I did last time.
MF: Do you have any advice for other writers?
CC: Don’t write just to make money. I think it shows in your work when you’re writing ultimately for a paycheck and not for the joy of telling a story. I think people come to resent those who write for the paycheck and there are so many talented people out there who deserve a place on the bookshelf more. Keep your expectations in a comfortably low place but your standard high. It makes seeing those unit sold numbers increase all the more special.
MF: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
CC: Just that I’m honored you would even read my work and I hope you enjoyed reading “Zoe Thanatos” as much as I loved writing it.