So, for rabid fans of the blog, today will come as a relaxing fresh of breath air—I’m promoting someone, and it’s not me!
I recently came upon the book The Scriptlings, by Sorin Suciu. And by “came upon,” I mean that he submitted it to me for a review.
The Scriptlings is Sorin’s debut novel, and what a debut novel it is. The book is also—gasp!—traditionally published. How out of character for someone I know, right?
I was bored of the book I was in the middle of, so I flipped to the first page. What followed was a whirlwind romance, full of laughs and adventure and badly disguised villains.
I fell absolutely in love with the book. You can read my review of it here. And once I finished I was determined to have Sorin on the blog for an interview. He was gracious enough to accept, and so here we are!
Garrett: Welcome to the blog! How are you doing as you write this?
Sorin: Thank you for having me, Garrett! As I write, Tiki – my socially maladroit parrot, is trying to show me her love by biting chunks of fabric of my t-shirt while cooing to herself.
Garrett: She sounds not unlike a certain goat I know. Okay, first off, tell us about yourself and how your writing career began/is progressing. How long have you wanted to write, what sparked you to actually begin, and how long did it take you to complete your first work?
Sorin: I like to describe myself as a gamer trapped in a programmer’s body, although that’s not entirely true. Programmers can be handsome, at times.
Although I’ve been writing for the joy of writing for a while now, my career as a writer started with The Scriptlings. I wrote it initially for the Terry Pratchett prize – a worldwide competition for unpublished authors. Having not even made the shortlist, I decided to re-write parts of it, and to try my luck somewhere else. I got my break, eventually, after guzzling down more agent rejections than it is conceivably healthy, with AEC Stellar, my publisher.
Garrett: Next, I have to clarify something. You say in the dedication of The Scriptlings that you aren’t a native English speaker. This seems utterly impossible to me because of the quality of your humor in English. Humor is without a doubt one of the hardest things to pull off in any language. I speak French, for example, but if I tried to tell a joke in French, I’m sure I’d be slapped with a croissant. Please tell me about your English education and how you became so deft with it.
Sorin: You are way too kind, Garrett. I suppose all credit goes to my editors, Audrey Owen and Heather Hebert, who have more than once stopped me from saying stuff like “it doesn’t ring my bells” or “if push comes to shovel.” These are things Buggeroff would say, by the way.
Every Romanian kid is, or at least used to be, “forced” to learn two foreign languages, rendering us a nation of unwilling polyglots. In my case, the two languages were Spanish and French. I could have chosen English, but my young self had different ideas, as young selves usually do.
I picked up English by myself as an adolescent, the way a child learns a language – through immersion. Computer games, the Cartoon Network and Hollywood movies, they have taught me enough to get by in simple conversations, and to hum Pink Floyd songs without sounding too weird.
It was only in my twenties, and late twenties at that, when I discovered the wonderful worlds of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, that I decided to make a conscious effort to learn this language properly. I started reading Discworld in English, dictionary in hand. It took about five books for me to get rid of the crutches, and by then I must have absorbed as much humour as I have English. (I was about to write ‘crotches’… See what I mean?)
Although I now speak English better than any of the two formally learned languages, I don’t necessarily recommend this method. My reckless approach to learning English has left me with a decent vocabulary, but also with sizeable holes in grammar. Not to mention a lot of words that I have no idea how to pronounce.
Garrett: The magic system in Scriptlings is one of its highlights. I’ve never seen anything like it. What was the inspiration for that? How did you come up with the idea of using computer code?
Sorin: I got the inspiration from Richard Dawkins who, in “River Out of Eden” made it quite clear that the way genes trigger various events is “uncannily computer-like”. This struck me as remarkable, especially seeing that we, as a species, have only discovered the way genes work after actually inventing programming languages.
From there, it was only a small leap of imagination to making the same code responsible for spell casting.
Funny enough, long after I finished writing the book, a friend of mine was kind enough to point out that the idea of magic and programming being the same had been used a while ago by Rick Cook in his Wizardry series; which I now plan to read. So while the idea was original to me, it was certainly not original to the world. I say this with a note of sadness
Garrett: What’s your computer programming history? And on a related note, where does your “nerd cred” come from? You’re obviously big on things like epic fantasy, pop culture and other geeky things like that. How did that develop?
Sorin: It would be nice to say that as a young boy I was equally passionate by games and programming. It would also be a lie. I have spent far more enjoyable moments with Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle and Diablo than with Pascal, C++ or SQL. Oddly enough, I ended up making a living with the latter.
I guess what really makes me a geek is that I actually love what I’m doing. I work in the Business Intelligence field, and I can’t imagine doing something better for a living, with the possible exception of writing, if only it would pay as well.
Garrett: Tell us about your writing habits. Do you have to write in solitude? Do you listen to music? Do you work in an office, or maybe a coffee shop?
Sorin: I write whenever I can. Having a parrot who behaves like a perpetual three-year old child has taught me to cherish any moment of silence I can get. I do listen to music when I write, but it is usually wordless music, such as Classical or… or whatever you want to call Vangelis, Mike Oldfield and the likes.
When I write, I like to set a daily target of about six hundred words, and I don’t take weekends off. I am now experimenting with a more forgiving schedule for The Masters, mostly because I know this will be a slightly shorter novel. The Scriptlings, with its 100k words has scared some people already, and it had made the paperback edition more expensive than I thought necessary.
Garrett: How soon will I have The Masters, dammit? I wants the precious.
Sorin: Thank you for volunteering to be one of my ARC readers! Please wait while we transfer you. Your call is very important for us.
Seriously now, I’m working on it, I promise! I am pleased to say that this time I actually have a plot to work on. You may have figured out already that The Scriptlings is not a who-done-it but rather a what-the-hell-is-going-on type of novel. By all means, this is not a bad thing; however, I have learned a lot by writing it and I think having at least a vague idea where the story goes might be beneficial. What do you think?
Garrett: Where can people find you online, and do you have other works besides Scriptlings you can suggest as further reading?
I will feature a short story called “The Mating Season” in a collection edited by my publisher, entitled 2013: A Stellar Collection, available pretty soon.
Garrett: Thanks, Sorin! It was a pleasure having you!
And hey. Listen.
I don’t often tell you that you’ve got to go buy something. Actually, that’s a total lie. I tell you to go buy things all the time. But I don’t often tell you to go buy OTHER people’s things. But you’ve really got to read this book. Wait for the Kindle version if you want. But after reading my advanced review copy, I’m buying the paperback. And I strongly, strongly recommend that you do the same.
See you next time. Thanks again to Sorin for showing up.