I read and reviewed the science fiction novel Complex: A Dystopian Thriller earlier this month. Since then I was able to contact the author A. D. Enderly. He graciously agreed to an interview.
Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?
Enderly: I’d always been an avid reader and had tinkered around with creative expression in the form of poetry, but the revelation didn’t really hit until I was about 18. I was a freshman in college and a friend of mine had turned me on to Dave Barry. I enjoyed how he blended humor with factual information and began to toy around with some of these “essays” myself. Now mind you, this was 25 years ago, so I can’t honestly recall the topics…but I do remember the reception. I shared them with friends and family and they enjoyed them – even laughed. This to me, was gold. It didn’t necessarily confirm that I wanted to be a humor columnist, but it did herald the value in writing.
Myself: You began your writing career a little earlier than most of the authors I have spoken with. What is the first piece that you remember writing?
Enderly: Yikes. This would maybe be in middle school, where I wrote a story about a mythological creature cursed to stand on its head. I remember reading it years later, and the notable point wasn’t its quality (or lack thereof) but the creativity. Kids can be so effortlessly creative.
Myself: I agree about kid’s natural creativity. It seems that the public education system works to suppress that independent thinking. What is your academic and work background?
Enderly: I studied English at the University of Kansas, with an emphasis on Creative Writing. I studied Spanish all throughout as well, because as it turns out I have a love for languages! I graduated in ’99 and after that played in a band for about 6 years, both writing lyrics and music. After this, I worked a slew of different jobs, from taking insurance claims in Spanish, installing POS systems in Pizza Huts in the South, waiting tables, to being both a freelance and full-time copywriter at an ad agency. Now I manage restaurants and write in my spare time.
Myself: You have quite a varied career. What part of the world do you currently live in?
Enderly: I live in a suburb of Kansas City, on the Kansas side. An interesting point of note about the city – prior to about 2000, the downtown area was a dead zone. But around this time it experienced a revitalization, beginning with the arts community. I have a good friend who’s a sculptor (think giant bronze statues) and he was a part of this rejuvenation. Now, (minus Covid) the city is alive with people, art, ideas, which had earned it the moniker the Paris of the Plains. I realize some would snicker at this cynically as it’s obviously not remotely like Paris in reality, but I think what the nickname speaks to is the fact that it’s a place where art and ideas are blooming.
Myself: It’s interesting that you come from suburban Kansas City. I was born there and spent the first few years of my life in Argentine, KS. I did not know that it had developed into a center for the arts. Do you think that living there has affected your writing?
Enderly: Undoubtedly. But not in the way some would assume like there’s this sort of midwestern plainspokenness about my writing because I don’t know that’s the case. More than anything, it’s the place that has a hand in the friendships, the encounters, and other exposures that have shaped me and thus my writing.
Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?
Enderly: Oh man, they are multifarious! I find so much fascinating and fun. Right now I’m really enjoying driving RC cars…crashing them and fixing them, that is. I (obviously) love to read and write. But a lot of my writings lean toward the what-if, the philosophical, and the metaphysical. I’m deeply interested in the links between physics/physical laws and the metaphysical ones (ie conservation of energy and Karma – there’s some convoluted connection in there, but that’s for another time).I enjoy repairing things, the occasional woodworking, and also inventing. I’ve got a few ideas I’m working on currently but they’re just rough sketches at the moment. I still make music (I play the bass), and occasionally you’ll find me recording some new music and catapulting it out into the ether when I get the time.
My kids always keep me busy, and I enjoy teaching and coaching them (when they choose to listen). I like to take them camping, canoeing, etc…life is a full, wonderful thing. A little too full to list everything here.
Myself: You seem to have a very full life. What else would you like to share about yourself?
Enderly: I’ve probably over-shared by now 🙂
Myself: What’s the earliest book you remember reading for yourself?
Enderly: Scruffy. It was a chapter book I checked out in second grade and it moved me to tears.
Myself: Did you read much growing up?
Enderly: All the time. I’ve always loved reading.
Myself: What book that you read as a child stands out in your memory?
Enderly: I already mentioned Scruffy, so I’ll move forward in time a little. Around fourth grade, I read The Westing Game, and I absolutely loved the mystery aspect of it. Also around this time, my older brother (2 years older) was reading John Bellairs’ books, which are paranormal mysteries for kids. I got hooked on these…which naturally led me into loving Stephen King and Dean Koontz around high school.
Myself: I’m a Dean Koontz fan too. What have you read recently?
Enderly: I just finished Silversands by Gareth Powell and am about to start Shogun by James Clavell. I try to read one non-fiction for every 3 fiction. It’s the non-fiction that inspires my ideas more than anything. More recently, books like Range (David Eppstein), The Biggest Bluff (Maria Konnikova), and Newjack: Guarding Sing-Sing (Ted Conover) are ones that come to mind.
Myself: That is a diverse reading list. I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction books as well. What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?
Enderly: Favorite genre still has to be Sci-fi. Favorite book of all time? It’s a fight between Dune and Brave New World. But I’m always finding new authors, which is the beauty of books. There are so many good authors out there spinning lovely and different tales. Recently I’ve been enjoying Chuck Wendig’s writing (Wanderers). My favorite author was Stephen King for the longest time, and I still adore The Stand and the Dark Tower series. Don’t know that I have a favorite character though.
Myself: I enjoyed the Dune novels and The Stand. Where is your favorite place to read?
Enderly: Any place that’s quiet.
Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?
Enderly: I prefer paper. I also devour podcasts…but not audiobooks. Is that strange?
Myself: Nearly all the authors I have spoken with prefer paper. I too listen to few audiobooks but to several different podcasts. So from my point of view that is not strange at all! What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?
Enderly: Whatever sparks my imagination. These days I recommend podcasts and particular episodes that interesting that others might find interesting. Just this morning I recommended a Ted talk episode to a barista regarding the (super) power of sleep because of its timely correlation to daylight saving time.
Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?
Enderly: Some innate thing. I know that growing up, total immersion in these imaginary worlds contributed to my development and I believe it still does. It builds a muscle. Maybe I can both inspire others, make them think, but also get them totally immersed in this world, which is an act of imagination and empathy.
Myself: I agree that inspiring imagination is important. What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Enderly: Right now, to just widen my readership. And continue to write and publish. Two books a year is my goal but for someone with work and four kids, this is a tough proposition. I’d probably settle for one/year.
Myself: One novel a year would still be quite an achievement. Why do you write? What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?
Enderly: I write my first draft by hand, and I cannot express how different it is from writing on a computer. There’s some connection between my hand, the pen, the scratch, the feel of the paper that’s all very tactile and it enhances my sense of creating and stimulates my brain more than just typing away at a keyboard ever can. I love it. But back to your question – I love ideas, which is probably why I write within the SF&F genres. In these playgrounds, you can test out new ideas and really flesh them out, see if they ring true.
Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?
Enderly: The first big influences were Stephen King/Dean Koontz. For a while there I was writing horror short stories. Then it was books like Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, 1984 that influenced the genre…but I would say my style of writing was most greatly influenced by reading William Gibson. I love how you’re just thrown and have to figure it all out. There’s such a minimum of exposition that I feel gives his books a lasting power in that you can read them and infer more and more meaning on subsequent reads.
Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?
Enderly: It’s the genre with the most ideas 🙂
Myself: Where do your story ideas come from? How did you come up with the plot in Complex?
Enderly: Oh my god, where to start. This world has existed in my mind for about 6 years. I would write little snippets but didn’t fully begin in earnest until late 2017. My goal at the time was to build a world in which I could write multiple stories/books that were not only in a series but some on parallel tracks that touched on other series. The plot for Complex changed over the course of time…but man it was hard to wrangle with all the POVs.
Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?
Enderly: Very loose outline. There are some things I know I want to happen for the dramatic effect, but if you do this too much then the characters lose their agency. Just like use, they need a bit of freedom to make their own trouble.
Myself: Do you ever find yourself ‘becoming’ one of your characters as you write?
Enderly: I do. This is more noticeable for me when there’s an especially touching, poignant, or inherently sad moment. When you’re lost in the flow and this event happens and you find yourself moved to tears or a sudden upwelling of love, or whatever the emotion may be. Most of writing is a mental stimulant for me, but these moments go deeper, they originate in the heart.
Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?
Enderly: Sometimes at home, but mostly at a coffee shop. I suspect my brain needs some low level of peripheral stimulation to be able to focus on writing. Or maybe I’m just addicted to good coffee.
Myself: Good coffee is certainly important. What is your schedule like when you are writing?
Enderly: Always in the morning. The day proceeds and fills your mind up with junk and other concerns. The morning is a clean, clear slate.
Myself: About how long does it take you to complete the first draft? How long do your revisions take?
Enderly: The first book took two years, then another 6 months to edit. The current book I’m on will take 1 year total for both.
Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?
Enderly: A lot of the ideas in their raw form come from the non-fiction I consume…these days, much of that is from podcasts. But something more specific, like the historic gods of the people of Nepal, I’ll obviously have to research more closely.
Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?
Enderly: I know it’s terrible, but I still use Word for the final draft. Recently, I’ve been writing my first drafts on a reMarkable e-ink tablet…which I LOVE.
Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?
Enderly: The hardest thing is getting started…and getting used to very negative criticism. The easiest thing is continuing. When you’re in a flow, the world doesn’t exist. Only the one in your head.
Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Enderly: Just write. Don’t stop. Like anything else, you will fail. Get up and continue to write, again and again. The process of iteration, of repetition, is one of honing, of style, ideas, craft.
Myself: What novels/works have you published?
Enderly: Complex is my debut novel.
Myself: What are you currently working on?
nderly: The direct sequel to Complex and also a book on a parallel track that touches some of the same characters and concepts, but occurs in a parallel world. It’s tentatively titled The Runner of Bloodroot Row.
Myself: I’ll be looking for both of those novels. What else would you like to share?
Enderly: I really enjoyed this interview. Thanks for inviting me!
Myself: I really appreciate you taking the time to do the interview. I find it so interesting how the authors I interview are so similar on one level and yet worlds apart on others. How should your fans follow you or get in touch?
Enderly: Email is always a great way since life is inherently busy. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org