Author Interview: Saif Ansari

Saif Ansari is one of the authors in the soon-to-be released urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, and I’m very happy to have him featured on my blog for an interview. On a personal note, I’m also happy to have him as my husband, so if you would like to know any embarrassing, personal things about him, such as what color his socks are (always black) and whether he prefers Diet Coke or Coke Zero (Zero), and if he had to be a kitchen utensil, what would he be and why (I have no idea, but I guess potato masher), please feel free to ask.

1. What do you like about writing in the paranormal genre?

My favorite fiction tends to be in the dark fantasy/Victorian ghost story genre, and while I’m not looking to emulate that specific style, I enjoy the mood and textures that sort of fiction cultivates. Putting together that sort of feeling myself is a lot of fun.

2. What prompted you to write this story?

I was thinking about buildings with old, residual architectural elements that are out of use, and what the buildings might be doing with these abandoned structures. The story kind of unfurled once I established the main character and his relationship and how it tied in with the structures.

3. What other things have you written/are you writing?

I’ve written some other short fiction, my story, Entombed was a finalist in the Blizzard Worldwide Writing Contest, I wrote a short play that was put for a few nights, and I have a novel that I’d love to revise and release, but right now I’m focusing on short fiction.

4. Do you consider your writing character-driven or plot-driven?

I suppose it’s character driven, even if sometimes that character is a building. Once I know who a character is, and their particular needs, a story rises around the structure of that circumstance.

5. Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

It’s a mixture, though my best material, I think, comes when I’m pressed for time and write without a safety net of an outline. An open-ended story is far more exciting because it lets me discover what happens as I write.

6. Do you have a writing mentor or inspiration?

My favorite writers are William Hope Hodgson and Shirley Jackson. The way both these writers used textured and atmospheric writing, ambiguous endings, unreliable narrators, and their depictions of unstable reality is central to my writing. In addition, I really like how Jackson commented on her contemporary circumstances as a woman in very subtle ways and her use of strong if flawed, female characters.

7. When and how did you first become interested in writing?

It’s my passion, I write all the time,  though I go through fits of private and public writing. I’d like to find more exposure for my writing, it’s something I’m working on.

8. What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I don’t have a schedule, I write when I can find time to squeeze it in. My favorite place to write in anywhere I can  be completely alone, dark, a bit cold, with my laptop, music files, and headphones.

9. What’s next?

More writing. I just put out a small anthology with various friends and am trying to muster up the energy to release a novel on my own. I also blog at http://saifansari.wordpress.com.

10. Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for supporting the charity!

The following is a short excerpt from Saif’s story in Urban Harvest.

Pipes

Six months ago I started working in the Goldbar building.  It’s art-deco facade reflected by the other buildings on the block.  All of them tall, tapering skyscrapers washed clean and well maintained by the wealthy corporations housed within them.  The Goldbar building had just become the home of a computing firm that was dissatisfied with its data pipeline.  Old buildings are notoriously difficult to rewire, especially when they want to connect directly on private lines to their main office half way across the island.  I was assigned to this building as part of a team to come up with a solution.  Our head engineer, Doug O’Brien, had discovered one.

“Pneumatic tubes,” he said, the self-satisfied grin on his face that spoke of a successful youth.  When a flat silence returned his grin he slapped his hand against one of the old tubes next to him, creating a hollow sound that filled the cramped office.  At the moment, the tube was cleverly disguised to appear as part of the room’s streamlined corporate appearance.  But the masquerade was easily dispelled once it was pointed out.

“The Goldbar has these things crawling around everywhere.  Now, they’ve been blocked off for about sixty years, but that doesn’t mean they’re not useable.”  The complete confidence he exuded was tangible, palpable.  He was the kind of man that seemed successful no matter what.  He was the kind of man who made you feel as if your life were missing something very specific in it, even if it was just a really great tie or a solid suit.

“What we need to do is split up into smaller teams and start mapping the network.  Once we have a full schematic, we can move on to figuring out how to run the wires through them.  Now, in the intervening years, things may have gotten a bit…” he hesitated casting about for a word but the smile never faltered.  He managed to make it all seem playful.  “Cluttered insides the pipes.  One of the primary exit points was the former mailroom, which is in the third sub-basement.  It’s been empty for over forty years.  That’s going to be our check spot.  Building management wants that area locked at all times so each team will have a set of keys.”

Doug never went down into the Mail Room.  He was instead set up in a spare office on the thirtieth floor with a sliver of the park visible between two buildings across the street from his window.  After my first visit down to the Mail Room, I never called it that again.  Maybe it had been a Mail Room once, but it was something else, now.

To read the rest of Saif’s story, check out Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, available from Amazon this Sunday!

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