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Interview with Anthony Almato

Anthony Almato

He doesn’t think of himself as an author, and Free Worlds of Humanity began as a video game concept before taking its current form. Having survived nearly insurmountable challenges during childhood and adolescence, in addition to his former careers as a professional gamer and a corrections officer, Almato uses his personal experiences to breathe life into his stories. When he isn’t writing, he can be found snowboarding, smoking cigars, and enjoying the company of his wife and children.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I’ve lived with type one diabetes for over 30 years and tend to keep that to myself most of the time. I’ve worked with the same people for the last seven years and only began sharing that detail about myself this past year.

Q.2 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
A. Free Worlds of Humanity
is book one in the Free Worlds series. 1.5, a novella attached to book one, will come out January 14th, 2022, followed by the book two in August of 2022. 

The entire series will be five books, with three novellas and a graphic novel. I also have a planned prequel (two books) and sequel (three books.) All of my writing will focus on this conceptual world.

Q.3 What inspired you to write Free Worlds of Humanity?
I started developing this story concept in the year 2000, my junior year of high school. Originally I wanted to turn this world-building idea into a video game. I was a pretty talented graphic designer in those days and created an entire story around a futuristic concept. I would periodically dive back into it for the next twenty years, writing and drawing my different civilizations, their societies, religions, and laws.

When I met my wife, Courtney, I put everything into a box and forgot about it. We spent the next few years living our lives and bought a house together. When we moved in and decided to consolidate moving boxes, she found a box filled with 300+ papers of my world-building concepts and designs. She looked through it for a little bit and told me I had to do something with it because there was so much detail she was in disbelief of it all.

I shrugged and didn’t think much of it at the time, but she kept pushing and finally convinced me to write a book. Initially, I laughed at the thought because she knew as well as I that I didn’t know the first thing about that. So I spent a year researching, talking with authors like Mercedes Lackey, an NYT best-selling author with over 145 published books. Finally, Mercedes gave me the final push to commit to writing the book.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I don’t find much difficulty in writing characters of any gender or preference. The way I write, you’d have a hard time knowing what gender, race, or sexual orientation these characters prefer. Not because I leave it vague; no, it’s my writing style in the first person POV. I keep you in their head. You wouldn’t think to yourself, “I’m a special boy/girl/they/they’re/ or something else.” 
You just think and roll with it. 

Once in and a while, I do come out with a conversation piece where someone calls the main character by their name where it’s finally revealed what gender they are, which makes readers reach out to me and say, “WOW! I didn’t even know that was a she or he until that point! Really well written!” It happens often.

Q.5 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
When writing the story, I place myself into a form of method acting to make myself become the character I’m writing about in that chapter. Then, I act and think like that character until I finish writing the chapter. Even in real-life conversations, I pretend to be my character. 

It usually takes a day to complete a first draft chapter of 2000-3000 words. Then, after that, I just write it as it comes to me. Sometimes I have an outline or general idea of how I want something to work out, but that winds up changing as I live in the moment of these characters and the interactions occur.

Q.6 What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
There’s no harm in educating yourself on standard practices or formulas of writing but don’t get sucked up into that. I’ve never read a book in my entire life… that’s right, you read that right. I wrote a 225,000-word epic science fiction novel that hit bestseller on Amazon for a few days, and I haven’t read a single book in my life. I feel like a painter who paints canvases and has never seen another painting ever. This isn’t something that should discourage you. My book sold over 700 copies in 30 days because people loved it, and the world of mouth spread like wildfire. If someone like me can write a book, I promise that you can too. 

First drafts always suck. Write it from start to finish. Then go back and refine it at least two times. After that, forget about it for two months. Go live life and do something else, then come back with a fresh set of eyes and edit it another two or three times. It took me four years from the start of the first chapter of draft one to completion in editing/proofreading (worked with professionals) and beta reading. You can do it, just sit your butt down and write.

Q.7 How do you see the future of science fiction literature? Will sci-fi maintain its independence or intertwines with other literary genres?
I can’t say one way or another what will happen to the future of science fiction. All things evolve and change. It isn’t always a bad thing. We have to roll with the changes and adapt or get left behind.

Q.8 To what extent can science fiction effect or improve the developments in science and technology in human life? Is it right to say that science fiction can change what human life looks like in the future?
We’ve seen this in science fiction for over 75 years. Look back at the original Star Trek of the 1960s. A lot of that technology featured as “future tech” are things we can do today. Transparent Aluminum, communicators, hypospray, universal translators (I use the app at work all the time, and it’s great,) even phasers are a real thing now. Science fiction helps give innovators the ideas to reach for something bigger.

Q.9 In many science fictions stories, the existence of God is denied. Could we call science fiction an atheist literary genre?
I’m not sure I’d go that far. I think most science fiction stories focus more heavily on technology which has always been a clearly separate thing from religion. So you might have a point in this question, but I just can’t give a great answer to it because it all depends on the writer and where they focus. 

In Free Worlds of Humanity, there’s so much detail in the world-building that religions are discussed as to what each Free World government has (if anything) for their belief system. Civil Earth doesn’t have religion, and Neither does the Colonial Accord or Federate Corporation. But the Human Alliance believes in something called the Door of Life, Faith in the Acolytes, and Dolrinion Offensive has their memory stone religion that they follow furiously. Even the three pirate worlds have a faith called the Eternal Flame. So I think it comes down to writing style and preference. I don’t think it takes away from a story if there’s a purpose for it.

Q.10 What do you think are the main reasons for the popularity of science fiction? To what extent has the film industry helped in popularizing the genre?
Humanity is filled with stories. We are intrigued by these amazing anecdotes with wonderful myths and fable tales that span thousands of years into our past. It’s in our nature to wonder and want more. UFO sightings, tales of walking giants from a forgotten age in history, and the thought of stepping foot on a distant star. All of it gives us that sense of being kids again-it makes us smile. 

Science fiction and fantasy give us similar feelings as kids going to Disney. Creative thought gives all of us inspiration. The film industry helps visualize all of these wonders in a way that helps expand on our creative ideas. Besides, book sales always skyrocket after the series is made into a movie/show.

Q.11 Ray Bradbury considers sci-fi as “the important literature in the history of the world because it’s the history of ideas and the history of our civilization birthing itself.” Do you agree with him, as many sci-fi stories do, indeed, depict disaster?
Well, I don’t know who Ray Bradbury is, nor did I read or see this question before answering the last, which leads me to believe that he is an author within the genre. Don’t forget what I said earlier; I’ve never read a book in my life before undertaking this adventure. 

I can say with truth that we’re all of a similar mindset within this field and think within tones of the same song. Disaster is a fact of reality. The great tsunami of 2004 killed at least 225,000 people, and there wasn’t anything science fiction about it. These events take shape constantly within reality, and there’s no reason why fiction or science fiction shouldn’t show similar events.

Q.12 Science fiction has a long history. Which era do you consider the most effective period in the whole history of the genre?
I don’t have to be an avid reader to know that the golden age of science fiction was in the late 1930’s to early 1940s, and it exploded even more when Rosewell happened. I believe the earlier foundation, no pun intended, paved the way for franchises such as Foundation and Dune, which were cornerstones in all modern science fiction. 

I do believe that we are in a bit of a renaissance period right now with easy access to ebooks for pricing from free to $2.99 (on average.) Self-publishing accounts for a vast portion of the market now, and the competitive nature of science fiction and fantasy on Amazon should be a clear indicator that we are in a great time for the genre.

Q.13 What’s your writing schedule while you’re working?
Draft one of Free Worlds took me three months. It was crap, hands down garbage, which is fine because all first drafts of anything suck. My first draft was 280,000 words, and I spent the next year and a half refining, tweaking, adding, and removing. When I’m in the rabbit hole writing, I can usually knock out between 2500-3500 words per day. I go into a zone where I make myself become the character POV I’m writing about. It’s a form of method acting. I think and act like my character for that day of writing. 

My wife has funny stories of me acting like Isabel Sideris or Master Gunnery Sergeant Askar when she talked to me. Doing this helped me fall into the character’s uniqueness and give them a voice that sounded nothing like any other character within the story. After the 5th or 6th rewrite, within that year and a half time frame,) I took a break for about a month. I refused to even look at it. I watched a few new tv shows, played some games, and spent much-needed quality time with my children during that time. 

When I went back to the next draft rewrite, I saw things through a new lens that I hadn’t picked up on before. From there, I committed to another few drafts before handing them off to a few of my trusted beta readers. They read the entire manuscript (by that time, it was around 240,000 words) and added notes on things that confused them, didn’t make sense, or what they truly loved. This helped me refine and tweak even more. If my beta readers all found the same thing confusing, then I knew some edits were needed. By the time this all ended, I was around two years into it, maybe even two and a half. I did the same thing at that point and “put it on the shelf” for three months, this time without looking at it. 

When I went back, I once again saw things that needed changing. I spent three months doing edits and listening to it on the computer before handing it over to my editor for two rounds of developmental/line copy edit. That process took another few months because I had to make significant changes, and by this point, the book was down to 224,000 words. Finally, I handed it off to my proofreader, and the rest is history.

Q.14 Do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?
The biggest thing I can say is my method of acting/writing. Most people who I tell this to find it interesting and want to know more. When writing “in character,” I literally shut myself off to the rest of the world, and the only thing that exists in my head is Free Worlds. While writing, as far as reality is concerned, I’m within occupied space fighting for humanity, and nothing else exists to me. So I shut myself down completely and became my character.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select him/her?
A. Jeff Brown Graphics
. He is a renowned cover designer who needs to be booked at least six and eight months in advance. I attribute a portion of my overall success to his amazing design. Free Worlds was a best seller within one of the science fiction subcategories on Amazon for a few days, and the cover helped draw people in.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
A lot of it was random, honestly. Over 15 thousand employees have email at my daytime job and are listed on an organizational chart showing their bosses, bosses' boss, and direct reports underneath. I would go through it and pick names from there. It was important for me to have regular names as often as possible. 

My wife doesn’t like reading science fiction, and part of that dislike is her inability to pronounce unique and wild fake names. She hates spending an entire series mispronouncing a name or not truly knowing how to say it the right way. So for my wife, I used a lot of regular names, and if I did add something fake or different, I kept it basic and simple to say. Of course, that doesn’t count the Human Alliance city-states of Epsilon Prime. Some of the state names are long.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
Knock on wood, I only have 5-star reviews at this time on both Amazon and Goodreads. I’ve got thick skin from my time working in a correctional facility. Things just roll off me, and I won’t take it personally. The key to failure is trying to please everyone. 

I read my book reviews and would hope that if someone were planning on leaving a 1 star because they didn’t understand something or felt it was too violent, graphic, or didn’t expect some sexuality within the story, they’d reach out to me first to discuss.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
Emperor Trajan of Rome ruled from 98 AD to 117 AD. He wasn’t as famous as Augustus or Caesar, but in my opinion, Trajan was much smarter and did more good than any other emperor in Roman history. The Senate named him Optimus Princeps, “the best ruler” for a good reason. Yes, he was a soldier and committed to war like all the rulers from that time. He was a product of the time. But, he also initiated welfare policies giving equal rights to the people of Rome. 

He expanded production and building techniques that are still used to this day. He gave back to the people of Rome, which was something that most in leadership roles of that time wouldn’t care or trouble themselves to do. Those from that time who speak of him said, “Trajan was a good ruler in that he ruled less by fear, and more by acting as a role model.” A statemate from Pliny, “Men, learn better from examples.”

In my opinion, at that time in history, people were brutal and barbaric in many senses with slavery and class warfare. Trajan did things completely out of character from the leaders of the time. I was always fascinated with Rome, and unfortunately, most of its rulers were not great or kind men. Finding one who cared for others and treated people with kindness regardless of their social classification is humbling to me.

Q.19 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
I’ve never read a book in my life. However, I have fallen into Wikipedia’s extensive writings on characters from books and story plots while watching adaptations on the big screen and playing games based on popular books. All of this brings an answer to your question through a less traditional means. I’ve got to break this into two specific authors and books. GRRM - A Game of Thrones and JRR Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings. Martin for his character development skills and Tolkien for his world-building.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
My butt hurts from sitting in this damn chair for the last four years of writing.

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