Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My background is atypical of Americans in general. Both my parents were born overseas and emigrated to the U.S. from Italy after World War II. My maternal grandfather also immigrated because he feared reprisals after the war – he was an active Fascist supporter. My mother witnessed the exhibition of Mussolini’s corpse.
I went to public schools in Massachusetts. I’ve always supposed I developed an affinity for the English language because it was my parents’ second language. I started working for community newspapers when I was in high school and I have always supported myself as a journalist. I attended Columbia University in New York and moved to Texas in 1985, where I have lived and worked ever since. I married a Dallas native, and we now live in Mount Pleasant in East Texas where I am the managing editor of the local daily newspaper.
What do you do when you are not writing? Do you have a day job as well?
With my day job being in journalism, I write every day – I write fiction probably two or three days a week. I like my newspaper job, and the fiction allows me to exercise my creativity.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I actually started writing fiction for publication when I was 45 in 2002, kind of a kind of mid-life musing. I always enjoyed reading s-f, then one day it hit me that I had never tried my hand at writing it. I sold my first pro story to Gardner Dozois as Asimov’s Science Fiction in 2004. I wrote my first book two years ago, but it was clumsy and clunky and went nowhere. I seem to work much better in the short story length.
Where do you get your ideas?
Flashes of inspiration provided by overhead phrases, songs, or visual cues. They will work their way into my head and later I’ll think of some story idea. For example, I wrote a story about a female golem after hearing an old ‘50s song, “Hearts Made of Stone” sung by a girl group.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? Do you work with an outline, or just write?
Being a journalist by trade, I seem to be immune to writers block. My problem seems to be the opposite – all too often I take off frantically writing a story like an out-of-control drag racer, when I need to look at my story idea objectively and slow down. Because I often have no idea where I am going when I start, I never use an outline – I just take off.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
The best advice I ever heard was: Write crap, edit brilliantly. Don’t tangle yourself all up in self-doubt. Inspiration is for amateurs; pros just set their butts in the chair and start typing. If you have self-doubt, you are already probably better than the average person out there trying to write, because there’s a lot of oblivious idiots out there cluttering up the slush piles with poorly written drivel that they think is worthy of the next Pulitzer.
Unfortunately, because of those enormous slush piles, editors have a hard job and can only look at all stories briefly. You need to hook them on the first page. Stanley Schmidt of Analog said “I read very fast. Your job is to get me to slow down, and turn your first page.”
Proofread mercilessly; it shows the editor you care. Follow guidelines for the same reason. Reading stories aloud really does help you catch typos and brain farts. Beta readers are also very helpful. Only use a critique group or workshop if it is supportive. There are groups out there that exhibit the “crab bucket” effect – you know, you don’t have to cover a bucket of live crabs because if one starts to climb out, the flailing of the others will drag it back down. No critique group is better than a bad one.
Don’t self-reject yourself; that the editor’s job. Unless the editor is a rank amateur at a tiny ezine, take all feedback to heart. Nine times out of ten, when an editor finds a flaw it is something that crossed your mind, too. Take that as a confirmation.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I tend to write traditional stories with a lot of heart; they’ve been called old-fashioned and conventional. If you like that kind of stuff, let the magazines know, because these days they get a lot of dark, dystopian, material. I got some nice feedback recently from one of the major magazines where the editor said “It’s nice to see an upbeat story – seems like everything coming across my desk these days is depressing.” He still didn’t buy it, because from what he can tell, his readers probably wouldn’t like it. Let the magazines know you like stories that entertain and make you think, but don’t necessarily make you dial the Suicide Hotline. If you like these “The Present (or Future) Sucks and You Do ,Too” stories, you probably won’t read me, anyway.
If you were a superhero (or villain!) what would your power be? Would you wear a cape?
I actually have a super-power; apparently because of my professional background I have the ability to make you believe the craziest or screwy statements if I say it with a straight face and make eye contact. Problem is, as soon as I break eye contact you realize what I said is absolute bullshit. But it’s a great gag!
Chocolate, Strawberry or Vanilla?
The light side or the dark side?
The far side.
Is there any food you refuse to eat?
Being diabetic, there’s a lot.
A life-long science fiction reader, Lou Antonelli turned his hand to writing fiction in middle age; his first story was published in 2003 when he was 46. Since then he has had 58 short stories published in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia, in venues such as Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jim Baen’s Universe, Dark Recesses, Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, and Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD), among many others. He has received eleven honorable mentions in The Year’s Best Science Fiction published by St. Martin’s Press for 2010, 2008, 2006, 2005 and 2004.
His steampunk short story, “A Rocket for the Republic”, was the last story accepted by Gardner Dozois before he retired as editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction after 19 years. It was published in Asimov’s in September 2005 and placed third in the annual Readers’ Poll.
His collections include “Fantastic Texas” published in 2009 and “Texas & Other Planets” published in 2010. A collection of collaborative short stories co-authored with Oregon-based author Edward Morris, “Music for Four Hands”, was published in 2011.
He is a professional journalist and the managing editor of The Daily Tribune in Mount Pleasant, Texas. A Massachusetts native, he moved to Texas in 1985 and is married to Dallas native Patricia (Randolph) Antonelli. They have two adopted Canine-American children, Millie and Sugar Antonelli.
Don’t forget to stop by Lou’s Blog!