Somewhere Over the Sun follows Alan, a spirited young writer with a wandering imagination who has discovered that the stories he writes are suddenly coming to life. At the suggestion of his loving father, Alan embarks on a quixotic journey to visit friends and use his newfound gift to write them all happier lives.
There are a few limitations to his power; he can’t cure diseases, he can’t summon pots of gold, and each story leaves behind some physical discomfort. However, the appreciative and optimistic Alan is not deterred from creating fantastical characters and storylines to give his friends more literary lives.
Interlaced by the lovely and true to life vignettes he writes for his friends, the narrative takes us inside the imaginative Alan’s thoughts and those of his hosts; college friends, a childhood chum, his editor and a former love.
Adi Alsaid graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a degree in Marketing, but spent the majority of his time there reading and writing fiction. Somewhere Over the Sun is his debut novel and was written in Monterey, CA. He was born and raised in Mexico City to Israeli parents whose love and support made this book possible. Adi is usually unsure of how long he will remain at any given address, but chances are he is living somewhere in the northwestern hemisphere. He hopes this book brings his readers even a sentence’s worth of happiness.
1. When did you decide to start writing?
I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision. In sixth grade, we got a homework assignment to use each of our ten vocabulary words in a sentence. I don’t remember the vocabulary word I used in the sentence, or what the sentence even was, but I know it felt good to write. Since then, I haven’t really had much of a choice. Writing is a compulsion that comes out of me and I kind of just get out of the way and try to keep my day-to-day life from containing the compulsion.
2. What is your genre and why did you decide to write a novel in it?
Somewhere Over the Sun is a literary fiction novel. My initial inspiration for the book was a thought that came in the middle of the night. I rushed to the computer, wrote it down and forgot about it for a few months. When I graduated from school and didn’t get hired for a job, I decided I’d spend the next phase of my life writing. I revisited the middle-of-the-night idea and expanded it into an outline. I wasn’t necessarily planning on it being literary fiction, but I think that’s just the genre that my writing naturally falls into. To me, the language with which the story is told is just as important as the story itself.
3. Were you worried about the word count of your work?
Worried might not be the best word to describe it. I’m not very good at worrying. But I was definitely conscious of it. This being my debut novel, I researched what the average is for literary fiction novels that actually sell. I decided on the range of 80,000-100,000 and I let the story dictate how long it would be within that range. I was more concerned with how many words I was writing each day. Since I wanted to get the book written and published before my visa to live in the U.S expired, I set a goal of 1,100 words/day. I kept that up for about a month and a half, then dropped down to around 800-1,000 words for another month and a half after taking a volunteer job for 20 hours a week. After another month and a half the book was finished at around 83,000 words. After a month of doing my own cuts, rewrites and additions, then a few more editor-mandated revisions, my total word count came to 82,720.
4. Do you have any writing quirks and what are they?
The need/compulsion to write is the one with quirks, not me. If I’m sitting at a coffee shop with my computer in front of me and Microsoft Word’s blinking vertical line ready to be told what to do and inspiration hits, then everything goes well. But sometimes I’m driving down the freeway and absolutely must write down a sentence or a paragraph and I have no choice but to type it into my cell phone and text it to myself.
As for quirks in the writing itself, I often break the fourth wall. The word ‘hug’ and its variations make a lot of appearances in the novel.
5. If you can describe your novel in one word, what would it be and why?
Because the protagonist is a very imaginative guy and it just happens that he can make his imagination come to life as soon as he applies it to the written word. You’ll get to read a few of his short stories that come to life, as well as spend most of the novel inside his fascinating mind. Sometimes I go back and reread some passages and feel amused and proud at what I was able to come up with.
6. How did you decide on the title and what does it mean?
I don’t want to give too much away, but the title of the book comes from the story that Alan, the protagonist, writes for his editor. Throughout the book, Alan wants to use his power to bring happiness to his friends’ lives. His editor, M, lover of literature, believes in that clichéd but true phrase, “There is nothing new under the sun.” So Alan, optimist and simplifier of all of life’s problems, writes M a story that’ll allow him to explore a place somewhere over the sun, where maybe he can fall in love with a whole bunch of new plots.
7. What do you hope your readers will get out of reading your novel?
Enjoyment. I want them to get at least one sentence’s worth of happiness; to giggle out loud in public at a passage, or smile stupidly to themselves without realizing that they’re doing it. And then tell everyone they know to go buy it. But mostly happiness.
8. Tell us a little about your road to publication.
I queried dozens of agents for a couple of months. Two of them requested my manuscript, and both of them passed because they felt it was not the right project for them, although they did have good things to say and assured me that the project would be right for someone else.
Unfortunately, time wasn’t on my side, and I could no longer sit around and wait for agents to respond. I am not a citizen of the U.S, and currently on what’s called an OPT visa which expires at the end of 2010. To ensure that my book would be published in time for me to try to get a new visa, I chose to go the self-publishing route. I’m thankful that the option exists. This way I can make some agents regret their decision to pass me up.
9. What advice can you give other aspiring authors out there?
Submerge yourself in your writing. Give yourself a chance to actually dedicate some time to writing. Get an idea and hole yourself up somewhere with a beach. Don’t tell any of your friends or family what the idea is. It’ll help you focus on what you want the book to be instead of what everyone else thinks it should be. It’s also quite fun to torture your loved ones with the secret of what the book is about. Definitely get an editor to give you notes while you’re writing so you have constant input; someone who isn’t afraid to dish out a compliment but who knows their stuff, literary-wise, and will give you constructive criticism in big, red angry letters.
I would like to take this time to thank Adi for granting my this interview. My readers do appreciate learning about up and coming authors. If you want to learn more about Adi, dear reader, please take the time to visit his website: http://www.somewhereoverthesun.com/ He is also on Twitter: twitter.com/AdiAlsaid