It’s a hot day in July, so why don’t you chill with me for a while as we get to know A.R. Mirabal?
A.R. is the host of his own podcast where he talks with authors across all genres; he’s also the author of the new dystopian novel, Allegory of the End. Let’s hear what he has to say!
What does literary success look like to you?
Literary success, to me, looks like a product or end goal you can look at and be proud to call your own. I believe there will always be ways to attain more commercial success by giving into current trends, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but to me success is being able to achieve equal if not more notoriety from something you’ve put your heart and soul into.
Like good music, what people gravitate towards is the raw emotion and passion that emanates from the artist’s work, and writing is no different.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I don’t know how much this pertains to writing (although, I guess everything in life pertains to writing in some way), but my spirit animal is undoubtedly a monkey. I’d definitely call myself a playful and all-around silly person, but I’m still able to learn a few new tricks every once in a while. Also love climbing things, and being in nature in general.
I do suppose that related to my writing, however, because while my educational background is in engineering, I have a natural yearning to be in nature. This duality shows up in my writing as I usually like to design futures where the lines between these two forces are blurred beyond recognition.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was in middle school, a storyteller came in to put on an impromptu show for the entire building. It was a catholic school, grades ranged from K-8th grade, but even with faculty there were less than 300 people in attendance so we all fit in the cafeteria without much hassle. Situated in the damp basement, we watched this storyteller takes us to another world and back—laughing the entire way. He captivated us. Through raw emotion, fluctuations of his vocal cords, and presence of mind he was able to engage a crowd that’s age ranged from four to seventy-four. Even thinking back to it now, I couldn’t tell you what the story was, who the characters were, or even inkling of what he plot was—but I’ll never forget the emotions we collectively felt that day.
From there, I delved into the study of rhetoric heavily, starting with Martin Luther King then, steamrolling into other political figures, then philosophers, and so on. Who knows where I’d be if I happened to be sick that day and missed the storyteller’s show.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
I can’t say I disliked him, but Steven King always seemed like he was out of my wheelhouse. The first time seeing his name mentioned anywhere, was in a Family Guy episode where they mocked his ability to write bestsellers in record time. Back then, all I thought was, “Who’s this Steven King guy, and why is he taking up space in my cartoons?”.
I think about that frequently now, because its so ironic how much I revere the man currently (now that I’m an author myself and respect his work), compared to how little I thought of him then. Life seems to be all about those little ironic comparisons of past and present, makes for great inspiration.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Easily the best money I’ve ever spent as a writer was starting an LLC for my work. It’s relatively inexpensive dependent on your state ($150 to start-up, $400 yearly fee for my state) but can potentially save you thousands while opening up doors that you wouldn’t have as an individual. If you’re doing self-publishing to any degree, you’ll know it’s an expensive venture—especially compared to how much you’ll realistically net. An LLC allows you to track some those expenses as operational costs for your business while also opening the door for you to eventually outsource your writing services to others.
Having said all that, I am in no way a tax-guru so do your own research to determine if this is something that’s feasible for you. It may not be the best option for everyone, but its one that’s worked for me so far.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Publishing my first book (which came out June, 2021—so pretty recent) taught me that setting a formatting goal early on will save you hours upon hours or stress and migraines. Easily the most anxiety-induced part of the process was realizing I blew past setting the proper margin/page size and had to reformat everything several times after it was “ready for submission”.
From now on, I’ll make it a point to set up most of the book design and formatting early on so that once it’s written to perfection in my eyes, then beaten up by my editor, I can simply adjust it and submit it within the same week.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Come late and leave early. When writing a scene, don’t start at the beginning of the event, start from where the dialogue/situation is entertaining and allow the conversation to fill the readers in on the information needed to move the plot forward. When finishing a scene, don’t end it on a major event—leave it on a cliffhanger right before the event. This entices the reader to keep going instead of feeling satisfied enough to put your work down.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I am building a massive literary universe. Every book, short story, movie, and graphic novel I will ever produce exists within the same tangle web of lore—but it’s never told from the same set of eyes. The way they’re connected will be up the reader to interpret and put together, but not in a way where you’ll have to read/watch twenty prior works in order to understand the plot. In that way every story can be read and enjoyed as a vacuum, but for those that want to peer deeper, the option is there.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
It’s something I consider for when I eventually start writing children’s books. My family is vital to me, so I’ve always wanted to create works that can be enjoyed by all ages, but don’t want the work I put out currently to deter people from that. However, it’s still a heated internal debate for me. Some of my favorite directors have dabbled in both adult and children genres without much backlash, but authors seem to require a new identity to do the same. Robert Rodriquez directed both Spy Kids (which helped define by childhood) and Sin City (a very mature graphic novel movie adaption), yet he didn’t feel a need for changing his name. Why do authors have that need?
At the end of the day, it isn’t something that shakes me to my core, so if my audience really requires a pseudonym from me when I switch genres then I’ll happily do so—I just wish I didn’t have to.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Thanks to my podcast (A.R.’s Tales, aka The A.R.T. Podcast) I’m friends with too many author friends to count! Adam Gaffen has been a frequent guests, along with a myriad of other talented scribes and artists.
They all help me immensely in being a better writer. Outside of all the technical help published authors can offer people like me who are relatively new to the scene (Adam has helped me out on numerous occasions), they are a phenomenal support system and always push you to outdo yourself.
In today’s world we often get wrapped up in comparisons, especially with social media allowing people to warp the reality of their lives, but if we aim that energy into outdoing yourself instead of “outdoing the competition” then goals start becoming a little more tangible. In my experience anyway.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I’m definitely in the originality camp. The reason I write is to explore concepts that fascinate me, then delving into the psyche of why it’s fascinating. Everyone has seen a movie or read a book about the start of a zombie invasion, what I want to write is the after—what does a world look like with no more humans? Another example, perhaps people enjoy my fight scenes and want me to squeeze as many as possible within a work because that is what they “want”, but not ever situation calls for a fight. There will be times in my writing where people would probably love if I wrote an epic final battle royal between the two warring factions, but that’s not always how it’ll be—sometimes conversations can leave a deeper impact.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
This question I love, because it’s a weird duality for me. The action of writing energizes me, but the thought of it exhausts me. When my fingers start to slide across my keyboard and I’m transported to the world I’ve created, it supercharges me because it feels like I’m in my element. However, when I know there’s writing work to do in the future, I can’t help but procrastinate. For whatever reason, all that goes through my mind is the fifteen minutes of stress that will rear its ugly head over an eight hour period and I’ll fixate on that.
It’s, admittedly, a very weird back and forth that I have with one of the things I love doing the most in this world—but it never stops me for too long.
Pleasure having you here today!