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A Conversation with Paige Ambroziak

Paige Ambroziak, a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature, is author of A Perpetual Mimicry.  Ambroziak’s novella follows a fallen fire angel who, with the aid of another exile, seeks to gain his wings back and end his banishment.  Along the way, he experiences the fundamentals of human experience, including love, death, art, and salvation, one of which might be just the key he needs to unlock the mystery of his expulsion from the stars…

Paige also maintains the website Fields of Twisting Phlox where she reviews self-published books.

Montag had the opportunity to ask Paige some questions about her art and her studies.  She also shared some thoughts regarding the future of self-publishing.

 

A Perpetual MimicryI want to begin by complimenting your prose and your imagination.  There was a real intensity to all of “Ani’s” emotions, particularly his longing, and this all really shone through in the language.  I thought you also made use of some very vivid and visual language – most of it having to do with fire and light.  For example, the novella begins with the following: “When I opened my eyes I recalled the bursts of light in the endless black above.  They were the genesis, the candelabrum lighting the chaos that engulfed this world.”  This is incredibly potent, primordial imagery which draws to mind, for me, the book of Genesis and the Gospel of John.  Later, toward the end, Ani receives some sort of spiritual communication and it’s described as an “exotic butterfly” whose color was electric.  The narration continues:  “The tips of its insect legs touched my hand twice before flitting away into the trees.  But I saw a great light come down through the leaves, sharpening to a point and into a little ball that traipsed upon the air like the will-o’-the wisp.  Hovering several feet from where I was standing, the light grew to a shape that mirrored my own.”  This is beautifully rendered.

There are several classes of spiritual beings in your story, including humans, seraphim, fire angels—and there’s some interbreeding going on between the humans and seraphim and their offspring and the fire angels.  Can you explain a little bit further the distinctions between the celestial beings (e.g. the seraphim and fire angels)?  And where did you draw your inspiration from, in deciding which creatures to include in your world?

I wanted to create a being that was neither human nor heavenly but rather an ulterior entity. The Fire Angel is an invention of a psyche or a soul that exists outside of the heavenly sphere. It is a being that is forged in the gaseous atmosphere of a fixed star, and is bound to that star. The Fire Angel has wings, as angels in Heaven do, but its plumage is the core of its identity, which is why Ani and Simon ache without them. My inspiration for these beings is Lucifer, the light bearer. I always wondered if he had his wings plucked when he was tossed to earth… Continue reading

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“Prayers for Rain”

Prayers for Rain

Far from home and aching for a girl he let slip through his fingers, Vince hasn’t been getting much sleep lately. And now he’s seeing things. Strange things. Bewildering things. Probably impossible things. And he can’t decide if what he’s seeing is real, or if he’s just losing his grip on reality.

Desperate for solace, he makes a late-night phone call to an old confidant. But instead of providing comfort, the conversation kicks off a series of exchanges that force Vince to confront mortality, and, in the process, to re-examine his life, his sanity, and his control – or lack thereof – over his own destiny.

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Montag Talks About His New Story “Prayers for Rain” and More….

Prayers for Rain Cover Let’s talk about your upcoming story, “Prayers for Rain.”  What’s it about?

It’s about a guy, a kid, really, whose world literally starts to fall apart around him.  It’s a pretty psychedelic story, actually.  Imagine waking up in a Salvador Dali painting.  What would you do?  How would you stop it?  This is more than just a quasi-magical realism story, though; as this kid’s world is literally trying to drown him, he’s got to try to talk someone close to him down from doing something serious, something you can’t undo.  There are some pretty high stakes on the table here; our hero’s getting hit from all sides.

Looking at the cover, it seems that there’s a little bit of a stylistic change, a break from the vein of The Dichotomy and “The Dig.”

I think that everything I’ve published so far has been abstract in its own way and the covers reflect that.  The Dichotomy is this intense, surreal, psychological horror story; it’s very atmospheric and draws heavily on the dread that surfaces when you’re focusing on what lies just out of view, on the unknown, on what might be lurking in the darkness.  It’s very much like an old school horror movie, like a silent film.  So I think the cover’s particularly appropriate there.  “The Dig,” on the other hand, the color palette of that cover involved tones of brown which really suits this tale about two archaeologists uncovering something that’s been buried for years and years.

Here, we’ve got a very moody story, it’s about a guy whose dealing with some very dark things, some surreal, some all too real.  So the dark blue, being something I associate with cold weather and rain and moody themes, it was really a no brainer.  I think that it’s abstract just like the other covers, but maybe a little less so because there were some changes to the fonts.  I think this story is a little less experimental than The Dichotomy and “The Dig,” so, accordingly, the cover is also a little less experimental too; it’s more conventional.

So you’re releasing a series of short stories in between novels.  Why?

I think that it’s important to build up a back list so that there’s a wellspring of material for readers to draw on.  I’m not that prolific, though; I can’t pump out a few novels a year, or even a novel a year.  Part of the joy of being creative, to me, is being able to just let the creative drive flow as it will.  So I have deadlines, for instance, my next novel is slated for release next year.  There’s a deadline there, but it’s a flexible one and that gives me the freedom I need to write something I’m going to enjoy creating—and it gives me enough time to tighten it up, edit it, sit on it for a while, come back to it…It’s important to me to be able to go through this long cycle so I can put out the best product possible, something I’m proud to have floating out there in the public sphere.

So, I plan on releasing novels every few years.  And during the writing process, sometimes I do writing exercises to keep sharp and either those naturally turn into stories, or they get incorporated into my next big project.  And sometimes, they sit around gathering dust; why not make something out of them? Continue reading

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“The Dig”

The DigArchaeologist John Stoker and his mentor Stewart Jacksworth have stumbled onto an ancient village that has been buried for generations.  During the dig, Jacksworth and Stoker discovered something amongst the ruins which has the power to drive men mad.  And now Stoker has gone missing.  The only clue as to his whereabouts is the audio cassette he’s left his mentor.  As Jacksworth listens to his protégé’s recording, he can’t help but wonder if Stoker has cracked, and if his insanity is contagious…

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“A fiction within a fiction, a fable within a story, The Dig captures the wistfulness of the long ago past and the profound effect it can have on the senses…The Dig is a quick read, though its impression may linger long after its words are spent.” 

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Modern Myths

Of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, director David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome, Scanners, Crash) said, “I don’t think they are making them [comic book movies] an elevated art form.  I think it’s still Batman running around in a stupid cape.”  He went on to claim that, “A superhero movie, by definition, you know, it’s a comic book.  It’s for kids.  It’s adolescent in its core.”  Before rebutting these assertions, I want to take a step back and try to glean what it is that Cronenberg actually meant, since these are verbal quotes and people are not always as accurate verbally as they would be otherwise (if they were leisurely writing their opinions, for example).  So — Cronenberg’s argument, on the face of things, seems to be:

  1.  A comic book is for kids; it is, in its core, adolescent.
  2.  Adolescent art cannot be elevated art.
  3.  A superhero movie is a comic book movie.
  4. Adolescent source material ensures an adolescent derivative work.
  5.  A comic book movie is, in its core, adolescent because of its source material (1-4)

Conclusion: A comic book movie, and by extension, a superhero movie, cannot be elevated art (2,4,5)

Now, it seems ridiculous to say that all, or even most, comic books and, thus, all (or most) movies based on comic books are adolescent.  Firstly, to say that comic books are inherently adolescent in their core is to make a generalization that is nearly indefensible.  What is it about comic books that could render them intrinsically immature?  The fact that we have pictures and words combining to tell a story?  Along these lines, one might charge that comic books are for people too lazy or dumb or unsophisticated to read novels.  But using logic similar to this, one could say that movies are for people too lazy or dumb or unsophisticated to read novels.  As rational people, I assume we’re willing to easily grant that the latter claim is preposterous.  Movies and novels are two distinct forms of art, each of which is able to explore people, places, and ideas in ways the other is incapable of (or at least less adept at).  We can say that movies and novels are both capable of being elevated art because they can explore their subject matter in unique ways with the appropriate seriousness.  So, why can’t we say the same of comics? Continue reading

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