Interview w/ Jon Zelig
This is a bad review, from a guy who doesn’t get it!
Somewhere there is a story in here, but both from a literary and technical view it hard to find. Nearly half the book was the front and back matter. I had to search to find the beginning of the book. The table of contents built into the Kindle wasn’t formatted so I was left on my own to find the book. The author’s table of contents was a full 7% into the book. I understand some of the front matter is necessary, it is erotica so a disclaimer is in order, but making me search for the book? That doesn’t start me off on a good note. So taking a full 8% of front matter, and 33% of back matter less than 59% of the ebook was the ebook.
Once I got into the book, it was filled with random links. I clicked on two. One didn’t work, so I tried the next one, the link on the character’s name, “Brandy”. This one must be important, a link to where I can learn about the character in a way I can’t in a few words. Nope. I was led to a youtube video of the awful song, Brandy by Looking Glass. Not even the official one, but one that had been taken down because of Copyright violations.
Still with all these technical problems, I had hope. The author and his family had written over a hundred ebooks.
On to the actual book.
Jenna is the one that the “erotica” happens to. (Sorry, my wording fails me.) She is watching her body as the “evil doctor” turns their arm into a tentacle probe that enters her body in the eyeball, nape of the neck, and urethra. Of these spots the only mildly erogenous zone is the nape of the neck, but that doesn’t stop Jenna from orgasming.
That is when I knew that I was the reviewer who “just doesn’t get it.”
For the next two books of the trilogy, I struggled in vain to understand, what was going on, and what was erotic about it. I failed on both accounts. To me it was like the DirecTV ad where people enjoy things nobody should enjoy, but acting like everyone should.
Unfortunately, I am left giving this a bad review.
A good review tries to speak to someone who might enjoy the book. Try as I might I can’t picture the person who would like this. Not just the act of orgasming by having your pee-hole violated, but the whole detached from your body to watch it be violated. There is at least one person who is aroused by this, the author. There must be others, but I can’t tell if they would enjoy this or not.
A good review mentions technical problems briefly and gets on to the story. Alas, my frustration with the technical problems overwhelmed my ability to actually read the book.
A good review attempts to find the story, and comment on how the characters, use of language, pacing, and narrative structure push the story along. To my brain it was as if someone was clear and concisely asking me to raise my middle arm. I understand the words but they are making no sense to me.
Finally, a good review will leave the author with something they can ponder on. Something that can help them grow as an artist. I’ve got nothing.
So as a reviewer I have to give my own review a one star, so take the one star I’m giving this book with that in mind. Basically, I truly didn’t get it.
What would you like anyone who read my review to know?
The tag line was “This is a bad review, from a guy who doesn’t get it!”
That’s fair: It’s “truth in labelling.” Once can quibble about some of the content (of any review) but, that tag makes one of the fundamental truths about the review clear. The missing part would be something like: “I agreed to do four (non-reciprocal) reviews, as assigned; this is one of them.”
Different people have different “personal policies,” but certainly a lot of people, when reviewing works of their own choice, will ditch the review (and/or just stop reading) when they realize the work is “not for them.”
Without calling out anyone, what would you like anyone who read the other reviews to know?
Key to the book is a variety of alien that is a rather comprehensive . . . orifice invader. There’s a bit of an “ick factor” there, no doubt.
As a matter of framing, I have no problem with constructions like “that really grossed ME out.” I’m a little more irritable about phrases of the “how could ANYONE possibly enjoy reading this?” flavor.
“How could ANYONE possibly enjoy Hemingway, what with all those damn short sentences!?” Well . . . he managed to scrape together SOME audience, huh? Maybe it’s just YOU that doesn’t like short sentences.
Of all the reviews of your book, what was the greatest take away, what did you learn about your writing from a review?
Bit of a contradiction. In some ways I learned that I can write science fiction. But then the great majority of reviewers, I think, came to pretty much the opposite conclusion.
How do you think you have evolved creatively, while writing this book and after?
I like lesbian love stories; I think I’m getting better at them. I’ve written them under various names (of both genders). I remain proud of the depiction of that central relationship.
Every author gets bad reviews that miss the mark so completely, that you have to look at the rating to know if it was a positive or negative review. Have you ever looked at the negative reviews of your favourite author and chuckle, knowing that the review could be applied to your work?
I get inspired by B-Movies, I’ll sit and laugh at “Attack of the the Eye Creatures” (Not a typo, that is the name of it) but learn as well, mostly what not to do. What sources inspire you, that you wouldn’t recommend others try?
Don’t understand the question. Things I recommend others not do? (ed: I think you answered this best in the next question.)
What is the WORST piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
Can’t think of a specific example, but the genre I loath in that area is “this works for me and will therefore work for everyone,” which I find unbearably pompous, presumptuous and condescending. A cup of herbal tea and contemplating your bird feeder for twenty minutes lights your creative fuse? Good for you! Would I like a cup of tea? Thank you: NO.
Who is your favourite indie author?
Right now: Brin Murray.
Describe your ideal fan (the person who would love your book)?
“Your” highly erotically charged fetish is someone else’s repellant nightmare. What looks like love to you might look like abuse to me. For whatever I write as a Zelig, I want people who “read the label carefully.”
You are a seasoned writer, and from your reviews of others I can tell you study your craft. Part of learning any craft is experimentation, so I have to ask, would you consider this one of your more experimental novels?
I think that’s fair. There are a lot of elements in play (perhaps too many). And the book “asks a lot” of readers (perhaps too much).
I do admire authors who try and push the envelope, otherwise we might as well reread the classics over and over again, do you get that voice inside your head saying, “I’ve gone too far this time.” and what do you tell it?
Plenty of days, getting out of bed feels like “going too far” (the “spare the world and just go back to sleep” days/daze).
Being self-published and “hiding” under pen names gives us a lot of permission and latitude. I worry about “too far” more when writing under my own name—in op ed pieces or business writing, for example. “Too far” is scary these days because people suffer life-altering evisceration, on social media and at lightning speed, when they have been deemed un-PC.
The worst judge of a work of fiction is the author. Stephen King threw away the first chapter of “Carrie” thinking it was crap. His wife took it out of the trash and liked it. What one of your works surprised you with the positive feedback?
I write erotica, mostly fairly fetish-specific erotica under the Zelig “Brand.” There are four of “us,” Jon, Joy, Bram, and Zöe. At core though, these are almost always relationship stories of one flavor or another—often, IMHO, with some real substance to them.
The book you reviewed, for example, is a lesbian love story at heart—in something of a dystopian, techno-political, scifi/horror/aliens, rebel-fighters-in-love kinda mashup.
I put “erotic” in the title; most people—fairly vociferously—disagreed.
I did that in “The Heat: a Raw, Dystopian, Erotic, Love Story” as well. People have also quibbled about how much erotic content there is; that’s fine. But I have been pleasantly surprised by those who have taken the relationship part of the book (at the heart of the book) seriously. As in this review.
What advice would you give to authors who think “out of the box” or as I’ve been asked, “Can you even see the box?”
I think it’s really the same as it is for most kinds of writing: You have to have a huge amount of ego to write (to think your work worthy of an audience). And then you have to be prepared to be absolutely ego-less and humble(d) when the crit rolls in.
Is the work “out of the box” or is it just . . . not very good—with you, the writer, posing as maligned and misunderstood artist, as an excuse for that technical/esthetic failure?
At core, you need a few brutally honest beta readers who “get you” but are also willing to tell you truths you may not always want to hear.
What is your favourite inspirational quote?
Would “Shut Up & Write” count? I doubt that I coined it—or that we could trace back who did. But I think it sums up a lot in four words.
Where can we find more of your books?
What books do you have coming out?
I do most of the erotica in “trilogies.” Three “books” then “the full trilogy” in Kindle format; the full tril in paperback; some books then go to Audible.
The following series are in progress:
Favourite Cover of one of your books:
Smashwords: Jon Zelig
First off, hats off to Jon for doing this interview. It’s quite easy to do an interview with the President of your fan club. Doing an interview with someone who gave your work a low rating takes guts.
I’ve talked with Jon a few times about writing and reviews and he has always handled himself with class and professionalism.
I love the inspirational quote, “Shut up & Write”. Sums up what a writer needs to do perfectly.
As far as anyone who has gotten a review from “The guy that doesn’t get it”, Jon’s right on the money some people will say, “How could ANYONE possibly enjoy Hemingway, what with all those damn short sentences!?” Others love it.