Author Interview with JG Zymbalist
I’m interviewing JG Zymbalist today, author of fantasy / steampunk novel “Song of the Oceanides”. Welcome!
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
Hmm. Let me see. It would probably be the summer of 85. I was 17, and I spent the better part of the summer in London, England. It was something like a summer-study program. Anyway, for the first week or so, I was a little bit bored and finding it hard to get along with others. Then one day, without even thinking, I wandered into a stationary shop in Redbridge and bought a diary. Perhaps my unconscious mind was willing me to write. Later that night, when I started to write, it was quite a rush. From that moment on, it just felt so good to come home at the end of the day and to open up that diary so as to describe the day’s events. Suddenly every experience had meaning. Much of the time, I would fritter away the day at Covent Garden watching street performers, magicians, buskers, that sort of thing. Everything was more interesting knowing that with nightfall I would be reflecting on what I had seen—and trying to recreate the sensory experience with words.
What inspired you to write Song of the Oceanides?
Wow. That’s actually a deep question. Memories of my own childhood and my own childhood depression really inspired this work. That’s why the book can be somewhat melancholy in parts. This book is definitely not for everyone. It’s spiritual and dreamlike. The story is also character-driven. That’s why the pace might feel lackadaisical to those looking for lots of sex and violence.
What is your editing process like?
In terms of developmental editing, I began with a skeletal framework and notes pertaining to each section. That got fairly complicated because Song of the Oceanides is a triple narrative. Book One is comprised of three symmetrical narrative threads weaving in and out of the other, and Book Two is the same. Anyway, once I had the rough draft done, I sent it all off to the author Nick Mamatas. The final draft followed from his line edit. I suppose he did a little bit of content editing too, pointing out places where I really needed to flesh something out.
What do you find the most challenging about being an author?
The indifference and the bad notices. The people who really hate Song of the Oceanides give up after a chapter or two and then rip me to pieces on goodreads. Some of the insults and negativity can be distressing. The internet is a harsh mistress.
Are you working on something now?
Yes, but I shy away from talking about it too much. Blathering on about a work in progress can come across as a bit narcissistic. Do you know what I mean?
About the Book
Title: Song of the Oceanides
Author: JG Zymbalist
Genre: YA/NA fantasy/steampunk
Song of the Oceanides is a quirky but poignant coming-of-age tale about children, Martians, freaky Martian hummingbird moths, and alluring sea nymphs.
The first thread relates the suspenseful tale of a Martian girl, Emmylou, stranded in Maine where she is relentlessly pursued by the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s Extraterrestrial-Enigma Service. The second thread concerns her favorite Earthling comic-book artist, Giacomo Venable, and all his misadventures and failed romances. The final thread deals with a tragic young lad, Rory Slocum, who, like Emmylou, loves Giacomo’s comic books and sees them as a refuge from the sea nymphs or Oceanides incessantly taunting and tormenting him.
As much as anything, the triple narrative serves to show how art may bring together disparate pariahs and misfits—and give them a fulcrum for friendship and sense of communal belonging in a cruel world
J.G. Źymbalist is the pseudonym of a very reclusive author who grew up in Ohio and West Germany. He began writing Song of the Oceanides as a child when his family summered in Castine, Maine where they rented out Robert Lowell’s house. There, inspired by his own experiences with school bullying and childhood depression, the budding author began to conceive the tale.
For several years, J.G. Źymbalist lived in the Old City of Jerusalem where he night clerked at a series of Palestinian youth hostels. There he wrote the early draft of an as yet unpublished Middle-Eastern NA fantasy. Returning from the Middle East, he completed an M.F.A. in poetry at Sarah Lawrence College.
The author returned to Song of the Oceanides while working for the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society, May-September, 2005. He completed the full draft in Ellsworth, Maine later that year.
He has only recently decided to self-publish a few of his previous works. Foreword Reviews has called his writing “innovative fiction with depth,” and Kirkus Indie has called his style “a lovely, highly descriptive prose that luxuriates in the details and curios of his setting.”