Interview with Albert T. Franklin

Greetings, travelers.  We recently had the opportunity to promote the work of newcomer author Albert T. Franklin, whose work on Searching For Zen: A Tale of Divine Destiny, takes a spiritual look at fantasy, and paints it with modern strokes.  Today, we take a further look at the art and the artist and learn more about Franklin and his takes on the storytelling craft.  Read on to learn more about Albert T. Franklin and Searching For Zen.

Tellest: Welcome, Albert!  First off, please let me thank you for sparing some of your time to get us a little peek behind the curtain, and to learn about both you and the stories you’re crafting.  With all the things you do, I’m sure that time is not an abundance, so I appreciate that we’re able to carve out some time to see more about what makes you tick.  And I’m eager to help you reach new readers and convert them into lifelong fans!

Albert T. Franklin: Thank you so much for having me, I truly appreciate the opportunity.


T: It is tradition at this point to begin these interviews with a question that sets the foundation for the way we’ll understand you and where you’ve come from, and why writing is an integral part of your journey.  At what point were you inspired to become a writer?  Was there a specific author that spoke to you more than others?  Or was there some other experience that gave you the need to tell stories the way that you do?

ATF: I wrote a lot of stories in school, and entered contests back then, and my teachers encouraged me to go to college and learn more about writing. However, I inherited a small amount of money, and I traveled as much of the Earth as I could for my 20s. So, while I still told stories to myself, I put any writing on hold.


T: Where would you say you’ve attained most of your inspiration for your recent writing?  Was it due to your travels, or something else entirely?

ATF: It has been over my travels; my next story takes place in northern NY as I spent a few years up there but of course there are small bits of all sorts of time frames in each story.


T: With that in mind, are there any other places that you’ve been dreaming of visiting for inspiration?  When you venture to a new place out in the world, do you do it for personal fulfillment that bleeds into your work, or do you think of your writing ahead of time as well?

ATF: Still have not made it to New Zealand so I’ve got to get there, also India.



T: Searching For Zen: A Tale of Divine Destiny is, at its heart, a spiritual journey.  In this day and age, it can be hard to tell something like this without being overly preachy, but you manage to toe the line in a way that feels much more like entertainment than theocratic lessons.  What inspired you to tell a story like this, and how do you achieve that balance?

ATF: Well, I just wanted to try to blend fantasy and maybe a more modern take on religion. I wanted to just use language like saying the true god, which is very religious but that could have very many different meanings depending on a point of view. But by saying that I think it inclines the reader to think of who they think is the true god instead of me getting into it, if that makes sense.  So, I’m not sure I did it well, but I wanted to try to update the mythos instead of it being some Greek or Roman god.


T: One of the biggest notions in this story is the fellowship of a found family.  Searching For Zen has shades of The Lord of the Rings, but it connects the characters in a way that often feels much more emotional and strikes deeper over a journey that feels more personal.  Did you find it at all difficult to connect your characters with such strong emotions for one another?

ATF: Personally, no, because in my travels I found that same type of family. People who truly became as close as blood. I’m very close with my real family and would never give that up but the ones you find along the way can change your life. So, some of the story arcs are taken from real life experience.


T: You have, perhaps, a grander possible way of looking at things than a lot of people do because you’re well-traveled.  Does that provide you with the ability to write stories that are more varied and outside the norm than most people expect?

ATF: I would like to think so, but I don’t want to presume. I think it helps me realize that most of us grow up not realizing we see the world one way but there are many different ways to look at it and that can be scary at first.  But once you realize its value, it expands your world. I would love it if someone read my stories and they said it made them think.  I would take that as a win.


T: Do you find that most of your stories come from a place of that sort of intellect and understanding, where there is an awareness of a bigger, broader world than the one we might be used to?  Or have you found yourself going against those thoughts in some cases, and exploring what could be considered narrower mindsets that might run in conflict with your own beliefs?

ATF: I would imagine my unconscious mind would have my general writing from that. I do try to write characters that are not in my set of beliefs. Like I wanted the bad guy in Zen to be over the top bad and a different way of looking at things mainly because Zen was too innocent in my opinion. The story didn’t start that way at first.  It was much darker.  But I worked to clean it up just in case my nieces wanted to read it.


T: You manage to balance a lot of emotive experiences with your story, whether you’re tackling existential exploration, bouts of humor, or deeply emotional moments.  Was that second nature to you, or did you have to train your skills to tune into those things so well?

ATF: Well to be honest this is not really a fantasy story but a story in a fantasy setting to hopefully make it interesting. I was really hoping someone would see it was my way of trying to say what is most important in life. That why Zen has great powers to show life can be hard even with all that stuff. It’s the connections you make—that’s the good stuff!


T: When you began working on this story, did you know that was how you were going to handle it?  That it was going to have this foundational concept that centered around the spirit and the connection to the world and those around you (and beyond), but that there was going to be a fantasy veneer over top?  Or was that something that occurred to you later?

ATF: I actually wrote the first rough draft for Zen over a 12-hour period, which is crazy. I had most of it already mapped in my head but then added and tried to fix it to make it better.  For me, with all my stories, I must have the overall arc in my head and mile markers, so to speak, of interesting things to help make the story connect. Then I try to have spaces that can just be spontaneous and grow as I’m writing it.


T: Have you had any scenes within those spaces that truly surprised you?  Has anything in your writing gone down a different direction than the path that you originally planned for?  If it has, did you feel you had to get things back on track, or did you allow it to kind of move along on its own?

ATF: Well not in Zen but my other works, yes. If it feels right, I run with it and allow it to grow in whatever way and amend the story from there. While I wanted my mile markers, as long as the idea is still there it can become different. Maybe instead another character will do what I needed later or try to add an idea as background so it’s part of the story if that makes sense.


T: Stepping outside of the book for just a moment, you’ve experienced a lot that our world has to offer, going on a tremendous number of adventures over the earlier parts of your adulthood.  How much would you say this inspired and helped to create the adventures that you then decided to share with others?

ATF: The main idea for this story came up after I had broken up with someone and drove across Canada alone in a crappy car with like 300 bucks to my name. I felt like my life was over and that I had squandered all my potential. After like 20 hours straight of Beck’s Sea Change album, I had to break out of that mindset, so I told myself a story about what I thought was most important. Of course, the story changed a lot over the decades.


T: Do you find, now that you’ve grown and hopefully healed from those earlier experiences, that the style of your writing and what you’re writing about has fundamentally changed, or are you able to compartmentalize the content of your writing and your experiences at this point?

ATF: I feel I have grown a lot personally and emotionally; I have found a happiness and contentment I was not sure I would ever find. I think you change, especially as you get older, from both the good and terrible experiences in your life. Not all the changes are for the good, sadly, but that is just part of being human. I do believe that time does heal all things, but when you say that it doesn’t mean the pain and hurt ever go away completely. It doesn’t mean you can just move on, but you can figure out a way to keep moving. Try to learn something from it and try to help someone else when you see them in that spot.



T: On your website, you have a series of blogs that go into your thoughts about the wider world of writing.  You tackle some of the biggest writing tropes and stereotypes and offer ideas to help express story elements in ways that don’t feel stale.  Is that something that you see yourself doing more of as time passes?

ATF: I hope so, I’m 50 now so maybe I should have started much sooner not to be stale, but I have four other novels done and not one is in same genre. I just wanted to tell some stories and I hope someone out there feels like “hey this means something to me too.”


T: While Searching For Zen could be a one-off, we also know that certain doors remain open.  What are your plans for the future of the world you’ve built here?  Is this one door you’ve left open for yourself?  Or are you planning on looking elsewhere, and building new doorways altogether?

ATF: I figured I would sell like nine copies mostly to my immediate family, so to be honest I was just wanting to get it out there and say I did it. However, I sold a lot more for the first time as an indie writer. I do have an idea for an overall arc for Zen, but I have other stories that will come out next that are completely different and not even fantasy stories. I have no delusions of grandeur of being the next great thing, but I really want to try to become the best writer I can be.


T: You mentioned earlier that you have a few more books that are completed.  Did you already have these completely wrapped up and ready to go when you released Zen, or has this been a process that you’ve been working on, juggling the multiple releases?

ATF: No, Zen was first.  As it was being edited, I wrote North Country Crimes (a story about a retired smuggler), and a space opera type story (no working title as of the moment).  Both were written at the same time and are now in editing. I have a horror story I’m sort of stuck 80 percent of the way through. Then I have an enemy-to-lovers-type story, and a space detective story that are almost finished with rough drafts. I just started a western story also.  I would like to release one book every nine to ten months, I think. Maybe that way I can build up my name as a writer.


T: That’s a wonderful ambition to have, and something that I think you would be able to pull off, considering the achievement we discussed earlier, with your twelve-hour first draft of Zen.

Do you plan on revisiting any of the stories that you tell or are you a bigger fan of exploring and experimenting with different genres.  It wouldn’t be so far off from your experiences with world traveling, I suppose!

ATF: I think first I just want to get some stories out. Then I wouldn’t be opposed to coming back and extending one of the stories. All are written to be more than one book, but being an unknown author, I think my main purpose at the moment is to just get my name out there.


T: You also indicated that the other stories that are coming out next are not part of the fantasy genre.  Are they still speculative fiction, like Sci-Fi or Horror or something similar, or are you going in a completely different direction?  Are you writing them all under the same name, or will you have a pseudonym that you write under for the other content?

ATF: All will be under my pen name Albert T Franklin, All the stories are mostly sci-fi but one horror, one western, enemy to lover’s type story, a detective type story and I’m not sure what my retired smuggler story fits in.


T: There are some creative types who provide connective tissue between their stories, even though they may be worlds apart as far as genre or even location goes.  Has that ever crossed your mind?  Or are you satisfied with having a definitive separation between your stories?

ATF: Actually, the space opera is the same universe as the detective story and the enemy-to-lovers story. It’s a universe I started building when I was very young, so it’s been with me for a long time.



T: If readers and fans wanted to learn more about you and Searching For Zen, where would you direct them?

ATF: I do check in on twitter at @lost7310, if anyone wanted, they could reach out to me there and I will respond. I love constructive criticism but of course I love it even more when someone liked something in it.


T: Do you also recommend your audience checking up on your website from time to time?  Or is that more for writers who want to try to see storytelling from different angles?

ATF: Yes. Sadly my website not very interactive but as soon as my current contract ends with one company and I can hand it over to someone else it will be better.


T: In any case, I hope that you’re able to bring your many worlds to life for people in the way that makes the most sense for you!

ATF: Thank you, and I’ll be back when the next book comes out.


T: Albert, I wanted to thank you again for sharing your time and allowing us to dive into your first released book a little bit more, and to learn more about what you’ve got on the horizon.  I’m excited for your stories to be discovered by more people, and for you to delight readers until they become fans!

ATF: Thank you for the opportunity!


T: Travelers, I would like to thank Albert T. Franklin once more for taking the time to share a little bit more about his writing journey.  These creators spend a great deal of their time working on their worlds, and it’s always a treasure that they offer up when they find a bit of it that they can carve out for us.  As you read above, Franklin is working on more to come, so do be sure to check in often with this up-and-coming author.  You can also start on their captivating first book.  Check out Searching For Zen: A Tale Of Divine Destiny on Amazon today!

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Michael DeAngelo

Michael is the creator of the Tellest brand of fantasy novels and stories. He is actively seeking to expand the world of Tellest to be accessible to everyone.

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