While August started off kind of quiet, by the middle of the month, we were speeding through one awesome fantasy story to the next. Between folk tales and dark fantasies and shifter fantasies, we had everything covered. We’re going to be talking to the authors of all these tales, and we’re starting with the one and only author of The Garden of Lies, Zachary A. Pieper. Read on to learn more about what goes on in the mind of this creative raconteur.
Tellest: Hello there, Zachary! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about your new book, and yourself. I know that you’ve got a ton of things that you’re working on all the time, so being able to carve out some time like this is an honor. I’m hoping we get to the bottom of what makes you tick!
Zachary A. Pieper: Well, getting to the bottom is pretty unlikely, but maybe I can give you a surface level understanding by the end of this. If you ask the right questions.
T: So, one of the things that I always like to ask about in these interviews is the inspiration for the storyteller. Who were the people, or what were the events that convinced you to begin writing?
ZP: A beautiful girl took my heart away. Plain and simple, Life has a tendency to hit us hard. And we can wallow in that pain, or use it to temper ourselves, and convert it to fuel. I reforged myself, and used the pain to forge a new world, a beautiful world, where I could escape from the suffering I was going through in the real one. And thus: The Garden of Lies.
T: That’s a pretty on-the-nose inspiration for a book. In your case, you’re working on more books, and we’ll talk more about that later, but you likely had to pivot at least a little bit from the road you were going on once The Garden of Lies was wrapped up. With something driving a story for that long, was it difficult finding or adapting different inspiration for other stories?
ZP: Not really, I am a highly emotional and cognitive person. I have a thought and a feeling about everything. Which means I have no shortage of things to write about. While the main storyline of my novels is married to the previously stated inspiration. Many subplots, accessory themes, and elements of my story. Reflect other things I am passionate about. Those things become especially prominent in the next two books.
T: I find that it is the work that takes us the longest time that speaks to us in very profound ways. Your book has been gestating for about ten years from the initial concepts to the final published piece. How did it feel finally hitting the button on Amazon to get your book out into the world?
ZP: It felt like a fated moment had come, and passed. And when those moments pass, I often feel a sense of relief, like finishing a big task that has been looming. Its pretty nice.
T: Sometimes when we’re creating things that deeply resound with us, we find parts of ourselves in our projects. When it comes to The Garden of Lies, do you see bits of yourself in any of the characters?
ZP: My protagonist is modeled directly after my ideal image of myself. Amnis is kind of how I think I would be if I had been born a girl.
T: You describe yourself as “somewhere between mildly and wildly insane”—though of course that could be just your YouTube by-line and I’m reaching. In any case, I feel like most creative types kind of need to rely on some level of insanity to really drill down to the crux of their stories. Do you feel like that kind of thought resonates with you in some way?
ZP: Its not a by-line. I have been in and out of therapy my entire life, my genome has been mapped, and I have lots of genes that have been linked to serious mental illness. Madness, or at least, what normal people perceive as madness, is very much a part of who I am. Now to the second part of that; I do enjoy drilling into my own mind and seeing what makes me tick. I like to map out my own psyche and further my self-understanding. Therapy has been great for that. That’s how I am able to function out in society without beings on meds. I take self-exploration and mastery with the utmost seriousness.
T: It must feel enriching and validating to have tons of people enjoying your book. In some ways, I’m sure it’s even more inspiring to know that you’re changing other people’s lives. What would you say to people who might be struggling with similar mental health issues?
ZP: You are not alone.
Making people like me feel seen, and understood. Giving them a sense of hope, a light to follow out of their darkness. That is one of my primary missions with The Garden Saga, and my writing in general. I want to help people learn to understand, and master themselves.
T: It must have been an emotional journey carrying out the Garden Saga from concept to page and eventually release. Has anyone with similar burdens reached out to you about how the story so far has affected them?
ZP: Not yet, but I welcome any who wish to, to do so. I answer comments on my YouTube videos, and I respond to messages on my Facebook author page.
T: While writing a book is a deeply personal undertaking, you acknowledge that your book and the process of getting it out into the world was the culmination of a lot of things, and with some sort of motivation or inspiration from a lot of people. Would you care to share about any of the folks that helped to bring The Garden of Lies to life?
ZP: My father continually supported me and encouraged me. In the book’s acknowledgements, I have a long section for him. And without him, there is a good chance the book might not have been finished.
And if she had never left, if she hadn’t ripped out my heart. It definitely would not have been.
T: With that last bit in mind, would you have preferred she never left, or are you happier in the long run with what you’ve come to learn from the experience, what you’ve delivered to the world, and how you’ve likely grown along the way?
ZP: That question is highly astute and poignant. And I must confess, though it breaks a small piece of my heart to say. Its better that she left. I’m a better person now, because she left. In a very real sense. She saved me.
T: The first book of the Garden Saga has a satisfying ending on its own, but you’re not quite done yet. You’re working on a sequel, The Garden of Hope. What can you tell us about it so far?
ZP: The Garden of Hope takes off right where book one left off. It’s a much faster paced story, with lots of action and plot development. And some hard-hitting world building twists added in. It’s a sequel that surpasses the first if I do say so myself.
T: It sounds like you’ve already put a lot of work into The Garden of Hope. How soon do you expect that story to hit virtual shelves?
ZP: I am aiming for mid-October! I want to do a Halloween sale!
T: As the head Gardener, I’m sure it’s hard to wrench your mind from this trio of books. But with everything that you’re doing and all that you’re exploring, do you ever get teased with the idea of starting off in other directions with other stories?
ZP: That question isn’t really compatible with the way my mind works. And what I mean by that is; I am a web weaver. I can create connections and thread them across stories and concepts with ease. I have no need to venture out and pursue other concepts, rather, I connect every idea I have, and create one massive, comprehensive, immersive world. The Garden Saga, is only the beginning. Its all one, interconnected, intricate story.
T: So, it sounds very possible that we might end up getting more than just the original trilogy. Is the focus on the first three and nothing else, or do you already have hints of where else you could go if you wanted to?
ZP: I have somewhere between 7 and 9 books currently planned. All of them directly related to the garden saga.
T: Not content just to work on your own books, you also analyze and review the work of others. What kind of reviewer would you say you are, and what are some interesting things you’ve noticed from the other side of the writing venture?
ZP: I would say I am generally optimistic, but exceptionally blunt and truthful. As a reviewer, I go into books WANTING TO LIKE THEM! I never want to write a bad review, but if your book stinks, I’m not going to lie and say its good. The main thing I have noticed from the other side? A lot of people aren’t as good at this as they think they are. Truly good books aren’t very common at all. Not when you grade on a curve. And some people out here claiming to be ‘authors’ are nothing more than content mills. If you want the tea on that, you can check out my friend Caits youtube channel: Writer Uninterrupted
T: For some people, writing their stories can be a very personal experience. As someone who is tied to the journey of creation the way you are, what advice could you give to other storytellers who are trying to develop a tale that hits emotional marks, nails down the themes and generally tells a good story?
ZP: Study study study. Read the masters (Tolkien, Shelley, CS Lewis, Jim Butcher), read poetry, listen to music, watch good movies. Consume language in every form, so that you can gain a mastery of the language, and the principles of storytelling. Once you have gained a solid understanding of those things, you can attempt to write a compelling narrative.
I have never made it a secret that I have no higher education than high school, where language and writing are concerned. Yet I wrote a 4.5- Star book on my first try. How? I study the work of master story tellers, and master word smiths.
T: Where could people go to find out more about you and your work?
ZP: Barnes & Nobles: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-garden-of-lies-zachary-a-pieper/1139301356?ean=9781666274165
my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCysJR69VdTPdzUSPnz6B34A
universal retailer link: https://books2read.com/u/bpzqjl?fbclid=IwAR3levB8Y3uphdwc9ztbXW9BynGQN6l0hxo7B-i69bIL31_RgVyuO-MV0sU
T: Thank you, Zachary, for taking the time to talk with me about the world you’re building, and what goes on behind the pages. I know you’ve got a lot that you’re always working on, so getting this opportunity was truly an honor.
ZP: Any time! Maybe sometime I could have you on my channel.
I hope you enjoyed this look into Zachary’s world. You can see he’s diligently working on a lot of projects, so to get an expansive take like this was a nice occasion. While Zachary works on his second book for an October release, his first book is ready right now. Head over to one of the many pages he linked above, or check out The Garden of Lies (The Garden Saga Book 1) on Amazon today!
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