Interview with Author N. Alexsander Sidirov

N. Alexsander Sidirov was born in the frigid landscape of Siberia. As a small child, he was adopted from Sosnovoborsk and moved from one of the coldest places on Earth to one of the hottest: Arizona. From his new home in Arizona, he began to explore the world of writing at the tender age of seven and found that the more he put pen to paper, the broader his vision became.

He began experimenting with using his life experiences as fuel for his literary fire by writing short stories. Even then, Sidirov enjoyed infusing his writing with the heartbeats of his identity and themes of his life, like his adoption journey, sexuality, loneliness, individuality, and neurodiversity.

It was in college that Sidirov turned his creative eye from penning short stories to practicing poetry. After six years perfecting his craft, Sidirov decided to capture his unique view of the world in his debut poetry collection, There was Histrionic Laughter at the Clowns Cadaver, which, like all his writings, strives to change the way society views the world and liberate the creative process from the confines of social and literary conformity.

When not writing, Sidirov enjoys learning new languages, watching vintage cartoons, and—most of all—filing disputes with the credit bureau.

Глаза боятся, а руки делают
The eyes are afraid, but the hands are still doing it.


1. Many of our readers haven’t spent time with your poetry yet, so I want to give them a chance to get to know you. How would you describe yourself as a writer? How would you describe this collection?
I would describe myself as brave, subversive, bold, and open-minded. As a writer I would describe myself as brave, subversive, experimental, and bold. I think this collection is genre-bending, psychedelic, technicolored, aggressive, soft, honest, confessional, colorful, dark, ambient, straightforward, and enigmatic. I think that depending on the page it’s a different thing. What it means to the person reading really depends on their experiences. I have had people who have interpreted some of my poems exactly as I did, but the beautiful thing about poetry is that it’s art. It literally exists equally in the mind of every person who reads it. I wanted to create something that no one had read before and would be nearly impossible to compare to others because—as a writer—I didn’t want to be seen as a lesser version of a different writer. I am very much myself: what I create and my point of view is mine, and so this book is a conglomeration of my experiences and also how those experiences are filtered through my art and rather crazy mind. The book is very existential, avant-garde, and frankly in a lot of ways abstract. There are some people who are going to appreciate that it is one of a kind and that I put everything I could into it. There are others who are going to shrug their shoulders and find it too dense or challenging, and that’s okay. Either way, I’ll be alright.

2. I’m interested in your page numbers and the poem they create. What inspired this poem and what impact do you hope it has on readers’ experience with your collection?
Ah yes, I remember us talking about that poem frequently throughout me writing it. First, I wanted to write a palindromic poem about the arbitrariness of the arrow of time, but I found the format to be incredibly constricting and it difficult to say anything of real meaning. Then, as I was finishing the book, I found myself absolutely petrified of death. I genuinely felt afraid of dying and a voice in the back of my mind said, ‘If you finish this book well, then you’ll have finished something, so now it’s all over and whoever or whatever can strike you down.’ It was very bizarre, but what I realized is that a lot of my procrastination came from an existential place—that I had put off finishing things because all along there was this fear telling me that if I did then I could die because I did something, and if I didn’t then how could I—I still had things to do. So I sat on a mountain and ruminated on it, and I decided that either I could try to bury the fear deep within myself or I could turn towards it. So I did the latter: the poem that extends over the page numbers is me imagining my eulogy if I were to die today. There’s this gratitude exercise where you imagine yourself on your deathbed and ask yourself what would you tell the people you love, and I decided to take it one step further. Frankly, doing it scared the living daylights out of me. It felt like I could be somehow cursing myself, but I knew that facing my fear of mortality in such an open and honest way might help others do the same. Because the truth is a lot of us are afraid to die. We only know life, Death is a house guest we’ve never met. I wanted to confront my mortality in a place where the numbers rise like age, and I also really liked the idea of imagining new places where poems could exist, and where their placement could kind of make its own statement. I think, hopefully, that I achieved that—thus far it has had a really really positive reception and I am grateful for that.

3. Many of your poems address the frailness of innocence and youth. Was this a conscious theme you had in mind while creating your poems, or did it occur naturally within your work?
That’s so interesting that you said that, because I did not realize that my poems addressed the frailness of innocence and youth. I think nostalgia is an especially potent drug in that it almost always offers some form of high, but I would agree that youth is always present in my writing. Particularly the antithesis of youth. I think that more so than youth is the fear of the anti-youth, the loss of youth more often than not. I think that frailness, or perceived frailness, comes from a fear of getting older and not having enough time. That’s a theme that I read in so many of my poems. This is something I always felt—like I was behind or there was some form of magic clock sitting on my head and so if I didn’t move fast then nothing would get done. I am sure that has much to do with going to funerals as a child, I think coming to the realization that life does have an ending and our time here is ephemeral at a young age certainly shapes one’s perspective.

4. Your poem “Shelter Melter” is one of my favorite pieces in this collection. I view this poem as an absurd sort of Ars Poetica. I’m curious if you agree with my reading and what you personally hoped readers would take away from this specific piece? 
So that’s really interesting, yes Shelter Melter is one of the most controversial so far. People either love it or angrily write about the slew of letters on Goodreads. I think that your reading is absolutely a valid one. I would never go out of my way to tell others how to write a poem because the truth is I don’t think there’s one way or a right way. I would say, though, that I am always challenging the notion that there is a “best way” to write poetry and what constitutes “valid” forms of poetry. “Shelter Melter” came from an innate desire to shatter the fourth wall in a poem. Like take someone somewhere with me on a surrealist journey and then absolutely rock them by just kicking down the walls of their understanding of perspective. I think that in a weird way a lot of poetry, especially poems like “Shelter Melter,” really play with dimension in the sense that they exist in their own. There are a lot of things about poetry that I think are not frequently utilized enough in the art form and experimentation with dimension and perspective (in almost sculptural way) are certainly some of them. I hope that people can read that poem and realize that you don’t always have to take yourself seriously to write something that deserves to be taken seriously.

5. I’m proud to say I’ve been an active participant in your workshopping process for this collection and have seen your writing develop in unique ways over the past several years. How do some of your “older” poems vary from your “newer” ones within this collection?
Yeah, you have been a HUGE part of the journey that was getting this book made—though, for many years, it was just me writing poems. I think that I always was experimenting, but over time I learned how to stage things better; I learned how to create poems that were definitively experiences. I always felt that poetry had the potential to be something grandiose and exquisite and in a lot of ways I think modern poetry tends to revel in the small, which is not a bad thing at all, but that wasn’t my thing. I loved Jodorowsky, Kate Bush, Bjork, and very very grandiose artists who created things in their mediums that just felt BIG—and I wanted to do the same with my writing. Over time I got better at creating subtle moments to interplay between those broad brush strokes. In order to create a masterpiece I am sure a painter must use many brushes; I feel this is probably the same with writing.

6. The cover of your collection is striking in all the right ways. What was your experience in collaborating with an artist to create this piece for the collection?
Yes, so I worked with an artist Jeffrey Marchetti, who is incredible. He’s a queer artist. I saw his work on Instagram and told him I wanted to talk to him about maybe making my book cover. He agreed and we basically talked back and forth for weeks while slowly it developed. It was an arduous process, but to me it was really important that we create legitimate art. I wanted the cover to reflect the contents so I wanted to create a cover that someone could look at and analyze and actually derive meaning from. Personally, I am so happy with it. Jeff is an amazing artist who was so wonderful to work with; I really like to trust creative people to be creative, so I mostly just gave him abstract feelings and focal points to use as his inspiration and then as he progressed we would talk about it and discuss. I was never steadfast or militant about getting a perfect image because I know that in collaboration the perfect image happens with synastry and connection.

7. Independent publishing is a complicated and demanding process. What advice do you have for other writers who are considering this type of publishing for their own work?
Do it! Do it! But be ready. It’s really hard, it’s exhausting, and it will wear you down. But being able to have complete control over what you make is one of the best feelings. I modeled for years and constantly had to defer to others in the creative process. Being able to have full, complete creative control is amazing—but it also means there’s no one to blame but yourself when things go wrong.

8. What’s next for you as a writer? Are you working on any new projects?
YES! So I am currently writing a novel that I am trying to finish in 16 days! I have a break from my European coding bootcamp, so I decided that I would challenge myself to write this novel that I have had the idea for—in 16 days. I am currently on day three, and honestly it’s going really well. I have a TikTok channel dedicated to it! I am sure that by the time this is published, whether I did it or didn’t it will be there for the world to see, but follow it anyways @n.alexsandersidirov. After the novel is finished and begins the editing process, I am starting on a very very complex and frankly ambitious project that will infuse art, technology, and poetry into a book. It will not be a personal poetry collection, definitely more conceptual, but I am hoping that I can create something that brings poetry rocketing into the twenty-first century with some stuff that, at the very least, could only be conceived in 2021. That last statement will make sense once it’s finished, but I’ll just say that my coding bootcamp will definitely come in handy. As for following me as a writer, I have a website; I am on Goodreads. Expect the unexpected—right now I don’t see myself ever being a James Patterson or a genre specialist. I love poetry though, and I want to continue to create subversive pieces that hopefully show others that poetry means there are no rules, and the only way to break all the rules is to never learn them in the first place.

8. How can our Spellbinding Shelf readers best support your collection and your future writing ambitions?
Well honestly, check out the collection! The physical book is absolutely the format it was meant to be read in, but the Kindle format is actually wonderful too! I am immensely grateful for anyone who is willing to read what I have written. As a queer author, its been wonderful having so many LGBTQIA people reach out and tell me that they really appreciated the book and that has been such a blessing. Being a local Arizona author, I think to some extent it can be intimidating to ask people to read your book, especially when it’s as abstract and extraneous as this one, but everyday I find myself telling people. It’s all part of the journey I suppose. I am immensely grateful for this interview, which helps give me an opportunity to explain it and also myself so people who have questions have something to elucidate them.

9. Is there anything else you would like our readers to know before they dive into your collection?
Yes, the book is both very experimental and also very confessional—an unexpected combination certainly, but alas, it is what it is. It also requires careful reading and a willingness to take a leap of faith. Erin, you told me yourself that its not the kind of book you read casually on your lunch break, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone who imagines it might be something akin to an Instagram poet. A friend of mine described it as an electric storm or a mess of live wires, something that feels like it could electrocute you as you hold it. These are all very abstract metaphors, but I guess what I am trying to say is that I wrote the book for people who like bizarre, surreal, and absurd imagery and poetry—if that’s you, then yay! If that isn’t that’s fine, not every book is for every person.

You can purchase N. Alexsander Sidirov’s poetry collection or read the free Kindle version here.

Author Interview with Hunter Codner

During brunch a few weeks ago, I was gifted a new book by a friend for my reading pleasure. The New Deep by Hunter Codner was emblazoned on the front cover. Any day that begins with the collection of a new book is a great day to me and to many fellow bibliophiles, but what my friend said next changed the context of this particular book: it was written by a coworker of my husband.

It’s not unheard of for book lovers to be avid writers as well—for many it’s our dream to write that novel, build our own world, tell our own story, and the biggest step towards that goal, in the words of Stephen King, are to “read more books.” So I took a second long, good look at this new book in my possession. At the fabulous artwork on the cover, at the professional matte paperback finish of it, and finally at the name of the author, which suddenly rang a bell to me as an individual my husband had mentioned speaking and working with. For me, it hit close to home: it made the goal of publishing a novel so much more real and tangible. I took it home and, with a stack of TBR books on my nightstand, I devoured The New Deep in one evening, late into the night. I was enamored with the rich characters and sci-fi world of Hunter’s debut novel, and in addition to wanting to tell the world about the success and triumph of an acquaintance from our very own neighborhood, I had a need to ask him about how he went about making “the dream” happen. So as follows is my interview with the author of The New Deep, and I hope that his story provides some ideas for my fellow writers considering the avenue of self-publication, and inspires you to check out Hunter Codner’s excellent new addition to the science fiction genre.


  1. Did you always set out to write and publish a novel? 
    I’ve wanted to write a novel for a while now, but I never got past the world-building stage. I finally decided to push through and do it after I went to Gen Con last year and saw all the folk in author’s alley. From there, I knew that I wanted to write and publish a book.
  2. What was a big motivator for you to develop your idea and pursue a novel-length story?
    There were two enormous motivators for me to push through with the story. One was that I knew I absolutely wanted to write a book and share it with people. The second was that I had been working on my science fiction world for over a decade and finally had the drive to do something with it. Then inspiration struck—surprisingly, not from any science fiction source but from D&D. I had this idea of a spaceship that wasn’t really a ship but instead a giant mimic, and I went from there.
  3. What were some of your biggest challenges?
    One of the largest challenges was striking a balance between my job, my hobbies, and trying to write. After finding that balance, I hit a hard wall about fifteen thousand words into the story. I had to eventually just take time off work so that I could push myself over the wall and finally finish the story.
  4. When you finished, what were your first thoughts?
    I didn’t really believe it, but I was also super pumped—not as much as my husband, though. It was like being on a super tough hike, and finally, I had reached the first significant milestone. Right after I finished, I started researching about the next steps for the process.
  5. How did you begin the proofreading/editing process, and how did you get in touch with an editor?
    For an editor, I lucked out in that I had a friend who wanted to become an editor and was going to school for it, so I offered my book. Unluckily for her, I’m a new author, and at that time, I was even less knowledgeable than I am now and just sent her first draft, untouched. Bless her heart, she was patient with me and worked with me for almost an entire year and through many drafts/revisions until we had a workable product.
  6. What motivated you to pursue self-publishing rather than using a publishing company?
    I decided on self-publishing after I finished the first draft, and I saw it was only the length of a novella (after the editing process, it did reach novel-length). I didn’t think that a publishing company would want to take up a thirty-thousand-word story from a new author (and after some research, I was correct). After researching self-publishing, I realized that Amazon had made the process so easy that there was no real reason I shouldn’t.
  7. What was your biggest source of information for the process of self-publishing?
    Oh man, the site two sites I think I visited the most were Reedsy and the Kindle Direct Publishing main site. Reedsy is a great blog with articles about writing and publishing that really helped me figure out the process and things I needed to get done. The KDP site has an FAQ section that goes through everything. They cover not only the things you need for publishing through KDP, but also guides on typesetting, layouts, and cover design. Besides those two though, there are so many different sources of information for people wanted to self-publish: one quick Google search, and you’ll have a tsunami of useful info.
  8. How did you go about choosing the designs and getting copies of your book printed?
    Lucky for me, my husband is a graphic designer and artist. He insisted that not only did he want to draw the cover of the book, but also draw chapter art. Later, when I was typesetting and laying out the interior of the book, he also found me a great font to use for chapter headings and cover. As for physical copies, surprisingly, Kindle (Amazon) does that as well, and it’s pretty straightforward. While I highly recommend hiring someone to layout out your book, Amazon does have step-by-step guides on how to properly layout your book for print.
  9. What has been the most rewarding thing about self-publishing your first novel?
    The most rewarding moment was when I finally hit publish for the physical copies on Amazon. I had spent maybe a week and a half working on the layouts for the book, then uploaded them and ordered my proof copies to make sure everything was ready to go as we believed. Thank God we did. In the flurry of getting the book ready to publish, I had missed so many tiny things that it made the book look sloppy. My husband, editor, and I spent a weekend pouring back through the book—both digitally and physically—until we felt that we had caught everything. So, when I finally hit publish the next weekend, it was a sigh of relief.
  10. What advice do you have for other writers? Would you suggest for them to pursue self-publishing?
    My advice would be that no matter how ready you think that the first draft is for someone to see, it’s not. Don’t send anything before the third draft to an editor, and look for some good honest beta readers to look at your story, too. As for self-publishing, I suggest going through the process even if you don’t plan on hitting publish, just so you know each point of the process of publishing a book.
  11. Lastly, we like to ask all of our featured authors to share their current read.
    Sure, currently I’m listening to the audiobook version of the first Redwall novel.

You can purchase Hunter Codner’s debut novel The New Deep at Changing Hands Bookstore here.


Thank you to the author for providing this ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.