Interview with Alex C. Telander

Now this interview has been on hold for awhile now, because of life. Thankfully the creator is super nice, and he also has the same first name as me. I want everyone to know how hard it was for me to not make this interview seem like it was just someone interviewing themselves. I considered doing so many stupid jokes. However, I avoided it not only for you, my sweet readers, but also because I really love Ostium. So let’s get on with the interview!

What inspired you to create Ostium?

I discovered podcasts around the summer of 2013. My day job is a mail carrier and I have a lot of time on my hands to listen to things while working and delivering mail. Generally I do lots of audiobooks, but I started listening to podcasts, mainly nonfiction. Then I discovered a couple fiction ones that sounded really cool: Welcome to Night Vale, Limetown, The Message, and The Black Tapes. I gobbled them up and was fascinated by the medium and process. 

I’ve been writing for decades, short stories and novels, and been trying to get stuff published, and I thought I’d have a crack at a podcast and see what happened. I knew I wanted Chris Fletcher, the voice actor for Jake Fisher, to be the voice for my main guy. We’re great friends from our old Borders bookstore days, and I’ve done some recording for him when he used to have an online audio zine called the Late Late Show. I know he has a great voice for audio, so that part was set and I knew he would be happy to collaborate on a project again.

So I came up with an idea, a simple one at first about a guy finding a hidden town where there are no people, and I kept brainstorming and world building, making it bigger and more complex. The result is Ostium, a story that seems like it may have no end. However, I do know how it ultimately ends, it just depends whether the characters actually ever get there or not.

What do you think is appealing about audio as a medium for storytelling?

It allows you to do things sort of like TV and film, with the voice of the character that is directly put in the listener’s head. They don’t have to wonder what they sound like, or how they say certain words, or what accent they may have. It’s all right there. They just have to hang on for the ride. But unlike TV/film you don’t need a huge budget to make giant, complex worlds.

I love getting feedback from listeners of Ostium versus feedback from readers of the Ostium book. Readers of the book will say how different it is compared to the podcast, but the funny thing is they’re both pretty much the same. The real difference is with the podcast a lot is told and revealed to the listener as far as the atmosphere of the story, whereas with the book, a lot more is up to the reader’s imagination.

As for writing audiodrama, it’s a completely unique medium and I absolutely love it. There are no set rules for it. You can create a podcast in whatever style or format you want. Getting listeners is the hard part, but no one will listen to it and say: “Oh, you can’t do a podcast this way, that’s not the right way.” 

It’s such a freeing, creatively-stimulating medium.

How do you decide where Jake goes when traveling through the doors?

With season one, when I was first writing the episodes, I knew I wanted to choose places and instances of strange disappearances. I’ve got a long researched list of them. But as I got halfway through the season, the characters started dictating where they were going to go next. With season two, again there were a few places I thought would be cool and mysterious, but they were predicted by the characters and often involved me combining some ideas into something unique. Like in “Episode 12: Cultum Ossium.” They go to an ancient cave in South Africa where they find evidence of a skull cult. I love anthropology and this was a combination of ideas, one being evidence of an ancient skull cult in Turkey, and the other of a cave in South Africa where some very old bones were found; but the passages were so small and narrow they had to get specific interns of a shorter stature to excavate it. But the deeper we get into season two, season three, and onward, it’s becoming much more of a story the characters are telling, though they will continue to travel to strange and unusual places.

What has been the hardest part about creating Ostium?

Learning how to produce a podcast. I came to podcasting knowing plenty about writing, but nothing about audio and podcasting. I learned it all from listening to lots and lots of podcasts, just like you become a better writer by reading a lot. But it’s also a case of practicing has made us all much better at what we do. When I compare how I was putting episodes together in season one versus season two, they feel like two different people to me. I’ve learned so much. My actors have also gotten better at what they do. We’ve all improved vastly and I think it shows in the podcast; so much so that I’ve even gone back and remastered Season One, and released it in three long parts. I’ve made Season Two available in three large “chunks” so listeners can marathon it. And three-part marathon version of Season Three will be released all in time before the start of Season Four on April 7th 2019. 

If you could open a door like in Ostium, where and when would you travel?

I’m a big history buff, especially anything classical or medieval, but unfortunately, no matter what level of society you were in back then, things tended to suck a lot, so as much as I might like to go to some awesome period in the past, I’m going to look to the future instead. I’d like to go say a thousand years in the future and see what humanity is up to, if it’s anything like the jump from the year 1000 to the year 2000, it’s gonna be pretty amazing.

Are you listening to any podcasts right, any audio fiction podcasts?

I listen to SO MANY! A couple of my favorites that I’m totally hooked on are The Earth Collective and The After Disaster Broadcast. They both have great world building, compelling characters, and a story-line that has me hooked on every episode. A new show I found recently is the Superstition Podcast that sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun. And if you’re looking to start your own podcast, Tuned In Dialed Up is a great one by two of the top reviewers in the audio fiction community.

I’ve actually fallen in love with so many great audio fiction podcasts that Season 5 of Ostium, thanks to the characters helping direct the story there, is going to be a season of crossovers with many of my favorite shows. If everything works out perfectly, it will be a 20 episode season: there will be 19 crossover episodes shorter than usual, and one finale to wraps everything up. And the plan is to have Season 5 start January 2020.

What is your biggest hope for Ostium?

I want it to become as big and popular as The Black Tapes and Tanis and Welcome to Night Vale. You know, nothing too lofty to shoot for. But there are a lot of people out there who really like Ostium, and many say it’s on par with these shows, so I have high hopes for Ostium. Also, it’s going to be a long-running podcast. I have plans for at least ten seasons and likely more after that.

I do have a manager in LA and he’s shopping Ostium around right now for a possible TV series or who knows what. There have been a couple of big execs interested, so it’s all very exciting!

What character from an audio fiction podca do you relate to the most?

I’m going to have to go with The Earth Collective again, with its fascinating complex world. Joseph Crane is a guy who doesn’t like to take no for an answer and is always driven to get to the bottom of the story, and to find the story behind the story, the origin. I’m on a very similar journey with Ostium as I delve and dig deeper into the ongoing story and I have no idea where it’s going to take me, but I’m completely hooked. 

How do you market Ostium?

I talk about it as much as I can, on whatever social media platform I can. #audiodramasunday #audiofictionlove is one of – if not the – best way to learn and talk about and discover new podcasts. Ostium fans do a truly wonderful job every Sunday talking about everything they’re listening to.

What is the best advice you could give to someone wanting to create an audio drama?

Don’t look at what’s popular or big and make another version of it. Make your own unique podcast, tell the story you want to tell. That’s how you’ll become a popular podcast. But definitely listen to lots of other podcasts to learn how they’re made; discover the many different types of audio fiction podcasts out there. And remember, there is no rule to making an audio fiction podcast, however you want to do it, you can!

What has been your favorite part of creating Ostium?

I love every aspect of making Ostium, from the writing, the editing, adding the sound effects, and all the production work. It’s all fun. But I think what I enjoy most about it is I’ve never had a writing project before that has come so easy to me. The characters want to tell their story and it just flows. When I get to tough scenes I think I’m going to have to really work at, the words just come, and I’ve never had a project like this before, and am loving every millisecond of it!

What does the future hold for Ostium?

Well, if you’re all caught up through Season Three, if not, stop reading now! Go listen and come back when you’re ready, there’s an entity known as the Ostium Network. And in my head I’ve always thought wouldn’t it be cool if there was an Ostium Network in the ongoing story of Ostium and an actual network of podcasts all loosely connected to Ostium and part of the “podcast” Ostium Network. Then when I got to the end of writing Season Four, a character that I thought was going to be minor and maybe have a few mini episodes told me otherwise!

She now has her own show within the Ostium Network, called Circe, and the plan is to have Season One start in the fall or winter of 2019. I never thought I’d have the time to write another show – as much as I might want to – but I’ve kept ahead of schedule on everything and I’ve just made it happen. So keep your eye out for Circe later this year.

And then there’s another show that began as a short Ostium File, but after encouragement from me and others, the writer expanded the world and it’s now become its own show, which will also be an Ostium Network podcast. It was great to finally meet the writer at Podcon and we’re now really great friends. And that’s all I can really say about it now, as it’s hush-hush until the creator makes the official announcement!

I also have an Ostium mini-series I’ve been writing that I plan to release as a series of ebooks at some point, though they’ll be available as audible too.

You can find Ostium at their website Follow them on Twitter at @OstiumPodcast and Circe can be found at @CircePodcast. You can become a patron on Patreon. And don’t forget to listen and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. If you use RadioPublic, Ostium is part of the paid listens program where the creators are paid when people download and listen to their podcast on the RadioPublic app.

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