I’m continuing the SSP love this week by bringing to you an interview by author Eric Garrison about his new novel, Four ‘Til Late. Horror, paranormal, sci-fi, and urban fantasy fans will LOVE this book! Before we put Eric in the hot seat, though, let’s take a closer look at the book!
In Four ’til Late, amateur ghost hunter Brett and his friends Gonzo, Jimbo, and Liz are on a road trip with dangerous detours, dreadful dreams and dire warnings. But that won’t keep them from reaching their goal: New Orleans. Along the way they discover that some spirits leave you with more than a hangover and regrets. Can they get there in one piece, or will they be stopped and rest in peace? The bags are packed, the engine’s running. Turn up the radio and get moving because the road ghosts are waiting, and it’s Four ’til Late. Four ’til Late is the first book of the Road Ghosts Trilogy.
SJ: Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?
*Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?
EG: I do a hybrid of pantsing and outlining. I am FAR from meticulous. I like to write out an order of events that’s just a line per important thing, and I like to call that the rails I run my story on. And even though it means more work, I love it when the story jumps the rails and I have to lay new track, so to speak. I like to keep the organic factor in there, without risking writers block that comes with writing completely blind.
I write to my muse for the most part, though my muse has been intrigued by calls for anthologies, for instance. I don’t believe in writing to market trends, I think that writing what I love makes better stories.
Quirky writing habits? Hmmm. I like to stir things up by finding different places to write away from home. Coffee houses are one obvious place to escape, but I’ve written in a (primarily carryout) pizza place, a brewpub, a sports bar, and probably others not occurring to me now. I’ll have to admit that my ideal writing fuel is Irish coffee, since the whiskey loosens up inhibitions while the caffeine revs my motivation.
SJ: Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they show up at inopportune times and whap you upside the head? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?
* bonus question – If your muse had a physical manifestation, what would he or she look like and how would she or he act? Is it a sexy superhero version of Callisto? A sharp-tongued rogue? A reptilian alien? Do they have a catch phrase?
EG: I do some planning to lay down the story’s rails, but I want to be surprised by what unfolds as much as the reader, so that planning is just a guideline, not a set-in-stone outline.
Oh yes, I do believe in the muse, I do, I do! To disbelieve would be to banish her and be left with a blank page.
I hadn’t thought about her form until you asked. I think she’s tall, a beautiful ghost of someone long gone, a wild lady with endless curiosity and an insatiable need to be entertained. She may dress in a metallic Victorian dress and goggles one day, her almost transparent lips whispering in my ear, begging to be told a steampunk tale. Another day, she wears jeans, red lipstick, and a leather jacket, straddling a chair across from me, jamming to classic rock as I bang out a supernatural fantasy.
And always, always, she whispers, “Tell me a story?”
And as much as she wants me to tell her a story, the inspiration she gives has to be fed with other things. Idly bouncing from link to link on Wikipedia, a visit to the park, conversation with a friend, sitting down to read a book that’s outside my comfort zone… All these help my muse help me find inspiration.
SJ: What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?
EG: Might seem cliché, but my comfort reading that I return to over and over again is The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien way over-describes and takes far too long to get to the point, but it’s so easy to lose myself in the world of Middle-Earth. Whenever life is chaotic around me, I go back and re-read those books once again.
Of my own stuff? There’s a LOT of me in Four ’til Late. At the risk of sounding egotistical, whenever I re-read it, I’m swept away to my own past, to the time I wrote it, to the parts of the story that are based on my own experiences.
I do play favorites. I read, and re-read, a lot of Terry Pratchett, Neal Stephenson, and John Varley in particular.
SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?
EG: Maybe it’s cheating, but I’d chain myself to science fiction. Why cheating? Well, I can’t think of any genre with greater vistas, more room to expand, more worlds and time than any other genre. I’d miss my supernatural fantasy, and I’d mourn the chance to try my hand at sword and sorcery, and I’d cry myself to sleep at the thought of never writing another steampunk story.
But while I’m cheating, there’s always virtual reality or alternate worlds, right? Oh right, I wrote one of those already.
SJ: What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?
EG: Sometimes there’s a character that has no story, or a setting with no charcters, or a concept that won’t fit a plot. I hate when I have ideas burning to be written, but they just won’t fit. The upside of that is that those sometimes just click into place all of a sudden, and I know exactly what I’ll write next. It’s a huge relief, and a rush, when a lost piece finally fits something.
Downside of being a writer? Eh, I think it’s not having enough time to write, or feeling like I have to choose between writing and other things I enjoy.
One cliché that needs to die is that indie writers only produce crap. Yeah, there’s a lot of amateur stuff out there, and a lot of unedited fiction thrown to the winds in self-publishing. So what? Writers write, and the only way to get better at it is to keep writing, more and more. The publishing world is changing, and the days of churning out manuscripts that get rejected by gatekeeping publishers and trunked is coming to an end. Roles are changing. Some writers have become their own publisher, wearing all the hats. Others are forming co-ops of talent to help each other edit and market each other. Publishers will always have a role, but more than ever it is becoming a label, a brand name, a marketing platform. Publishers can now do talent scouting among writers who are already out there plugging away with their own success.
SJ: If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?
EG: That’s a tough one. One of the perks of being a writer (or a reader for that matter) of speculative fiction is getting to visit endless other worlds, as anyone I can dream up. I think the book that fits that best of mine is Reality Check, since there’s interdimensional travel to very different worlds, a chance to be someone else, visiting other possible realities to see “what if?” with horizons only limited by imagination.
SJ: Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?
EG: There are formulas out there, some authors master a formula, and their readers gobble it up as familiar and new each time. I love some authors who do this, it’s comfortable and fun and I know exactly what I’m getting into when I open a book by those authors.
But at the same time, the surprises are limited by that set structure, those same tricks. If my stories never “jumped the rails”, if I could predict/plan every detail about how every story I told would come out, I’d probably quit writing. I think it’d be a rut like any other, and I doubt I could put my heart into it as much as I do.
SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?
EG: Bwahahahaahaaaaaa! Oh that’s hilarious. It’s adorable. Writing may come easy to you, you might be chock full of talent and have a muse that dances for you on command. But it’s not an easy career. Sure, it’s easier than ever to get your stuff out there through self-publishing, or through the booming small presses that have sprung up in the past decade. I guarantee you can get a book published if you see it through. You may even make money doing it. But very few writers support themselves on writing alone. That is a long, hard path that is a long way off for me, even after years of self-publishing and more recently, working with small presses. Every last one of us hopes to have a hit like Rowling or Meyer, but that’s still in the realm of winning the lottery.
If this dismays you, if you’re thinking you’ll find something easier to do as a career, then GO! Run away! Do that other thing. Find something you love to pay the bills.
If the writing bug won’t leave you alone, even as you do that other thing, by all means, keep writing. Keep writing, and meet with other writers for critique, and publish it one way or another. Keep learning and improving and making connections. It might be a second career, or maybe, if you work very hard and are very lucky, you might be able to support yourself with just writing.
SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.
EG: Speculative fiction has been the subject of ridicule and has been snubbed by literary types for its whole existence. All I have to say is Star Trek. What about Star Trek? As only one example of my genre, Star Trek has inspired generations of technologists, scientists, and engineers now. Things dreamed up in the future worlds of science fiction have become science fact. The internet, tablets, mobile phones, virtual reality, robots, debit cards… All of this started as the stuff of dreams that became made reality. Speculative fiction is the genre of dreams.
SJ: What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?
EG: Smart and Fun. I want people to think of my books as fun, entertaining fiction most of all, but I also hope it’s the kind of thing that’ll stick with you and make you think
SJ: Please tell us about your latest/favorite work or a little bit about what you’re working on right now. It’s plug time, so go for it!
Four ’til Late is part of a trilogy called Road Ghosts. The second one, Sinking Down, has passed the editing stage and artwork has begun, and I hope to have that out in a month or two. In that book is a character named Skye, who’s got a book of her own already written called Blue Spirit. I’m working on its sequel, Restless Spirit right now, and am a couple of chapters in. Skye’s tipsy modern fairy tale adventures are funnier than the Road Ghost stories, but also have a darkness to them that I feel is a great contrast. Restless Spirit is set at Big Con, a huge, familiar, but fictitious game/media/scifi convention in Indianapolis. I’m following up her drunken heroics in fairy tale Blue Spirit with a romp at Big Con with dark fairies, power hungry LARPers, and (spoiler) even trolls. Even as she tries to play hero, Skye’s going to be up against powerful foes and her own flaws. It’s going to be epic!
Eric Garrison is active in the writing community in Indianapolis, Indiana. He lives in the Circle City with his wife, step-daughter and four cats. He also enjoys gaming and homebrewing beer.
Seventh Star Press published the first of his Road Ghosts trilogy, Four ’til Late, in July of 2013. The other two are expected to come out later in 2013.
Eric’s novel, Reality Check, is a science fiction adventure released by Hydra Publications. This book reached #1 in Science Fiction on Amazon’s Kindle store during a promotion in July 2013.
Eric’s short story, “Drag Show” appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of Strange, Weird and Wonderful Magazine and Volume 2 of that magazine’s anthology series. His flash piece, “Dark Reflection”, appeared in the Indiana Horror 2011 anthology. He’s competed twice in the Iron Writer Challenge with two 500-word flash pieces, “Killer Cure” and “Moby Me”.