Sunday, August 17, 2014

Author Blog Host: Eric James-Olson

Eric and I met by accident on Goodreads, when I blundered into his thread and hijacked it like the blithering idiot I can sometimes be. He was very gracious about it, and it was serendipitous for me because I now have a new list of books to read.

Eric is a very gifted author; his writing style strongly reminds me of Lovecraft with tones of Heinlein and Bradbury. The thing about his books that makes them so entertaining, beyond the stories themselves, is that they are all a collection of stories that interconnect in some way or another. The reader often finds themselves going, "Aha! That's where that bit goes, with that other bit I read two stories ago! Brilliant!"

It's ingenious.

Here's your chance to get to know Eric's work!

This is the cover to The Church Peak Hotel: Revisited. This is the first of Eric's books that I read, and I'm planning to read Farmers and Cannibals next.

Interview with author Eric James-Olson:

Me: Please tell us about your latest book.
EJO: First of all, thanks for the interview. Much obliged.

Me: Of course! I'm honored you agreed to be on the blog.
EJO: In June I published The Church Peak Hotel: Revisited. It’s the fourth book in the series pictured above. It’s not quite a novel. It’s a series of interconnected character vignettes that all connect back to the other three novels. For a better description and excerpt from the book, check out this link:
Me: How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
EJO: None – well, that’s my official answer at least.

Me: When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first manuscript?
EJO: I was watching the Super Bowl two years ago. It was the game where the power went out in the stadium. For some reason that sparked an idea for a book. I started writing the very next day. That idea became Farmers and Cannibals

Me: Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?
EJO: That’s mostly dependent on the length and the style of the piece. Longer books take longer… obviously. They require more words. 

 Action is quick to write; dialogue is quick to write. Description and the development of symbols, however, slows me down. Adding multiple perspectives both slows me down and, by necessity, adds length to a book.

Explanations and those little philosophical paragraphs that show up every so often in my fiction take hours to write. I’m always afraid of saying too much, giving too much away. I’m interested in creating ambiguity that can be figured out.

 So, how long does it take me to write a book? I’ve written four. Two of the four took me around nine months. The other two took me about three months a piece.

Me: Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
EJO: I don’t work in the summer, so during that season I just “go with the flow.” For the rest of the year, I write from about eight to nine every night. It’s just after I put my daughter to bed, and I can usually bang out about two to five pages.

Me: What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there constant interruptions?
EJO: My daughter isn’t quite two years old. So she doesn’t know a whole lot about boundaries or respecting other people’s space yet. Fortunately, she can’t open doors yet either. So I usually write out on my front porch or the back deck and usually, unless her mother is feeling deceptive, I’m not interrupted.

Me: What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
EJO: Run, walk, lift weights, tickle my daughter, chop wood, cut down trees, operate woodworking machinery, build things, paint things, cut the grass, garden, drink beer (never much though), read, read out loud to my wife (a great thing to do for anyone who writes books), go fishing, look at the stars.

Me: Where do your ideas come from?
EJO: Mostly from literature; all fiction is parody.

Me: What kind of research do you do?
EJO: Depends on the book. I did the most research for But the Angels Never Came. It’s a travesty parodying “The binding of Isaac” from the old testament. I read several translations and then countless interpretations from different religions and religious sects.

Me: What are some of your favorite things to do?
EJO: The same stuff I do to “recharge my batteries”.

Me: Who are some of your other favorite authors to read? Do you have a recommendation for those who are interested in reading your books?
EJO: I’m an English teacher and I read canonical fiction, “the classics” as they’re often called. Melville, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Frost, Doyle, Shakespeare, all those massive names in literature are what I enjoy most. I also have a particular taste for the modern dystopians: Orwell, Huxley and the like. Science fiction and humor is good too: I love Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut.
I like to think when I read. And for those interested in my books, I’d recommend going back to “the classics.” Those books survive because they made people think.

Me: Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?
EJO: Funny question. Whichever one I just wrote: that’s my favorite. I start to feel a connection with the characters in the books I’m writing. I know. Weird. But it’s true, and that connection makes me like the book as a whole.
The book I’m writing now, it’s not published. It doesn’t even have a title. But it’s my favorite. And the protagonist, Gene Holden, even though he’s a real piece of work, he’s my favorite character – right now.

Me: What book for you has been the easiest to write? The hardest? The most fun?
EJO: Just After the Fall was the easiest. For the reader, it probably seems the most complicated because it was written as a fractured narrative. It was easy though because the structure was pre-determined. I wrote a thorough outline and then just connected the dots. But the Angels Never came was somewhat easy too. Because it was a reinterpretation, the basic plot was already set. I had to follow what happened in the bible – well, and then turn those events upside down. That was the creative part but it still went really fast and smooth. Like the King of Sodom, the words “came out to meet” me.
The first book was the hardest. They’re all fun.

Me: Which comes first, the story, the characters or the setting?
EJO: I’m with Aristotle on this one: the plot.

Me: Have you experienced writer's block---> If so, how did you work through it?
EJO: No.

Me: What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
EJO: My fans.

Me: If you weren't writing, what would you be doing
EJO: Playing more chess.

Me: Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
EJO: Publish. Publish now. Don’t wait for someone to publish for you. Give away books. Think big and don’t worry about getting paid or the money. Just give your fiction away. Oh, and be honest. Don’t try the gimmicks and just be honest with your readers; most people can smell bullshit pretty far off and know to avoid it. Oh, and another thing. Write another book. Then write another book. And read out-loud to your spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend or kids if you got them. Especially your kids if you got them. And not just your fiction either.

Me: What can we expect from you in the future? How many books have you written, how many have been published?
EJO: The book I’m working on will take another few months to complete. I’m going the traditional route and I’m hoping to have it published by the middle of next year. Then I’m writing the fifth book of the series featuring But the Angels Never Came. That’s set for release December 2015.

Buy links for books

About Eric James-Olson: Eric James-Olson is the author of five novels and several short stories. But the Angels Never Came, Farmers and Cannibals, Just After the Fall, The Church Peak Hotel: Revisited, and Whom Cain Slew (December 2015) are novels that exist within the same fictional universe. The books can be read in any order. In addition to writing, James-Olson is a high school English teacher and an outdoor enthusiast. He lives with his wife and daughter in the hills of West Virginia.

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