Today I have an interview with the very talkative Erec Stebbins, whose latest book Reader was published earlier this year.
What’s your favorite part of writing a book?
My favorite and least favorite aspects of writing are closely related. I am most happy concerning my writing when a powerful element in my story is written down in a fashion that reproduces in the reader something near the experience of imagining it. That’s really the only point (for me!) in writing – that I had an idea for a linked collection of events (the story), many of which had powerful impact on me as I imagined them – and I want to share those. The entire reason to write is to try and pull those experiences out of my head, incarnate them on paper/pixels as two-dimensional representations such that the reader of the words experiences something like what I did.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they will like it. Perhaps what I like and what they like are very different. Also, even if they would have shared a liking for the imaginative element, I might render it on a page in a manner that worked to recreate it for me, but not for them. All these elements are part of the subjective experience of writing and reading.
When you think about it, trying to recreate in another’s mind the experience in your mind through the abstract media that we have is something nearly absurd and miraculous. It’s amazing it works even as well as it does.
Conversely, the part I hate most about writing is when I can’t seem to capture on a page what is in my head, or I find that others experience it in a way that is substantially different that what is in my head and that experience gives them a negative reaction to it.
Did you base any of the characters on real people?
In some of my novels, there are powerful elements of real people, but these are either of well-known figures I do not know personally, or, if personally known, it is nearly always some aspect of their personality or appearance that is applied to a character – I don’t reproduce entire personalities.
Writers have only their own experiences of human beings from which to sculpt their characters. Our experiences of people are of course filtered through the lens of our own subjectivity and limited perception, and then garbled further by the imperfections of the written medium.
The one thing I do that clearly connects to real people is I use names of people I know to name characters. This is due to a strange form of writer’s block that I get: I cannot progress in writing until the character is named, and I am rarely happy pulling names out of thin air. I would often get stuck at the beginning of a story on this Naming Problem. One day, frustrated, I just started grabbing names that were familiar to me, mixing first and last names up to avoid naming a character exactly like an acquaintance, and PRESTO! Problem solved and I could write.
I’ve used that method ever since to stop wasting time on names. The one exception in my writing so far is the protagonist of READER, Ambra Dawn. Her name just came to me. Which, when you find out what the story is about, is a bit creepy, actually.
What input, if any, did you have in the cover design?
For my traditionally published novel (a thriller, THE RAGNARÖK CONSPIRACY), not much. One day my publisher revealed the cover in an email. I paused a few minutes on receiving that email before I opened the image. A bad cover would be a disaster, and create some complicated “discussions.” Luckily, the cover was amazing. There was a similar angst ridden issue with the title. THE RAGNARÖK CONSPIRACY was not my title, but the marketing department didn’t like mine. Authors don’t have a lot of say over the title (no last word). So I worked with the publisher to develop an alternative title that everyone was ok with (I didn’t like some of their ideas initially, either).
For READER, I designed the cover myself (and didn’t have any title debates). I’m not an artist, but I’m not terrible with design (except that I am “color-clash blind” as my family and co-workers tell me). I obtained licenses for images from artists that fit my ideas of the book and worked to combine them in attractive covers. I’m very happy with the covers, although the initial iterations left something to be desired!
I also love making the “book trailers”, and am happy with how those have turned out.
READER video trailer link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JCsBAj_W48
Which of your characters is your favorite?
Currently, of all my books, it’s Ambra Dawn. She’s gone through so much, become something so amazing. I feel very connected to her. Of course, since the conceit of the novel is that she is writing the book through me from the future, I would, wouldn’t I?
Is there any specific message you hope readers take away from your story?
READER is pretty metaphysical. I didn’t appreciate this until it zoomed up the chart on Amazon’s Metaphysical Fiction list (#19 was the highest point so far). I had thought of it as science fiction, but I took some of the “crazy-edge” cosmology we have brewing in science now and tried to realize some of that in a story. Anyone who has thought even a little about quantum mechanics, relatively of space and time, multiple-universes, etc knows how bizarre and assumption-challenging modern science is.
With hindsight, one thing I think informed my writing of READER, and will even more so the next few books, was/is to try in fiction to do what is desperately needed in our modern mythology. Religion is in decay for many reasons, but part of it is that most of the ideas and imagery of religion are tied to what are basically Dark Ages conceptualizations of the natural world. People tend to react to this by (1) rejecting tradition outright, (2) rejecting modernity outright, or (3) placing spiritual concerns and scientific ones in separate little boxes in their minds where never the two shall meet. Obviously, none of these options works for most people very well, and you have a lot of people either disillusioned with the modern naturalistic worldview or turned off by outdated religious mental constructs. Often both are true in the same individual.
What the world needs is a “New Natural Philosophy”. Something that can encompass our spiritual needs (imagined broadly and not in the limited constructs of the past) and intellectual needs. Of course, READER isn’t that! But I think a lot of scifi wrestles with ideas that might be seeds for that, when some future geniuses can construct a more viable mythology that human beings can work with. A Modern Mythos. So, part of READER was “seasoned” with some of these ideas, big, metaphysical ideas, that are always brewing in my mind.
However, at root READER is the most personal of stories. It is a first person perspective narration. We live, nearly die, suffer, excel, and wonder with Ambra Dawn as she journeys (often unwillingly) through an amazing set of events.
So, most importantly, I wanted to tell the story in my head about her (whether it’s all mine or whether it is indeed hers from the future). I wanted to tell the story in an engaging and challenging way. I wanted people to feel with her and marvel at what happens, and, just maybe, think a little bit about the Big Picture all around us.
That won’t be for everyone, of course. But I like adventures and thinking about these things, and READER shares some of that enthusiasm.
Reader (Daughter of Time #1) by Erec Stebbins
Published by Twice Pi Press on Apr 29, 2013
Genres: Science Fiction, YA
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads
From the future, a final plea. Out of the past, a last hope.
From the author of THE RAGNARÖK CONSPIRACY comes a science fiction adventure unlike any you have ever known.
She was a VICTIM: enslaved after her parents’ murder. She was made a MONSTER: deformed, modified against her will. She became a MESSIAH: opening the Orbs and leading a galactic rebellion.
Share the cosmic quest of seventeen-year-old Ambra Dawn, Reader, and the most unbelievable step in the adventure – will be your own.