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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Interview of Eric K Edstrom

Author name:
Eric Kent Edstrom

Book Title:
Release Date:

1. What made you decide to write this book?
I had a epiphany about bigfoot, of all things. I was driving along one day, and I had the flash of insight. The ideas people have about this legendary creature are all wrong. It's not some kind of missing-link ape; it's intelligent. And if there's one of them, there's a whole city full of them.

But the story isn't about bigfoot, really. It's about a group of teens on a youth excursion in the Canadian Rockies—kind of like Outward Bound—and they all come from different backgrounds, different places. They all have these troubled lives back home, and the hike is an escape for them.

But then they run into bigger trouble when they encounter bigfoot. From that point on, it's quite an adventure.

2. What is the genre?
I'm calling it YA Adventure. There are fantasy/science fiction elements to it, a dash of romance between the two main characters, and a lot of running for your life.

3. How did you start your career?
My nephew posted to Facebook that he was going to do NaNoWriMo. I had long harbored a desire to write a novel, so I did it. My nephew, dropped out after the first day, BTW.

4. Who/what inspired you?
I'm inspired by stories of struggle and how people overcome the challenges in their lives. If you view people's lives as a story, everyone is the main character from their POV. So when I read about someone who as accomplished something great, despite all kinds of failure, obstacles, or impossible odds, I just get motivated to get going.

As for what inspires the stories I write, I just write what I want to read. I enjoy action, suspense, and to see characters grow and gain wisdom. With Undermountain, I wanted to put characters in to a strange world and see how they would deal with it. And because my characters are all teens, they are preloaded with angst and confusion. Immersing them in deeper trouble serves to magnify all their emotions.

One of the themes of the story is the transition from child to adult, from having choices made for you and making choices for yourself. When you're a teen you're in this gray place between, and it naturally causes conflict.

What was super interesting for me was that from the perspective of the bigfoot characters in the book, the whole human race is in it's teens and can't be trusted to make the right choices.

5. How long have you been writing?
I think I started my first novel when I was about 15, so a long time. I never finished that one, though. Starting has always been the easy part.

6. Did it start as a hobby or a passion – planned or unplanned?
I started it as a challenge. The idea of writing an entire book was so daunting, I couldn't think of anything beyond writing "The End." I didn't allow myself to worry about getting a publisher or whether to go indie. I focused all my energy on writing.

7. Would you have changed anything about your story?
Every time I read it, I see a spot where I could have added a beat or tweaked a description. But I'm not a fan of the George Lucas school of continuing to change the story. Once you release it and people read it, it's no longer yours to screw around with like that.

8. What have you learned in the process?
For me, writing is a process of discovering what I think. It seems backwards, like you should know the story and the points you're trying to make before you start. But I don't work that way. I do outline the plot, but when I get into the scenes, I have these characters saying things and reacting, and I realize they're dealing with the same stuff I'm dealing with. After all, it is coming out of my own brain, so the subconscious has to play its part.

9. What do you consider your writing style to be?
I have not consciously mimicked any other writers, so I can't draw comparisons. But I hope that my writing is clear, concise and fairly transparent. I hope that the characters' voices come out, and that they are engaging and distinct.

10. Did you have any support during the process or no support?
I had the support of my whole family. They've always known I had a talent for writing, so I think they were thrilled for me to finally express it.

11. Who would you consider to be your hero?
There is only one hero for me: Luke Skywalker. It's geeky, but there it is. I admire a lot of real people for their work and accomplishments, but I don't view them as heroes.

12. What would you tell other aspiring authors?
Finish! Finish as quickly as you can, especially the first draft. I outline my plots, and then I dictate the first draft because it's so incredibly fast. After I get the transcriptions back, I go through and begin revisions.

But even if you don't dictate (most writers seem very resistant to the idea), I recommend to not go back and revise during your first draft. Just plow forward. I know it's hard to resist, but you must! One way to do it, is to gloss over stuff you can't think up on the spot. One example is descriptions. When I'm in the rush of telling the story, my descriptions are very thin. But I just put in some place holder lines and then flesh out the details later.

I read a great blog post from Mary Robinette-Kowal about using brackets to place-holder descriptions and stuff ( I highly recommend her writing, BTW! Jane Austen with magic.

13. Did you find the journey to be a difficult one?
Of course! Why bother if it's going to be easy? The satisfaction upon completion is awesome.

The worst part is when you realize you've got to delete large chunks of writing. That happened three times on Undermountain. But it's more of a mental game, because once you're to that point, you know what you need to do. Then it's just a matter of digging in.

14. What was the happiest point; when the manuscript was completed or when the book was put in print?The happiest point was when I had a non-family member beta-read it and they loved it. You never know if what you've written is crap or not until you get unbiased feedback.

15. What are your plans for the future of your writing career?
I plan to continue writing, continue publishing and hopefully growing my readership. I'm deep into book two and three which I'm working on simultaneously, the same way they'll shoot movies back to back. I hope to have the series wrapped up and published by the end of the year. Book two should be out this summer.

16. Looking back, would you have changed anything?
I would have outlined the book from the start. It was only after about 50,000 words that I realized I had no idea how to end the book. I stopped, outlined the whole thing, saw the structure of it, then threw out about half of it, and then was able to continue forward. I will never take on a novel project without an outline again! Never!

17. Do you feel that the story took on a life of it's own, or did it go just as you planned?
The story did not take on a life of it's own. Nor did my characters start behaving in ways that I didn't ask them to. I've heard this from other writers, but I have not experienced that.

Then again, I tend to think in terms of scenes. I say to myself, "You know what would be a cool scene? What if the boy and the girl are having a kind of flirty/romantic moment by a waterfall only to have it interrupted by bigfoot!" Then I focus all the action on getting to that moment.

18. What is your favorite saying or quote; and why?
I think about this quote almost every day: "Only what you take with you."—Yoda.

Obviously, the quote doesn't make any sense without context. It comes from a scene in the greatest movie of all time, The Empire Strikes Back. In it, Luke Skywalker is studying the ways of the Force on Dagoba with Yoda. One day, Luke senses the dark side of the Force emanating from a cave. Luke asks, "What's in there?" And Yoda's response is, "Only what you take with you."

The reason I love that quote is because Yoda's answer can be generalized. No matter where you go, all you'll find is what you take with you, in the form of your own prejudices, wisdom, fears or strength.

Thinking about that scene gives me chills (I know, very geeky), but after Yoda tells Luke he won't need his lightsaber, Luke takes it anyway. Yoda's comment has such resonance because Luke took a weapon into the cave and he found a fight, and of course the dark side of himself as embodied by the vision of Darth Vader.

Oh wow I love that movie. I need to go watch it right now!

19. Tell us something, that most people don't know about you.
I'm terrified of monkeys. I can't explain it, but they give me the creeps. Any movie that has a monkey in it freaks me out. (Unless it’s an enormous gorilla like King Kong, which is okay for some reason.)

The only thing worse than a monkey would be a monkey clown!

Heres an excerpt:

Danny’s eyelids fluttered open as he became aware of a high, keening noise—like a hawk shriek—in the distance.
Breyona sat up blinking. “What the hell was that?”
The shriek came again, a bit louder. Its echo sent a chill across Danny’s arms. “I think it’s in the woods behind us. Must be a bird or something.” Again the shriek, this time followed by two shorter calls.
“That’s too loud to be a bird,” Breyona said. She scrambled to her feet, then offered Danny a hand to pull him up. Another shriek tore the air. An instinctive impulse backed them away from the trees and toward the stream. “What’s keeping the old man?” Breyona watched the trees and rubbed her elbows.
Danny checked the far bank. No Harvin.
Crashing sounds thundered from the forest. Another shriek, this time loud enough to make the hair stand up on Danny’s neck. Breyona moved close to him, and they stood frozen, listening to the approaching racket.
Shriek. Crash. Shriek. Followed by a deep growl. Danny grabbed Breyona’s hand. “I think we should cross over to Harvin’s side. That sounded like a bear.”
Breyona nodded. “Maybe it’s chasing something.”
They scrambled back to the spot the old mountaineer had crossed the stream. A dozen birds took flight, startled by another piercing call.
Danny followed on Breyona's heels as she started across, stepping from rock to rock. The stream swirled and roiled below him, sending up icy splashes that soaked his boots. Halfway across, his foot slipped from a stone, sinking him knee-deep in the water. The force of the stream knocked him sideways, and he started to toppled.
Breyona caught his flailing arm and steadied him. “I said Shiv was going to fall in, not you!”
Danny tried to step back up onto the rock, but his waterlogged boots couldn’t get traction.
Another shriek.
The icy water had already numbed his leg below the knee. Breyona pulled, and he managed to get one foot up.
She adjusted her feet to get better leverage. “Come on, Danny. Time to get out of the kiddie pool.”
A roar froze him. He looked upstream, then gasped. “Holy crap!”
His expression got Breyona’s attention, and she followed his gaze. “Oh my God!”
Silhouetted against the blue sky, two strange creatures sloshed across the top-tier of the waterfall, kicking plumes of water behind them.
The first creature shrieked again and again as it splashed across. Its two long-snouted heads sat atop sinuous necks, which sprouted at the top of a tall, upright torso. The body stood upon four spindly legs that ended in sharp points; the tips glistened with every step.
Behind it loped an enormous man-beast, tall and fur-covered. Its arms swung in long arcs as it ran.
Both creatures struggled against the rush of water. The shrieker thrashed its way ashore, then disappeared in a blur of speed. The bigfoot paused, seeming to catching its breath, before it too dashed from view.
Danny stared, slack-jawed, then looked at Breyona. Her eyes were as wide as one of Vincent’s poker chips. “What the ...?”
A splash and a growl came from behind Danny. Breyona screamed and let go of his arm. He fell back into the stream. A bone-crushing chill engulfed him. His head cracked into a rock, sending a lightning bolt of pain through his skull. He kicked and clawed for the surface. He fought to get his feet under him, desperate for air.
Huge hands grabbed and lifted him. He took shivering gulps of air as the water suddenly fell away below. An arm, strong as steel, clamped around his middle. His vision was blurry from the stinging water.
“Harvin?” he asked, half-choking.
No answer.
His hands went to the arm wrapped around his ribs.
He cried out and kicked his legs. He beat at the arm until it released him, and he fell, scraping his hands and knees on rocky ground. Pain and fear told him to run, but he could do nothing but cough, gasp and tremble. He turned his eyes just enough to see a giant, fur-covered foot next to him.
“Breyona!” he called.
She didn’t answer.
What had this—thing—done to her?
He looked up. An eight-foot tall creature towered over him. Black hair covered every inch of its body, shaggy on the limbs but shorter and smoother at the bear-like neck and head. Massive muscular legs and arms dripped with water from the stream. The monster watched him, head tilted to one side like a curious dog. Its wide unblinking eyes, green as emeralds, pinned Danny where he stood.
A scream built in Danny's chest, but only a raspy moan came out.