This week’s #SPFBO Author Interview is with Josh Erikson. Josh has been "writing" for twelve years, but only finishing writing for about four of those. He spent most of his adult life working in hospitality management until circumstances lined up well enough to stop that, and now he's trying to tell stories in exchange for money...or anything, really. Pies are also acceptable. He lives in a small town you've never heard of in Nebraska, U.S. with his wife and two young children. There he splits his time evenly between reading, writing, playing any game within arm's reach, and convincing people not to put a "c" in his last name. His award-lacking first novel, Hero Forged, was independently published on Amazon on June 2nd, 2018.
Why did you enter #spfbo?
Honestly? Because I'm terrible at networking. Also at marketing. Also basketball, but that's not really relevant. SPFBO felt like an amazing opportunity to connect with other Indie authors and fantastic bloggers, and that alone was worth giving it a shot. I'm naturally pretty timid about putting myself out there unless forced to, and that makes self-promotion a rough proposition. This contest is a little spotlight at this stage, with the promise of a larger one for the lucky few. In my weird brain, that makes it easier for me to talk about myself and be vocally proud of my work. And if I can come away with some new friends among these cool people, I'll have felt like I won something great no matter what. (Crowd: "Awwwww.")
What is the first book that made you cry?
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. I somehow made it all the way to my freshman year in college without crying over a book, then I ran into this thing deep in the stacks late one night. I had no idea what I was getting into, and I came out of it a changed person. But when I went to all my friends with my blazing new shard of enlightenment held aloft, they were all like, "Yeah. Good book, dude. Little light on plot, I guess." So maybe I'm just odd.
Pick 3 book characters to take on a D & D campaign. Who are they and why would you take them?
I love this question so much. First, Snorri ver Snagason from Mark Lawrence's The Red Queen's War series. And no, I'm not sucking up. That guy is an unstoppable melee machine and seems pretty cool with dragging along useless comic relief--which would be essential for my survival in the party. Next, Granny Weatherwax from Pratchett's Discworld series. Apart from her powers as a magic user, her intimidation skill is off the charts. And finally, Kvothe from Rothfuss's Kingkiller series. The traveling music would be nice, and that guy is good at pretty much everything he does. So a bard, basically.
What drew you to self-publishing?
Impatience. No, sorry, it sounds better if I say "Earnest belief and pride in my work." I did the query letter thing a few dozen times before I realized I was spending over half of my writing time on it. Researching agents, writing custom letters, refreshing my inbox every six seconds, then filing rejections by length and severity...it all adds up. So I went the Indie route to get any kind of momentum going forward. I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a shot myself. So far that theory is still in the testing phase.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I honestly think originality is what people want now--whether they know it or not. Our world is absolutely drenched in fiction these days, but the vast majority of it is "In the spirit of..." or "From the studio that brought you..." so we basically know what to expect from any entertainment we pick up. It's only when creators introduce a new twist or pioneer a new subgenre that big waves are made. And riding those crests are where the biggest successes are. Getting people to try the new thing is another matter. That being said, I think you still have to speak the basic language of storytelling and deliver on some of the expected plot and structure elements. You can't just kill off your whole cast mid-book and then fill the rest of your pages with Jell-O recipes. So this is essentially a cop-out answer and completely useless to you. Sorry about that.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
MANY. But I only have two that are finished and unpublished. One is the sequel to Hero Forged, my SPFBO entry. It's already in pretty good shape, so I expect it to be out this Fall. The other is the first story of any length I ever finished, and the first thing I ever really applied myself to. (I'm 37 and that was only four years ago, so that tells you how good I got at coasting through life.) It's a 250,000-word Epic Steampunk Fantasy with seven POVs, a complexly interwoven plot, morally ambiguous characters, and the setup for at least two more entries in the series...as my practice book. It would definitely need some work to ever see the light of day. In retrospect, I probably should have started out with a story in the five-digit range about a talking dog that wears sunglasses or something.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes. Lots of them. It's a fun game for me to hide deep symbolism and secrets in a book that, at its heart, is a silly monster story. It's like making bake-sale cookies with expensive, imported chocolate. Most people might just gobble the thing down and give you a quick high-five, and that's 100% cool. But a few might find the extra effort you put in, and that little spark of revelation and connection is the absolute best. I even have some secrets that won't play out for several books, and I feel like a kid with a hidden stash of candy when I put those in.
A dragon lands in front of your Main Character, what would they do?
My main character is a mediocre con artist, so he'd probably run. But if that wasn't an option, he'd definitely try to talk his way out of it first.
"Whoa, crap! What the... Hey there, mister, uh, dragon? Right, of course, you are. Why wouldn't there be a dragon? But then you don't seem to be killing me; that's an alright start, I guess. I'm just passing through here and totally not interested in your hoard, or whatever. So I'll just be headed--AH!! Hot! Yes, okay! Point taken. That was some impressive fire. You're probably a big hit at the Ren Faire, huh? ...No? Fine, so you're not the murdery kind of dragon, and you're not the jokey, cartoon kind. Any chance you can give me a hint toward the endgame here so we can speed this along? You want me to answer a riddle or retrieve a chalice or something? I'm obviously a totally powerful champion with a deep, tragic backstory, so lay your quest on me, Puff. I've got stuff to do."
To learn more about Josh Erickson, click the links below.
Amazon Link to SPFBO entry, Hero Forged: http://a.co/hGXVIPB