I am very excited to share an interview with author Eric R. Lowther (http://ericrlowther.blogspot.com/) with you today. Mr. Lowther was kind enough to answer some questions about his work and his approach to writing. There is some very useful information in this interview that will help an aspiring author.
To start off, tell us a little about your work.
I like to describe the bulk of my work as horror, dark fantasy and speculative fiction. I have published a lot of diverse works in a number of small press publications and fiction websites ranging from straight-up ghost tales to vampires that absolutely DO NOT sparkle. I’m also partial to alternate history and playing with legends and lore like Paul Bunyon, the Three Wise Men and even Santa.
Who is your favorite author and is your writing style similar to theirs?
That’s a tough one. I’ve always been partial to Stephen King, Clive Barker, Terry Pratchett, and Don Weiss & Tracy Hickman pairings as far as current popular fiction reading goes. I’m also a fan of Lewis Black’s books, and George Carlin will always be my hero. A lot of my reading is now done through audiobooks. Max Brooks et al did a great job with “World War Z” in audio and “Pride, Prejudice and Zombies” was much more entertaining in its audio than text form. Then there are the classics, of course; Poe, Stoker and the like. My current reading and listening tastes have been more towards other up-and-comers and authors just breaking into the bigger distributions like Jake Bible, Robert R. Best and James Melzer. I’m sure one or all of these have had some influence, conscious or otherwise, though I’m also sure these examples would certainly tell you my voice is nowhere near theirs.
Who is your target audience?
I don’t really shoot for one demographic or another. I know there are teenagers that read me (and really, kids, don’t try any of that shit at home) all the way up to readers in their 50’s and 60’s. The more I can write and entertain across genres and demographics, the better.
How do you begin writing a story? Do you use notes or an outline?
I never use notes, outlines or plot progression layouts. I’m not saying anything against writers who do like them and can use them to great commercial success. My stories usually begin with a kernel that will eventually be the beginning, the middle or the end. Often, I don’t know which it will be until I get half or more through the project. If you think about how the story “needs” to come out or progress too much you’re denying your characters their voices. Strict adherence to notes and outlines, in my opinion, does more to kill a character’s voice and development than bad writing. I like my characters to take me places, not force them to go where they may not want to go.
Do you use your own experiences in your writing?
To some degree I think all writers do. For me, it depends on the individual story. There’s always some part of me that’s just mucking around most every story I’ve ever written. Those who know me well can usually pick them out, though the individual elements aren’t always the same from story to story.
How do you conceive your plot ideas?
I don’t like to use the term “plot”. Writers use plots when they feel their story must go in a certain direction. Like I said, I don’t like to tell stories, I like stories to tell me. I take my inspirations for characters and story concepts from all around me. The genus of my forthcoming zombie apocalypse novels “Area 187; Almost Hell” and “Area 187; Almost Home”, coming this spring from The Library of the Living Dead Press, was in today’s zombie fiction and movies. Most tend to show the whole world overrun. There’s nowhere to go, nowhere that’s truly safe. You know the characters you’re reading or watching may make it through the slice of their lives while you’re there with them, but you’re also pretty sure they’re still going to come to some gruesome end somewhere down the line. I wanted to see what it would be like if the outbreak was caught quickly enough to stop apocalypse, but not so quickly that the implications wouldn’t be felt for decades down the line. The project started out as a novella and eventually grew into a work too large for a single novel because my characters knew they had a bigger story to tell than I did. I listen to my characters and I trust their judgement.
Have you always wanted to write?
I wrote throughout my childhood and teen years but fell out of it through my twenties due to the business of life. I didn’t start again until my early 30’s when writing plot for a LARP group (yes, plot. The storylines in a LARP almost always have to go the way you want them to just to keep everything flowing) I helped run. That got my juices flowing again and I started writing in earnest.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I don’t know if I’m entirely qualified to give advice to anyone on any topic. At one time I was involved in a writer’s site where I was regularly asked to critique other writers, so I guess I can use here what I often told them. 1) know the language and the rules. You can tell me that proper grammar, punctuation and usage stifles your creativity, but if you try to tell an editor that your story is just going to sit in your hard drive. 2) you’re not going to be Keats, King, Hemingway, Kerouac, Koontz, Poe or anyone else for that matter. Those people already are or have been. Your writing is, more than anything else, an extension of you. Don’t try to be another writer. 3) Don’t give up, and as a bonus, it’s never too late. The first story I submitted for publication was 10,000 words. I put a lot of sweat and struggle into my baby. My first rejection letter came, and for my 10,000 words I got only two in return; “no thanks”. That was it. No capitalization and no punctuation; it wasn’t even a sentence. I got my first acceptance just days after for another story and from there I’ve had a moderate amount of small-press success, and that first acceptance came when I was 33. And the last, best and most useful piece of advice I can offer is this; just write, damn it.
What advice would you give to people who “run out of creativity” when writing?
Ah, the dreaded “Block”. It’s odd you would ask that as I’ve been struggling with that very demon off and on for months now. There’s even a story about it on my blog, titled “The Muse”. As far as coping with Block, well, it’s different for every author. What eventually works for me is just bearing down and writing. Sure, I may get 5-10,000 words that are pure crap, but if I can get through that I can usually get myself to a better place. If you’re suddenly unable to walk, you’ll never get your legs back under you by sitting around on your ass. The only way to walk again is to do the work.