Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Author Interview with Eric Dontigney
Welcome to my author interview and many thanks to Eric Dontigney for being the first, Eric is the author of fantasy novel, 'Falls' and 'Falls: Revised and Expanded'
1/ Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in Western New York, in a small community where family farms were still pretty common. I’ve earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy and I’m working a graduate degree. I’ve had a lot of truly awful jobs, including a stint doing telemarketing, working in restaurants, and being part of the cleaning staff at a major retail outlet. At present, I make my living as freelance writer, which is the very best job I’ve ever worked. I currently live in Memphis, TN, which is a place everyone should make a point to visit.
2/ When and what made you decide you wanted to be a writer?
I’m pretty sure that what made me decide I wanted to be a writer was the first time someone gave me money to write. It’s a life-altering experience when you realize that it’s not just a myth that you can get paid to puts words down on paper. It probably sounds a little crass to put it that way, but being a writer is as much a job as a calling. Of course, I also write because it’s arguably the thing I have the most talent for, and it’s an ugly thing to waste talent. Lastly, but not least, I decided I wanted to be a writer because I love writing. If you don’t love writing, you really should find something else to do with your time.
3/ Can you tell us something about your books, genre?
My books fall pretty squarely into the realm of contemporary fantasy, but share enough elements with urban fantasy that they probably also qualify as part of that sub-genre. I suppose the defining element of a contemporary/urban fantasy is that it borrow heavily from the real world in terms of setting and lays a fantastical patina over it. I certainly find that the more you can limit the fantastical elements in a book, the easier it is for readers to buy into the world you build. By making the timeframe more or less current and setting the story in a city, albeit a fictional one, it lets readers draw on their own experiences in building the mental landscape.
At their core, the Sam Branch novels are designed to be fun reading, not something that looks to rewrite your world view or provide stunning insight into the human condition. They’re adventure tales and I did my best to keep the stories focused on the adventure.
4/ Where do you get your ideas from?
I don’t know that I have a better answer to this than any other writer. To some extent, the idea for my Sam Branch books stems out of my background in philosophy. A big part of philosophy is analyzing structures. So, I analyzed some of the structures you commonly see in fantasy novels. What I came up with was that there is almost always some kind of council or informal government that sets rules for magic users in fantasy novels. Then I asked myself, what happens if you have a portion of the population that can wield magic, but no formal hierarchy for controlling those people?
I’m also fascinated by the question of how people deal with having power, in any form. In a fantasy novel, magic stands as the analogue for all other kinds of power. Some people have a lot of it and some people don’t, but what happens when you give a lot of power to someone that doesn’t want it? Will they be as susceptible to corruption as anyone else or will they go down a different road?
In the big picture, I think my ideas come from my unconscious filtering new information through my own particular fixations, like power and structure.
5/ Are you working on a new book at the moment?
I’m actually in the home stretch of editing and revising a new novel in the Samuel Branch universe. I took some time to clean up and expand the first Branch novel, Falls, and then re-released it as a lead-in for the new book, Turns. Once the chaos of releasing and promoting Turns dies down a little, I’ll be getting to work on the third, as yet untitled, Branch novel. I’m also developing a short story set in the same universe, but told from the viewpoint Carmichael, one of the other characters in the first and second books.
6/ What are your ambitions concerning your writing career?
Oh, the usual, I expect. Fame. Glory. Hordes of fans mobbing bookstores at midnight on release dates. Christopher Nolan and Peter Jackson engaged in a bidding war for the movie rights to my books. Mostly, though, I’d like to get to that place where I can write novels full-time and tell stories that are compelling enough that people want to come back for the next book.
7/ Which writers inspire you?
I think the writers I find most inspiring are Neil Gaiman and Harlan Ellison. I think what I find so amazing about both of those writers is the skill with which they transition between different forms of writing. While I have no doubt they make it look easier than it is, both seem to shift effortlessly from straight prose narratives to screenplays and essays. Any one of those forms can take a lifetime to really master and both Gaiman and Ellison do them all with an unnatural level of skill.
8/ What book are you reading at present?
I’m usually reading 4-10 books. At present, I’m working on a hilarious novel called “Life Knocks” by Craig Stone. I’m also reading a fascinating book called “A Creator’s Guide To Transmedia Storytelling” by Andrea Philips and a book about special obligations in ethics called “Boundaries and Allegiances” by Samuel Scheffler.
9/ What are your thoughts on reviews, good and bad?
For the most part, I think reviews are a good thing. Most reviewers seem to write reviews out of a genuine love for the written word and a desire to share that love in some way. I think where reviews become a bad thing is when the reviewer has prejudged the work based on genre. Some of the big name reviewers seem to see it as their calling to denigrate anything that is not “literary fiction.” I see little value in that, since not every writer aspires to write “Literature” and much of the work that is considered literary genius is boring, overwrought crap.
10/ What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Do you mean what advice would I offer other than write every single day, including weekends and holidays? Read books outside of the genre you want to write. If all you read are thrillers and you want to write thrillers, then you’re probably going to end up writing something painfully derivative. Give your imagination other material with which to work. Develop an obsession with 3rd Century pottery techniques or genetically modified crops or the House of Romanov and you’ll probably find your writing takes new and interesting turns.
11/ Do you have any advice on how to market your books?
Be persistent, but don’t be relentless. I sometimes see indie writers that post links to their Amazon pages via social media sites up to 20 times a day. That kind of relentless marketing has actually turned me off to books I might otherwise have purchased and read. Also, in this day and age, you’re never just marketing a book; you’re marketing yourself as a public figure. It seems to me that you need to build up something of a cult of personality, at least if you want to make it as an indie author. Doing that means watching what appears on your social networking profiles, twitter feeds, and your own blog. If being controversial is part of what you’re selling, than be controversial, but be ready to defend every single statement and image you’ve ever made public. I think it also means you have to engage in what I call “limited disclosure.” You have to be willing share a portion of your personal life or inner mental world with the public at large. For the sake of every relationship in your life, though, don’t talk about your friends, family or lovers without asking them first.
12/ What would you consider to be the worst thing about being an indie author?
You have to manage every element of the publishing process. There are so many things that need to happen, from finding a decent editor and procuring cover art to formatting files in a way that the publisher’s software can read it. It’s very easy to miss an important detail and that is all before you ever get to the issue of actually marketing the book.
13/ What do you like to do when you’re not writing, hobbies etc?
There are times when I’m not writing? There isn’t a lot of free time in my world at present. Working on the Sam Branch universe is, essentially, my hobby. When I’m not working on Branch-related material, or writing for clients, or working on coursework for my Masters degree, I like to cook. When time permits, I also like to dabble in painting and I do try to build time into my schedule for pleasure reading. There are rumors that I’ve been spotted at local restaurants and pubs, but they, like the Loch Ness Monster, remain unsubstantiated.
14/ How long on average does it take you to write a book, what is your schedule?
Having only written two books to completion, I don’t have a good sense of how long it takes me to write a book. The first one was written over the course of about six months, give or take. The second one was written over the course of about 2-3 years. I tend to write in fits and starts because I have other obligations, like paying work and graduate school. I’m hoping to buckle down a little more on the third book and have it on the market within 12-18 months.
15/ What is your favourite positive saying?
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” ~Woody Allen
I’ve found that to be very true. You may not be in top form every single day, but you can still accomplish a lot just by showing up.
16/ Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your books?
If I was going to pick an actor to play Sam Branch, it would probably be Ryan Reynolds. I think he’s got just enough of the everyman quality, along with a near-perfect deadpan, to play Branch the way I wrote him. As for the other two central characters in the book, Jean and Carmichael, I think I would cast Anne Hathaway and Matt Bomer. Anne Hathaway has enough gravitas to give Jean the depth she needs. Matt Bomer has controlled smooth down to a fine art and that is Carmichael through and through.
17/ Who did your fabulous book covers?
The cover art for Falls was painted by the very talented Heather Ketcham. The cover art for Turns, the new Sam Branch novel, was painted by me.
18/ What is your favourite movie and why?
What an impossible question to answer. If I had to pick just one movie, it would probably be the 1952 film, The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. As to why, I think that film is one of John Wayne’s best performances. The movie had a great script. Also, who doesn’t love Maureen O’Hara?
19/ Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
I really couldn’t even guess. In an ideal world, I’d be writing novels full-time.
20/ Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I’d love to meet Neil Gaiman. He wrote American Gods. That man is my writing hero.
21/ What is your favourite takeaway food?
Does pizza qualify? If so, then I’d say pizza. Generally, though, I prefer to cook my own meals.
Where can you be reached?
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/eric.dontigney