Monday, 12 November 2012

Author Interview: Eric R. Johnston

What is your name (or pen name) and where do you live now?
I am Eric R. Johnston, and I live in Imlay City, Michigan (US)

Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
My earliest desires for what I wanted to be when I grew up centered on a couple of things that all seem to relate. I wanted to be an astronaut or an astronomer. I was really fascinated with the planets and stars, and hoped one day to go to the moon. With a love of science came a love of science fiction. That naturally branched out into fantasy and horror and all types of creative literature. I loved reading stories and novels, but it wasn’t until my sixth grade teacher read a story I had written and encouraged me by entering me into a writing competition did I realize that writing was something I had a real gift for.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it what would you say?
My latest book is called A Light in the Dark, which is the sequel to my novel An Inner Darkness. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in which good and evil are fighting each other for what remains of the Earth—which happens not to be very much. The entire world is a desert wasteland. All the oceans are dried up; water is a very scarce resource.

A Light in the Dark is the story of Julian and Gaylen, who are both now adults. When we last saw them in An Inner Darkness, they were both babies, only a few weeks old, having both just undergone a major surgery separating them. They were conjoined twins. Gaylen, at the end of An Inner Darkness, is taken away and grows up apart from his twin. Julian has no idea he has a twin, while Gaylen wants nothing more than to be reconnected, emotionally as well as physically.

While Gaylen is struggling to find his way back to his twin brother, Julian is discovering things about his life that just don’t add up, that everything he had ever known was a lie. Everyone around him, it seems, has been corrupted by evil forces. It isn’t long before he is forced to become the leader that humanity needs to fight off the evil that threatens to destroy what’s left.

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
About a year. I have the original idea, but I usually don’t start writing on it right away. I think about it, think about how to make it unique, how to write something that hasn’t been written before. Then I will write the first quarter of a draft and then read it over and see what’s working and what isn’t and then develop the novel further, expanding the characters  as I do so. And then I expand the novel from the inside out, letting the characters take me on the journey. Then when I have a complete draft, I will go over it several more times to flesh things out, make cuts where necessary, and make sure my characters are behaving in ways that make sense.

Do you have plans for a new book?
I am currently writing one called Dirge of Chronos, which ties into the story of An Inner Darkness and A Light in the Dark, in so much that a character from those two books is in this one. Additionally, this book’s story is a consequence of the ending for A Light in the Dark. So, in a way, Dirge of Chronos can be considered a third book in this series, but it could also be read easily as a standalone novel, and may possibly be the first book in its own series.

What genre would you place your books into?
Most of my books are Dark Fantasy, but I have one, Harvester: Ascension, that I consider Sci-Fi Horror.

What made you decide to write that genre of book?
This is the genre that I have always been drawn to as a reader, so naturally that is what I write.

Do you have a favourite out of the books you have written? If so why is it your favourite?
The combination of An Inner Darkness and A Light in the Dark are my favorites. Together they really form a single novel. It is the first book I wrote on my own. The first, Harvester: Ascension, was co-authored with Andrew Utley.  With An Inner Darkness and A Light in the Dark, I really tested my storytelling capabilities, since these are very complex stories with a wonderful cast of characters. When I had to leave these characters after completing A Light in the Dark, it was really a sad day for me.

Do you have a favourite character from your books? Why are they your favourite?
Julian from A Light in the Dark is my favorite. Many people ask if my characters are based on anyone in real life…and with the case of Julian I have to answer YES. He is based on ME. He is at times insecure, confused, unsure of the intentions of the people around him. Writing this character was really me exploring these aspects of my own life and personality.

Where do you get your book plot ideas from? What/Who is your inspiration?
I try to think about stories that I read and make them original…often times by combining two ideas that do not seem like they would really go together.

Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I just write…but I usually don’t write unless I’m ready to write. If I’m not feeling inspired, I will edit instead.

Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
My titles change all the time throughout the writing process. I’m not settled on a titled until the work is done. However, I usually have a working to title to start with, but I am open to this changing.

How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
Sometimes I will choose a first name that I like and think of a last name that sounds good with it, usually based on a rhythm.  Place names depends….in An Inner Darkness and A Light in the Dark, I just made up place names based on a number of syllables that I wanted in each name. In Harvester: Ascension, which takes place in the real world, I used real cities, primarily Detroit and New York City.

Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
No. The characters speak to me as I write.

Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
I reread what I have and see where I can go from there. It’s amazing how many doors seem to open when you read over and evaluate what you’ve written.

Is there a certain author that influenced you in writing?
Stephen King is my biggest influence.

What is your favourite book and why?  Have you read it more than once?
The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass. It came out in the fall of 1997, just when I was starting high school and really embarking on a journey of self-discovery. I started listening to music that wasn’t necessarily what my parents listened to, and reading more challenging books, including novels, history, and heavy-handed science. We had just moved into an old farmhouse that was spacious enough for me to have a place to be alone. I come from a large family, and it was the first time I’d ever had my own room. I have many pleasant memories of cranking up Metallica and reading Wizard and Glass, while going on this journey of self-discovery. In the novel, Roland Deschain details his own journey of self-discovery as a fourteen-year-old boy. I wholly identified with that. It was the perfect book for me at that time, and it will be with me always.
I have read it about 7 times

Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst  book to movie transfer?
Sometimes. My favorite movie based on a book is The Green Mile by Stephen King. My least favorite is Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining. I hate this movie because the only thing it has in common with the book is the title and the character names—note that this is different than saying they are the same characters. They are not even close.

What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it?(ebook, hardback or paperback)
I am currently reading a book called Evolution’s Workshop: God, Science, and the Galapagos Islands. It is book that details the history and significance of the Galapagos Islands to our understanding of life on Earth. It is in paperback format.

Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?

What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Don’t give up.  Just keep writing. You will improve constantly if you keep at it. And also, rejection is part of the business. Don’t take rejection personally.

You can purchase Eric's books on Amazon.
Eric R. Johnston was born and raised in the Flint area of Michigan. He wrote his first complete short story when he was in 8th grade. It was a simple tale about a group of teenagers who try to conjure up the spirit of a recently deceased super model. The story bordered on sadistic and entered the realm of the obscene, but it was an interesting foray into the world of creative fiction.In college, he double-majored in English and History, taking an emphasis in American Literature and American History. He then earned a teaching certificate in secondary education, teaching Social Studies and English. Currently, writing and editing are his full-time job, but he substitute teaches a combination of long-term teaching assignments and day-to-day assignments. He lives in Imlay City, Michigan with his fiancee, daughter, and two step-daughters.

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