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Today’s interview is with J. Eric Laing.  He is the author of five novels and a collection of short stories. Most recently, his novel Cicada was named among the “Best of 2012” by Kirkus Reviews.
 
To learn more about his work, please visit:  http://jericlaing.com/

1. When did you start writing?

I wrote beautiful flowing verses of poetry in high school of such profundity that angels wept and the muses abandoned all other mortals that they might bestow the sum of their further graces solely upon me. My rhymes were honey upon the tongue and my metre so precise and stirring as to be thought stolen from the architecture of the universe itself. But then, didn’t we all?
2. Are you a pantser or a planner?

Hmm… Let’s say a “planster.” I always have an overall concept/plot well defined before I start. I then usually write and rewrite the first chapter several times over as I work out the voice and feel. I go slowly out of the gate and often retrace my steps if I find I’m deviating from what I had decided upon with that first chapter. Only on a few occasions did I know my ending before setting out, however. And I would say more often than not I have a few if not all the major plot points floating around before I leave port. But other than that, I tend to let a good deal of the journey be determined by whichever direction the creative winds drive. Sorry, starting to sound like my old pin-headed high school poet self, aren’t I?
3. Can you give us an idea of your writing process?

Constant. Once I get neck-deep in a project I parcel out a small portion of my grey matter to it and it alone. I do my best to never turn that little machine off. If I’m awake, it’s ticking away. So then, just about everything that passes through my field of vision gets a once over of “how might I make use of this?” I see a person with a strange mannerism or dog eating trash and suddenly I’m off and looking for a home for it within the narrative. I’m always letting the real world flesh out my fantasies that way.

Nuts and bolts-wise, I tend to do my actual writing in the morning, but, as a night owl, I often feel the constant need to jot things down or steal a few minutes away from the family to get things more concretely into the manuscript regardless of the here and now of dinner on the table or the rental movie having reached a pivotal scene.

And long walks. Solitary walks are, I believe, one of the writer’s greatest allies.
4. Which authors have influenced your work?

More than we have room for without putting everyone to sleep. It’s one hell of a laundry list. There are so many that I wanted to be like—and still do—and more than a few that were great examples of what not to do. For the most part, that latter group is comprised of the sci-fi I devoured in my youth. Not to say sci-fi is bad. No, Bradbury, Vonnegut, Moorcock, Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Phillip K. Dick…giants. Loved ‘em. But there’s been some really, truly awful things penned in the name of sci-fi…probably more so in that genre than in any other. Yeah, I’m looking at you, John Norman.

But among my favorite authors are John Irving, Franz Kafka, Cormac McCarthy, T.H. White, Flannery O’Connor, J. D. Salinger, Jonathan Lethem….
5. What are your plans/future projects/new releases that we should be aware of?

I just put out my latest novel, The Crooked Man’s Mile, this past October, and my novel Cicada was just announced a few days ago by Kirkus Reviews as one of their picks for “Best of 2012.” So that was my best big news of late.

Other than that, I’m currently working on a horror novel that deals with a very current urban-internet-legend. It’s at a very early stage, however. The ship is still docked in the port. So….

Also, my friend and very talented writer, Winston Emerson, has invited me to do an installment to his interactive serial novel, The Object. I’m excited to see what I can cobble together that might be worthy of inclusion in that world. Discover the mystery for yourself here:

http://whatistheobject.com/read-episodes/
6. Any tips for new writers?

Read.
7. Any tips for old writers?

Read me. Please. And then send me your tips.

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