E: Good Morning, Eli, and welcome to Erindipity! Charlie heard you were coming in from across the pond and got a bit excited. He drooled a bit on your scones. You don’t have to eat them.
EW: Good morning and thanks for inviting me along to Erindipity. If you spread strawberry jam on those scones and fresh cream, I won’t be able to resist them.
The man will eat corpse drool on scones with enough jam and cream. I think I have a small author crush.
E: You have a trilogy in the works. What can you tell us about the first two books, Cruel and Four Days?
EW: Cruel is Evan Jameson’s story, set in North East England. It’s a coming of age novel about a man who has hidden his past from himself. When he finds himself squeezing his baby son’s hand so hard that it makes his son scream, he has no choice but to confront his past in an attempt to try and understand what could have shaped him into a parent who could harm his own child. What he discovers when he re-lives his childhood not only shows him how he could so easily slip into monster parent clothes, but also, why he wakes up each day wanting to die.
Four Days is Emily Cullen’s story. This one is set in Washington State. The monster in this story is a psychopathic meth head who abducts Emily over a four day period and submits her to his brutal rules. He thinks he can see ghosts. Emily knows he can’t. She is a clairvoyant and knows the spirits of those who The Monster has killed would never show themselves to him.
The trilogy is written is such a way that you don’t have to read each book in sequence. Although the stories are connected, each book is also self-contained, so you can read one or all of the books.
E: What is the title of the last book and when can we expect that to become available?
EW: Dublin is the third part of the trilogy, it’s due for publication at the end of this year. It’s set in Ireland and brings together the two protagonists from Cruel and Four Days. I really wanted to see what would happen if I put two broken characters like Evan and Emily together and let them loose in a place like Dublin. Feeling like life has let both of them down, they decide to live without any rules and find themselves first squatting in Oscar Wilde’s family home in Merrion Square and later, a country mansion owned by someone called Mr. X. Emily always knew the psychopath who abducted her in Four Days would eventually find her in Ireland, what she didn’t know was how much like The Monster, Evan could become.
E: I’ve been told by more than one person that these books are almost unfit for human consumption, so of course I can’t wait to get my review copies and dig in. What was your process like for these books? What inspired you to write them?
EW: I guess my childhood inspired me to write Cruel (not sure if inspired is the right word). Four Days is something my writing partner (‘Anna Devine) first imagined. She was a volunteer at a drug rehabilitation centre and has firsthand experience of what one human can and does do to another. The writing process involved going into dark places, writing down the things I saw in these dark places and wondering afterwards what the hell I was doing. There are some graphic scenes in the books, but for me, the most disturbing parts are those which are hinted at, the ones where the imagination is left to fill in the gaps. The trilogy is not aimed at the mass market. It’s written for those who maybe don’t feel like they have to like main characters and the situations they find themselves in. It’s written for those who like something a little different, something honest.
E: On your website, you have an article that explains some of your influences. Raymond Carver features heavily in it. What is the most valuable thing you’ve taken from him, whether it was advice given in an essay or something you’ve gleaned from his work?
EW: Unlike Mr. Carver’s short stories, I could go on forever talking about his influence on me. I won’t, though, I’ll keep this brief. I owe a lot to Mr. Carver. He was the first writer to show me that my main characters didn’t have to be heroes or necessary likeable. His simple writing style flowed easily through my mind and sparked so many more thoughts than just the words I was reading in front of me. There is so much depth to his writing, if you look between his simple lines. The most valuable thing I’ve taken from him is to always attempt to instill a sense of strangeness and mystery in my stories.
E: The website says you write children’s stories. These also seem to have a darker flavor to them. How similar are these stories to the ones you write for adults?
EW: I think you should write the same way for children as you do for adults. Of course, you’ve gotta leave out the gratuitous sex and violence, which adults crave, regardless of how much they deny it. So I guess the stories are similar. Napoleon Xylophone has its fair share of ghosts, odd characters and references to God. The main difference is that I substitute humour for sex and violence when I’m writing for children, although my adult sex scenes have been known to stir more than a few laughs!
E: What has been the most rewarding part of being a writer?
EW: From a personal point of view, the most rewarding part of my writing is that I get to write about disabled superheroes for my son. He has a walking disability and asked me why there were not many disabled superheroes in fiction. I couldn’t give him a good enough answer and decided to write Napoleon Xylophone and Witching Hole, instead, which both have disabled protagonists. My son’s favourite superhero is Napoleon Xylophone. Damn, it feels good just writing that last sentence.
If I was to say one of the most rewarding things about being a writer that most other writers could also say then it would be that writing makes things right in the world no matter how bad things are at any one moment. I can be in a boring meeting at work, but in my mind I’m thinking about what my characters is going to do when a doppelganger pulls him into a mirror. Whenever I’m in the dentist seat (even for a simple check-up – I hate the dentist) I can imagine myself in an airship flying above my characters steampunk world, figuring out how to land the airship in the flames below. Writing is generally always on my mind. And generally when I am thinking about writing, I’m happy.
E: If you were speaking to a group of younger writers, what is the one thing you would advise them to look out for mistake-wise?
EW: Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you follow all the advice you receive then you will write great stories. Don’t be like an artist who paints by numbers, you will end up writing unoriginal stories that no one wants to read. It is important to listen and learn from other writers, just like it is important to read a wide variety of books. More so, it’s important for a writer to find their own voice. Once you have a good understanding of the rules of writing, look for ways of changing or improving those rules. You do that by writing, experimenting and being open to good, honest feedback. Getting that feedback can hurt at times, and it is one of the hardest parts of writing. It takes time and effort building up a network of trusted reviewers. Once you have this network, look after it like a best friend and guard it like you would a precious secret.