This week, I’d like to introduce you to another author to watch.
Almost two years ago, I ran across a novel titled “Reader: Daughter of Time Book 1”. To say I was impressed is an understatement. The writing is astounding–almost poetic, the plot awesome and the character development amazing.
Two years later, this book is still with me.
Now, the trilogy is complete with the releases of “Writer” and “Maker”, two books, which carry on the mix of hard science fiction, space opera and an added dash of romance. The entire trilogy is imaginative, mind-bending and worth the read.
This talented and unforgettable author is none other than the estimable and eclectic Erec Stebbins.
Erec, welcome to my little corner of the universe. It’s a genuine pleasure to have you here.
Thanks for asking me over, Yolanda.
So Erec, as a biomedical researcher by day what inspired you to pursue a writing career?
I’m not sure that I can really call it a pursuit of a career at this point (still have my day job!), but I’ve always liked to write. In high school I helped found an underground magazine that printed a lot of poetry, short stories, op-ed pieces, and even graphic arts. My creative side took a back seat to graduate school and professional and family demands, but I determined in 2008 to write a novel that had been brewing in my mind for a number of years (The Ragnarök Conspiracy). That opened the floodgates to ideas and characters that I had just shelved or ignored and I began to write down their stories as well as develop new ones.
What did you grow up reading?
Like my own genre writing, mostly thrillers, fantasy, and sci-fi, with the obligatory “great literature” books, only some of which I felt were truly “great”. Everything from Tolkien to Ludlum to Asimov and e.e. cummings. Like in music, my tastes are eclectic.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Once my brain reached a stage of being able to write and recognize what I was doing, I would say it wasn’t so much “wanting to be a writer” as just “being one.” Did I always want to have a career as a writer? No, for the simple reason that I didn’t think it was feasible. I also have a strong interest in the sciences, and that seemed a more practical choice. I think about the possibility more now, but I still haven’t found a way to convince myself that one can live off the effort!
After reading “Reader”, I was totally amazed by your ability to create such an amazing story. I create my stories from my dreams, so you can imagine how “Reader” affected me. How did you come up with the amazing idea and story for the Daughter of Time trilogy?
I wanted to write a “superheroine” book for my then middle school-aged daughters, the story of a “girl that saves the universe”. Inspired by the starlight over the Aegean, I began to write the novel one summer visiting my wife’s family in Greece. By the time I had made much progress on the manuscript (which took a back seat to my first thriller), my daughters were in high school and the tone and maturity of the novel wasn’t right for them (as their initial devastating critiques revealed!). I then rewrote it from scratch for older readers. So it has some remainder of the YA flavor of the initial drafts, especially in the beginning, but it turns darker fast. Books 2 and 3 have left the initial universe of that gestation far behind.
Otherwise, I was interested in exploring themes and some ideas from a variety of science fiction authors and modern cosmology and trying to find my own “mythology” to harmonize some of the disparate conceptions of reality. Ideas of the subjectivity and limitations of human perception and understanding played important roles, as did ideas of causality, time, superstructure, divinity, and infinity.
As for the ideas themselves, I don’t know where they come from. They just come. I easily spin ideas, many of them dead ends! Sometimes they come at night (not in dreams like you, but before sleeping, in that half-awake state), sometimes in the shower, or walking to work. Sometimes things just “happen” while writing, and a chapter, or even series of chapters, turns in a direction with ideas and descriptions I didn’t see coming. A kind of “controlled chaos” likely best describes the process.
I love the logline for Extraordinary Retribution:Evil is not born of madness, but madness of evil. What inspired this novel?
A very personal reaction to the US program of extraordinary rendition and torture. In particular, the idea that a state machinery could ever use such methods and be “just”. And the cases of innocents rendered and tortured at so-called “black sites” across the world helped fuel my outrage. I found myself asking the question of what would happen if one of those innocents snapped, was broken in mind and body, but in a way that led not to frozen dysfunction, but hyper-function in a mission of pathological vengeance. My mind spun possibilities.
What plays out in the book is a bit of the “wrath of God” incarnate in a wronged madman, and the good people who try to stop him and yet come to see what created him, empathize even as they seek to destroy him. It’s a novel with a lot of gray and questioning of authority and established wisdom in the war on terror. I would actually consider it my most “patriotic” book, despite how many conservatives have viewed it. To me it is a lament for the values of an America I fear we risk losing.
I absolutely adore fairy tales. Shrek, Cinderella and Snow White are my favorites. What made you want to write “The Caterpillar and the Stone”?
This is a highly personal story, over 20 years old, spun from a young man’s broken heart as he tried to come to terms with a loss that he could not understand or find a way to overcome. Turning it into myth was a survival tactic to try to give transcendental meaning to something that often seemed to overwhelm him with nihilistic conclusions about love and relationships. It was an effort to redeem through myth what seemed broken in reality.
Normally, authors are told to try to stick with one genre and if you write another, change your name so your first genre readers aren’t confused. What made you decide to keep your real name with each of your different genres?
Reckless optimism. That and a desire for simplicity. Who wants to juggle multiple identities?
I noticed that Twice Pi Press publishes most of your books. Is this your company and do you intend to branch out with other authors in the future?
Yes, it’s mine, setup to release my self-published works. For now it is going to feature my books until others come knocking.
So, do you recommend that all self-publishers create their own publishing company? How difficult is it to set up?
I think it’s a concrete way to take ownership of your writing. It plants a flag that says “I’m an artisanal author and this is my shop.”
As for setup, initially one can be a simple sole-proprietor with a work force of one and little legal/tax overhead. If one truly starts employing others and it becomes more than an artist shop (with books!), then I would recommend legal/economic advice!
What do we have to look forward to in the future from you?
I’m turning back to thrillers for a bit after the “Daughter of Time” trilogy. I’m in the middle of writing one now that combines the characters from my previous two in a global narrative of suspense, threat, and mayhem.
I’ve also begun to plan out yet another genre jump, this time into mysteries! I have an outline for a detective series with a rather unique sleuth, and the plot for the first novel is a killer!
There are also some rough and complicated ideas brewing for my next foray into speculative fiction. Two books actually, linked together. That’s a bit more down the road, which is good, because the idea hasn’t really gelled yet and it needs some time to mature in my mind.
Erec, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time out to speak with me. It has been my pleasure to introduce you to my readers.
I hope they’ll be interested in checking out some of my books. I appreciate the chance to talk about my work.