The woods can be a spooky place at night with the shadows of the trees eliciting horror if you allow your imagination to run riot. Tonight I am joined at the campfire by Horror fantasy author Eric Shapiro.
- Hi Eric tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?
Hey, Matthew. I’m the author of a bunch of dark fiction and screenplays and the co-owner of a Silicon Valley newspaper called The Milpitas Beat. As a kid, my mom inspired me to write by instituting a no-boredom policy in the home. If I said I was bored, she’d tell me (lovingly) to write a story. As an adult, I stay inspired by dreaming up characters whose minds I find fascinating and want to explore.
- What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?
You know, I think I was thrown at you by my publicist Michael Evan (laughs) even though I don’t specialize in fantasy! The good news is, I have some fantasy stories kicking around in my mind. I also tend to see horror as surrealism, which you could argue is a subdivision of fantasy. Anything psychotropic that challenges the banality of consensus reality is worth looking at. It keeps our minds expanded and healthy.
- Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?
My latest fiction release is called RED DENNIS. It came out this past March from Independent Legions Publishing, just as the pandemic was starting. It was a challenge in the sense that it was my first proper novel, after having written 5 novellas. This book was almost the length equivalent of 3 novellas. So the challenges were keeping it tight and propulsive, and also staying in one narrator’s mind for that long, particularly since he’s a very troubled person. I started thinking I was him at times. So how’s that for being into fantasy? (laughs)
- What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?
I’m almost exclusively drawn to protagonists who are neurotic or psychotic. There’s a ton of me in them. They’re not me, but they’re strong aspects of myself, either latent-shadow elements or more overt representations where it’s just me under different circumstances. The protagonists in my novellas IT’S ONLY TEMPORARY, THE DEVOTED, and LOVE & ZOMBIES sound almost exactly like me, but they’re all individuated – from me and from each other. There are subtle yet huge differences; it’s like I’m an actor playing different roles. The protagonist in RED DENNIS doesn’t quite sound like me, but he’s one door down; he lives in an area I feel awkward and alarmed about. Again, it’s like I’m an actor and each time I draw a protagonist, I’m pulling different points of emphasis but using my own available human materials.
- For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?
The more you practice, the more spontaneous and automatic it becomes. This can be helpful from a productivity and inner-access standpoint (as in having access to yourself and your emotions), but it can be hurtful in terms of finding passion to start something new that’s really special. Once you’re used to the medium and confident in your ability to put out professional work, the bar for what gets you excited gets much higher. So I’ve learned that there’s no replacing ass-plus-seat experience, but as you accumulate it, you might lose a little excitement or edge about the work and have to rediscover or rekindle it.
- What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?
I wrote a whole book about this, also out in 2020, called ASS PLUS SEAT. It’s 21 tips for inspiring writers to finish their books and screenplays. The title states the main ethic: You have to sit down and do it. Start writing and then the muse arrives. She’s not capable of making you begin.
- Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?
A little bit of both, with a strong lean toward pantser. I plot insofar as I have a clear scenario in which to operate, then pants my way through it and usually end up surprised by where it goes.
- What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?
I’d love to do a book series; that’s one of my goals. A trilogy or a saga that expands beyond three stories. I’ve yet to settle on a world or scenario, but I’ll know it when I have it. The whole idea’s set to a simmer for now.
- With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?
Anything that’s frank or candid goes down well, at all times. As long as it’s not lying to me, I think it’s part of the solution.
- What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?
Star Wars all the way! I just last night watched A NEW HOPE with my kids for the first time. They loved it. There’s three trilogies, of course: the original, the prequels, and the Disney ones, and major peaks and valleys in terms of motivation and quality, but at its best that’s a ridiculously exciting and inspiring world.
Check out Eric via the links below-