Nice to be back after a small hiatus, been focused on editing. SPFBO6 is just around the corner! Click on the banner to go to the page, courtesy of Mark Lawrence. I hope to once again interview you all!
Today I bring you an interview with Eric Shapiro, who is promoting his dark fiction novel Red Dennis, go check it out!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Hmmm, where to begin? I’ve been a ghostwriter for most of my adult life, and have done no end of speeches, memoirs, and script doctoring. But under my own name, I primarily write dark fiction, most recently my psycho novel RED DENNIS. I’m also a co-owner and editor at The Milpitas Beat, a Silicon Valley newspaper.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Usually the protagonist is an alternate-dimension version of me—just me, with my voice, under different circumstances (and thus becoming a different person). And once I’ve got the main character, I give him a goal, which sets the plot into motion. It’s hard to explain as a lot of it happens subconsciously while I’m walking and daydreaming. I’m very feelings-based in my writing. When I have the right emotion, it generally hints at a scenario, which I then begin drafting my way through…
Happy to! RED DENNIS is a championship of depression and toxic masculinity. It’s about a middle-aged man in a small town #metoo scenario who ends up going into a rage and turning to violence.
Who would you say is the main character of your latest novel? And tell me a little bit about them!
His name is Dennis Fordham: Forty years old. More overweight than he admits. With all his best days behind him and his delusions of being cool, handsome, and relevant rapidly fading.
Have you been to any conventions? If so, tell me a little about them!
A couple of the Fangoria ones down in L.A., and a couple witchy ones up here in the San Francisco Bay Area with my wife Rhoda. It’s interesting how the horror conventions overlapped with the magick conventions—same sense of open-mindedness, the costumes, the same will to play and explore.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was about five and my mother, who had a no-boredom policy in our home, encouraged me to fill my spare time by writing stories.
If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?
Whoa—awesome question! Forgive the dreadful cliche, but if there was a good grocery store nearby, I’d definitely head off to a remote cabin in the woods—and write the scariest thing that I could possibly imagine…
What advice would you give new writers?
Just sit down and do it every chance you get. Ignore the loud voice of self-doubt. Ask your friends for honest feedback. Drop the ones who discourage you. Love and hug the ones who are constructive.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding?
The book begins in the Bay Area, where I’ve lived for almost five years now. It then winds to Vegas—one of my favorite places to visit, and the setting of my previous book, LOVE & ZOMBIES—and Indiana, which I’ve driven through a bunch of times on road trips. I tried to convey the flavors and vibes and emotions of all these places.
What inspires you to write?
It usually starts with the psychology of the main character. That’s the core landscape: whatever’s going on in his or her mind, which tends to be damaged and/or extreme.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
It’s the first two paragraphs on any given day, when you have to drop down from the waking world into the writing one.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
I usually try to burn down four straight hours in the morning, before eating, drinking, or doing anything else.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write in any of your books, and why?
I loved orchestrating the twist at the end of RED DENNIS, which had me gasping, crying, and buckling over. I hope other people catch the vibe! (Or else I was just a maniac at a keyboard…)
Did you learn anything from writing your latest book? If so, what was it?
It was my first novel under my own name (non-ghostwritten), so I learned a ton about keeping a breakneck pace across 65,000 words instead of 25,000 words. I also learned how much deeper the characters feel in a bigger and fuller environment; they still follow me around in real life like real people.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
I had to look up pantser! My mind went in a whole ‘nother direction… But I’m half plotter, half pantser: I have a general sense of where things will go, but I’m not pinned to it. I think over-planning inhibits the emotions. Likewise, I’m a gardener. Architects drive me a little crazy in collaboration, though there are a few I love working with. I start with the internal seeds and let the external environment populate based on how they grow.
If you had to give up either snacks and drinks during writing sessions, or music, which would you find more difficult to say goodbye to?
Aaaaaaahhhhh!! You terrible questioner! Music would lose out to snacks and drinks. More drinks; I get thirsty a lot, and sometimes also find that a full bladder can make your writing more intense.
Which is your favorite season to write in, and why?
Probably the dark of winter; I feel more sealed-in, internal, private, and concentrated. Too much light and heat, I find distracting. I want to be outside.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
It is. I try to stay open to questions about them, and remain curious. When I try to solve and crystallize everything about them, the characters take on a canned quality. But when I treat them like beings of infinite complexity, they keep engaging and surprising me. We have to be willing to give them contradictions, depths, and paradoxes. If they’re too straightforward, they don’t seem real.
What are your future project(s)?
I’m working on a graphic novel called ENDFEST with my lifelong buddy Ian Jarvis. He came up with a killer apocalyptic premise, and honored me by inducting me to help him flesh it out. We’re co-writing it and he’s doing all the drawing.
What is your favorite book ever written?
I can’t pick a favorite, but Eric Bogosian’s three novels — MALL, WASTED BEAUTY, and PERFORATED HEART — come close.
Who are your favorite authors?
Bogosian, Denis Johnson, Chuck Palahniuk, Greg F. Gifune, Stephen King, Elizabeth Wurtzel.
What makes a good villain?
It scarcely to never crosses their minds that they’re villains. They have needs they need to fill, based on who they are and how they were raised, and that’s about it.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Walking/hiking, reading, infrared sauna, meditating (ideally daily), restaurants and trips with my wife and kids.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
After all that ghostwriting, I’m ready to retire! But I have always nursed this fantasy about being a locksmith. I don’t know why; you’re kind of like an angel who swoops in to the rescue. You probably meet strange people and get in weird situations—but maybe that’s just the author talking!
Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?
Tea. Especially Red Tea.
You can travel to anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?
Higher octaves, frequencies, and vibrations. I can glimpse them when meditating, but can’t seem to get up there without dying…
Do you have any writing blogs you recommend?
No, but everyone should follow Greg F. Gifune on Facebook. Best surrealist on the planet right now. Truly frightening storyteller. That guy has talent like most of us have cells.
Do you have any writer friends you’d like to give a shoutout to?
See above. Also, my wife Rhoda Shapiro, whose excellent book FIERCE WOMAN is riding around the world like a horse on fire.
Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
Haha! It’s me and the kid versions of Beverly, Stuttering Bill, and Stanley from IT, stealing Beverly’s dad’s truck and road-tripping it through rural Maine. I’m a kid, too, in this adventure, of course.
What superpower would you most like?
Hearing what people are thinking.
What are two of your favorite covers of all time? (Not your own.)
Swear on my life, the best covers anywhere are at Independent Legions Publishing, which published RED DENNIS. (Sorry for punting!)
It’s a very difficult time right now for the world. When quarantine and pandemic comes to an end, what is the first thing you would like to do?
Let’s just say the potential end of movie theaters and buffets is breaking my heart.
Finally, what is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
I love interacting with readers and fellow writers on Facebook.
And RED DENNIS is available here: