This is our first interview with an author in the Blunderbuss World, and we’re very proud to introduce you to Eric Pierce, who is responsible for keeping all the moving parts of Beyond the Gate, the upcoming anthology, together. We’ll ask him about that experience, and also dive into his inspirations, creative influences and of course his writing.
Thank you for participating, Eric. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
First off, thanks for the opportunity to do this interview! I love the site and I think it’s really incredible how the SPP community rallies around and supports its members. As solitary as writing can be, it feels great to be part of something like this.
About myself: My name is Eric Pierce, though I write under my initials: E.W. Pierce. I write Fantasy and Science Fiction stories, sometimes with an element of horror. I’ve been writing on-and-off for eleven years.
I work in corporate IT as a programmer. I played the promotion game for a while, chasing money and prestige at the cost of sanity and happiness. I gave that up four years ago, and am happily slinging code again. Not inconsequentially, I am also writing more. The sojourn into management wasn’t a complete loss: my project management skills came in handy during the anthology.
I am happily married to my High School sweetheart. We celebrated our 15th anniversary this past summer. We have 2 kids, boy (10) and girl (7). Young enough that we still have action figures and barbies, hot wheels and bed-time stories. But old enough that I can glimpse the end of innocence and it makes me incredibly sad.
Sometimes we talk about having a 3rd. And then we come to our senses.
Have you written anything for publication before?
Yes. I’ve published 3 short stories:
- With Hands Gray and Cold is a Dark Fantasy. In the frozen lands beyond the edge of civilization, charlatan Marten the Magnificent swindles villagers of their valuables in exchange for superstitious charms. But when faced with a true monster, Marten is forced to rely on his own useless trinkets or risk losing his life.
- A Small Sky Through Broken Strands is a Dystopian Sci-Fi story. Marooned on a skyland that crashed to the sea, young Joha Mender must brave the deep waters or starve. But the sky-peoples harbor superstitions about the sea for a reason, and myths often contain an element of truth.
- Part-Time God is a YA Sci-Fi story. In the near future, combat drones exact America’s foreign policy. Sleek and deadly, the drones require pilots with equally quick reflexes, a trait in short supply among the military. They need pilots weaned on video games. They need teenagers. But in this game there are no respawns.
You’ve been writing on and off for 11 years, but have only published 3 short stories so far. Where are all the other words you must have been writing?
I’ve probably written somewhere between 12 and 20 short stories. Some of those truly will never see the outside of my computer’s dusty innards. The first few I attempted were atrocious, just embarrassingly bad. Those I’ve already published, or would yet consider publishing, are ones I’ve most recently completed. Going back further chronologically is something like an inverse of the monkey-to-man chart, each story cruder than the last. Yes, it resembles a story, but that doesn’t mean you’d want to spend alone time with it.
One of the yet-unpublished stories is a good one, a dark fantasy Victorian by way of Jekyll & Hyde. I mean to clean it up at some point and publish it. Time permitting; of late, it often does not. I can’t say how many of these stories you’ll see, eventually. At some point, the effort to fix them is too high to be worth the bother. I’d rather spend the time telling new stories.
I’ve also attempted and subsequently abandoned 4 different novels: two fantasy novels, a modern alien-invasion horror, and a sci-fi story. I’ll probably revisit these at some point, if for no other reason than to check the corpse for valuables I might hock elsewhere. In most cases I moved on because I’d bitten off too much, too soon. I love epic fantasies but I’d not the tools to write one of my own yet of any real quality.
Inspired by the quote attributed to Ray Bradbury about how your first million words don’t really count, 2 or 3 years ago I started tracking how much rough copy I’d written. The number was around 500,000 at the time. I haven’t re-tallied since but suspect I’m well past 750k. I can’t say Bradbury is right or wrong, but the quality of my stories certainly has improved the closer I’ve crept to 1 million.
Did you ever try to go the traditional publishing route?
Yes. I’ve been writing long enough that traditional was the only route. I’ve submit stories to slush piles, waited 2-3 months for the rejection, rinse & repeat. I’ve gotten close, but close isn’t published. It’s miles from it, actually.
The only outfit I submit to these days is Writers of the Future. It’s THE contest for writers of speculative fiction: its free, and it pays big bucks to the winners (not to mention getting published in the anthology). Other than that, I’ve punched my self-pub ticket and don’t intend on disembarking. My only regret is not boarding sooner.
From the description of your short stories, you must have a wonderful imagination. Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
Well thank you!
I’ve always been a daydreamer, and most of my stories come from wondering about things, just letting my mind wander. I’m a big fan of ‘what if’ scenarios, but sometimes it’s picturing a place or a scene that serves as the initial spark. Ideas surface seemingly from nowhere. I try to be alert enough to have my net ready to reel them into my boat before they disappear beneath the dark waves, likely never to be seen again. The worst feeling in the world is having a genius idea and then forgetting it because you didn’t take the time to jot down a quick note to yourself. I always tell myself I’ll remember this time, but I never do.
What or who are your biggest creative influences?
I can’t even begin to imagine how much Star Wars has influenced my life and my art. Even now, as an adult, there is still something magical about the original movies. Certain scenes still get to me, affecting me on an emotional, shiver-up-the-spine, level. Favorites that quickly come to mind: the Death Star trench scene, specifically where Obi-Wan starts taking to Luke and the camera seems to drift of its own accord while the music swells; the scene at the Pit of Carkoon (aka – the Sarlacc, aka – the Bottomless Pit, as I called it as a kid), starting with Luke on the plank up until about the time Boba bites it; the small smile on Obi-Wan’s face when he sacrifices himself to Vader’s blade.
Star Wars probably takes the A #1 spot, even now. Even after the uneven prequel trilogy.
The next big influence was reading King’s The Stand when I was 16. That book, more than any other, opened my eyes to how powerful mature fiction could be. Completely blew my mind. I’ve since become a fan of all King’s stuff. He is the premier story-teller in my opinion.
The last and most recent influence would be George R.R. Martin. His A Song of Ice & Fire series took the stale, cliched Fantasy tropes – tropes near and dear to my heart, you understand – and completely flipped them around, breathing new life into the genre in ways I’d never thought possible. His single best trick though is his characterizations. He embodies his characters to the point that you come to sympathize and even root for the “villains” of the series.
What is your writing environment like and is there anything you’d change about it?
I have an ideal writing space and an actual writing space, a reality foisted upon me by an early-morning commute. I get up at 5 AM and only have about 30-40 minutes to either exercise or write. I alternate mornings so I don’t get fat. Weekends I write until the rest of the house is awake.
My ideal writing space is at home, sitting at my cherry-wood desk, surrounded by things that inspire me: books on writing, favorite novels, Star Wars memorabilia, framed maps from A Song of Ice & Fire (e.g. Game of Thrones) and The Lord of the Rings, RPG books, pictures of loved ones. The desk is wide, with lots of space for scrap paper, notes, my iPad – whatever I might need. My PC has a big 22″ monitor, and Skyrim is installed if I need a distraction.
My actual writing space looks like this: an available conference room at work, hurriedly scarfing down lunch so I can get as much writing in as possible on my lunch hour. In this case, I write on my work laptop, where I have installed Scrivener (shhh!). I copy my WIP to a USB drive when done for the session.
If I’m especially unlucky and there are no open conference rooms, I write at my desk, hoping dirty looks will keep interlopers at bay. It doesn’t usually work.
On the rare occasions I’m not brain-dead by the time the kids are in bed, I will sit in bed and write on my laptop.
So I’m pretty flexible on location and time, by necessity. The only constants are: Scrivener, a cold glass of water, and music of some kind, usually Rock (Classic or Hard), sometimes Soundtracks. Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, epic stuff like that. Right now I’m listening to the soundtrack to Destiny a lot.
What would I change? I’d like to use my actual desk more often.
What made you decide to participate in Fiction Unboxed and write in this shared world?
Writing in the shared world was really a no-brainer. The world is fresh and exciting, and open to all kinds of possibilities. Not to mention – it comes equipped with a built-in audience. Which may be the biggest draw!
Participating was likewise an easy decision. I discovered the guys thru Write. Publish. Repeat. in December, and soon after was binge-listening to SPP. I’ve always been a panster and hated the idea of plotting (I kinda blame King’s stance in On Writing for this). But it takes forever to write in this fashion. Knowing how fast the SPP guys can turn-around a completed product, I loved the idea of being a fly on the wall and seeing how they do it.
You’ve been the main force in pushing the anthology “Beyond the Gate” forward. What are your thoughts on this, now that you’re almost ready to publish?
It seemed like such a simple thing when I proposed the idea of an anthology and then volunteered to coordinate the effort. Turns out there are untold numbers of details in something like this, and it’s no easy feat to coordinate 20+ people you don’t really know and get them moving in the same direction. Fortunately, I had a lot of help along the way.
I expect I will feel a sense of relief and satisfaction when we launch. It’s been fun, I’ve met a ton of cool people, and I’ve learned a lot during the project. Would I do it again? Unsure leaning toward unlikely. The time commitment is real, and it means less time to work on my own stuff. No regret at all though, the project has the potential to launch our writing careers forward. It’s pretty exciting and I’m proud of our authors.
Tell us about your story in the “Beyond the Gate” anthology.
I was intrigued by the idea of ruddermouths, those brash sailors of the skies. Not only did the idea of a ruddermouth story excite me, but it worked for practical reasons as well – I could easily and neatly tie into the Dream Engine but also go far afield, into unexplored territory. I wanted to write a story that would both fit into the context defined by the Dream Engine but also not immediately be invalidated by Dream Engine 2.
That’s a dry, academic sort of answer though, and probably not what you are paying to hear!
Upon a Misty Morning is about a down on her luck shaw captain named Mel Locke. The Misty Morning (her shaw) is old, worn, and perpetually in need of repairs, a tough proposition when funds are tight and prospects low. Flying under an expired license, matters don’t figure to improve any time soon. That is until a well-to-do businessman offers a large commission to fly him to a remote part of Alterra.
Faced with starving her crew or grounding her shaw (she’s not sure which is the worse fate), Mel accepts, despite reservations about her new patron. When his secrets come to light, the truth pushes Mel to question her sanity, and to consider just how far she’s willing to go for the safety of shaw and crew.
What do you plan to write next?
I am currently working on my debut novel, code-name: Post-Apocalyptic Samurai Mech (aka – to be named later). I’m hoping to launch in November of this year but may push into December. I have a synopsis up on my site, in the guise of a ‘Meet My Character’ blog hop post.
I’m also prepping a short story to follow closely on the heels of my Beyond the Gate submission (which, at almost 10,000 words, is more of a novelette than a short story). This short would lead directly into my novel set in the world of the Dream Engine, which I plan to start once version 2.0 of the world docs are out.
I’d also like to start a serial on my site following the events of With Fingers Gray and Cold.
Those are the immediate plans, lots of other projects in various states of readiness.
‘Meet My Character’ blog hop post? What is that? Sounds interesting!
In honesty, I had no idea at first either. Jamie Maltman, one of the anthology contributors, was participating in one for his new book. A blog hop, generically, is sequencing posts across a number of different blogs across a given time frame covering a certain subject.
That’s not very helpful, is it?
Someone starts the hop by posting on their own site about the subject (a character from one of our stories, in this case), and then tags the next author by including a bio about them at the end of the post and a link to their site. The next week, the tagged author posts about that same subject on their site. They link to both the hopper (not sure if that’s the proper designation, but it fits!) that proceeded them and the one who will post the following week. And on it goes, until the last author in the hop.
It sounds kinda confusing but in practice it’s pretty straightforward!
Do you hope to be able to write full time at some point in the future?
That’s certainly the dream!
I’d also like to try my hand at creating a video game at some point. I’m a life-long gamer and a programmer by trade. It’d be pretty awesome to combine my love of story-telling with the skills I use every day at work. For now, I focus on my prose.
Thanks once again for participating, Eric!
This has been great! Thanks for the opportunity.
If you are interested in the anthology, please visit our site. We are aiming for an October 28th launch date. If that shifts at all, the site is the first place to find out!
We’ll interview Amy Schubert – who was the editor of the anthology – next week, so be sure to check back.