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A Chance Encounter With Author Eric Michael Craig

Note: Eric Michael Craig is a successful sci-fi author and publisher. The following is about the man, as a writer.

+++“That’s the science fiction author, Eric Michael Craig,” wait-bot Sally answered me.
+++I’d asked because at 4:AM, he and I were the only two people left in the bar. Outside, the wind howled but that was why they called this planet The Howling. “Think he’d talk to me?”
+++Sally giggled, “He doesn’t mind talking. I mean, about his work.” That suited me. I had a deadline approaching and an author’s interview would keep my publisher happy for… minutes. So, I walked over to his table and unceremoniously plopped into a seat. “Why?” I asked him.
+++In the tavern lighting, Eric has a Hemingway look about him, solid, bald with a standard circle beard, a bit scruffy. He wore a workman’s shirt with the top buttons open and a braided leather necklace.
+++“Why do you write science fiction?”

+++“My Father. He wanted to be a sci fI novelist since well before I was born. In fact he completed two manuscripts but never managed to get either one accepted. He submitted the first one when I was maybe 5 years old and got a form letter rejection because he hadn’t followed the guidelines for submission. After that he kept writing but never again tried to get anything published. He wrote because he was a fan of the genre (back in the heyday of people like Heinlein and Clarke and Asimov).”
+++We both genuflected.
+++“When I was old enough to read the very first books he handed to me were Rocketship Galileo and Between Planets. I was maybe 5 years old when I started into those novels, and from then on nothing else I ever read held my interest like Sci Fi. Dad gently encouraged me to write, but his own rejection made him a bit more cautious in how he pushed me. Then when I was in 7th grade, an English teacher I had, wholeheartedly started shoving me in that direction. Together the two of them tried to keep me writing, but I was a typical teenager and I had the attention span of a flea … so of course I went off in another direction with my life.
+++I started flirting with the idea of writing seriously only after my father passed away and my mom gave me copies of the manuscripts that he’d written. I was about to retire at that point in time (I was 41), but it wasn’t until my mom was diagnosed with cancer and she and I were talking about losing our dreams (and how it had affected my dad when he gave up wanting to be a writer) that I decided to commit myself to it. For him and for me too. My mom lived long enough to read the first draft of the story that became my first two novels.
+++You could say, if you forgive how this sounds like an epic fantasy theme, that this was a destiny I inherited from my father and denied for most of my life, only to discover after the trials I faced that it was indeed my inevitable path.
But I usually tell people, it was me just being too damn dumb to know better.”

+++I smiled. Sally was right. “Marshall McLuhan once commentated that artists and outlaws are on the outside looking in. He also said they see things as they are while the rest of us are looking at the world through a rear-view mirror.
What effects do you hope your books will have on your readers?”

+++“Sleeplessness?
+++Actually I hope my story will leave the reader thinking (and if that thinking keeps them up at night, that isn’t entirely a bad thing). I want my writing to engage their mind, not just entertain them. I think it is far easier to simply tell a story than to inspire a reader to keep thinking about what they read. If I can leave them wondering, “what if it really happened?” … then I have reached my goal.”

+++“What kind of world do you like to create for your characters?”

+++“I guess I am different in how I write because I tend to think of my world and my characters as an integrated single thing. The world is not so far extrapolated from the one we live in, so I tend to leave the world building to the current headlines, and then I just broaden the perspective to paint a complete perspective of the action. I can’t say I liked building this world because I really didn’t build one… Instead I focused some light into the more hidden corners of the world we already know.
+++Stormhaven Rising and Prometheus and the Dragon are very complex stories with multiple character sets interwoven in very broad ranging story lines. I have over 150 characters in the two novels and it takes all of them to tell the story.
+++I didn’t treat the characters as individuals, although they are fully rounded in and of themselves. But it is probably easier to think of them as character groups that work and act together, and in some ways represent segments of a culture that has its own personality (and purpose).
+++I guess I kinda took the question sideways, but world building is not something I have done in my most recent books. You might say it is more of a process of analysis, than creation of a world.”

+++“You like to work deeper themes into your novels. What themes, and why?”

+++“Darker themes? Hmm I don’t know if I would call them darker themes. Sure the idea of facing the potential end of the world is dark in and of itself, and it is bound to bring out the worst in humanity, but it also brings out the best. I think that what I write is based on a fairly accurate extrapolation of the world we live in. If it feels dark, then unfortunately that might be a reflection on the current human condition.”

+++“‘Deeper,’ not darker. But I like your answer.”

+++“Oh you’re right, how Freudian of me. Of course deep down in the ocean it’s pretty dark (even if it is teeming with life). Real depth sometimes can only be found if you’re challenging the dark.
+++I know that as I wrote the first two novels of ‘Atlas and the Winds,’ I tried to keep a balance between both the heavier elements and the lighter and more uplifting side of the story. With only a few exceptions I think I balanced the tragedy with the triumph.
+++In my mind, balancing triumph with tragedy is something that has to happen in life. When that balance is lost in one direction, hope dies a hard and bitter death. When it is tipped in the other direction, the victories become easy and meaningless.
+++In some ways I believe suffering is essential to finding value in those moments when you come out on top. That’s not to say I like to suffer, but when I do finally triumph, it makes the victory infinitely more meaningful.
+++As to the whole concept of balancing highs and lows in my outlook on life, I can say … maybe. Although ultimately it is the darkness that allows us to appreciate the light (however dim it is).
+++However, in writing if you only focus on one side, the story never spins well. If my books only told about how everything pounded the characters mercilessly and relentlessly (or how the characters were all indestructible), then I don’t think there would be much point in reading them. The closer you can keep to the point where the plot could go either way, the more intensely the reader is drawn in and compelled to invest emotionally in the arc of the characters.”

+++Good stuff, I thought as dawn lit the windows. I thanked Eric and left, feeling that I had just met a man worth knowing.

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6 thoughts on “A Chance Encounter With Author Eric Michael Craig

  1. victoracquista says:

    Great piece! Excellent setting for the chance encounter! I know Eric and he is not only brilliant, he truly is a delightful man. When I first began reading ‘Stormhaven Rising’ I had not yet met the author; although, I felt angry at him for keeping me up reading his excellent novel (to the point of exhaustion the following day). When I learned he only lived about an hour away from me in New Mexico, I felt I had to meet him. Subsequently, we became friends. Folks might want to read the reviews on his work. You don’t need to like science fiction to enjoy what he writes. He has a deep understanding of people and society and his writing invites the reader to think, ponder, imagine. As stated, he is a man worth knowing.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. ericmichaelcraig says:

    Wow. Thank you so much Victor. The feeling, my friend, is very mutual. Knowing you has truly made my life better and more interesting.

    (And sorry for the sleeplessness.)

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Welcome, Eric Michael Craig! Terrifying photo aside (that dead-eyed stare is truly chilling: puts me in a mind of a navy seal staring down cornered prey: “So, I understand you won’t tell us where the bomb is placed?” Heh!) I thoroughly enjoyed the thoughts and perspectives you shared on your work in particular and the craft in general. (Bonus points for that excellent quote of Marshall McLuhan’s.)

    I also loved your comment: “I want my writing to engage their mind, not just entertain them.” Hear-hear! I, too, would hope that my writing first entertains, and then secondarily engages the mind and heart.

    These days we seem to be attracting top-tier talent to our site: articulate, intelligent, hard-working writers dedicated to the craft. So glad you chose to post here.

    Cheers!

    PS. And there’s this, people: The man–not content with merely sitting at a table signing his books–errected an entire bookstore to promote his works and that of his friends at the Santa Fe Con! Zounds! If THAT doesn’t impress, I don’t know what will. . . .

    http://ericmichaelcraig.com/

    Liked by 5 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    “I have over 150 characters in the two novels and it takes all of them to tell the story.”

    I can certainly identify with that. I worry about two dozen or so important characters in my three-book series. I feel a lot better about that, thanks.

    Eric, I like the way you think. You make a lot of sense. I think I would be very comfortable in your well-fleshed-out world. I like a complex world, the big stuff and the street-level. It takes both to reel me.

    Welcome!

    GD, this was delightful. Thanks to you also.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Eric,

    Welcome aboard as well. I love the idea of characters not being dark but being deep. That is bouncing around in my head.

    Thank you for the wonderful introduction to your worlds. Like Mimi, I am encouraged that you have so many characters. I will have to check out what you have going over there. Just hope I don’t lose too much sleep over your writing. Ha ha.

    rob

    Liked by 4 people

  6. mimispeike says:

    That photo of Eric reminds me of my husband’s screen saver: a photo of him with a dagger clamped between his teeth pirate-style, and something of the same look on his face.

    Liked by 2 people

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