In the spirit of the season, today we’d like to turn your attention to a truly giving author, Eric E. McClure. Eric has written four books, a fantasy trilogy, A Healer’s Tale (Touch of Life, New Found Dream, and Crows and Crowns), and Promised, a fantasy romance. His books are not only well-written, but beautiful to look at. Eric donates all royalties from the sales of his books to the Food Bank of Iowa Backpack Program.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how your books, ‘A Healer’s Tale’ trilogy, and your latest release, ‘Promised’, came about.
First, please allow me to thank you for this opportunity to share my odd little world of writing with you and your readers. It’s a privilege.
As for myself, I am a Christian, married dude with two children (though the use of the word ‘children’ is pushing it as the oldest is twenty five and the youngest is nearly sixteen). I have two B.A. degrees and currently work as a Software Application Specialist in Des Moines, Iowa. Though I was born in Kansas, I spent most of my early years living in northeast Iowa not far from the Mississippi River then later I lived in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. ‘Midwest boy’ may be an appropriate label for me. My hobbies, predominantly playing RPG games on the kitchen table or on my XBOX, have seen little time given my writing schedule.
How did the books come about? Well, the ‘Healer’s Tale’ trilogy happened quite by accident. I had been asked to participate in a short story contest after working with a few game developers. Since the deadline was three days away, I wrote a 1,800 word scene (very poorly) about a character I had created for a RPG that I had played. Within a day or two, I sent it off and was very surprised that the story took fifth place. After a conversation with my wife, I kept writing without the intent of showing anyone. When I hit 140k, my wife suggested I find an editor. I was blessed for a short time to work with Gary Anderson before his health issue. Since that time, I have relied on Alpha Readers to help me catch errors and knew that I was too blessed for the opportunity to write to accept royalties for personal use. Before I knew it, I had created the trilogy.
‘Promised’ has its origins in a question of ‘what if’. I had just finished a project for another company and wanted to stretch my ‘writing legs’. Having written hack-and-slash until my eyes bled, I needed something very unlike my current reading genre and, on a whim, picked up an inspirational romance to detoxify my brain. The book, ‘A Bride for Keeps’ by Melissa Jagears, was unexpectedly brilliant! So, there I sat, pondering the idea of ‘arranged marriages’ in the history of the world. It was an odd moment. My thoughts ran along this path. I write fantasy fiction. What the heck do I know about writing something about the subject? Would there be room for something like that in the genre? Should it even be written? Would I do more harm than good? Being the true idiot that I can be, I sat down and wrote. Two weeks later, I had a rough draft of 50k. As always, I sent it off to my Alpha Readers and read their comments. Biting the end of my lip, I added scenes to reinforce the attraction between two strangers and the bravery of my heroine. The result was a 75k book that wasn’t a typical romance and had the lightest of brushstrokes of fantasy. Loved every minute of it and learned a great deal. That’s a win-win to me.
2. What helped you the most in writing your books?
In terms of the academic aid, I was given the recommendation of reading through Strunk and White’s ‘The Elements of Style’. If this small but wonderful book is not on your shelf, I have to ask why it isn’t. This resource is beautifully organized and something that I often turn to for answers of design. Unfortunately, I came to the book late and feel the trilogy suffered for it. I’m a work in progress to be certain, but this little tome of awesomeness was a wonderful help in growing as a writer.
The other, and dare I say more important, was the support that I have been shown by family, friends and readers. I have written throughout my life, but it was their encouragement that I allowed myself to share what was in my head with complete strangers. I’m very grateful to be so blessed.
3. Can you describe your writing process? When and where do you do most of your writing? What kind of technology do you use to create and compose?
LOL. Perhaps we should call this section of questions, ‘What not to do’. My writing process is actually quite simple. I am, in all aspects of the definition, a ‘pantser’. With pen in hand (yes, I handwrite my stories), I simply start writing and quit when my head hurts or I fall asleep. Typically, on the weekdays, my writing begins after dinner. I will write until 11 pm or so, attempt to sleep for an hour and get up to write until 2 or 3 am. On the weekends, that is practically all I do. Hardly the healthiest way to write, but there it is.
As for tech, please understand that I am a software developer. I stare at screens all day and my eyes are shot by the time I get home. However, after handwriting my story, I do my first edit pass by typing it into a Scrivener project. Wonderful program and could not recommend it enough. Later, after I have done all that I can, I paste it into a Word doc to send to my Alpha Readers. When those edits are done, I format it for print to be sent off. I understand that the tech is rather low, but that’s honestly all that I use.
4. What or who inspired you to begin writing and for your first book in particular?
Without a doubt, my creativity was supported by my parents. I have such a tangent working brain that, had it not been for the support and work ethic I received from my parents, I’m quite certain I would be sitting on some city street spinning tales with no clue as to where I was. At forty seven, the number of stories I have written since my epic tale written at age ten is borderline obscene. Thankfully, I only have seventeen WIPS at the moment.
Having said that, ‘Touch of Life’ was inspired by an RPG game I was playing. Since playing the original D&D when it came out (yes, I am that old) and having read the works of Tolkien and Lewis at a young age, this isn’t much of a stretch to understand how the writing bug came about. Still, it was a moment where I was preparing an adventure and my wife, who had never played a table top RPG, conceded to help me work out the bugs. We played for nearly two years. Given this adventure was meant for a party of five and she was playing solo, I had to create characters to work with her. After the fore mentioned short story, I asked if she thought it would be a fun if I wrote a story about how it all began. Two months later, I had written 140k word story. So, if you like the trilogy story, thank my wife.
5. Are you planning more writing projects and if so, will you stick with the same theme?
Too many, to be honest. With seventeen works-in-progress, surely to be more before I finish replying to these questions, I have my hands full. Add to these projects outside of my self-published works, I will need to find the Fountain of Youth soon.
Will I stick with the same theme? Hmm, tough question for a pantser. I will say that having stepped outside my comfort zone with writing ‘Promised’ that I enjoyed myself. Themes of ‘good always wins in the end’ and ‘love matters in our lives’ are important to me, no matter the genre so will more than likely will continue on in my self-published works.
6. What are you reading now? Who is your favorite author? In your opinion, what constitutes good writing or conversely, bad writing?
I just finished R.A. Salvatore’s ‘The Companions’ and truly enjoy his writing. It’s hard to look at my bookshelf as it looks like an enormous ‘to-do’ list. Still, as slow as I read, I do enjoy slipping into the worlds of others, though timidly done.
Favorite author? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Brilliant stories with amazing lead character personalities.
Good writing verses bad, in my humble opinion, is subjective and is best left to the reader to decide. As we are unique, it is the small nuances of our personalities that are touched by what we have read. A successful book should be a story offered from the heart of a writer and received and touched by the reader. How that is done may include the multiple edits to fine tune, but it is ultimately the reader that ‘scores’ the book for its value outside of the efforts of a writer. Personally, I would have it no other way.
7. What advice would you give to first time authors?
Wow! Where to begin? Well, I’ve been blessed to work and speak with other writers and have heard many questions asked from those that are picking up the pen for the first time. In this, and with a belief that I wish never to consider myself outside of this group, I offer these humble statements to help a ‘first time author’.
First, I wish you to write on a post-it and in the fewest words possible, who you are. For me, I have ‘Christian, Husband, Father, Son, Friend’ written down. Odd and as trivial it may seem at first blush, it is important. Writing, in my humble opinion, is something you ‘do’ and not ‘who you are’. When the critics throw stones, you remain patient and secure despite hurtful words when you defined who you are. When you have spent too much time writing, this little list should smack you in the face with a ‘Are there more important things you are neglecting’ warning. Without ‘grounding’ yourself, you will blow with the wind, easily being tossed with waves of self-important attitudes to cover bruises and fears. Stay humble by looking back at your post-it and appreciating the opportunity you have been given to share your words.
Second, remember that writing cannot replace living. Writing takes time, one that will, given your level of passion, extend to the very last day of your life or to the moment you see little value sharing your words and will never mastered. A wonderful act, but must take second seat to having a meaningful life. Also, your days walking on this planet influences what you write. You have to fill a glass if you want to drink something out of it. One must live and experience life to write anything meaningful about it. Too often I see the complaints of writers that have stopped writing due to ‘writer’s block’ or infest social media with comments of a suffering artist. These are attributes of a person who is lacking ‘life’ and do not appreciate the world they have around them. They rarely talk to a person face-to-face and should this terrible situation occur, they cannot communicate with the other. Writing without living, truly living, is a terrible waist of the precious time you have been given. Go live, THEN write.
Third, I would be your absolute worst enemy to suggest to you that can become a better writer by mimicking another. There is a word for such an act and you want nothing to do with it. I firmly believe you are unique and also hold to the fact that mimicking in writing is a surefire way of never finding your ‘author voice’. Want to stand out from other writers? Then be yourself. Use that unique sense of humor in your prose. Give a character a personality trait of your own like interrupting people only to feel bad later. Show your fear of heights, a habit of farting when you laugh too hard, or your joy of collecting jellyfish. No one can write the same story as another without copying, so why try? More importantly, why would anyone want to read if all books where the same? You are special and there are millions of readers that have not met you. Isn’t it time to introduce yourself? You can’t do it properly if you are copying others. So, in that mindset, know that other authors have written their stories and have said, ‘Hello’. Now, go and write your own, in your own words and in your own way. This will make the story ‘stand out’ and worth reading.
Thank for opportunity to share my thoughts and memories with your readers. It was a true joy!
Bless and Keep,
Eric E. McClure
Our thanks to Eric for talking to us today. If you’d like keep up with Eric and his writing, you can follow him at his webpage: http://www.ericemcclure.com/
On Twitter: @ericemcclure
And Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eric-E-Mcclure/614905211876400
Eric’s books are available for purchase on Amazon. We hope you enjoyed the interview and that you’ll take the opportunity to support a great author!
Happy holidays and kind regards,
Anne, Nancy, and Eric