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Author Spotlight: Eric Alan Westfall

Eric Alan Westfall

Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.


Eric is an American Midwesterner, and as Lady Glenhaven might say, “He’s old enough to have sailed with Noah.” In the real world he writes for a living, with those who would claim what he writes is fiction. His partner of thirty years—who died unexpectedly in 1995—enthusiastically encouraged him to try to get his writing published (mostly poetry back then, plus some short stories), but he didn’t have the guts to do so until 2013. At this point he’s not sure which was officially first, The Song, or Like a Mountain, Waiting.

Up to now, he’s published 17 novels and novellas, 1 poetry collection, 2 short story collections, and 3 short stories. Plus two freebies: The Thousand-and-one Rides of the Devil’s Horse, and 3 Gods, 2 Bets, 1 Texan.

God willin’ and the crick don’t rise, 2023 will also see The Tinderbox out and about. But since real life is, as we all know, a pain in the (anatomical site of your choice)…no guarantees.

Thanks so much, Eric, for joining me!

J. Scott Coatsworth: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not? 

Eric Alan Westfall: Back in the MMRG DRitC (“Don’t Read in the Closet”) days, was when I started “officially” writing for publication, though I’d been writing off and on for most of my life, but only rarely tried to get published…unsuccessfully, of course. *rueful smile* Most of my adult life if I was publicly known as gay, I risked losing my profession. Ditto writing gay books with gay sex (gasp!). So I picked a last name that has personal meaning to me, decided I liked “Eric Alan” as the rest of it, Googled to be sure there was no real person with that name, and EAW was born!

JSC: How long on average does it take you to write a book? 

EAW: No clue. I’m far from prolific since, while I have the talent, I don’t have the drive required to write to a schedule, and get the books out. It also doesn’t help in terms of getting a book done that I don’t write the popular MM book lengths…50-60-70-80, maybe 90K. Mine tend to be in the 100K+++ range. As can be seen, I don’t write for the market, but because I have a story to tell, however many words and however long it takes me to get it done.

For what it’s worth, The Serpent Mark was essentially the first “Another England” Regency, and it was started in 2000—so that answer is: 23 years and counting. I’m hoping, maybe, possibly, to get it going again, but I have one other Regency, possibly two, to finish first.

JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantser? 

EAW: Pantser. For almost everything I’ve published, when I started I had the title, the opening scene at least (sometimes the chapter) and I knew how it was going to end, with the last chapter/scene sometimes being written, too. Then it’s just a matter of “filling in” the blank space,” but I don’t outline, or stop and ponder, “what needs to happen next?”

I don’t mean to suggest I have every event in my head, but rather, knowing where I’m going means that the words just “appear,” for this scene, or that scene, which triggers another scene, and so on, until it’s done.

JSC: How long does it take you to write the first draft? 

EAW: I’m assuming “first draft” means the book is done, and then you start the process of editing, tweaking, revising, typo-hunting, slicing and dicing, to get a second, third, whatever draft, until it’s officially finished.

That being so, I don’t have first drafts. When I’m done, the book is done. I’m a “polish as I go” guy. I put in bookmarks and hyperlinks for the table of contents along the way, so I can maneuver through the book more easily. I re-read from the beginning, or pick a chapter or three to look at, check for grammar, punctuation, plot oops! moments, etc.

So while I may have beta readers to get reactions and perhaps catch typos and similar things I missed (alas for my wish for infallibility), the book is ready to go.

JSC: What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers? 

EAW: If English is your first language, the most fundamental “tool” is a solid foundation in grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. Oh, sure, you can write with sloppy or even bad grammar and find an editor who will fix it all for you, but in that case you really ought to credit him or her as a co-author. An editor of any variety should be a person who checks for things you missed/overlooked, i.e., you knew what should have been “there,” but as with anyone, you goofed.

You also need to know the “rules of the game” so you can make a conscious decision when to bend or break. For example, the (in)famous Oxford comma: A, B, and C. The purists say if you use that comma after “B,” then every time you have a list of three or more, the comma has to be there. I say, “Ha!” A comma is a pause, and sometimes the rhythm of your words is better without the pause for the B-comma. Just a bit of my USD .02.

JSC: How do you approach covers for your indie stories? 

EAW: I’ve seen a wide variety of pre-made covers out there, some of them quite impressive, but I’ve never seen one that fits my mental image of what the cover should be like. Over the decade since I started self-publishing in 2013(ish), I’ve been fortunate to find artists who will create original paintings for the covers, like Roberto Quintero, Catherine Dair, Kerry Chin Chew Yee, and Christine Marie. And talented artists like Karrie Jax and Enny Kraft, who locate photographs (whether of people or not) and then blend and layer and do whatever other photo magic is required to create the cover.

One particularly fun thing, for me at least, is that on two occasions—a photo of a painting from a hundred+ years ago, and an original painting—the artists created something I hadn’t expected or thought of, which resulted in a new chapter to go along with the cover.

JSC: Name the book you like most among all you’ve written, and tell us why. 

EAW: Easy. Up until September of 2022, it would have been The Rake, The Rogue, and the Roué, but now I have to say it’s The Cooking Mage & The Parchment Prankster trilogy—all 367,000 words of it. And the reason is because I had so very much fun with it.

It’s what I call an alternate history urban fantasy. The bulk of the action is in 1890, in a world where magick and technology work together. 

I had great fun creating all the countries for the alternate Europe, northern Africa, and North, Central and South America. I had to Google a lot to find out if I could use electric lights and an elevator in Berlin (yes to both), and enough about airships to create HMA The Hindeburg. Research into rulers’ names in “our” 1890, to see which ones I wanted to use, and which ones I wanted to change. Creating a system of magic and how it integrates with technology, and deities and saints who interact with mortals from time to time.

And then of course there are the MCs: Erich Johann Karl-Friedrich Georg von Stroheim von Hoffmanstahl, Crown Prince of Prussia and Saxony, and David Jonathan Halleston (“Lord Mouse”). My best main characters, ever, I think.

JSC: What was the first book that made you cry? 

EAW: I can’t remember that far back. But there are two which still make me cry when I re-read them at Christmas each year, though not to the same degree as the first time. The tears are not so much for sadness, but the kind of tears you shed over something so very, very beautiful.

Death and the Veteran is an online story, about a devastating war, and loss, and oranges. I don’t know if it’s still out there, but if anyone wants to read it, I still have a copy.

And then there’s Suzanne Brockmann and All Through the Night. It’s part of an 18-book series called “The Troubleshooters.” It’s also the first mainstream book where a gay man was a major recurring character, with no big deal about it. He’s an FBI agent, and over several books he has an on-again-off-again, difficult relationship with a troubled gay actor. No spoilers (you can go read the blurb), but I will say that the first time I read it, I was doing the proverbial “bawling my eyes out” for three scenes. As I said, I still tear up on my annual re-reads.

JSC: Do you believe in love at first sight?

EAW: Absolutely! Despite the mockers who want to call it “instant love,” or the even more pejorative “instalove,” it’s real. I should know. It happened to me.

In March of 1965 I drove the 60ish miles from the comparatively small city where I was a college senior, to the “big city” with multiple gay bar options. The one I went to was very small, very popular, very packed. I was with someone, but at this point I have no recollection whether it was a date, or just someone I met. We’d been there a while and I remember dancing on the tiny dance floor.

Picture, if you will, a very skinny, very ordinary, very glasses-wearing, very geek/nerd/whatever guy.

The bar was long and narrow, with the restrooms at the back. To get there you had to scootch past the curved actual bar with all the stools occupied, then past a couple of tables, also occupied. I was going by the tables and couldn’t help but notice the guy with the flaming red hair. Who stepped up, and groped me.

Uh, what? I’m not the type of guy others guys did that to. And he wasn’t the type of guy who ordinarily did anything that bold. He said he’d seen me dancing (truly, no skills there!) and would I like to join him and his friends. There was something…there…and I immediately agreed. Ditched the guy I was with and spent the rest of the evening and night with him.

I visited him as much as I could over the next few months, and after graduating in June, I moved there to be with him, having gotten into graduate school and gotten a graduate teaching assistantship. June 27th was officially our first day together. I was with him for slightly more than 30 years, until he had an aneurysm in August of 1995 and died in my arms in the hospital.

Yea. Love at first sight is real.

JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!

EAW: A gay (well, duh!) retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale: The Tinderbox. A soldier on his way home, a wicked witch who gets him to go into a hollow tree bigger on the inside than outside—Harry Potter much, Hans?—where he meets three magickal doggies with swirling eyes, guarding ever-full chests of copper, silver and gold coins, and all the witch wants is the old, worn tinderbox. Our hero, Charlie, can keep the money. No princess in this version, though, just Prince Charming, the ninth and last son of Her Most Moral Majesty, Victory, Queen of Britlandia. Our heroes meet in the quite active toilets at the Victory Tube Station in Lunnon. Hopefully it’ll be out in October.

The Cooking Mage & The Parchment Prankster Part One

And now for Eric’s latest book: The Cooking Mage and the Parchment Prankster Part One:

If the “foreseen four”—prince, mouse, saint, dancing—happen together it might wreck a twenty-year plot worth billions, and the future is so fogged-up the Seers can’t See a date and place. Just 1890.

But the conspirators have identified the young prince. Which makes their 1874 to-do list: (1) Kill the prince; (2) find the mouse, and figure out (3) which saint and (4) what dancing.

Only it’s now 1890.

Were they wrong about Georg, the scarred, six-nine (rounded up) Crown Prince of Prussia and Saxony, being the one? He ought to be a Viking warrior, but he’s only a cooking mage in the Great Palace. Did they waste all that money on the assassination attempts?

And how could “Lord Mouse,” the nickname of the short, insignificant third son of a British Duke, with dusky skin inherited from “the Jamaican Duchess,” possibly be part of the four? He’s just a parchment prankster whose latest one drew the ire of the Inquisition, resulting in him being sent on an out-of-sight-out-of-mind visit to Berlin to attend Georg’s birthday ball.

Still… A prince, a “mouse,” and definite dancing at the ball. Maybe the saint won’t matter if they can stop one of the other three. Or all.

Come visit a world of magick and technology, where the Gunpowder Treaty of 1750 prevents guns from being used in war, and its magick requires renewing in 1890. You’ll find anarchist plots, international intrigue, a midair mishap on Her Majesty’s Airship The Hindenburg, a Mouse who loves climbing a Mountain because of the fun things which happen when he does, a sovereign coming out, the addictiveness of Black Mountain coffee, plus the seductiveness of anything black raspberry. And yes, of course there’s sex on the Spanish Steps.

There’s a definite HEA, and although it doesn’t fully happen until Part Three, there’s lots of fun along the way for a Prince and his Mouse (although said Mouse thinks it’s the other way round).

Amazon | Amazon UK | Smashwords | Universal Buy Link


14 August 1871. At An Undisclosed Location.

“Is your employer out of his fucking mind, Wilfrid?” Paolo allowed his false, but flawless, Italian accent to become more noticeable, as would any real Italian’s accent, when speaking a language which wasn’t his own, and being angry at the same time.

Paolo still prided himself on never mentioning the name or rank of Wilfrid’s employer, who was ultimately his own, as well, even in private. As he occasionally reminded himself, if one became careless in private, the possibility existed for the same carelessness in public. But he allowed himself the occasional luxury, in the privacy of his own mind, of referring to Wilfrid’s employer as “His Idiot Fucking Majesty.”

“I don’t believe so. But you know the adage, as does H…my employer.” Wilfrid was never quite as successful keeping name and rank out of their conversations, even when they were as private and warded as they were, and as their colleagues were. Colleagues who were elsewhere at the moment, as this was indeed an even more private conversation than they were authorized to be privy to.

“Yes, yes. Thrice and certainty. But what the Seers are saying is complete bullshit. A mouse, a saint, a prince, and dancing?”

“They all agreed, Paolo. The same Seeing. Although two did comment about the difficulty of Seeing clearly. As if something were…fogging a lens.”

Paolo laughed, and it was not a pleasant, humorous one. “Tell me a few things, Wilfrid. Are these three Seers ones your employer regularly uses? And are they known to each other?”

“Yes and yes.”

“They’re paid well for their services.”

“Of course.”

“And were these Seeings simultaneous, all of them in the same room after the request was made? Ah, no, you need not remind me. Your employer would have ordered a Seeing.”

“No. One after the other.”

“Enough time between Seeings, if the first wanted to talk to one or both of the other two, he could? And enough time between the second and third Seeing, either or both of the initial Seers could talk to their third colleague?”

“Uh…yes.” Wilfrid could readily see where Paolo was going and didn’t like it one whit.

“Let me recapitulate. Your employer asked for a Seeing about what would be happening at or near the time of an event some nineteen years away. Three Seers report the same ridiculous things, supposedly in, or perhaps only adjacent to, this time frame, without being able to identify a date, or a time, or a location. Nor did they state whether a man who is a prince, an invisible religious figure who doesn’t have a body, and a tiny animal, will be the only ones dancing. Or whether one, two, or multitudes of people, saints and animals will all be dancing, in the same place, at the same time.

“They can’t identify what prince or what saint, nor explain why a damned mouse—if you were more of a reader and familiar with Burns, I’d quote the language—would be anywhere near either of the other two.

“And…they have all carefully covered their asses by mentioning this fog. So if only one of the four puzzle pieces ever happens, they have the excuse of having warned your employer of the fog, and therefore their inability to be absolutely certain what they were supposedly Seeing was correct.”

Wilfrid had no choice but to agree. “An accurate summation.”

“Good. Anything more?”

“Yes. My…our…employer wants what the Seers Saw investigated.”

Paolo decided to save throwing his hands in the air in disgust for an occasion when he wanted more drama, befitting his well-acted Italian heritage. He settled for snapping the pen in his hand in two. Plus a large, annoyed sigh.

Wilfrid’s employer was the one paying for virtually all the expenses of the plan, although he and his country’s treasury could readily afford it. Paolo’s birth-country was…what was the English word which was so accurate? Ah. Paolo’s country was a nipfarthing about spending. Its financial contributions were therefore smaller, and only provided when it was clear the major source of conspiracy funds was annoyed at the lack of participation.

“Does he understand the difficulties? There are how many princes across Europe? And there’s no guarantee the so-called prince they Saw has even been born yet, is there, since their Seeing is supposedly close to twenty years out?”

He gave Wilfrid no chance to interrupt and answer any part of his rant, and went right on.

“One saint? There have to be a thousand or more saints in the aggregate religions of Europe. And the Seers said nothing to limit the identity of the saint to one of those religions. Or even to religions in Europe. Deities, Wilfrid, the saint could be one from your employer’s religion.” There being only one religion allowed in that country.

“Plus the matter of mice. I suspect we and the thousands of men we’d have to hire could spend every second of every minute of every day for the next nineteen years, trying to hunt down and capture every European mouse currently alive. To say nothing of the mice being born during those decades. And all without ever figuring out which is ‘our’ mouse.”

“All true, but orders have been given.”

“And I’ll obey those orders, in the manner I choose, and for significant additional fees and expenses.”

Wilfrid being the pain in the arse he sometimes was—Paolo had a fondness for some things British, such as their expressions, though none for the nation itself—too often felt he had to articulate his understanding, which is to say, repeat everything.

“You won’t investigate much or put much effort into it, but you’ll lie and say you did, and will say you are continuing to do so for as long as needed, or as long as you can get away with it. You’ll produce plausible interim reports, and forged receipts for expenses, or inflated receipts if there are any actual expenditures, and eventually, with deep regret, report you have uncovered nothing to tie what we are doing to a particular prince, saint, or mouse to dancing anywhere. Nor to each other.”

“You know me so well, my dear Wilfrid. And you know you’ll get your fair share of the profits to be made from my investigation. Say…ten percent?”

Wilfrid favored Paolo with the thin, glacial smile with which Paolo was familiar. “Your humor is as absurd as ever. Fifty percent.”

“I do all the work and you get half the profit?”

“While you claim you do all the work, nevertheless, mine is the neck which will get chopped if your cheating is discovered. Or more precisely, mine will be the first neck severed, with yours to follow, but your death will provide no comfort for me, as mine will have preceded yours.”

“Well, yes. Agreed.”

As it was said, so was it done.

Paolo rose to heights of creativity he hadn’t expected of himself, with the believability of the reports detailing the non-existent investigations, and with the excellence of the fraudulent receipts.

Unabated creativity and shared profitability…until December of 1874.

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