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.
Today, Erik Schubach – I got my start writing novels by accident. I have always been drawn to strong female characters in books, like Honor Harrington. And I also believe that there is a lack of LGBT characters in media. So one day I came up with a story idea that combines the two… two days later I completed the manuscript for Music of the Soul.
Erik is giving away an audiobook giveaway of his Romantic Comedy, Syncopated Rhythm to the first 5 people to respond to this post. And a PDF copy to all responders.
Thanks so much, Erik, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Erik Schubach: An author… **crickets chirping** Fine, fine, whatever. I wanted to be an astronaut! I witnessed man landing on the moon when I was a little kid and that was the most amazing feat mankind had ever accomplished.
The world was so amazing to me back then, so much adventure to be had. Mankind were still explores back then, and that drive has gone stagnant. We land on the moon, opening up a new frontier, then… nothing. That sense of adventure has all but been buried by politics and indifference.
Maybe that is another reason I write, I want to bring back that sense of adventure.
I still want to go to space before I die.
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
ES: Like just about everyone, I’ve always said I wanted to write a book and have had dozens of ideas through out my life. But of course I never put pen to paper. You know, good intentions, blah blah blah. So when I actually did start to write four years ago, it was pretty much an accident.
I cant tell you how much I love to read books with strong female characters, such as David Weber’s Honor Harrington, or Anne McCaffrey’s Killishandra Ree. So I am always looking for new books to read which include characters like that. I was always coming up with ideas of my own for stories, but never acted on them.
I have also noted the lack of LGBT characters in mainstream media, and when a LGBT character was included in a book or movie, they were the stereotypical quirky gay best friend who was more a caricature than a real person. This has never sat well with me because both my nieces are lesbian and my son is gay.
One of my nieces noted the same imbalance, saying there were no characters she could identify with in media. So one day I came up with the idea to write a story where the main characters just happened to be lesbian, without the story focusing on that fact. It doesn’t matter that the characters are gay any more than it matters they are right handed or have blue eyes.
When I sat down to outline the idea one Saturday morning, I found that I really sucked at outlines because I wound up writing all that day and into the night, and woke up early the next day to keep writing. Before midnight that Sunday, after 18 hours of writing, I had completed my first book, Music of the Soul.
Just to be silly, I went through the terrifying and confusing nightmare of self publishing the book (I can’t believe how easy it really is now, I had made mountains out of mole hills.). And I believed that I would sell maybe like 5 copies of the book total to friends and family who felt obligated to buy one but never read it.
Imagine my surprise when dozens sold the first day, then hundreds the following weeks, then thousands. I thought to myself, “Self, just what the **censored for delicate ears** is going on here?” My pet platypus, Frank, slapped me for laughing giddily and forgetting to hand him a chocolate eclair to eat.
This was such a shock to me when all I wanted was to write something with a character my nieces could identify with. So I tested the waters, and the following month I released another book, and it outsold the first.
I believed I was onto something so continued releasing a new book every month. When the enthusiasm for them never died down, but rather ramped up, I wondered if I could make a career out of writing.
By the anniversary of my first book, I determined that the stable income was more than I was making at my job, so I bit the bullet and put in my notice. Now as I churn my way slowly toward 100 bestselling books, slowly but surely, the rest as they say, is history.
JSC: Describe yourself using… ( a food, a book, a song, a movie, an animal, a drink, a place etc).
ES: Thank you, don’t mind if I do… **pretends I don’t know you are asking for just one**
Food: Chocolate eclairs. This is self explanatory and doesn’t need any exposition. Now please excuse me while I swim up tot he platy-bar in the platy-pool and eat some eclairs with my pet platypus, Frank.
Book: Green Eggs and Ham. Good life lesson I live by. You never know if you’ll like it unless you try it. http://amzn.to/2f8LaZe
Song: Bring Me To Life, by Evanescence. I don’t want to be a passenger in life, I want to take charge of my own destiny and lean into the storm instead of hiding from it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YxaaGgTQYM
Movie: Grosse Pointe Blank… self explanatory 🙂 Fine whatever… Most people don;t see that under the comedy, action, assassin storyline, there is a hell of a romance under it all. That is the type of romance me and my wife have. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iF7t91gbSf8
Animal: Ummm… looks at my pet platypus. No. Nope, no animal resembles my psyche at all, why do you ask? Slides Frank behind me as he eats my imaginary eclairs.
Drink: I think you’ll need one after this interview. 🙂
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
ES: As I say in my bio, my writing style may not be the most professional nor grammatically correct, I never claim I am an English major, just someone who wants to share a story. If your primary language is not sarcasm like mine is, then my books are not for you as event the most serious one contains a healthy helping of ironic snark and humor.
Genre? Why yes thank you, don’t mind if I do… If you had a list of genre’s in front of you, you’d be hard pressed to find one I haven’t at least dabbled in. I don;t want to be pigeonholed into one particular genre, so I write books in romance, scifi, paranormal, fantasy, swords and sorcery, steampunk, horror, historical fiction, and platypus adventures… I mean action adventure.
If I was pressed to say which genre was the best received of my work, I would have to say Lesbian Romance. All of my romances contain no erotica at all, I fade to black at any intimate scenes for a couple of reasons.
First is that my strong point is writing about the feelings and emotions of my characters rather than talking about the various jiggly bits, and what tab goes into which slot.
Second, I feel the reader’s imagination in those cases is going to be far better than I could ever put to paper, as everyone has different ideas of the perfect situation.
I guess there is also a third reason… my characters deserve some measure of privacy as I am already writing about their private lives. 🙂
JSC: Do you have any strange writing habits or superstitions?
ES: I’m not sure if it is strange or not, but I religiously sit down at 10:00am every day and write for exactly 2 hours. It feels odd if I do more or less than that.
I refuse to write an outline, as the only outline I ever wrote, complete with character sheets and chapter breakdown, is the only book I have never written and it is the story I love most.
I think the outline cursed me to have a book forever in limbo without me ever getting the chance to write it. Think of it as a body on a pike at the castle gates, a warning for me not to pass.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
ES: My first book was Music of the Soul.
It was a romance between a young rock star, Mandy, who quit the music scene while she was till at the pinnacle of her career. The record label had made her into something she was not and she felt as if she had been swallowed whole and had became this bad girl rocker they projected tot eh world, drinking drugs sleeping with anything that moved, male or female.
Something happened in her surreal life that was more powerful than the draw of the fame, so she quit and she ran back to her hometown.
There she met by pure happenstance, possibly her greatest fan, someone who her music had such a profound effect on. Anabella West. Imagine Mandy’s surprise when she found out Anabella was deaf.
What followed was a story of pain, acceptance, and a love so pure it scared Mandy, believing she did not deserve the happiness and could only taint it with who she was.
This all laid out her famous line; In that world at least; that “Your scars make you beautiful.” It was the theme of not only Music of the Soul, but the three new romance serieses which spawned from MOTS.
JSC: If I were a Hollywood producer about to put your book on the big screen, who would you want me to cast as the leads? Why?
ES: I would want to use unknowns almost exclusively. Since I like my readers to put themselves in the stories I write since I write exclusively first person. And having popular actresses as the leads would distract from the experience.
This way they can discover the characters and grow to love them just like they would in the books.
Here is a picture of the leads. **holds up mirror for you**
JSC: What’s your writing process?
ES: This is where other authors stare at me with death glares and remove me from their Christmas card lists.
My process? What process? I simply sit down with a vague idea of a single character and start writing. I’ve no clue where the story is going or how it will end, or the characters we will meet along the way. In some cases not even the love interest until they are introduced in the book.
The term Panster instead of Plotter comes to mind, but I felt hat is even more complex than my true process. I see everything like a movie being played before my eyes and I just write what I see. Simple as that. I feel like I am plagiarizing my own imagination, or at least supplying my own Cliffs Notes.
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
ES: Platypus Recognition Day (Because we are all a little odd at heart.)
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
ES: Right now I am working on Open Seas: Just Add Water, the fourth book in my paranormal romance series, the New Sentinels.
It follows Marina, a girl who has a lot of abilities of mermaids, but without the fish tail. She has no idea why or how she has these abilities.
She has felt isolated and alone not being able to reveal that part of herself, hiding it from everyone but her mother and her best friend. It wan’t until she started seeing the stories in the news about women with wings, raven women, anubus-like women. They are all unsubstantiated reports, but she finally feels that maybe she isn’t alone, that maybe there are others out there like her.
I will be publishing Open Seas: Just Add Water at the end of August, 2017.
And now for Erik’s new book, coming out this week: Open Seas: Just Add Water:
There are many things that Marina, lieutenant in the US Coast Gurad, doesn’t know. Among them are exactly who, or what, she is.
Her whole life she hidden her abilities in water. Able to swim faster, dive deeper, and hold her breath for almost fifteen minutes at a time. The webbing on her hands and feet make her feel as if she was some sort of mermaid.
She doesn’t know how accurate that feeling is, until her a mysterious and powerful woman comes calling, bringing the storm of the century to the Washington and Oregon coast.
Marina is faced with a choice. Either join this woman she is convinced is evil, or let hundreds of thousands of people in the Pacific Northeast die.
The Coast Guard Cutter, USCGC Steadfast had been in our home port for three days now for maintenance, refueling, and resupply. I was itching to get back on the water again as I sat under a pier near my boat in Ilwaco, Washington. Just a stones throw away from where the Steadfast was in Astoria, Oregon.
It was a seventeen mile drive or a fifteen mile swim, but as fast as I could swim and how easy it would be for me, it was still faster to drive over the Astoria Megler Bridge. The Kraken, old retired research vessel I lived on would take over an hour to eat up the distance at it’s top speed of twelve knots. Overland it was less than half that time.
I inhaled the air, I could feel the barometric pressure dropping quickly. I could taste it in the air, a storm like no other was coming. I didn’t need to listen to the weather reports that were talking about the freak storm that was roaring in toward the west coast, nor see the dark clouds roiling beyond the horizon, to know it was out there.
But what those reports didn’t tell us, was that something was off about this storm. It wasn’t right. I could feel the water temperature dropping too fast from where I sat. It was unnatural and the wrongness of it set my nerves on end.
It wouldn’t be long before the first calls would start coming in and the crew would be called up to head out to assist sailors caught off guard by the sudden violent weather system.
I sighed, they didn’t know just how bad this one was going to be. The Steadfast had only about a four hour window before the storm hit landfall, and five hours maximum before we needed to get out past the jetties and the Columbia River Bar, and into the Graveyard of the Pacific before the corridor will become unnavigable.
That only gave me an hour or two to swim. I started to reach for my jacket as I stared longingly at the water when I hesitated at a voice behind me. “Mera?” I chuckled at the old nickname that was bestowed upon me by my high school swim team. Mera was Aquaman’s wife in the comics. I got it because of my ability to stay submerged for longer than any of the other swimmers.
I chuckled at that. If they only knew. Actually, my name is just about as ironic as that, Marina, Marina Caliban. Mom knew even back then.
I looked back to the blind man making his way between the pylons, his white cane tapping them and the concrete pilings of the seawall I was sitting on. By the brackish waters of the Columbia delta, where the waters of the Pacific Ocean mixed with the fresh water of the Columbia River.
I brushed my long brunette hair over my shoulders to dissuade the rising breeze from blowing it in my face, “What is it Max? You shouldn’t be down here, the tide is coming in.” The tide differential here was only a couple of feet, but that was still enough to rise above the sand covered concrete I was sitting on.
Maxwell Eddie Preston, or Meep to his friends, and I have been thick as thieves since the first grade. He lives below decks on the Kraken with me and seeing or not, he’s one of the best mechanics on the waves. He earns his keep on my floating home by keeping it floating for me. He is also the only person besides my mom who knows… well, knows everything about me. For a geek he is funny as shit and my best friend.
He nodded to me and came over to sit beside me, “I know. But I just wanted to come out to tell you that that storm is coming in faster. They are saying it will hit landfall in around four hours. I smiled at him and nodded to myself. “I know Meep.”
He chuckled, “I thought you might.” I’ve got the Kraken battened down and brought your pager.
I blinked at that. Oh crap, I patted my left arm, how had I forgotten that? I’m sure it would be flashing and buzzing soon, calling me back to duty.
I took the bright yellow waterproof box from him. Thanks Max, you’re a life saver.
He beamed at me and I shoved his shoulder playfully. He had been sort of an awkward boy growing up, and he had grown into an awkward man. He still had his baby fat that never seemed to leave him, and he had that mop of hair of indistinct color, stuck half way between blonde and red. His crooked smile and just as crooked laugh were to me, his most endearing quality.
Unfortunately, not many girls as we grew up would look past his affliction or his slightly chubby appearance. It was their loss, my buddy was one of the smartest people I knew and had a sharp wit, and was as loyal a friend as anyone could wish for.
I told him, “I’m just going to take a quick swim before I get ready for the call. I need to clear my head. Something isn’t right about this storm coming in.”
He nodded and said, “The air pressure and water temp are both dropping too fast.” I smiled. He could see more than any sighted person at times.
I started stripping off my leather jacket and my clothes, handing them to an amused looking Max as he started stuffing them into the mesh bag I had tacked above the high tide mark on the piling we sat by. I stuffed my panties and bra in it myself to his snickering.
I gave him a crooked smile and teased, “Take a good look perve. It’s the only free show you’re going to get.”
He chuckled and placed both hands over his heart, “You cut me to the quick, Mera.” Then he added, “When I write my memoirs, this is where I’ll say I brailled your body.”
I rolled my eyes as I stood there naked, with only the pager strapped to my left bicep, the clothing would just slow me down. I looked at my hands, spreading my fingers wide to look at the webbing membrane between them up to the first knuckle. When I was a child, the doctors kept telling mother they could cut the webs out surgically so my hands would look normal. Mom kept refusing, saying if it didn’t interfere with my development, then not to ask again.
I flexed my double jointed toes outward to examine the webbing there before I turned to Max, “Get back aboard the Kraken, the tide is coming in and I’m sure the storm swell is going to top the charts on this one.”
He nodded and stood keeping my leather jacket with him. He smiled my way as I just stepped back a step, over the edge of the concrete and plunged into the water. The water was in the mid fifties this early in the fall. It was invigorating for the few moments it took my body to acclimate to it.
I sank to the silt bottom and closed my eyes and just listened to all the boats cutting though the water on this side of Sand Island. The stress of my day, of my caged feeling from being on shore for so long, just bled away.
I got my start writing novels by accident. I have always been drawn to strong female characters in books, like Honor Harrington. And I also believe that there is a lack of LGBT characters in media. So one day I came up with a story idea that combines the two… two days later I completed the manuscript for Music of the Soul.
My writing style may not be the most professional nor grammatically correct, but I never profess to be an English major, just a person that wants to share a story. I maintain that my primary language is sarcasm.
Each of my books features strong likable female characters that are flawed. I think that flaws and emotional or physical scars make us human and give us more character than simply conforming to some “social norm”.