Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi, I’m Eric K. Barnum. I’m 44 but have been writing and enjoying fantasy since I was 4.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born at military base in Utah and then proceeded to move around everywhere the Army sent my dad. When he left the Army, we ended up in Tokyo, Japan when I was 10. I basically grew up there and consider myself either an Army brat or an international child of Tokyo.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Growing up overseas gave me a lot of opportunity to travel, lots and lots. After graduating high school, I did 2 years of volunteer work in the Kyoto/Osaka area. Then, back in college where I should have pursued Writing, I got a degree in Genetics. Halfway through, I did a study abroad program in Jerusalem for 6 months. Somehow, after college, I found my true calling in Technology and have been working as a software product designer my entire career.
My wife and I were blessed 3 fantastic daughters and we try to share the world’s wonder with them through hiking, camping, and outdoors activities.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My 5th book, Khalla’s Play, is in editing right now. I’m this “_” to being done and I can taste it. I’m excited to release next one. While the editing is going on, I’ve been outlining possible next stories and doing some writing projects outside the fantasy genre.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing since I could remember, most often with a fantasy or scifi bend. My first actually “book” was an experiment to see if I could tell a story. That was towards the end of the 90s. I remember picking it all up after the printer finished printing the last page. It felt so real. I wish I still had it, but sadly, it did not survive.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
While most anyone can write, I consider the distinction this way. A writer is able to use the written word to convey a cogent idea. The writing should also carry emotion. If the writing shares both the idea and an emotion to the reader, then the last one is whether the person actually writes stories. I don’t think you have to be employed or full-time engaged in writing to be a writer, but it helps. Like anything, you improve the more you do it. I love writing.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I had an idea about what would happen to a fantasy race if their god went insane. I outlined the idea and then began to write. Once I finished a few chapters, it became a challenge and an obsession.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My current project features a young female elf named Khalla. She wants to take over the guild of thieves named Perdition from its current master. To make this happen, there are a bunch of things she has to do. I wanted the title to focus on the main character, Khalla. It also had to tell the story of everything going on. A play seemed appropriate. The book is currently in editing for December 2017 release.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
With 5 books, I’d say I definitely have a style. I like to declare the focus and then the action happening in that focus. It makes for a revealing story without being obnoxious about it. As action and overall plot move through main plot points, I like to then refocus the reader on something very small and insignificant that freezes the action and reminds the reader of the character’s place and moment in time. In my other books, I’ve had a pause where, in the midst of combat, a snowflake will land on the character’s eye lash. It’s something relatable to anyone who has been in a moment like this. It ties the reader’s own experience to the fantasy world and, I think, makes the fantasy more accessible.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Nice! It’s fantasy, so while I wish I could claim to know these characters personally, I can only really relate a few of them to actual real people and experiences. One of my editors tells me that I must live most of my real life in this fantasy realm, so maybe that’s it? I did have an experience where, in Greece, I was chased by a street gang in Athens. Watching and reading about scenes like this in books and movies, when it actually happened, I was struck by how adrenaline really gives you tunnel-vision. Certain things become so focused. I remember ducking behind a dumpster. It was July. The smell would normally be gag-worthy. In this chase, I remember there being an earthy smell and the texture of the dumpster reminded me of concrete, not metal. When I write combat, I try and channel some of these experiences into what the characters are sensing as they go up against their enemies.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I work a lot on my website: www.forsakenisles.com and traveling into a fantasy world is key to being able to share that world with readers. The hallmark of good fantasy is a world of consistent rules.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I was lucky to find an illustrator whose art I really like. My early work, I used freelance contractors and had mixed results. In the Who section, I spotlight Darko and my website is really a tribute to his creative genius. When I’m done writing the climax, I’ll contact Darko with 3-5 cover ideas. For Khalla’s Play, I wanted something brighter and more appealing to my readers. I wanted to convey excitement and bright hope. I really like how it turned out. Even though Khalla does not look very elf-like, I’m okay with that too. I feel like elves became tropey at some point and that’s not what my elves are like.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
All of my books have sub-themes and messages. Khalla’s Play is really my first attempt at a light-hearted adventure romp, if you can believe it. Themes in the other books touch on topics like, the corruptibility of the human soul, what is intelligence versus sentience, how does a god shape its followers, addictive nature of power, and how emotion invokes Time to age us. Time as a weapon itself is a theme. If I had to peg just one main one for Khalla’s Play it would be that a person’s power comes from a clearly understanding of who they are and what they actually have passion for.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Yes, I look for other writers in my genre and read for enjoyment and also as if they are my mentors. Some have proven really good. However, the authors that really turned me onto Epic Fantasy and SciFi are names like Frank Herbert and Dune, Raymond E. Feist and the Riftwar Saga, and the like. As an 8-year-old I read and studied Tolkien’s The Hobbit for months. I can still the song from the horrible Rankin Bass cartoon movie for it! I must’ve watched that on VHS until the cassette broke.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Out of everyone I’ve known and worked with, who loves fantasy, I’ve had two friends who have become my editors for the past 3 books: Tony Reynolds and Ben Duffy. Learning how to take and incorporate critique is key to improving a writer’s art. Sure, sometimes it stings. But, the goal here isn’t to write a story for Eric. It’s to share the Forsaken Isles with the world.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’m working towards that. I’d love nothing more than to have the Forsaken Isles become a well-accepted column in the Epic Fantasy section of bookworms and others alike. If I could go back and redo college, I’d have focused on this instead of Genetics. At that time, I think I wanted a challenge..and I had a lot of pressure from my parents to not waste my college education on something not worthy of 4 years of my life. So, I chose a science I was interested in, but not passionate about. That was a mistake. It would be ideal to have a career in something I do have passion for. The art of storytelling and the stories themselves ache to be told. Sometimes I feel like I can’t write fast enough.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
My last book was Dar Tania II: Set’s Dream. It’s not really a sequel to Dar Tania but the content and story-telling between the two would be notable for a new reader. I would like to change the heart of Dar Tania’s content to tell a bigger story so that it would be comparable in scope to Set’s Dream. As it is, I’ll make up the difference on the ForsakenIsles.com website and in other books.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I always learn something. In this one, the challenge was to take monsters and make them relatable and make them make sense. Khalla’s Play has vampires, reimagined to fit in the Forsaken Isles, as well as dopplegangers, rakshasas, and minotaurs. While vampire lore is plentiful, the difference in my world is that the God of Undeath just died. What happens to undead creatures, like vampires, when the god granting them their very existence falls? Meanwhile, the dopplegangers and rakshasa stories are not. What do they do that they even exist? What was their genesis? They have to internally consistent to the world and make sense. I learned a lot about these races and was glad to welcome them to the Isles.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Nice question. I’ve had a crush on Kate Beckinsdale forever. She’d have to play either Khalla or one of the priestesses. I think Vin Diesel would make for a great anti-hero character in this story as well. But, if I’m honest with myself, I’d just love to meet both of these great actors.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Yes, write! If you have a story to tell and its burning like fire in your belly, let it come forth onto paper. If you don’t, the fire will fade and you’ll no longer be a writer.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I love the interaction with my readers through emails at forsakenisles.com, comments and reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and most recently on my Facebook Author page at www.facebook.com/forsakenislesIt’s fun to learn how my readers imagine the characters looking and being. One of the best moments for me was after my 1st book, Dar Tania, where someone said that character So-So and was a great tragic character. I had not written that character to be great or tragic. It tickled me that this is how he did. I’ve found this in all my books. Sometimes, I think the book has a cadre of main characters and plot lines and then a reader reveals an interesting perspective on someone not in that group. Insights like this make the Forsaken Isles better and I love it. Keep it coming!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading The White Tower by Michael Wisehart and Song of Insurrection by John Kang.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I do. It was Treasure Island, an abridged and edited copy for young readers. I read it when I was 7 years old and fell in love with adventure.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Heroism and poignant honor can make me tear up in any media. The story of the lone hero sacrificing his chances of survival or treasure so that others may live, or the image of noble sacrifice in the face of great pressure to cave… these get me every time. The scene at the end of the animated movie, The Iron Giant, where the robot hits a nuke to save a small town and the boy who friended him, yeah. “Superman…” On the humor side, I have a fairly dry sense of humor and appreciate the juxtaposition of a well-timed observation or remark within the overall context. Comic book humor cracks me up. Thanks, Spiderman. I’m such a nerd.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Absolutely, yes. But, I’m going to keep this specific to writing. I’d like to meet the author of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It was perhaps the first fantasy story ever written and has endured 1,000s of years. We don’t know who the author is. We don’t know who the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu is based on. For it to endure this long, I’d love to know, why and how and who and what this story had meaning in every age of human history.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I have lots of hobbies. Reading and writing, obviously. I also love hiking and camping. Music, loud and fast. Being a good father and dragging my kids into this stuff is probably a hobby unto itself.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Fantasy, LOL. Obviously. I also enjoy light-hearted anime from Japan and have enjoyed how much my kids love it. A few years ago, they really got into Full Metal Alchemist and it just went from there.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I can live forever on nachos. Indigo. Heavy metal.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’d lay in bed and refuse to get up. The stories of the Forsaken Isles would continue to dance in my daydreams and I’d ache. Against this, I’d eventually go back to work as a tech analyst.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Long live the fighters! Muadib, Duke Paul Atreides from Frank Herbert’s Dune.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Thank you so much for this, Fiona!