Saturday, June 8, 2013
Author Interview With Edward Eaton
Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
I have always been an artist. I have always felt drawn to writing, but my need has always been for creative expression in general, not writing in specific. Working on plays has often served as a good creative outlet. I have started focusing on my writing just in the last few years. I still work on plays, but I have been limiting myself. Right now, my writing comes first.
I wrote my first novel when I was a teenager. I hope that the drafts I wrote have been lost. I hope that just about everything that I wrote before I was, say, about 35 gets lost.
Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?
I have a PhD in Theatre History. I wrote my dissertation on 17th-century French set design. Specifically, I translated and annotated a French book about set design written at the time. That was back when I knew French. I have forgotten most of my French since then. I still remember much of my theatre history, though.
I also have an MA and a BA in Theatre. My BA is specifically in Directing and Playwriting.
I have studied a variety of subjects in a variety of schools. I spent some time studying French girls at the Sorbonne. I was at the University of Tel Aviv for a brief spell. I even studied a little Chinese at the People University in Beijing.
I was happiest, though, when I was studying Theatre History, with an emphasis on the history part.
Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?
Like most writers, I have to help make ends meet in the real world. I am one of those wandering adjunct college professors that do so much of the teaching and get none of the pay or the benefits. I am also a full-time father as well as being the chief domestic operative at home.
I always have a notebook with me. I often have my laptop. I write verse by hand and prose on the laptop. I write whenever I can. I try and schedule my writing, so that my wife and little boy know my busy times and so that the chores that have to get done, get done. However, I do a fair amount of writing by grabbing time when I can find it.
I write better treating writing like a job. Sure, it may be a part-time job, but it is a job. I try and schedule time and stick to it. If I do not force myself to be disciplined, I’ll write half novels all the time and never finish anything (I spent the better part of twenty years doing it this way). If I am disciplined, then I will use my time efficiently and others will respect my writing time. I know a lot of writers who spend hours, days, months, or even years ‘creating’ work in their minds as they sit by the river or stroll through a park. My wife quite correctly pointed out that I can imagine my stories while I’m ironing. It might not be a romantic way of writing, but the socks need to get into the drawer somehow. Being an artist does not give me a free pass on housework.
Between semesters, I can write five or six hours a day. During semester, or if I am directing a show, it is more like 2-3, if I am lucky. I get a lot done weekends and evenings.
Deirdra: What do you do to relax and unwind?
I have a nine-year-old son. I do not know what the phrase “relax and unwind” means.
I love to read. I force myself to not read because I would never get any writing done. I am an eclectic reader. I like sci-fi and fantasy, I enjoy mysteries, a good airplane book can do wonders for the soul, history is a favorite topic of mine (ancient Rome and World War II are way up on my list).
My favorite author is Tolkien. I revisit The Lord of the Rings every couple of years. I also frequently reread James Clavell and Herman Wouk.
I SCUBA dive.
I am actually happiest when I am working. I love writing. I love working in the theatre. I usually enjoy teaching.
I love television. I tend to record my shows and watch them at night to help me sleep. Battlestar Galactica and Firefly are off the air. My wife, Silviya, and I enjoy Downton Abbey and have been secretly watching Desperate Housewives. I do not feel guilty about watching Archer.
Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
My first step is to play with the idea. I have ideas all the time. Some stay with me for a moment or two and then fade away. They probably should fade away. Some stick around or keep coming back. At some point, something happens that helps move the basic story idea forward. For example, when I was playing with the Rosi’s Doors idea, I knew what the character did and where she lived and why she was there, but it felt flat to me. I jotted down a few ideas and drafted a few pages, but it was going nowhere. I even had what I thought of as a strong image: a teenaged girl sitting alone in a train station in the middle of the night. Still: nothing. My niece (my wife’s niece) is named Rosi (from Rositsa, it’s Bulgarian; it is pronounced with a soft ‘s’ rather than a ‘z’ sound). One of my wife’s friends who is not Bulgarian kept on pronouncing it ‘Rosie’ with a ‘z’, even though he had only been told the name and had never seen it written. That gave me the name for my character. Once I had that, everything flowed quite smoothly.
Anyway, once I have something of a story (written or not), I run it by my wife. I listen to her feedback. If the story stays around after that, I right down an idea someplace. I have special notebooks and files with brief ideas. If I am not too busy, I might expand on the idea, even come up with a short outline. At some point, I make a decision about what I will be working on.
That’s my project.
When I choose a project, then I start outlining. I do a general outline of the whole thing. Then I write a detailed outline of the first chapter or section. Then I draft the section. Once I am done with the draft, I go and revise the outlines in case I added important aspects or decided not to pursue them at this time. Rinse and repeat.
I am very much in charge of my story and my characters, but I like to be flexible. I can have cool ideas in the middle of the night. I forget most of them, but some will end up in the story.
Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book.
Well, I have had a busy couple of years. I have six books out.
My series is:
When Rosi Carol moves to The Castle, she learns that it is haunted
The Carols have always lived in The Castle
Rosi Carol is a 15-year-old girl who is forced to move to New England after the disappearance of her father. When she arrives in her new home, she discovers that it is haunted. She is even more surprised to find out that she is the one haunting it. She sets out on a journey to discover a curse that has plagued her family for centuries.
Rosi Carol has managed to settle into her Uncle Richard’s New England castle, despite having her family’s so-called gift thrust upon her. Rosi has the ability to step through time, which means she also bears the responsibility to be time’s Guardian. Or rather Apprentice Guardian, as her Uncle Richard keeps pointing out. When she and her friends are dragged through a time portal into the past, Rosi must determine not only where they are but when they are and how to restore the timeline.
Thrust into the past, young Time Guardian Rosi Carol must rally a group of fugitives and friends during a British invasion of New England during the Revolutionary War. Outnumbered and outgunned, Rosi must marshal all of her wits and experience to reverse the course of events. Can she restore the timeline, saving herself and her few remaining friends? Can she find a way home?
Then there are my three plays. The first two were written as dramatic poems, so I hope that they are as readable as they are performable.
Then there is my more artsy work.
Hector and Achilles
is the action-packed story of the events surrounding the epic duel. Hector stoically leaves the safety of his city to face the Greek hero and certain death. As he and Achilles fight, they are watched by Hector’s ever-loyal wife, Andromache; the lustful Greek army; bored Trojan women, resigned to their fates, the sacking of their city, and somewhat bored by the whole affair; old Priam, who prepares himself to brave the enemy camp and confront his son’s killer; misshapen Thersites, the first victim to Achilles’ wrath; and others. This dramatic retelling, based in part on Homer’s Iliad, is filled with action, passion, soaring verse, and even rollicking humor. This will be premiered this summer at MIT.
Orpheus and Eurydice
Sometimes the worst thing the gods can give you is what you asked for: When Eurydice finds herself in Hades she is mocked and tormented by demons. Can her husband rescue her before the fiends of Hell destroy her last spark of humanity? Can she and Orpheus overcome the wrath of the Queen of the Dead? This play was written and performed when I was teaching in Oman.
When Elizabeth Báthory discovers that the blood of maidens will keep her young, she sets off on a bloody killing spree that lasts for years and results in the deaths of hundreds. When she is finally caught, she is walled up in her own castle. There, ever young and beautiful, she is denied the love and adoration she so craves. Then a young priest, looking for fame and advancement, comes to save her. Will her need for his flesh be stronger than his desire for her eternal soul?
Deirdra: How many beta readers review your manuscript before you send it to your editor?
My wife Silviya reads my stuff when it is ready. She also reads a lot of it fairly early on in the drafting stage.
The three Rosi books owe a lot to my good friend Brian Triber, a Boston-based writer.
They are great readers. In part because they are trying to help me make my books better. I know quite a few very educated and well-read people who give advice based on what they think I should write, what they would write, or what they would like to see.
Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Not at all. I can write just about anywhere. Television can be a bit distracting. I do not like to listen to music when I write, but I can write in a crowded room or at the pool. I prefer to be someplace relatively quiet, but that is not necessary.
Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Self discipline (which does not come easily to me; it is kind of like pulling my own teeth—which I’ve never actually tried, so the simile might not really be apt).
I make myself write. I outline. I do not trust ‘inspiration.’ It is great if I get ‘the idea’ from the cosmos somewhere that saves me in a crunch. I’m not going to rely too much on that.
I recently entered a short story contest in which I was given a genre, a character, and a plot device and then expected to write a short story in a week. This year, I made it to the semi-final round and had three days to write one. I put those stories on my WordPress blog because I am pleased with what I wrote, even though I most likely would not have written those stories on my own. They are, however, great exercises. Writers need to write. It is great if we always have the luxury of writing exactly what we want, but that is rare. At some point, someone is going to hand you instructions and give you a due date—an editor, a publishers, whoever.
If I need time to work out problems in my head, I sometimes listen to music. More often, though, the music kind of takes over and distracts me.
Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the characters in your books come to life?
I cast the characters. In my mind, I put an actor in the role. Of course, it could be my next-door neighbor, or it could be Harrison Ford.
In the Rosi’s Doors books, Rosi’s two best friends were at least initially cast using a married couple I knew in West Virginia twenty years ago. The bully, Kirk, is a kid who lived next door to me in my high-school dorm—who was anything but a bully. Uncle Richard looks and sounds a lot like a professor I had in grad school—I did not like him; to be fair, he did not like me. Jesse, the paranormal journalist, is Walton Goggins.
I won’t tell you all of them. I have to have my secrets. What casting does is give the characters faces, inflections, rhythms, quirks, bad teeth, whatever that fleshes them out and gives them personality and texture—at least to me. My decisions are not set in stone. The characters change in ways that their body doubles do not or even would not.
Once I do that, then the characters start coming to life. Of course, I spend a lot more time worrying about the main characters than I do the minor ones.
I treat character names similarly. The names need to resonate with me. Some names I use have deeper meaning in the stories. Many mean something to me even if they would not men anything to the readers. One character in Rosi’s Castle is named after an old stuffed bear I had.
Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
Chocolate. That’s my favorite non-writing snack as well. It is good in the morning. In the evening. Afternoon. Late night.
Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?
I am a theatrical fight choreographer. Yep. That’s right. I do sword fights and brawls. It is a fun specialty. It gives me a lot of the creative work that I would get as a director without all of the hassle.
Deirdra: What are you working on now?
I am shopping around a verse novel about American expats living in Oman. It is inspired by my experiences there but not based on them. It is called Last Call and follows a day in the life of a number of people who are connected by a common association with a local bar. It is something of an artsy piece.
I am also working on a fantasy piece. It is epic fantasy, but not a sword and sorcery world. It is written in a mixture of styles and I’m not ready to talk a lot about it quite yet. I am excited about it and will certainly keep you in touch.
This summer, Hector and Achilles will be premiered at MIT. That will be taking up a huge chunk of my creative time and energy over the next few months.
Deirdra: What is the most difficult thing about being an author?
Finding readers. I don’t mean that facetiously. I am quite serious. Writing is in some ways the toughest sell in the arts. At least on a theoretical level, a composer should be able to sit on a sidewalk and play his music. If it is as good as he thinks it is, then someone will appreciate it. Of course, reality does not work that way, but it could. Paint a picture, and you can put it on a wall. Put on a play, everyone in the cast or on the crew will drag at least one person to the performance.
Write a book? A book sitting on a coffee table is simply that. Indeed, a lot of people feel they should ask before they open someone’s book. I don’t, but I’m rude. Reading requires the reader to be proactive. I find it very hard to ask people to read my writing. I feel as if it is a real imposition.
I feel the same way for the general audience—people I do not know. Saying ‘come see my play’ or ‘come watch me dance’ or ‘come to my exhibit’ is self-promotion. Saying ‘read my book’ is pushy.
Deirdra: What are your goals as an author for the next three years?
To continue writing. To continue improving as a writer.
Deirdra: Where is your favorite place to write?
I have a small room that I have set aside as an office. I like to write there.
Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Write. Write. Write. Write. Write.
Stop talking about writing. Stop reading. Really. Presumably, if you want to write in a genre or style, you will have read something in that style. I cannot imagine someone writing a mystery, for example, if they have never read one.
Make sure that your project fits into one of two categories: what you want to write and what you would like to read—preferably both. If someone hands you a check, sure, write what you are asked to write. It is a job after all. But until that happens….
Find a couple of good readers who will take the time to read and reread what you are writing.
Deirdra: What is the best complement you could receive from a reader?
“I really enjoyed your book!”
Honest. Any variation on that will do me just fine. I suppose they could add, “I’m telling all my friends to read your books.”
What I want is for people to read the things. Sure, I would like lots and lots of people to read them. Until that happens, I want some people to read them.
All art is a relationship between the artist and the audience.
Deirdra: Where can readers go to find your books and order them?
Of course, this is the really important part of any interview.
My books are available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com—hardcopy and e-book. The best way to check them out is through those sites or through my publisher’s website.
My Amazon Author’s page is
Dragonfly Publishers can be reached at
They are available in hard copy and e-book (Kindle, Nook, PDF) formats.
Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Well, I have a bio.
I also have a slew of websites.
Edward Eaton has studied and taught in the States, China, Israel, Oman, and France, and holds a PhD in Theatre History and Literature. A newspaper columnist and theater critic, he has a background in playwriting and has worked as a theater director. An avid SCUBA diver and skier, he resides in Boston with his wife Silviya and their son Christopher.
www.hectorandachiles.webs.com (Under Construction)
Thank you. This was fun. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org