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Author Interview: Eric Tanafon

An enthralling talk with Eric Tanafon

Mike: Hi, Eric. Thanks for dropping by.

Eric: Thanks for inviting me.

Mike: You know, after having read your accent for several years, I thought you were English, and it turns our you’re American.

Eric: Well, I’ve read an astounding number of English novels, had English housemates in my youth in California, and, like fellow New Englander H.P. Lovecraft, I prefer the English spelling for some words. Should we talk about your “accent”?

Mike: Thut's probly bist luft out. I'm intrigued by your reviewer handle “An Occasional Guitarist.” How did that name come about?

Eric: My wife and I used to play guitar and sing, just within the family, on a fairly regular basis. After a while, we didn’t play as often, and in the last year or two, the guitars emerge from their cases only rarely. I still humidify them once a week, like a priest carrying out an ancient ritual for forgotten gods.

Mike: Speaking of priests and rituals, where does your strong interest in Celtic legend and Norse mythology come from?

Eric: My interest in Norse and Celtic lore probably came from works of fantasy I read growing up—Tolkien, Susan Cooper, and so on—as well as interest in my own heritage—my ancestors were Danish / German on one side, Scottish, Welsh and English on the other. One of them actually came over to America on the Mayflower and made history, unfortunately by falling off the boat.

In recent years I’ve become Asatru, which gives me another incentive for incorporating Norse materials in my books. I’ve read and re-read the Icelandic sagas, which one could argue were the first novels—or novellas, anyway—produced in the Western world, appearing hundreds of years before Don Quixote.

Mike: On the topic of ice, Father Winter: A Yule Story is getting great reviews. Tell me a bit about the book...

Eric: My wife, Colette, gave me the idea for that book. It came from a dream she had, in which a boy gets in trouble with the police. His younger sister, overhearing what’s going on, decides that only Father Winter—aka Santa Claus—can get through to her brother. So she recruits some other children and they decide to all go to the North Pole and change Father Winter’s List so her brother will be listed as Nice instead of Naughty, and be given some magical present that will change his life.

In my adaptation, the younger sister, Holly, undertakes this mission alone. She manages to capture Snowthorn, an elf, who helps her travel to the Arctic. Her brother, Connor, follows and they pursue parallel quests across a dark, magical landscape where dreams drift over the ice, until they finally find each other again and meet Father Winter face to face.

I meant for this story to be read and, hopefully, enjoyed by people of all ages. My influences included C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.

Mike: Do you have any plans to venture into a genre outside fantasy?

Eric: From time to time I’ve thought of writing a mystery, but as Agatha Christie has her mystery writer character say, it seems like a lot of work. In my youth I read quite a bit of science fiction, but these days I don’t care for it as much. I do have several ghost stories, which may see the light of day at some point. I’d like to get a book of short stories, and maybe a few poems, out in the near future. But mostly I plan on sticking to fantasy, which I regard as the oldest and most honorable branch of literature.

Mike: What advice would you give to someone who wants to write a book?

Eric: Know what you like and what you want to write. In college, I studied with American poets Irving Feldman and John Logan, and almost studied with the novelist John Gardner, who wrote Grendel, The Sunlight Dialogues and who I admired at the time, but he wound up not coming to my university.

Mike: What a shame. He has a terrific surname.

Eric: In retrospect, I wasted a number of years trying to write the Great American Poem or the Great American literary novel, when really I’m most happy writing genre books. I don’t even want to read the G.A.N. any more.

Other than that, the same mundane advice that I’ve seen a thousand authors give: work at it steadily, don’t let criticism crush you, but don’t ignore it either.

Mike: What are you working on at present?

Eric: I’m currently working on the sequel to The Road to Hel, the next installment of Sean’s Saga. It’s titled The Well of Time. I’m hoping to have it out by the end of 2018, but that’s pretty ambitious considering how little time I typically have to write. I’m lucky to have already secured the cover art for The Well of Time and the final book, The Last Battle. It’s done by two Dutch sisters. To make things even more serendipitous, they’re twins, which is perfect since my main character Sean has a twin also, his sister Fiona, and their relationship plays a big role in the overall story.

Mike: If you wrote under a pseudonym, what name would you choose and why?

Eric: Hmm. I would worry about picking a name that already belongs to an actual person. ‘Eric Tanafon’ is already pretty unique—I’m fairly sure there’s not another on Earth. But I guess I would use ‘Byron Stirling.’ I like that name, and it combines the first name of one of my uncles with the surname of another ancestor, so I would feel I had some right to use it.

Mike: What question would you most like to ask your favourite author?

Eric: It’s a bit hard to pick a favorite author among all the works I like. I’ve generally said Tim Powers in the past, but I haven’t liked his last couple of books as much.

Mike: Agreed. I love Powers too but have struggled with anything from The Stress of Her Regard.

Eric: I could pick Fritz Leiber, and then I might ask him ‘How much of Our Lady of Darkness was based on what actually happened to you in San Francisco?’

Mike: What book made you laugh the most?

Eric: It’s very rare for me to laugh out loud at something I’m reading. Off the top of my head, one book I thought was very funny is John Dickson Carr’s The Blind Barber.

Mike: Ever shed a tear over a book?

Eric: The only one I can think of at the moment is a short story, The Doll’s Ghost by Marion Crawford. I can’t get through that one without choking up.

Mike: Ever felt really mad about a book?

Eric: Well, I remember once throwing Ecotopia Emerging across the room—even at a younger age, I found it cartoonish and doctrinaire. And then there’s Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass—I liked the Dark Materials trilogy, but really hated the way he ended it.

Mike: If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?

Eric: I often feel that I should get out and engage with the everyday world more. Of course, that would interfere with writing, so…

Mike: Yes, it is an anti-social activity, but someone has to write books. Thanks for stopping by, Eric. I'm really looking forward to reading Father Winter: A Yule Story.

Find out more about Eric here: Eric's Blog  |  Amazon  |  Goodreads

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