Eric Arvin writes books that are engaging, thought provoking and sexy. I first came across his work in the anthology Mr Right Now with a story about a young man, Deacon, flying to Australia and struggling with his fear of the unknown and the thought of lost opportunities. It was sweet and I loved his internal struggle and fear of taking a chance.
I am a slavish follower of his blog Daventry Blue and was pretty excited when I saw that SubSurdity was soon to be re-released alongside his new novel Suburbilicious. Eric has kindly let me ask him a gazzilion few questions about writing and I hope you enjoy reading his replies as much as I did.
Would you care to share a few things about yourself? Favorite place, shoes, music, t-shirt..?
Let’s see. Favorites stay pretty constant with me. I’m very loyal. My favorite place on earth might be Lucca, Italy. I’ve only been there once, but I fell in love with the charm of the place. I’ve never been a big fan of shoes, so I’ve not spent much money on a pair. My favorite song is “Boots of Spanish Leather” by Martin Simpson. It’s a Bob Dylan cover, but one hell of a heartbreaker. My favorite song-writers are Aimee Mann and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
What made your start writing?
I always knew I was going to be a writer, even as a wee lil’ thing. I just didn’t get the push I needed to actually go for the dream until I got sick in 2003. I had a lot of time on my hands and put it to use. I went through my old outlines and made something from them.
You’ve mentioned you were seriously ill, how did it happen and what effects has it had on your life and writing?
Well, I have a genetic condition called cavernous himangiomas – basically a cluster of blood vessels were wrapped around my medulla and had begun strangling it. My father had himangiomas as well, though elsewhere in the brain. I did not know I was afflicted with the condition until I took a fall a few years ago. I was pushed against the corner of a brick wall and the doctors think that may have caused the himangioma to act up. I’ve had most of it removed and the rehab is on-going.
It’s had a huge impact on all aspects of my life. The condition brings on imbalance and vertigo so crowded places are avoided. As far as my writing goes, it’s caused me to be much more empathetic with my characters. I find that I can delve deeper into their souls. My experience with the illness has shown up in bits and pieces in much of my writing. Actually, I would say all of my writing carries a scrap of my struggle. There’s always one character I identify with more than the others.
What sets your writing apart?
I think what I’ve been through – my brain surgery and the struggles thereafter – have lent themselves to my writing well. I’m not afraid to be completely and painfully honest in my writing now. The great writer James Purdy said that when you write you should banish shame. Many of the stories I write about – the humiliations and losses – come from my own experience. Of course, the telling of those experiences changes according to what genre of literature I’m focusing on, whether it be comedy like SUBSURDITY or a more dramatic novel like THE REST IS ILLUSION. With books like ILLUSION I found, too, that the illness helped me instill my own spirituality in the pages. I’ve always been a mystical thinker.
Is there a piece of work you feel especially proud of?
I’m proud of THE REST IS ILLUSION because it was the first one published. Each published project after has its own special place in my heart as well. But if I had to choose, there is a 200,000 word epic I’ve sent to a publisher and I am waiting to hear back. Sometimes I read through it and I can’t believe it came out of me.
What sort of characters and settings are you drawn to writing about?
I’m drawn to the deeply scarred individuals. The ones who are struggling to lift themselves up out of something. The triumph of the story, of how they eventually find hope again through a personal journey, is appealing and familiar to me. Even my comedies like SUBSURDITY have this type of characters: Rick would be a prime example. Here’s a guy who’s had a rotten life, even losing an eye, but in the end he finds the love of his life and learns that he deserves to be happy.
What sort of process do you go through when you’re working?
It starts with a simple idea or inspiration – a song lyric, a dream. Then, before I even begin an outline, I like to have a basic ending. I like to know where it is I’m going. The fun of writing for me is the getting there. How am I going to make all these pieces converge at the end. How will the ending change before I get there. It’s interesting to look back at my outlines and see who and what has changed from version to version. The editing process is a growing season.
What are your thoughts on sensuality and/or versus sexuality in writing?
When writing a sensual scene or character I definitely impose my own ideas about what’s sexy on the character. A finger’s brush of the lip, a tug on the ear – those little things are sexy to me. Sensuality is all about “want”. I try to convey a feeling of desire, like humidity in the air.
I think people are more comfortable with expressing sexual desire more openly now. That’s a good thing. But as a writer, you have to understand that this also means the reader wants more than just pedestrian sex scenes in books now. Bring on the cock rings!…or maybe not?
How hard is it to write sex? Making it hot and sexy without it coming off as cheesy?
Sex, I just go nuts with. I just let it all out when I write a sex scene. There’s no point in writing one if you can’t bring something different to the table. Banish your personal shames and hangups, right? You’ve got to get rid of those embarrassing phrases like “heaving bosoms”, etc., and write how you would talk if you were in the situation…Unless it’s parody. Archaic phrases can work wonders in parody.
I’m always impressed with what you’ve read and mention on your blog. Do you have a few favorite books or comics?
Oodles of them. For the most part I’m drawn to the epics and the heartbreakers, like Jamie O’Neill’s At Swim Two Boys, Maria McCann’s As Meat Loves Salt, Knowles’ A Separate Peace, or Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. But I also enjoy books that twist the norms a bit, like Goeff Ryman’s Lust: Or No Harm Done, Jeannette Winterson’s The Passion and anything by James Purdy. I’m not too terribly familiar with mainstream comics, even though I have written one (The Blackbeard Legacy). I do like Patrick Fillion’s worth, though – the naughty prince!
I really like your new HvH cover, his work is super cool. Do you have any favorite artists and what is it that you like about their work?
Thanks! HvH is marvelous. We’ve done quite a few projects together. I think it’s my longest collaborative relationship. His work, as sweet and sexy as it is, also has a menacing undercurrent which I think matches the Jasper Lane books very well. The idea of everything looking perfect on the surface, but underneath there’s some nastiness. Absolutbleu is another artist I’ve recently worked with. His stuff is much more innocent looking and he perfectly matches the Disney-Goes-Porno feel I was going for in the Kid Christmas stories.
More traditionally, I enjoy the sculptor Bernini’s work. His David, in the process of flinging the pebble at Goliath, enthralls me. The movement created is just astounding.
What are you working on at the moment?
A lot. I’m getting the sequel to SUBSURDITY, titled SUBURBILICIOUS, ready for publication this fall, as well as working on the preliminary outline for the third in the series; Working on a graphic novel with HvH and writer Adam Gragg called Shadrack Island; Trying to find an ending for the Kid Christmas stories; Working on a manuscript called HOWLERS; And a bushel of short stories I hope to put into a collection. I also have four other manuscripts with various publishers. The Law of Averages says at least ONE of them has to get picked up, right?
Finally, because I just had to ask, what’s the criteria for Hot Shots?
For the Hot Shots, I look for pics that are different. There has to be something about them that strikes me and that I have never seen before, be that in the model’s pose, the costume, lighting, etc. But, admittedly, I also am a sucker for T&A. A guy with huge pecs (not flexing) might make it, but the big draw is what I believe in scientific circles is referred to as a ‘badonkadonk.’ 😉
Thank you so much Eric for taking the time to answer my multitude of questions. You’re very kind to take the time and I cannot wait to see SUBURBILICIOUS.
Keep an eye out on the 20th for the re release of Subsurdity and to check out more of Eric’s work, go here to Amazon, Dreamspinner Press and you can buy direct from his very cool blog Daventry Blue. A warning, it’s a little addictive!