MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR J.R. ERICKSON
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
I’m Jacki Erickson, pen name J.R. Erickson. I write in two genres – gothic/paranormal fiction and urban fantasy.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
Some Can See is partially set in the Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane in Traverse City, a real place just fifteen minutes from where I live. It’s a beautiful sprawling series of buildings tucked in the woods of Northern Michigan. Some of the buildings have been restored, which are now called The Grand Traverse Commons. Each time I visited, I had the sense that I wanted to write a book that included the asylum.
Then one morning I wrote a story about a little girl living in her grandmother’s large mansion. She was stealing her grandmother’s dead, taxidermied cat from a case in her parlor. This little girl was special, she could see and speak to spirits. As all good stories do, a whole other world arose from that point.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I’ve always been interested in the paranormal. I tend to have a believer’s mind – anything is possible. The world is more interesting when we make room for magic, miracles, and the dark spaces too. I’ve also been a life-long reader of many genres, but my all time favorite author is Stephen King and he is a master of making the impossible seem very possible indeed.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I read a few books about the history of the Northern Michigan Asylum. I also took a guided tour of the asylum grounds. Some Can See is set in a time period from the 1930s through the 1960s so I researched a variety of things to make the time-frame more authentic.
Can you tell me about your Series?
The Northern Michigan Asylum Series will be a series of stand-alone books based loosely around the asylum with an emphasis on paranormal experiences: hauntings, mediums, possessions, etc.
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
Some Can See is the first book in the series. The next book Calling Back the Dead is planned for a release in February 2019. Honestly, I’ve really enjoyed writing both books. My previous series: Born of Shadows, was fun to write; however, it followed a single character for five books, which can become daunting keeping track of all the details.
Was it always meant to become a series?
I liked the idea of a series for the Northern Michigan Asylum because it’s a place with so much potential, I couldn’t imagine wrapping it all in a single book.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I wake up around 4:30am (I’m a natural morning person), make a french press of coffee, and write for two-three hours. I try to write 1,000 words a day, but this is also my time for tweaking ads, writing newsletters etc. I’m a stay-at-home mom so the rest of my day revolves around my son. Sometimes I can catch an extra hour or two for writing-related work.
My work space is a little kitchen cart I’ve converted into a desk.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
Calling Back the Dead is the next book in my series. I’m currently at 30,000 words and hope to release the book in February 2019.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
I usually spend some time naming characters – especially lead characters. It’s important to me that character names are fitting of the personality, appearance, and goals of the character. It’s definitely not a science, but as I’m reading and speaking for that character, I’ll have a sense whether the name fits or not.
I’ve also used names from my life. When I was a little girl, my dad used to play a game with my cousins and I called Bad Ethel. He would take one of our dolls and have her constantly doing naughty things. The main antagonist in my current novel is named Ethel after that character.
Where do your ideas come from?
Everywhere and perhaps nowhere. Often an idea starts with a character having a strange experience. Such as Hattie stealing the dead cat. I’ll see this event in my mind and write it down. Sometimes a larger story will unfold around it, if I choose to let the idea ruminate. It takes effort though. I don’t just sit and and let a full story pour forth. I have to consider what the larger story might be and then write it.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
Writing gothic or paranormal fiction is the one I’ve been wanting to experiment with and just started a few months ago. I’d like to write in a lot of different genres though. I wrote a Chick Lit book a few years ago that I’d still like to edit and publish and perhaps write a series in that genre.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
The hardest part of working as an Indie Author is all the stuff that happens after writing: marketing, social media, author platforms. The hardest part of writing is probably editing. I struggle cutting words from a manuscript even if I know they’re not helping the story.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I’ve considered it, but honestly I have so many other tasks, I probably won’t ever make one.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Finishing the books. For many years, I started writing novels and never finished them. There’s a leap that you have to take to finally complete a manuscript, but once you have done that, it’s no longer an obstacle – it changes everything.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
I love writing stories. I’ve always loved it, almost as much I love reading them. The writing is why I do it, sitting down and weaving a character, a world, a story into being. There’s something truly magical about writing.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’d love to be a successful indie author who makes a good living writing books. My goal is to write four books a year so by that time, I’d have a nice back-list of books.
Have you always liked to write?
Yes, I used to write little books in notebooks as a child and my cousins would illustrate the covers.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Write every day. Find a time that is easy for you to devote to writing and make it a priority. I recommend connecting it with something else you love. I love coffee so making my french press of coffee and sitting down to write is one of my favorite times of the day. Once you’re there, abandon the idea of writer’s block or feeling unmotivated or uninspired. Many of your words will be uninspired. Write them anyway, move the story forward or jump to a future scene and write that one. it’s the only way to get the book written – butt in chair, fingers on keys.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
I’ve always been very interested in Carl Jung and I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I’d like to become a Jungian Analyst one day and work with people in psychotherapy from that discipline.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I do read reviews, but I don’t respond to them unless they come to me through my email. Bad reviews hurt. It’s hard not to feel those a bit, but I know books speak to different people. Some of my favorite books, other people don’t like. We all have a very subjective experience of a book and our feelings about it are more a reflection of us than the story. I do pay attention to constructive criticism in reviews as well because it’s a potential opportunity for improvement. If you’re hearing the same thing over and over again, it’s probably worth looking at.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
I don’t enjoy fixing errors after I get the manuscript back from my editor. At that point, I’ve suaully done two edits on the manscurctip, my beta readers have done edits and now I’m doing a fourth pass with editor changes and by then I’m usually tired of fixing things.
What are you working on now?
Calling Back the Dead – the second book in the Northern Michigan Asylum Series.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
Excerpt from Calling Back the Dead:
A loud bang sent me reeling back into the room, and I whipped around. It was only the front door, slamming in the wind, but a chill streaked down my spine.
Only desperation to have that piece of paper kept me in the old woman’s house. I returned to the floor and slid my hand under an ancient-looking sofa and then continued to a cabinet filled with moth eaten books and half melted candles. I eyed a few of the titles, dealing with the occult, and noticed the spine of a withered red book.
“Calling Back the Dead,” the title promised, and I eased open the cabinet door that groaned in protest, but gave way beneath my insistent fingers. I pulled the book from several others and blew a layer of dust off the surface. The cover held the image of a shadowy figure with its mouth stretched wide, and as I looked into the gaping mouth a thousand other dimensions seemed to pour forth.
In an instant, I saw the beginning of all life in an explosion of light, and then the desperate crawling from the primordial muck to become dwellers of the land. I saw men, skin and bones, and women with skin sagging, tearing at each other with sharp, taloned fingers. I gazed at radiant beings of light fleeing from the dense, darkened earth. The cold wind of their absence numbed me, and maybe I cried out, but could not say because already the image of a mother nursing a dead child had overtaken my sight. And then she too vanished, replaced by a field, the soil freshly tilled, heaped with rotting bodies. The bodies writhed and climbed up out of their shallow graves to trek across the field toward me.
The old woman snatched the book from my hand, and with unnatural speed returned it to the cabinet and locked the glass door. Her eyes gleamed, and I recognized both anger and glee there as if she wanted me to find that book, but also felt protective of its secrets. She thrust the paper I had been searching for into my hand and shoved me out the door before I could speak.
Where did your love of books come from?
I’ve loved to read as long as I can remember. My dad was a reader and perhaps the desire began with him. Even as a young girl, I never went anywhere without a paperback book. I’d read in restaurants, in the car, between classes.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Stephen King is my favorite author and I have many others that I love. The last few years, I’ve been reading everything by Jennifer McMahon, Tana French and Kate Morton.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
I loved Hattie from my book Some Can See. She had an innocence that I loved, but also a connection with a world larger and more magical than our own.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. When I’m really into a scene it’s energizing, but when I’m forcing the words it can feel exhausting.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
The conclusion. I struggle with writing a farewell scene that does the book justice and leaves the reader satisfied. The climax is exciting, but the scene after, when it must all be neatly laid to rest, is hard for me to write.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try not to focus too much on either of those things. I write the story that wants to be written.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have a couple of writer friends in Traverse City, but not many. I could use to expand my writer friends.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
No Matter the Question, Coffee is Always the Answer
Where can your fans find you and follow??
My website: www.jrericksonauthor.com
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️