I don't read fantasy stories at all; I have no interest whatsoever in the genre, but I had to read Immortal LA because the son of a dear friend wrote it. How's that for full disclosure? Anyway it's a good book, and I have to agree with one Amazon review that says it's like a mash-up of Neil Gaiman and Douglass Adams. Can't get a better recommendation than that.
I invited Eric to do an interview. I think you'll like his personality; I think you'll like his book, too.
1) Tell us about your new book.
Immortal L.A. is about vampires, and angels, and dead kids who skateboard and psychic self-help gurus and Freemasons and sea monsters. It's an urban fantasy about the gateway to hell (the San Andreas fault) and how the history of Los Angeles has been dictated by a battle between God and Satan.
2) What inspired the story idea?
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I wrote the first story "The Vampire Andy," while I was living in Albania. I wrote it for a horror podcast called Pseudopod. At the same time I found myself researching a lot about the history of Los Angeles. I was terrified to return after living abroad for so long. So, I started looking for something to love about the city. I was surprised how much I didn't know about where I'm from, and also how much there was to appreciate.
The Pseudopod episode came out, I thought that was neat, and I went on my merry way. Then my mom and brother heard the episode. They ambushed me in the kitchen and said I should write a whole book. The wouldn't let me leave the kitchen until I said I would give it a try. They're usually right about things like this. So now it's a book.
3) Have you always wanted to write a fantasy story, or did this one beg for attention? Will we see more of this kind of book from you?
You know, I never thought I would write fantasy. But I don't like being bored when I read and I really hate being bored when I write. I learned something great from an erotica writer at a reading series I was invited to once. The difference between porn and erotica is what you're talking about. Porn is sex for the sake of sex. Erotica is sex for the sake of discussion. It can be a discussion of power, ethics, religion, purity--anything, really. A good story can be told in any style. Genre is the gun. The story is the bullet. I would rather have a magical gun forged by Satan and blessed by the Knights Templar, than a regular one.
I want to tell a cool story that people want to read to the end of. I would rather write about a zombie massacre or an angel's impression of Taco Bell than a couple of twenty-somethings wondering where they went wrong. Isn't it always more fun to exist in a world that is supernatural?
My next books will be tending more towards magical realism and sci-fi- so yeah, more of the same.
4) You spent a few years in the Peace Corps. working in Albania. How did that influence your writing?
I got to go on a pilgrimage to the top of the second highest mountain in Albania, I worked with some of the smartest students I've ever met, I illegally crossed the border of Kosovo and Serbia by hitchhiking on a Coca-Cola truck, I watched the kids outside of my apartment grow up, I got an elbow to the face and ended up with a bloody nose on New Years in a bar in Romania, I got lost in a rain forest, and danced (very poorly) with fire dancers in Thailand. I don't really know how the Peace Corps has influenced my writing, but a whole lot of stuff happened in my life. I don't think it matters how it happens, but I think it's good for your writing when a whole lot of stuff happens in your life.
5) Immortal LA is not your first trip to the rodeo. Some past work has you up for the O'Neill award this year, you've been featured as an emerging artist at the Disney Center's Redcat Theatre, and you run and write for LiveTheatreBlog which raises money for your Albanian Village. How do you manage juggle all of this activity?
Honestly most of my days are filled up working with special needs kids and teaching performing arts. I find that I'm generally uncomfortable if I'm not writing something. Nothing makes me stare into the void quite like not having a project to work on. I told my friends I would take a month off after the book was done because it was making me crazy. That lasted a weekend.
As far as Live Theatre Blog--our final show went to help fund the Mobile Library that I worked on in Albania (not a village exactly). We're now transitioning into working on shows about American subcultures. SPOILER ALERT: For research me and my team went out to Area 51 and to an Alien Abductee conference. "Our Crowded Skies", my new play, will be about the UFO subculture in America. So far research has been really fun. I apply for the O'Neil every year along with a bunch of other festivals. I've been super lucky to be short listed by them a couple of times.
6) What's next for you?
What's next is I've got to finish my next novel, "Farnoosh," which is about a woman who escapes the Iranian Revolution. She has a Jinn (a genie) and it is the story of the three wishes that she makes in her between when she is twelve and living in Tehran and when she is living in West Los Angeles in her fifties.
I'm working on a sci-fi novella called "SkyCube" which I've been wanting to do for awhile. It's about the near future where we will all be followed around by hovering cubes that meet our every need and watch us constantly. I'll be honest, this one comes from a long running inside joke with my buddy Dave and my own discomfort with technology.
My play, "L.A. Lights Fire," which is loosely connected to "Immortal L.A." will also be available soon in audio.
At some point I am planning on having a social life too.
Here is the link to buy Immortal L.A.
This is a link to donate to the Tropoja Mobile Library! Give anything you can, it goes to support a book mobile that serves the most isolated villages in Albania.
This is a link to a full story from Immortal L.A. This is the story that started everything.