Finding Lightness in Dark Genres: An Interview with Eric R. Asher

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Eric_R_Asher_Profile
Photo courtesy of Eric R. Asher

Eric R. Asher is the author of the urban fantasy Vesik series and the YA dystopian Steamborn trilogy. A former bookseller, guitarist, and comic book seller, he describes himself as “a lifelong enthusiast of books, music, toys, and games.”

Daily Dragon (DD): Your first published series was urban fantasy about a necromancer. Please tell us what this series is about and what inspired it.

Eric R. Asher (ERA): Vesik follows the story of a necromancer, his vampire sister, and their misadventures. There’s humor, action, food, and more sarcasm than is probably necessary. The concept was actually inspired by a very vivid nightmare. I decided to write a short story based on it, and that short story is now five books long.

DD: How did you go about building Vesik’s world?

ERA: I wanted to do an urban fantasy that was not only based around Saint Charles (an old town just outside Saint Louis), but also an urban fantasy with ties to history. The time period around the American Civil War is something that has always fascinated me, and you’ll find a lot of locales, and even some characters, that played roles during the war. Having characters that were alive then helps bring that time period to life in the modern setting. It also gave me a great excuse to plan an epic road trip to the 150th anniversary at Gettysburg.

DD: What about Damian Vesik led you to structure a series around him?

ERA: His friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love Damian’s warped humor and odd proclivities, but his friends and family build the foundation of the series for me. There are a few characters I’m planning to do some spinoff novellas and short stories for too, as soon as I find the time.

DD: You published the Vesik novels yourself, starting in 2013. How does the experience of self-publishing compare to your expectations going into it?

ERA: I did a lot of research on self-publishing/indie publishing versus traditional publishing before I finally made the leap. I spent somewhere around six months reading every industry book I could get my hands on, and digging into every blog I could find on the subject, which set my expectations quite low for either publication path. I was pleasantly surprised where things were heading within the first year. Three Vesik books were already written before I released the first, and that made momentum easier to capture.

I think what probably surprised me the most was just how much of a difference a cover could make. We all know covers need to be eye catching, but going from a good cover to a great cover can have a huge impact. I had the cover to Days Gone Bad redone a few months after release, and sales tripled immediately.

DD: What part of producing the books, aside from the writing, do you most enjoy?

ERA: Covers! I absolutely love working with cover artists and seeing how my notes scribbled out on a napkin turn into gorgeous artwork.

DD: Do you have a favorite part of promotion?

ERA: Conventions. I love meeting other writers and seeing my readers in person. Let’s face it, that’s always going to be more exciting than building an automated marketing funnel. Are you still awake after that sentence?

DD: How did you come up with the branding for Vesik, and what’s the significance of the logo on the upper left of your homepage?

ERA: I let my wonderful creative team do that. I think my description literally entailed “overlapping Ds with text around it.” The DD logo itself is the one that hangs over Damian’s shop in the books. The modified version on the website is actually for my launch team, The Patrons of Death’s Door. The name of Damian’s shop is Death’s Door, so I went for witty with the name of the team.

DD: Last year, you branched out into dystopian YA steampunk with the Steamborn series. What inspired this series?

ERA: Steamborn is the kind of story I would have loved to read when I was a kid. You’ll find influences from Miyazaki to Diana Wynne Jones to Neil Gaiman buried inside it. On the other hand, I’ve always loved bugs. When I was a kid, I learned what bugs I should avoid by picking them up and suffering a myriad of bites and stings. Steamborn is really the culmination of my love of adventure stories, insects, and a bit of whimsy.

DD: What is Steamborn about?

ERA: Bugs and gears! Maybe a little bit more than that. Steamborn is a YA dystopian steampunk adventure. That’s totally a genre, right? At its core, Steamborn is about the battle against overwhelming adversity, corruption, and the simultaneous desire to keep our families and friends safe.

DD: Steamborn was included in the celebrity gift bags for the FOX Teen Choice Awards. How did that come about?

ERA: I have an awesome PR company in Red Coat PR. A lot of the promotions I’ve landed have been organized by Red Coat PR.

 

DD: How did you build the world for the Steamborn trilogy?

ERA: With a lot of graph paper. I’d been wanting to write a dystopian story for a while, but I didn’t want it to be drowning in gloom and doom. In every scene, even the darkest scenes of the trilogy, I always tried to include some little glimmer, some shining bit of hope at the edges. What I ended up with was a world that, if you plucked a few dystopian elements out, could still stand on its own as a steampunk world. I liked that a lot and ran with it. So it’s not that electricity never existed—or doesn’t still exist—but in the rebuilding of the world, steam power became the dominant technology.

DD: Have any aspects of your past jobs as a bookseller, guitarist, and comics salesman carried over into your writing?

ERA: I think they have. Damian in the Vesik series has a monstrous collection of books on the second floor of his shop. I suspect my time in bookstores and comic stores influenced that significantly. There is music woven throughout most of my books in one form or another, and I always listen to music while writing. Many of the authors who have influenced me over the years were introduced to me while working at those jobs.

DD: Is there anything your books have in common with your favorite comics?

ERA: Chimichangas? I think everything we read and consume in media informs what we create to some degree.

DD: You appeared on the Travel Channel’s Toy Hunter. Please tell us about that.

ERA: That was quite a bit of fun. They came to Saint Louis to film an episode, and heard about my penchant for collecting through some of the other local folks. I happened to have some things Jordan was looking for, so they decided to film an episode with me. The sales contributed to some of the production costs for my first book, which makes for a fun story. Jordan and the entire film crew were a blast to hang out with. It’s a lot of fun spending time with people that have similar interests, or at the least are equally geeky about toys and games.

DD: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

ERA: Never stop. By that I don’t mean never physically stop writing. Please take a break when you need it. Even when you aren’t writing, your subconscious is straightening out plot points and coming up with crazy new story ideas. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t written in a month, six months, five years, you can always come back to it. Never stop.

DD: What’s next for you?

ERA: I’m currently working on the sixth Vesik book and the fifth Vesik audiobook. I’m sketching out some preliminary plans for the Steamborn audiobooks as well.

For more information about Eric R. Asher and his books, visit his website, daysgonebad.com.

About the author

Nancy Northcott is a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction, fantasy, and history. She's the author of the Boar King's Honor historical fantasy trilogy, which launched this year with The Herald of Day, and the Light Mage Wars paranormal romantic suspense series. Collaborating with Jeanne Adams, she just launched the Outcast Station space opera series with a two-novella anthology, Welcome to Outcast Station.

Website: http://www.nancynorthcott.com

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