Erik Therme has thrashed in garage bands, inadvertently harbored runaways, and met Darth Vader. When he’s not at his computer, he can be found cheering for his youngest daughter’s volleyball team, or watching horror movies with his seventeen-year-old. He currently resides in Iowa City, Iowa—one of only twenty places in the world UNESCO has certified as a City of Literature.
What is your latest book?
My third novel, Roam, will be released in February 2017. The story follows a young man who believes he’s being haunted by his dead father, and the only way he can redeem himself is by “saving” someone else. It’s a character-driven story and very different from my first two books.
What else have you written?
My debut mystery, Mortom, is about a guy who inherits his deceased cousin’s house and finds a key with a note that says: Follow Me. From there, he has to follow a series of clues to unravel the mystery. My second novel, Resthaven, is about a pack of kids who have a scavenger hunt inside an abandoned retirement home, only to discover they’re not the only ones roaming the hallways.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
I always have a vague idea of how the book will end, but once I get there, my original vision rarely resembles the finished version. I’m not much of an outliner and prefer the “process of discovery” method when writing first drafts. I will confess that my lack of outlining causes lots of backtracking, dead ends, and staring into the screen for hours on end, but I like the freedom to see where the story takes me. Titles, on the other hand, usually come to me fairly easily, and they rarely change once I’ve picked one out.
Are you easily distracted while writing? If so, what to you do to help yourself focus?
I am the king of distraction. A typical writing session for me is as follows: open Word, type a few sentences, check e-mail, check Twitter, type a few more sentences, check Facebook . . . and rinse and repeat. It’s a miracle I ever get anything written. And it’s probably the reason it takes me two years to finish a book. I do have moments where I get into the zone and write big chunks without distraction, but those moments are usually far and few between.
Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?
It’s been said that talent is a cheap commodity, and I’ve come to believe that’s close to the truth. I’ve witnessed excellent authors languish in sales, while horrible writers excel. Talent is absolutely needed to get the ball rolling, but hard work, perseverance, and plain old dumb luck are just as important. And even then, there’s no guarantee. Sometimes books resonate with readers, sometimes they don’t. It’s as simple as that. All you can do is keep writing, hone your skills, and hope the next book will capture the attention of the masses.
Do you have any advice for first-time authors?
Don’t be afraid to write badly. First drafts are supposed to be ugly. The important thing is to get the story onto the page. Everything can be fixed from there. Writing, as many authors will attest, is 90% rewriting. Also, be sure to tell a story you’re passionate about, because you’re probably going to spend months—if not years—reworking the same sentences and paragraphs.
Can you tell us about your road to publication?
I chased literary agents for years in the hopes of bridging the gap to a traditional publisher. After a very close call with Gillian Flynn’s agency, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and self-publish. Six months after Mortom was released, I received an e-mail from Thomas & Mercer, who had discovered the book and wanted to acquire and re-release it through their imprint. Needless to say, I was more than happy to accept. When I completed Resthaven, I knew it wasn’t a good fit for T&M (they don’t handle YA), so I submitted the book to Kindle Scout, where it was selected for publication.
Many authors do giveaways; have you found them a successful way to promote your book?
I regularly run three types of giveaways, each of them serving a specific purpose. Goodreads giveaways are great exposure, as they usually generate hundreds of entries. Most entrants add the book to their bookshelf, which increases the chances of them grabbing a copy if they don’t win. The downside is that Goodreads currently only allows paperback giveaways, which can get pricey. LibraryThing, on the other hand, allows e-book giveaways, which is an inexpensive way to get reviews. The only catch is that the minimum number is 100 e-books, and some authors might not be comfortable giving away that many copies. Lastly (and my personal favorite) are Amazon giveaways. To win, the entrant has to follow you on Amazon (there are other options, but this is the one I use the most), which means every time you release a new book, they’ll get an e-email notification. This is a great way to build a fan base to complement your mailing list.
We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?
My buddy, Craig A. Hart, summed this up perfectly in a recent interview: “There is no excuse these days for a bad cover.” I couldn’t agree more. It can get a little pricey to have a cover designed from scratch, but pre-made covers are prevalent and affordable. Resthaven and Roam were both existing covers from a pre-made site, and each cost under $100 to purchase. To be a fiscally successful writer, you have to treat your writing like a business, which means—at minimum—spending money on covers and editing.
Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?
I learned, early on, that trying to control my characters works as well as trying to catch sand in a net. It ain’t gonna happen. My job is to follow, observe, and write down the things my characters say and do. More often than not, I find they surprise me and take the story in unexpected directions.
How would you define your style of writing?
Many authors aspire to create sprawling, epic tales—which is great—but I love crafting brisk, short reads that can be devoured in one or two sittings. I often joke that my books should only be sold in airport gift shops, as they’re the perfect length for a short plane ride.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?
I imagine this is different for every writer, but for me, writer’s block most commonly takes the form of crappy, uninspired writing. This can last for hours, days, or weeks. Sometimes a long break from my story will fix the problem, but more often than not, the only solution is to keep plugging away, and eventually the muse will show her face again.
Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?
I’ve never been on a train; planes make me claustrophobic; and my longest boat ride was a 30-minute ferry to Mackinaw Island (lovely place, if you ever get the chance to visit). Drop me behind the wheel of an automobile, and I’m pretty content to log some serious miles, as long as I have Mountain Dew, music, and/or good conversation.
Care to brag about your family?
My wife is an avid knitter and churns out cowls and sweaters with frightening regularity. Her incredible creations can be found at her Etsy shop: Knit By Design. Our 17-year-old has been on the honor roll since her freshman year, and our 13-year-old is gearing up to dominate her second year of club volleyball.
If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?
I’m a big fan of Walking Dead and Bates Motel, but my favorite show of all time is ABC’s Lost. I laughed, cried, and scratched my head at the finale . . . until it slowly sank in, and I realized the ending was perfect. It was an amazing viewing experience and one that will stay with me for years to come.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I was a child of the 80’s, which means video games pretty much dominated my youth and then followed me into adulthood. I recently purchased the complete box set of Three’s Company, and I never tire of watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island.
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