Hi Eric! Welcome to Oktopus Ink. What was your inspiration for writing the Gatehouse series?
My son. I began the Gatehouse series as a simple short story for my son, who was 11 years old at the time. He was having problems in school, and some behavior issues, as well as difficulty with socialization. The Gatehouse began as a short story with him as the protagonist, and me as the father desperate to save his child. As I began to outline the story, it grew from there into a book, and then into a series of books, and the characters drifted from being us, to being a father and son with a lot in common with us. And as my son got older, so did Wes, maturing as time went on.
Was it difficult to write from the perspective of two main characters who belong to different age groups?
It was difficult in the beginning, at the outline stages. But that was actually one of the major reasons to write the book! I wanted to get into the head of a young hero, and I wanted to give my son a glimpse of what it might feel like to be a father who cares deeply for his child, and wants more than anything to relate to him. As I wrote, though, I found that it became easier and easier to slip into the mind of each character. I got to know them both so well, and the supporting cast too, that writing them became second nature. And in the end, the book accomplished its original goal of bringing us closer.
How did you come up with the idea to make Wes' language (English), the language of magic in Canellin?
That was actually one of the first things that came to me. I just had this humorous bit running through my head of an ancient, wise mage who was unable to read this incredibly powerful spellbook, only to find that the title was Magic 101, and it was written like a chemistry textbook. After coming up with the idea, it was much more difficult to find a reason for it! But as I wrote, the reason became clear to me, and is even worked into the story as an important plot point later. I won’t spoil it! But the book of magic that Wes found in Canellin comes up again later, and we do eventually learn where it came from and how it ended up there.
Wes is naturally gifted at playing music. Are a musician yourself?
I am indeed! I play saxophone, fiddle around on guitar, plunk on the piano occasionally, and I sing. I have a background (from college) in vocal music performance. My son also plays trumpet, and yes, he’s quite probably as good as Wes. He’s certainly better than me!
Gatehouse is sort of similar in concept to The Chronicles of Narnia. Were you a fan of the books when you were younger? If not, what are your favorite sci-fi/fantasy novels?
I had read the Narnia books when I was younger, and yes, I did enjoy them. But I actually think the concept of The Gatehouse is more of a traditional fantasy device. Charles deLint, Jack Chalker, Piers Anthony, Raymond Feist, and countless others have used the plot device of a portal to another world in which the rules are different than our own. I like to think the Gatehouse is a little different than most, since there are infinite possibilities as to what might be found behind a doorway. It gives me, as an author, a chance to explore many different genres with the same characters! Super-heroes, war stories, science fiction, horror… who knows, maybe even a western!
As far as some of my personal favorite sci-fi and fantasy novels, the list is staggering! The Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony… the Soul Rider books by Jack Chalker… the Magician series by Raymond Feist… the Ender books by Orson Scott Card… the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey… and of course, the old standards: Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini, and the Belgariad by David Eddings.
Did you do any research when writing Door to Canellin?
I’m actually glad you asked that. It’s not something I’ve really had a chance to talk about, but yes, I did quite a bit of research on one particular subject, and I’m still not 100% certain that I got it right! The channel crossing scene, when Trigg teaches Wes how to use a sextant. It actually turned out to be very difficult to find reference material on the use of a sextant in navigation! But it was something that was very important to the story, in regard to theme, and so I pieced together all the bits of information I could find until I was confident that my descriptions were close enough to the mark that they made sense.
The overall theme of the Gatehouse series is finding your way. Whether it’s finding your way home, or finding your way in life, or simply finding your way to the next town. Wes is trying to find his way to adulthood and independence, and Ryan is trying to find his way as a single father. Jiane, Luther, Elarie, and Gideon all have something they are seeking, something that motivates them, even if it’s not readily apparent. That scene was sort of my amateurish, ham-fisted way of showing that theme of a journey, of seeking, and how complicated and simple it can be at the same time.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Do you write everyday? In a specific spot? With a specific drink? Food?
I write or edit every day. My process is simple, but possibly a little too structured for some people. I write from outline. I do a detailed, chapter by chapter outline of my story, maybe even tossing in a line of dialog here and there if it occurs to me, or making notes on some important event that is supposed to happen. I then translate that into prose.
As far as writing in a specific spot, or with specific drinks or food… I’m far too busy! I have a day job, I’m a single father, and both my son and I are heavily involved in the instrumental music program at his high school (him playing, me as a member of the booster club that organizes their events and raises money). I catch my writing time when and where I can! My lunch breaks at work are handy moments, or late at night when I should be sleeping. But really, to answer the question, I don’t have any specific rituals, except for one. The outline and the majority of the first draft of anything I write are written in pen, longhand, in countless composition notebooks.
What was your favorite part to write? Least favorite part?
My favorite part would have to be a tie. I really love the scene where Gideon tells Wes about his sons, and the dragonwar. To this day, I look at that, and I feel it is probably the most well-written part of the book. But tied with that is the climactic battle scene. Come on, who doesn’t enjoy a battle??
My least favorite, you probably can’t pick out of the book. They’re what I call the “connecting” scenes. Some of them even have important events in them! But they’re the scenes that come in between all of the big, major events of the story. And they’re complicated to write! Keeping continuity, timelines, and characterization consistent between the scenes is a chore in and of itself, and I’d never be able to manage it without my outlines, and without my first readers… the people who keep me on track, reading the story as I’m going along.
- The Door to Justice (sequel to The Door to Canellin… do you like super-heroes?)
- Rocket Girl (a comic book project)
- Two short story collections related to Rocket Girl
- Mark Thyme: Immortal Investigator (working title, a noir/pulp novel following the exploits of a private investigator in the gumshoe era, who just happens to be thousands of years old and immortal)
Is there a specific message that you wanted readers to take away when finishing the first book of the Gatehouse series?
Honestly, there are any number of messages that were intended with the first book, but none of them are overly deep or profound. Just that life is a journey, and the journey never ends. There’s always something new to discover, just over the next rise. But when it comes right down to it, I’ll be happy if readers step away from The Door to Canellin feeling as if they’ve just enjoyed a fun, adventurous romp through a believable fantasy world, with real people, and real magic, and of course, real dragons!
For those of you who are interested in learning more about The Door to Canellin and the Gatehouse series, please check out Eric's website at https://sites.google.com/site/doortocanellin/. There you can get the latest information about the series, and find links to purchase it if you dying to read it asap. (Which you totally should be. The book is awesome!)