I’m thrilled to have EC Myers on the blog today! EC is the author of the brand new YA fantasy, Fair Coin, and he was kind enough to take the time to answer a few of my questions. Also up for grabs is a shiny new hardcover copy of Fair Coin,so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post.
Please welcome EC to the blog!
You’re the author of the brand new YA fantasy, Fair Coin, and have published numerous short stories! What made you decide to write a full length novel, and have you always wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t always want to be a writer, but I made some attempts at it when I was younger. I knew I had some talent, but I didn’t invest any time in developing it and pursuing writing as a career until after I graduated college, when I finally started writing and submitting short stories.
Many established authors have suggested that you should publish short stories for a while before attempting novels, because writing short fiction is a great way to learn the craft and building a reputation through short stories may help you get an agent or sell novel-length work later in your career. It does seem to work that way for some writers, but to be honest my short stories never got me much attention, as far as I could tell.
Writing them definitely improved and expanded my skills, though—especially through participation in critique groups. I’m proud of all of my published short stories, wherever they appeared, but their real value for me was in disciplining myself to write prolifically and submit my work; learning patience, persistence, and professionalism; and in the many wonderful writers, editors, and publishers I met over the years. Short fiction also helped me get into the Clarion West Writers Workshop, which gave me a big boost in both writing quality and motivation.
I suppose novels were always the end goal for me. The reality of publishing is you can’t make a living from selling short stories anymore; most writers can’t make a living from their novels either, for that matter. I held back for a long time because I needed a good novel-length idea and I didn’t feel ready to make the jump from short fiction, especially since I felt I hadn’t quite mastered the shorter form enough to get published in pro magazines.
Once I did have the idea for a novel though, I decided to ignore my doubts and start writing to see how far I could get with it. I didn’t believe in writing “practice novels”—novels that you don’t intend to submit, just for the sake of learning how to write them—but I did expect that I would learn it all as I went and then revise it into the best draft I could make it, with the intention of querying agents with it.
How did you celebrate when you found out Fair Coin would be published?
We happened to have a bottle of champagne handy, probably left over from some other celebration or party, so we were prepared to toast the good news as soon as I got off the phone with my agent.
Can you tell us a bit about it?
I got the call and an e-mail from my agent a couple of days before Christmas in 2010. At that point, we had an offer on the table but there was still a little negotiating to do, so it wasn’t yet a done deal. But I had a great feeling about my editor—I could tell that he got and loved Fair Coin—and I knew Pyr’s reputation, so I was very enthusiastic about the opportunity. We also still had some other editors looking at the manuscript at the time, so wanted to give them a chance to respond too.
It was an amazing, surreal moment. Publication suddenly seemed like a real possibility, albeit still more than a year away. Fair Coin had a long road to publication, sometimes characterized with disappointment and frustration and a lot of waiting, but as they say, all you need is one yes from the right person. The sale was a surprising end to an incredible month, in which I also got engaged and landed a great job interview—which eventually led to my current job.
Somehow, all the stars aligned for me all at once.
What do you like most about writing fantasy?
This is going to sound bad, but one of the reasons I like writing fantasy—especially contemporary fantasy with a slight magical twist, which some people call “slipstream”—is because it’s more natural for me to write. Does that make me a lazy writer? It’s just that the world building is easier when the setting is a modern day city that actually exists as a reference, or can serve as a loose model for a fictional place, as my hometown of Yonkers does for Summerside in Fair Coin. This lets me focus on the plot and developing the characters and working out the rules of the story without getting bogged down in inventing new geography or weird place names or a faux historical language or tone and spending too many words describing them for readers. I generally don’t write a lot of description in my early drafts, so I always have to go back and add more later. Plus, I really like taking ordinary people and putting them in extraordinary circumstances.
I like science fiction too, but it always requires a little more research, a little more rigor, to get all the details right, and with me there’s always the danger that I’ll get too preoccupied with researching minutia instead of writing and looking up the relevant information as I need it. Sure, the mechanics and cost of magic has to be just as consistent as science does, but I think the fantasy writer has more freedom to just make stuff up. That said, I do write science fiction books, and I’m planning a couple of more traditional fantasy novels that I know are going to be a challenge for me. But I’m looking forward to pushing myself. That’s how you grow as a writer.
What are some of your favorite authors/novels, and which have been your biggest influences?
Not by any means a definitive list… Some classic writers I love: Robert C. O’Brien, John Bellairs, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, William Sleator, E. Nesbit, Roald Dahl, Diana Wynne Jones. I grew up on books by Judy Blume and Bevery Cleary, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and Sherlock Holmes. Some contemporary YA authors I can’t get enough of include Philip Reeve, Scott Westerfeld, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Jonathan Stroud, Barry Lyga, Sarah Beth Durst, Diana Peterfreund, and Sarah Rees Brennan.
One of my absolute favorite childhood novels is The Silver Crown by Robert C. O’Brien, which must have done some interesting things to my impressionable brain. I think the biggest influence on me as a writer was William Sleator, particularly his novels The Interstellar Pig, The House of Stairs, and Singularity. He was a master of integrating real scientific theories into his science fiction stories, while focusing on flawed kids with relatable problems and complex motivations who sometimes made some shocking choices.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl. Each of the stories in that collection enchanted me in a different way, especially “The Boy Who Talked With Animals”, “The Swan”, and “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”.
Have you ever “faked” reading a book, and if so, which one?
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I only made it 100 pages in before a final exam in my freshman year of college, and I had to bluff my way through the essay question. Fortunately I’m good at making stuff up.
If you could have dinner and drinks with one other author, who would it be?
Sadly, one of the authors I never had a chance to meet and never will in this life: William Sleator.
When you’re not busy at work writing (and your day job), how do you like to spend your free time?
There isn’t much free time left over after all the writing and working, but I can generally fit in a little TV each week. Sometimes I manage to play video games, I read a lot, and I love watching movies. In my ideal world, I would watch at least one film a day, but these days I’m lucky if I accomplish that in a month. I’m trying to find a better balance between writing and the rest of my life.
Is there any advice that you would give to struggling writers?
Keep struggling. Write a lot of different things and read widely outside of the genres you’re comfortable with. Find or start a critique group and be open to constructive criticism. Don’t be afraid to write something bad. Learn to love revising and tolerate waiting. Don’t try to rush things (unless you’re under a contractual deadline)—just write the best manuscript you can. Write stories that you’re proud of today and will continue to be proud of years from now.
Do you have any more news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share with us?
I have some readings and group events with the Apocalypsies coming up on the East Coast; you can check my website for my scheduled appearances. I’m always up for more readings, library and school visits, and Skype visits, especially in or near Philadelphia and New York, if anyone is interested.
The sequel to Fair Coin, Quantum Coin, should be out from Pyr Books in the fall of 2012. Like the Facebook page to get the latest updates.
1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries!)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Fair Coin by EC Myers to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US/Canadian addresses ONLY
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry
5. You must enter on or before 4/13/12
6. Giveaway book generously provided by Pyr Books.
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.
The coin changed Ephraim’s life. But how can he change it back?
Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott is horrified when he comes home from school and finds his mother unconscious at the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of pills. The reason for her suicide attempt is even more disturbing: she thought she’d identified Ephraim’s body at the hospital that day.
Among his dead double’s belongings, Ephraim finds a strange coin–a coin that grants wishes when he flips it. With a flick of his thumb, he can turn his alcoholic mother into a model parent and catch the eye of the girl he’s liked since second grade. But the coin doesn’t always change things for the better. And a bad flip can destroy other people’s lives as easily as it rebuilds his own.
The coin could give Ephraim everything he’s ever wanted–if he learns to control its power before his luck runs out.