Monday, May 14, 2012

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR, EDWARD EATON

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR OF "ROSI'S CASTLE" EDWARD EATON



Hello Edward! It is so wonderful to have this opportunity to interview you. It states on your site that you published some poetry when you were quite young. How old were you when you first published some of your poetry and how did this come about?

I published my first two poems, “Little Little” and “The First Time I Saw Myself,” when I was five years old. “Little Little” is about friendship and togetherness. “First Time” is about the first time I looked into a mirror and consciously recognized the person in the mirror as myself rather than as an Other. A friend of the family showed the poems to a friend of hers who edited a small literary magazine called Trellis, which I do not believe is related to the Trellis Magazine of the 2000s (I was five, so this would have been in 1970/71). Back then, I dictated much of what I wrote. Probably all of what I wrote, other than Christmas cards. Within a few years, my mother was in law school, and I had lost my stenographer. But for a couple of years, I would dance around the library on the third floor telling stories and spouting off poetry, and my mother would thank the powers that be that she could touch type and had an electric typewriter. A few years ago, when a family friend passed, we came upon a handful of my little works that the friend had saved. Most of my early work has, sadly, been lost. My biographers will have to start with my later works—those things I wrote in my twenties and thirties.

Other than a couple of poems I published in high school, most of my published writing after my auspicious start was in newspapers. I was a theatre critic for a summer in Framingham, MA; I spent a year traveling around Europe by train and writing a travel journal that was published in a small newspaper in Morgantown, WV. Not to toot my own horn, but even the publisher said that my column, “A Man Abroad,” was the most popular part of the short-lived newspaper. Of course, I suspect that the circulation was pretty small. It was large enough, though for me to have detractors and supporters (at least one of each).

As an artist, I have gone through quite a few stages. As much as I love writing, when I was a teenager, I caught the acting buzz. About the time I finished a semester at the National Theatre Institute, at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, I realized that as an actor I would never get the really cool parts. That is, I would never be the action hero or get the girl. There’s an old saying that goes, “There are no small parts, just small actors.” Well, I never liked acting all that much, so why would I pursue a career doing something I did not like unless I got some instant gratification? Ten years later, the artistic director of a small theatre in Boston offered me a small role in a production. He even offered to pay me. I countered his pittance with a request for one million dollars. He was incensed. Within days, the entire Boston theatre community was outraged that I thought I was worth a million dollars. They failed to understand (regardless of the number of times I explained it to them) that I had no desire to act in anyone’s production of anything, but for a million dollars I would shoot my mother in the kneecap. Anyway, by then, I had moved on to more enjoyable aspects of theatre. I had discovered directing and fight choreography. Somewhere along the way, I had also picked up a PhD in Theatre History and joined the ranks of adjunct college instructors who do the bulk of the real teaching in American colleges and universities.

Even though I have always done a lot of theatre, I have always had some sort of writing project going on. For some years, I kept my rejection letters. I even kept the writing projects. Thank God for computers. I even have saved old disks. Perhaps someday, someone will want to trace my development as a writer. Perhaps my son, Christopher Eaton, will be my Christopher Tolkien. A couple of the pieces I am still quite proud of. I have mined pretty much all that is good from the others for current projects.

A couple of years ago, I was running a small theatre group at a university I was teaching at in Oman. Two of my students spoke English quite well. They were tired of the light comedic scenes I was digging up. So was I, but the more serious stuff would have been too difficult to cast and would never have passed the Muslim censors (true story: two of my actresses were not allowed to pretend to die—we were doing the play within the play from Midsummer—because if they lay on the floor, their reputations would have been ruined; I argued, not very politely, that since one of the girls was half Australian, perhaps they could kneel when they died; I expected to get fired, but the censor accepted my compromise). I spoke with the English-speaking actresses, and we agreed that the story of Orpheus and Eurydice might be fun. For kicks, I wrote the play in verse. It was well received. It was an all female cast (I asked one male student to perform, but he felt that playing Hades would be impious), but there was still something of an uproar when Orpheus and Eurydice grasped each other’s hands at the end. Anyway, I was happy enough with the finished product that I shopped it around to a few small publishing houses. A very small one loved the piece and offered to publish it. They have since folded. I hope I had nothing to do with that. They still owe me royalties.

Because someone liked something I had written, I felt inspired to return to a piece that I had been playing with for a couple of years. After some major changes, that piece became three books: Rosi’s Castle, Rosi’s Time and Rosi’s Company. And that is why we are here today.

Tell us more about the screenplay you wrote that was a comedy based on Dracula.

Oh, boy! Did I really mention that somewhere?

A lot of writers go through a stage during which they imitate other writers. When I was in college, the senior student playwright had taken some dramatic literature courses from a professor who taught absurdist theatre. The student wrote a whole series of plays that were imitations of Pirandello and Ionesco. His magnum opus was a play titled Six Authors in Search of a Character. One young playwright I worked with was obsessed with a production of a play where all 30-40 characters were played by two actors. His next four or five plays all had huge numbers of characters with very small casts. When I was in college, I became enamored of O’Neill and Pinter. Most of my plays then became either incredibly long monologues or filled with pregnant pauses. Eventually, my pauses became so long that one entire play was simply a long pause. Then I read Beckett’s Breath and realized that it had already been done. I moved beyond Pinter, but never gave up on O’Neill. Perhaps this is, in part, because my father is an O’Neill scholar.

Imitation is very common among authors. Shakespeare stole openly. O’Neill was influenced a great deal by European playwrights who plagiarized each other shamelessly. As Trey Parker and Matt Stone said, “The Simpsons already did it.” Perhaps Kipling said it better when he wrote, “When 'Omer smote 'is bloomin' lyre, He'd 'eard men sing by land an' sea; An' what he thought 'e might require, 'E went an' took—the same as me.” Of course, there’s nothing new under the sun (Ambrose Bierce  Shakespeare  Aurelius  Ecclesiastes).

Imitation is how writers and directors and actors and all sorts of artists start on their journeys to find their own voices. It is also how publishers make money. Writers grow out of it when they come into their own. Publishers insist on it. That, perhaps, is partly why the literary world is such a mess.

When I was much younger, I drafted a screenplay that was loosely based on Dracula. It never went anywhere, but my classmates loved it. It probably was not very faithful to the original novel. In that, I guess I am like Coppola. Of course, I was eight and had never read the book; I don’t know what his excuse was. At least I had the courtesy to shelve, and later lose, my screenplay. It wasn’t just a comedy; it was a musical as well. It was also horrendously violent and bloody. If I were eight and wrote that today, I’d be sent to a psychologist. Where would I be then? I’d probably end up as a tax lawyer with a trophy wife who pops pills, three kids, alimony, two mortgages, an illegal housekeeper, and a drinking problem. As Tennessee Williams said, “Kill my demons, and my angels might die too,” which sounds really profound until you realize that Rilke said it first. Or was Rilke first?

Tell us about your current works and what we can expect from you in the near future.

Right now, I am working on Books 2 and 3 of the Rosi’s Doors trilogy. They are called Rosi’s Time and Rosi’s Company. Book 2 is with the editor and Book 3 will be with her by the time this interview is posted.

As I mentioned above, my play Orpheus and Eurydice was published by a small publishing house in England that has since folded. I am hoping to rerelease Orpheus and Eurydice. My publisher has offered to help me, but what their exact involvement has yet to be determined.

I have written another verse drama, Hector and Achilles. The verse form is similar to that of Orpheus and Eurydice, that is, the form is based on haiku. I am hoping to find a publisher or a producer for this play. It has some really great roles in it and an exciting fight scene. There are also a few twists in the tale. I am not a big fan of Odysseus and Ajax, and this is reflected in the play. I am much more sympathetic towards Thersites than Homer is. Astynax, Andromache, and Briseis are important roles and much stronger characters than they usually are. Of course, the main characters are Hector and Achilles—hence the title of the play. Also, I subscribe to a different theory about Greek mythology, or at least the Trojan War story. I will brag and say that I came to this theory on my own; I will admit that other people have similar theories that are probably more strongly warranted through extensive research than mine is. I believe (or, to be honest, I am intrigued by the idea) that the Trojan War story happened in/came from (Sri) Lanka and India. The Rama-Sita-Ravana story is far too similar to the Helen of Troy story simply to be coincidence. Unfortunately, I speak neither Ancient Greek nor Sanskrit (I have no talent for languages, ancient of modern), so any hard research will have to be done by others. My play is not an argument that the Trojan War happened in India and Lanka, but there are some suggestions to this in it.

I am working on a verse novella about the life of a bubble. I am also working on a verse novella about expats living in the Middle East (not autobiographical, but based somewhat on my experiences there). I am also working on a verse novel about the Civil War.

In terms of prose, I am outlining a short series based on the image I have in my mind of a pregnant teenager living in a tree with a witch.

I have a variety of other ideas in various stages of development. As long as I can find a publisher or an audience, I will continue to write.

Who are some of your favorite authors, the ones that inspire or have inspired you the most?

Favorite authors:
These are writers whose works I return to again and again. I could probably go on forever, but I will limit myself.

1. James Clavell – I find the Struan-Dunross clan fascinating. Clavell died, so we will never know how whole saga ends or what all the secrets were. Noble House is my favorite, followed closely by Shogun—both good miniseries, as well.

2. Robert Graves – I am particularly drawn to the Claudius books. Ancient Rome is one of my favorite historical periods. I’ve read the books several times. The miniseries remains one of the best television adaptations of a book as well as one of the best television shows ever.

3. J. R. R. Tolkien – say no more.

4. Herman Wouk – I read the Winds of War duology at least once a year. If I don’t feel like reading it, I watch the miniseries. If you like, check out my webpage for an extended review of those books.

I think that James Ellroy is the finest living author. He’s tough to read, so I don’t revisit his books as often as some by other writers, but his dark hipster/jazzy style is incomparable.

I have been greatly influenced by Edward Stratemeyer. For those of you who do not know who he was, Stratemeyer was an industry. He wrote something like 500-600 books. He was responsible for hundreds, perhaps even thousands, more. He was the force (and often the writer) behind The Rover Boys, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Ruth Fielding, The Bobbsey Twins and dozens of other series. The first Young Adult books I ever read were The Rover Boys books. My oldest brother handed me a copy of The Rover Boys at School to get me to leave him and a friend of his alone during a sleepover. I was hooked. I was six. I spent the next eight or nine years reading and rereading those thirty books any number of times. My father had collected those books when he was a kid. I grew up with Dick, Tom, and Sam, and later their children, Jack, Andy, Randy, and Fred. (I identified with Sam more than the others. He was the smart one.) I went to military school with them. I fell in love with their girlfriends (Tom’s girlfriend Nellie was my first major crush. Julie Andrews was my second. Really!). I wanted to grow up and be like them. Of course, it certainly helped that they were rich, popular, and succeeded at everything they did. Once I had devoured the Rovers, I moved on to Stratemeyer’s other books.

Stratemeyer may have had his flaws as a writer. He was no Hemingway. He was no Dickens. He was no Faulkner. He may even not have been a Dumas or a Rowling. But he knew how to tell a story. I would not be the reader I am today had I not gone to Putnam Hall Military Academy with the Rover Boys when I was six.

I can hear everyone I know trying to tell me what names I should say were influential to me. Most of them are names that those people think should have influenced me. Some of them I simply have not read. There are so many authors out there—including really important ones—that I could never read everything I should. So I no longer bother. I read what I want to read. Somewhere along the line, something significant or profound will slip into the pile.

All my grad school professors are whispering the name ‘Shakespeare.’ Do I really need to mention him? Does anyone? Every writer, playwright, and poet since the Restoration knows that Shakespeare is the standard, the goal, the dream. He is arguably the most influential person in the last four hundred years even outside of literary circles. He is also overblown, over produced, misinterpreted, and misunderstood.

Do you allow your wife to critique your writing before it is published?

Absolutely.

I have two readers. One is a local writer named Brian. We have worked together several times on theatrical productions. He has hired me as a fight choreographer, he has designed for me, and he is the best stage manager I have ever worked with. He is also a very astute reader. I do not take all of his advice, but I consider all of it. He became associated with Rosi’s Doors when I started rewriting Rosi’s Castle. However, his input has been invaluable. If I ever win the lottery or sign a major contract, I’ll give Brian a paying job as my reader.

Silviya reads most of my stuff as well. She is not a native English speaker, so she sometimes falls behind, but her advice is always valuable. Again, I often do not follow her advice, but I never ignore it.

What makes them good readers is what makes my editor, Janet, a good editor for me. They want to help me make my book better. I know some very intelligent people. Some of them have read more books than most of us put together. Some of them have read all the books that literate people are supposed to have read. The result is that they are readers who think they know better than I do what I want to write. It really grinds my gears when someone who has volunteered to read something I have written starts off comments with, “if you really want to be a writer, should read xxx author or yyy book.” Worse is when they tell me what should happen in the story. Then they get angry if I do not follow their advice. Only two people, my publisher and my editor, have the right to tell me what to write. Even then, I reserve the right to argue my point of view.

Silviya insists that my writing is not the only reason she married me. She certainly did not marry me for my money. Perhaps my good looks and considerable charm were what sealed the deal. Still, nine years after we got married, she is still able to keep a straight face when she tells me how good a writer I am.

What is your favorite book that you've written so far?

On one level, that is like asking which one is my favorite child. Rosi’s Castle has been edited and polished and published. It has that going for it. Rosi’s Time and Rosi’s Company will not be completed until Janet [my editor] and Terri [my publisher] give the go ahead. And that is the way it should be.

Bunny’s Christmas Adventure is destined to be a holiday classic—perhaps even a blockbuster movie. I suspect, though, that it will be up to Christopher to give that to the reading public.

I have a soft spot in my heart for a Star Trek spec script I wrote some years ago. I briefly had an agent try and sell it for me. It was a Next Generation story, but for some reason, my agent kept trying to get it to Shatner. I still don’t know why. It might not be as good as I think it is (I’m being humble. It is.), but it’s a hell of a lot better than Nemesis, which is where it would have been. My version is the only way Riker could ever have made captain! Ah, well! My agent and I drifted apart, and I have yet to find a new one.

Tell us more about your family and life in general.

My wife, Silviya, is from Bulgaria. She is a hospital administrator in Boston. She used to be a literature teacher and has a Masters in Linguistics. She went back to school after Christopher was born and received an MBA as well as an award for being the top student in her class. She won all sorts of academic awards when she was in a Junior College here in the U.S. as well as at her grad school, college, and high school in Bulgaria. I’ve seen her transcripts. They are unnatural. The only person I know with grades like that is my mother. They are both freaks!

We have a son named Christopher. A lot of Silviya’s friends have three or even four children. They keep asking why we only had one child. I always say that we got it right the first time around. Why keep trying? I tell Silviya that I will keep giving that answer until someone laughs.

Christopher is what would be called a handful. He’s eight, so anyone out there with an eight year old will know what I am taking about.

He is an avid reader. His favorite books are the Harry Potter books. He is somewhat obsessed with them. I am impressed that he can read them and follow the stories so well. He has an amazing recollection of facts. He has read the books once each and remembers names and incidents better than I can with the Lord of the Rings, which I have read probably twenty times. It can be frustrating. He will come up to me and ask me some obscure question or to explain some minor point in Book 4, Chapter 12. I have no idea what he is talking about. When he finally explains it, I still have no idea what he is talking about. “Daddy!” he cries. “Have you actually read these books?” He insists that they are his favorite books, even though I try to point out that his favorite books should be mine. Of course, he is not yet allowed to read my stuff (it is a little to grown up for him). I did arrange for his recent birthday party to be hosted by the MIT Quidditch team.

Christopher’s backup obsession is Star Wars. I am insisting, though, that he watch them in the right order: IV, V, VI, I, II, III.

Han Solo shot first.

Need I say more?

What genres do you enjoy most, both reading and writing?

I am a moody reader. That is: I get into moods for some genre or writer and will read that until I am sick of it. Then I am drawn to another genre or writer.

Good historical fiction is always a safe bet with me. Ancient Rome is one of my favorites. There are several series set during that period that I enjoy reading. I enjoy not only the Robert Graves’ books, but Colleen McCullough’s. I also enjoy several of the detective series that cover the period as well. I love to read books that are set during World War Two. I also read legitimate histories about those periods. When I read historical fiction or watch films set in historical periods, I have reference books or the Internet at hand to explore names and places that come up.

Fantasy and sci-fi are also favorites of mine. I tend to prefer high fantasy to other subgenres. I am drawn to military science fiction rather than pure science fiction (David Weber’s books, for example).

I go through phases during which I read detective novels. I would usually rather read a good hard-boiled detective novel rather than a whodunnit. I can never figure out the answer.

To write? Well, right now I am writing YA. The short series I want to follow Rosi with is YA as well, but somewhat darker. It is fantasy, somewhat a blend of high fantasy and mythic fantasy. I know the story and the history of the world, but I have not done much more than some very vague outlines. However, I am hoping that the publisher will see fit to contract Rosi Book IV. I have mentioned it in several interviews and would love to use it to explain a lot of the mystery and the backstory.

I am also continuing to work on my poetry. Each style of writing serves a different purpose in my life and is geared towards a different kind of reader. There is no reason why the readers of Rosi’s Castle should not read and enjoy my poetry. I certainly hope that they do. But reading Rosi’s adventures are not intended to lead my readers to any other sort of reading. I do not think that writers are supposed to ‘train’ readers; they are simply supposed to write enjoyable books. I certainly hope that they are or become avid readers, but that is not my job as a writer.

What was the main inspiration behind Rosi's Castle?

I have lots of ideas. If I like an idea, I play with it in my mind for a little while. If it sticks in my mind, I write it down someplace. It might be just a sentence on a piece of paper (many of which I lose). If the idea won’t go away, I run it by my wife. If she likes it, I know the idea is no good. . No, really: if she likes it, then I suspect I might have something. She is not the final arbiter, of course. She does not like every idea I have, but I listen to her objections carefully.

I have stages for a project.
1. Mental work – AKA daydreaming
2. Notes – this is when an idea gets its own notebook
3. Outlining
4. Writing (I write poetry by hand; I write prose mostly on a computer, though not all). I only ‘write’ one piece at a time. I suppose I could do more, but I have other things to do with my life, including making enough money to pay the bills.

I started Rosi with an image. I saw a girl sitting alone reading a book in the middle of the night at a train station. She was thirteen. Her age changed several times until I settled on fifteen. But she was still alone at the train station. The town she is moving to came into being next. It did not have a name until I came up with the backstory (most of the names in the book are connected with the backstory, though the history is not explained—at least so far). Once figured out the connection between Rosi and the town of New Richmond, I was ready to start outlining.

Do you have any advice you'd like to share with other authors, or in general that you think would be beneficial to our readers? Also we'd love you to share your links and let us know where we can find out more about you.

Write!

I’ve said this before. I’ll say it again. Write!

That’s what writers do. I recently watched an episode of The Simpsons (“The Book Job”). In this episode, Lisa decides to write a book. She spends weeks getting her desk right, organizing her CDs, finding the right coffee shop, adjusting the lights, etc. etc. ad infinitum. The one thing she never gets around to doing is writing the dang book. I spent years doing this and not getting my writing done (in my defense, I did get a PhD, teach for over a decade, work on almost two hundred stage productions, get married, and raise a son—but still, I also spent a lot of time watching television and reading books).

There are no authors you need to read if you want to write. It might not be a bad idea to skim through Aristotle’s Poetics and Freytag’s Elements of Drama. You should also familiarize yourself with the monomyth. Don’t bother throwing your money away on how-to-write-a-novel books. They don’t cover anything that Aristotle, Freytag, and Campbell miss. They simply use more recent examples. There are certain industry standards (the word length of a novel versus a novella or the number of pages per minute of screen time, for example)—those can be found online. But there are no authors you need to have under your belt.

Here’s why.

Most likely, you will already have read what you need to read.

If you want to write science fiction, chances are, you will have read some. You might not be an expert on Azimov or have read everything by Heinlein (do give Starship Troopers a try, though). That’s fine.

If you want to write high fantasy, most likely it is because you enjoy high fantasy. It is possible that you won’t have read Tolkien, but in that case, the authors you have read will most likely have been influenced by him.

Faulkner was a genius, but if you can’t drag yourself through his prose, why would you want to write like him?

Do not write to impress anyone other than yourself. Write something that you might like to read. Find a loyal and friendly reader (I have two. I’m lucky).

Again: write.

Not writing is one of the easiest things to do. I spent two-plus days giving a 5000-word interview when I should have been working on Book III. I did finish it, but I spent a lot of time doing other things. If nothing else, I had to catch up on 30 Rock.

There’s a certain amount of inspiration involved in any art, but if you want to have any success, you need to treat it like a job. You need a schedule. You need to do it. When I wrote Orpheus and Eurydice, I carried a notebook with me and wrote whenever I had the chance. I stopped carrying books with me. Rosi is a bit different. I don’t like lugging a computer around. But I try and make sure that I do some writing, even if only a little bit, every day so that I am always moving forward.

Stephen King once said (rather than argued) that plotting hinders story telling. I suppose that it would be silly of me to argue with someone as successful as King, but I will point out that for thousands of years, just about every commentator on writing has argued that plotting is the most important thing that a writer does. Books, plays, epic poems, movies, comic books all have structure. Even the simplest have simple structures: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Most artists (writers, painters, or composers) outline, plot, or otherwise structure their works. The trick is not to let the outline rule you. I have new ideas all the time. I reach points in my writing where it makes more sense or is more interesting for my characters to move in slightly different directions than I might have planned. However, I am in control. I choose to let the story follow these new lines. I understand that a lot of writers say that the characters have lives of their own. Certainly, we become attached to some of our characters. Ultimately, though, I am the boss. Anyone who actually believes that their characters have self-determination has issues.

I have a couple of websites. The main one is:

www.edwardeaton.com. That site is the most up-to-date.

Then there are

www.rosisdoors.com
www.orpheusandeurydice.webs.com

I also have a Wordpress account under the name Rosi’sdoors.

I will probably do a major updating of all the sites about the time this interview is published.

Floating out there on YouTube are two trailers for Rosi’s Castle that you might enjoy






Thank you again Edward for this wonderful interview. We hope to do this again in the near future!

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