Eric Laster

Eric Laster

Eric Laster has spent more than ten percent of his life as a ghost, writing a New York Times bestselling YA fantasy trilogy, but is now optimistic that admitting his corporeal existence to the public won’t be a bad thing. His greatest ambition: to wield his writing utensils much as the best deli-folk wield their foodstuffs—deliciously.

His new kids’ book, “Welfy Q. Deederhoth: Meat Purveyor, World Savior,” might never have been completed
if he hadn’t shared an early draft with fifth, sixth, and seventh graders at the CHIME Charter School in Woodland Hills, California, after a day-long school appearance. Hello, CHIME students!

Originally from New York City, Eric lives in Los Angeles, where he pens fiction and provides writing and editing services to publishing and marketing clients

Maci & Zoe:
Did you have different ideas to start the book and then the book went somewhere else?

Eric
Generally speaking, when I set about writing a book, I begin with something small, such as a single paragraph that either describes a story element or partakes of a narrative voice that intrigues me. I do not outline. I will simply revise, and add to, this initial paragraph. Writing, for me, is exploration: I write to find out where the characters of a would-be book are going. The process is akin to threading through a maze backwards; the further into a book I go, the choices for an ending become fewer and fewer until there is, seemingly only one possible choice, much as there is only one way through a maze. Why this is so: the choices I, as author, make in the beginning and middle parts of a story determine what choices are available to me by that story’s end. With regard to Welfy Q. Deederhoth: Meat Purveyor, World Savior, I can tell you that what I initially thought would be the first chapter is now the fifth, and that when starting the book, I only knew that Welfy Q. would often be outfitted with a deli apron, from which, as the reluctant hero in another world, he would sometimes pull floppy bits of luncheon meats.

Maci & Zoe:
Did you enjoy writing the book, what was the most fun part to write?

Eric:
Writing is both fun and hard work, sometimes excruciating work—which might sound odd, especially if one is writing a somewhat humorous book. For me, writing is not a choice; it is a necessity. With Welfy Q. Deederhoth as with everything else: I enjoyed writing it (when I felt the story was working) and loathed writing it (when I felt the story wasn’t working). I had the most fun dreaming up Welfy’s interactions with his friend Harlan, as well as those with his antagonist, Prince Ffff of the Brundeedles. I also greatly enjoyed collating the reviews that you see at the beginning of the book.

Maci & Zoe:
Do you think you will write a sequel?

Eric:
Very likely! I’m currently jotting down bits and pieces of Welfy’s continuing story. There’s so much still to explore with him.

Maci & Zoe:
Do you ever think about the characters and the story of the characters even though you are done writing the book?

Eric:
I do. (See my answer immediately above.)

Maci & Zoe:
What’s your favorite bookstore?

Eric:
This one’s surprisingly difficult to answer. I tend to favor independent bookstores. I visit local brick-and-mortars and I shop online at independents that aren’t in Los Angeles, where I live. But because my taste is somewhat eclectic, no single independent usually has everything I’m looking for (nor even does Amazon), and so I often shop on sites such as Alibris or Abebooks for hard-to-find books. In general, though, my favorite bookstores are ones in which the staff is passionate about reading, knowledgeable about the well-curated books they carry, open-minded to new authors, and receptive and helpful to customers. As far as used bookstores go—for me, the best one in Los Angeles is The Iliad Bookshop.

Maci & Zoe:
Do you read books on an electronic device or a real book?

Eric:
I am still reading tangible books—which is to say, objects with actual pages between two covers. But I am not in the least against ebooks. In the near future, you will find me reading both ebooks and their more old-school cohorts.

Maci & Zoe:
How did you get started writing?

Eric:
As a teen, I wrote only when I needed relief from intense emotions—mostly anger, if I’m being honest. I never looked twice at what I wrote, let alone revised it. I’ve always been a reader, and as time went on, I better understood why I enjoyed reading so much: not just for entertainment but because, in the best cases, it provided me with a profound sense of well-being, a kind of emotional sustenance, by articulating—in a vast, multi-faceted way—the tragicomedy of life; fiction showed human vanities, idiosyncracies, foibles, etc. stubbornly persisting despite the fleetingness of things; it dramatized the eternal flux of phenomena, in which the fleeting phenomena (um, people) were depicted with all of their failings, and this depiction was itself a celebration of being. The expansive appreciation I felt as a reader, the celebration of a melancholy beauty—I suppose I wanted to try and express it to others, and so somewhat belatedly, in my mid 20s, became disciplined about writing. Though if any or all of this seems highfalutin, especially from the author of Welfy Q. Deederhoth, let it be known that I have always written to understand what I think/feel about most things. How did I get started writing? A shorter and probably better answer would be: by reading.

Maci & Zoe:
What books are you reading right now?

Eric:
Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen
Tinkers by Paul Harding
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

Maci & Zoe:
How many books do you read a year?

Eric:
Fifty-two: at least one a week.

Maci & Zoe:
What’s your favorite dessert?

Eric:
Pizza.

Maci & Zoe:
How long does it take you to write a book?

Eric:
Anywhere from three months to an untold number of years. I re-write as I go, which means I no longer churn out an entire rough draft of a book and then go back and start to revise it from the beginning. This is because I find that such rough drafts are often so rough as to be nearly useless. I have said it before, as have countless others: writing is re-writing. While it’s necessary to get something written down, anything, so as not to be defeated by the blank page, for me it’s equally important to be able to read through and like what I’ve written enough to continue on with it.

Maci & Zoe:
What was the first story/book you wrote? Was it any good, what was it about?

Eric:
I will only tell you that the first book I wrote was a picture book, self-published. I was both author and illustrator. Though I was very young at the time, it was of course a brilliant piece of work. The story centered around a boy, a wheelbarrow, and an enormous carrot.

Maci & Zoe:
What are you working on now?

Eric:
Not playing golf. Being a friendly person. A novel for so-called grown-ups that’s quite different from Welfy Q. Deederhoth: Meat Purveyor, World Savior, since it will likely fall under the rather weak designation of upmarket fiction—meaning that it’s character- driven and doesn’t fit neatly into a genre. I’m also nearly finished with a novel that features a teen protagonist (working title Glitch), a murder mystery with supernatural elements. Oh yeah, and I’m collaborating with Max Graenitz, with whom I worked on Welfy, to completely reinvent my first kids’ book, The Adventures of Erasmus Twiddle. The rebooted version will have all new illustrations (lots of ’em!) and a fresh story or two, the non-ebook incarnation of which will be in keeping with what I originally envisioned for Mr. Twiddle (secret for now).

Maci & Zoe:
Is there something specific that you do while you are writing a book?

Eric:
Do I have a routine? Sort of. I don’t generally give myself a word quota per day (as in, I have to write 500 words a day or else no pizza for me), though I might institute such quotas for a week or two. I write with a pencil, on unlined white paper, outside. Something about natural light and graphite coursing over the page provoke my imagination. I used to be a ghostwriter; one of the books I wrote as such was composed entirely at Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, CA.

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