Updated: Aug 12, 2021
So, for the month of August, I'm highlighting indie authors. My first vict-...writer is a gent from New Mexico, Eric Lahti.
Originally, Lahti was to be a guest on my podcast, KD's Place. Scheduling conflicts got in the way, but as Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. I mean, okay, yeah, it wasn't a crisis, but it did give me an idea. Turn what would have been the Q&A portion of the podcast episode into a blog post. Not only that. Why not make it the first of a series?
And that's what I decided to do. So, for the month of August, I'm highlight-...wait, I said that in the very first sentence, didn't I? How bout I just get to the interview, huh?
KD: What got you into the writing industry? Rather, what inspired you to start putting pen to paper?
Eric Lahti: In 2013, I was playing through Saints Row 3 for the fourth time or something ridiculous like that and decided I needed to do something other than just consume stuff. I’d had this idea of a kind of grounded supervillain story told from the POV of one of the henchmen. After several permutations in my head, I sat down and wrote the first six pages or so, handed them to my wife, and immediately left the room while she read them. To my complete surprise, she didn’t tell me to give up, so I kept going. Eight years later, I’ve got seven books self-published, one that I’m still trying to figure out what to do with, and another coming out from Three Furies Press sometime in early-ish 2022. Those original six pages are long gone to history. In retrospect, I should have kept them around for posterity.
KD: I read Roadside Attractions. A thoroughly engaging read. It will make you question all you thought you knew of magic, Hell, and jackalopes. My dominant thought as I read was a lot of research had to go into this. So what's the "story behind the story"? How did Roadside Attractions come about?
Eric Lahti: Roadside was born while I was listening to Iron Maiden’s "Number of the Beast" while I was driving to pick up my son from school one day. That song, and album, has always been misconstrued as some kind of 80s praise Satan thing, but like most of Maiden’s songs, the meaning is more nuanced than you’d expect. I grew up in a small town in New Mexico where they were terrified of Satanism. We were into the "Satanic Panic" long before it was cool. But even back then, while they were shrieking about heavy metal, I remember thinking, “Have you ever listened to the song?”
So, anyway, I caught that nuance and the lines about informing the law and decided there was something there. I also remember the neck beards and general dorks who claimed to be Satanists back in the day and decided they’d make a nice foil in the form of Sebastian. Since I grew up hearing about these sex and murder parties out in the hills, I ran with it. Couple that with the actual roadside attraction – The Thing – down in southern Arizona and you’ve got the perfect recipe for madness. What if The Thing was real? What if Satanists were really throwing sex and murder parties out in the hills? What if it was all real, but it was nothing like we thought it would be? So, I folded in some stuff - actual Satanism, which is nothing like what mainstream folks think it is, and used some of the traditional lore and just ran with it.
KD: My favorite character from Roadside Attractions was Lilith. Tough, to the point, no-nonsense, and one heckuva fighter. Did you have a fave character?
Eric Lahti: Jennine is still my favorite. For all her problems in life, she never lost her gentle heart. She’s just a good person who manages to keep her chin up even after she’s killed in the first few pages and her ghost is confined to a convenience store in the middle of nowhere. You’ve got to respect her ability to adapt to the situation.
KD: Any other projects in the works?
Eric Lahti: I’ve got a book about a couple of people who get caught up in a government experiment with Nazi magic that goes wrong and they wind up trapped in time for 70 years. When they finally come out, they’re basically superheroes. He’s functionally indestructible and has a punch that levels a coffee shop. She’s a powerful psychic. The problem is, neither of them wants the power or is even sure about what to do with it. Add in the fact that the government wants them back and a mysterious hitman clone is after both of them, and it gets pretty hairy. There’s still something missing from that one, though, and I can’t figure out what it is, so I put it on hold and started working on my latest about a hacker on a space station who deletes herself and the thief who wakes up in her body with orders to find out what happened or he’s never getting his old body back. That one’s about 2/3 written or so. My newest – Better Than Dead – will be out sometime in 2022 from Three Furies Press and is about a vampire and an incredibly skilled gunman playing cat and mouse with a powerful necromancer.
KD: What are your thoughts on the writing and publishing industry overall?
Eric Lahti: Roadside Attractions was my first published book. I didn’t even try with the others and I only published Roadside on a whim to see what would happen. It was an interesting result. When I was purely self-published, the assumption was I only did that because I couldn’t get published. The truth was, I didn’t want to share royalties and publishing contracts all demand a cut. When I was published – Kyanite Press – suddenly everyone assumed my writing was “good enough”. Roadside was probably better than Greetings From Sunny Aluna, but that’s a natural progression of writing more books. Still, it opened doors like author events at local bookstores and things that were closed to me when I was self-published. It was odd. Even though Kyanite was a tiny little press, the fact that they’d published me meant something. I know a few people who say they’ll only go through one of the big five. Good luck. The big five are interested in what’s hot right now and that may or may not be what you’re writing. A smaller publisher might be better suited to your style or genre. Or just self-publish. Thing to remember is, you’re pretty much on your own for marketing. Unless you’re one of the big names in the writing world, it’s unlikely that even the big five are going to spring for a lot of ads and even if they do, the cost typically comes out of your royalties. Remember that: Once the book is written, you’ve still got to get people to read it and that means learning about marketing. Which, frankly, I’m not very good at.
KD: What advice would you have for other writers?
Eric Lahti: Write your story your way. Don’t try to imitate what your favorite authors have done. They’ve told their stories, we want to hear yours.
KD: Who were your writing influences?
Eric Lahti: Hunter S. Thompson, P.J. O’Rourke, Clifford Stoll, Robert Heinlein, Warren Ellis, Phillip K. Dick. There are probably lots of others. Every time I have to answer that question, I totally space on the names. I really should write them down somewhere.
KD: If readers want to know more about Eric Lahti, where should they go?
Eric Lahti: Blog: http://ericlahti.wordpress.com