Thursday, June 28, 2007
Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing his views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.
Today’s interview is with Eric Luper, author of Big Slick which is his first novel. It is an action-filled book about hot cars, growing up, relationship, bad choices, gambling and hot girls. It's a great book with lots of surprises. It's now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.
EI: Would you share some early insight into who you were as a teenager? What were you like? Please tell us more about Eric Luper -- the man behind the author.
Eric Luper: I was quiet as an early teen, but things changed suddenly when I was in 10th grade and I refused to show my PSAT results to my homeroom teacher who was going up and down the aisles looking at everyone's scores. She made the comment that ever since I had gotten contact lenses something changed about me and that it was NOT for the better. So, I made the comment that ever since she had gotten braces she was spitting more bits of croissant on the first three rows than ever before. This propelled me to temporary stardom in my high-school (okay, maybe more like there was a few hours of buzz around the lunchroom) and I realized that I had a choice: 1) I could be that quiet kid in the corner or 2) I could not be that quiet kid in the corner. I chose the latter. Junior and senior years turned out to be far more fulfilling.
EI: Do you enjoy writing? What is it about this art form that enchants you the most? Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?
Eric Luper: The more I write, the more I like it. That's not to say it's not hard or it's not frustrating or it doesn't drive me to the brink of insanity. What I love most about it is the concept that there a finite number of words, yet an infinite number of ways to express yourself through them. Give a gazillion authors the same idea and none of them will write it even remotely alike. I love writing YA in particular because it's got the rawest emotion of any genre. It's like an exposed nerve. Oh, and also because I'm pretty darn juvenile myself.
EI: Could you describe your path that led you to publication--any stumbles along the way? Is there anything that you would do differently, knowing what you do now?
Eric Luper: I met my editor, Wesley Adams, at a writing conference in New York City. He is the editor for Jack Gantos, a writer I've admired for years. He had forgotten his glasses and was unable to read his notes, so he just winged it. From that moment, I knew he was the editor for me. I consider it an honor to have Wes helping me bring my debut novel to the shelves. As for doing something differently, I suppose if it ain't broke, don't fix it!
EI: Was there a central theme that you wanted readers to grasp?
Eric Luper: I write by creating characters that I love and putting them into tough, tough situations. I kick my characters when they're down and then I kick them some more. Themes, I think, are things that happen on their own, as a result of relentless kicking.
EI: Are there any kid or teen books that rocked your world while growing up? And why?
Eric Luper: I was a reluctant reader growing up. In fact, I was a terribly reluctant reader. TV was so much easier to take in. I could tell you dozens of television shows and movies that rocked my world. However, I did cleave to certain books: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (trilogy) by Douglas Adams were two favorites. I think what attracted me to these books was how the authors used creativity and humor with such flair. Both books also have such an "otherworldly" feel to them. This is likely due to the fact that they both take place in another world!
EI: How do you imagine your audience as you are writing? Do you try to do character development, chapter outlines, various novel-related brainstorming? Do you have sheets of newsprint covered in story boards all over your walls?
Eric Luper: The only audience I'm thinking of entertaining is me. I try to keep myself entertained from the first page forward and hope that my readers will be as entertained as I am. As for my technique, I write by the seat of my pants. I'm not a good outliner and character sketches make me feel confined. I just grab a concept and let things unfold as I go. I know something good is happening if I make myself laugh or get choked up as I'm sitting at the keyboard.
EI: Let's shift gears here for a second... let's talk about Andrew Lang, the protagonist in your novel "Big Slick". How much of Andrew is planned out in your head? How do you know where you will go next with his character?
Eric Luper: Before I typed a single word, Andrew was a complete character. Rather than having lists of his likes, dislikes and favorite ice-cream flavors, I just knew him instinctively. Andrew told me what he was going to do. The same went for every other character in my novel. I know them all very well.
EI: What was your biggest challenge while writing and creating Andrew? Did you work him out in advance, or did he evolve as you wrote the story? Are any of the characters in the story actually based on real people in your life?
Eric Luper: I often base characters on people I know in real life. More often I blend different personalities and features from people I know and set them free in my brain. I knew Andrew a long time before I started Big Slick. Scott is a mélange (I love that word, mélange) of several different people I know. Jasmine comes from someplace different. Cincinnati, I think.
EI: How did you develop or come up with the idea of 'Big Slick ?" What inspired you to write this book? What about writing for teens appealed to you?
Eric Luper: Big Slick originated as a short story. In fact, chapter 1 is very similar to the original short story (you can read it on my website). When I read the story to my critique group, they clamored for more. Over the next few months, ideas percolated in my head. Once I started typing, the novel came relatively quickly. As for writing for teens, kids this age are dealing with so much. They are still kids, yet they are experimenting with being adults by interacting in an adult world. It is a crucial time in every person's life, it's fascinating to me, and it's a fertile ground for fiction!
EI: Would you care to tell us about Jasmine's character? What do you think readers would expect different from these characters?
Eric Luper: I love Jasmine. She's quirky and Gothy and definitely an individual. She's the kind of girl I wish I knew when I was in high school. Maybe I did and I don't even realize it. Andrew, Scott and Jasmine all bring something different to the table and it still amuses me thinking about how all three interact and fit together through the course of the book.
EI: If you were allowed total control of the Hollywood version of 'Big Slick' who would be in it? And in your opinion who do you think should direct?
Eric Luper: I love asking other authors this question, but I hate answering it. Despite how visual my book is, I never linked my characters to specific actors. Doing it now is tough because it confines the images in my brain. I would have to leave the casting to a good director, one who understands the book. I'd be honored to have John Hughes direct. His work was such a guiding force when I was younger that I trust he would do the right thing. I wish he would get back into coming-of-age films because he's so good at them! So, Mr. John Hughes, if you happen to Google yourself and read this, please get in touch and I'll send you a copy of Big Slick right away!
EI: What is a typical work day schedule when you are in full writing mode? Would you tell us a little about your process for editing, revising, and novel development? How long did it take you to write 'Big Slick' including the time it took to research the book?
Eric Luper: I have a day job, so I write or edit or polish when I can. I get to my office before hours or I stay up late at night. My muse comes at the strangest times, then sometimes not for a long while. I ride the wave as long as I can and then spend as much time as I need to regroup. Then, when I'm ready, I lace up my steel toed boots and go back to mercilessly kicking my characters.
EI: As a first time fiction writer, do you feel more pressure, feel insecurities fade away or are you able to separate all that from your own creative process?
Eric Luper: Writing is a great means of escape for me. When I am immersed in what I'm writing, everything else drops away. It's the in-between time when I get nervous and feel pressure and crawl under the table and curl into a fetal position.
EI: What's up next? Is there another book in the works? What can you share with us?
Eric Luper:I finished my second novel a few months ago. It's called "Bug Boy" and is about an apprentice jockey during the 1934 Saratoga track season. Back then, conditions for these kids (who were as young as 8) were deplorable. Abuse was rampant and they were treated as property rather than as people. Bug Boy is about a struggling young apprentice who is pressured to help fix a big race. The book is filled with tough choices and a lot of opportunity for me to kick characters.
My third book is top-secret. I'm about 30,000 words into it, and the acronym for the top-secret title is EMLM. (Figure that one out, David Lubar!) It is a piece that is exciting me quite a bit, but it's just too early to share.
EI: Mr. Luper, thank you for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know you, and your work a little better. Would you like to end your interview with a writing tip or advice for young aspiring writers?
Eric Luper: It's going to sound corny, but my advice is to write from your heart. If the story doesn't move you, you can't expect it to move anyone else. For me, it's the toughest part of what a novelist does. It means putting things out there that most people would like to leave buried.
To learn more about Eric Luper, please visit him at:
Posted by E. I. Johnson at 5:48 PM