I'd gotten derailed for a while, but I did a little surfing and found another cool writer that I wanted to feature here. I originally found her because we share a publisher, but that led me to her very funny blog. She agreed to a quick interview, so without further ado, meet
Erin O'Brien lives and works in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been a mom for nine years and a wife for thirteen. She abandoned her career as an electrical engineer in 1995 to write. She is a contributor to a number of local publications and the editor of the "Broadview Journal." O'Brien contributed a chapter and an afterword to her brother John's posthumously published novel "The Assault on Tony's." John O'Brien authored "Leaving Las Vegas," which was made into an award winning film after his death in 1994.
Erin's debut novel is Harvey & Eck.
From the book jacket:
Harvey is 33. She has a motorcycle, a baby-on-the-way and two troublesome men. Eck has only a parakeet named Dickens--but not for long.
You can find Erin online at her blog, Erin's website, and her novel is available right here: Harvey & Eck on Amazon
1) Who are some of your favorite writers, and how do you think they've influenced you?
I'm always envious of those writers who rattle off names like Proust and Dickens and Tolstoy when it comes to a question like this. I am much more pedestrian. In my younger days, I read all of Fleming's Bond series and all of MacDonald's Travis McGee books.
I love dark work and count "American Pyscho" by Bret Easton Ellis, "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad, Larry Brown's body of work, and "Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess among my favorites.
That said, I can't say these writers have deeply influenced me, although I do believe the best writers seek truth regardless of genre or style or content.
I am being completely honest when I say that I until I considered this question, it had never before occurred to me that my brother John ("Leaving Las Vegas") has had the greatest influence on my writing.
As I process that revelation, right in this moment, I know that it is one of the tiny gifts that I come upon as I journey along my difficult path of words.
2) What do you think is your greatest strength or asset in your writing? Your biggest weakness or flaw?
What's next? You ask me if you think I'm fat?
I have a knack for humor, and I am grateful for that. In fiction, I have a devil of a time with plot. I can't tell you how many times I have great characters in wonderful situations sitting there on the page looking at me and saying, "So, O'Brien, what's next?"
3) How'd you come up with epistolary format for Harvey & Eck? Did you ever feel limited by it while you were writing, wishing you hadn't used that format? Or did it work out as you'd envisioned?
There is something voyeuristic about reading someone else's letters. It is a bit naughty and satisfying. I was completely satisfied with the results when I was ensconced in the project as well as when I was trying to place the book. I still would not have the book any other way. The only times I was disgusted about the epistolary format was when I'd get a rejection that blamed the letters as being "too
4) You're very funny on your blog. Is humor something you try to work into your fiction? And what are you working on now?
I rarely try to write humor. Something is either funny or it isn't. When my writing is funny, it's because something humorous grew organically from the text. This is true of both my fiction and non-fiction (and my blog is largely non-fiction).
My blog, which has been my primary resource for the promotion of my book and my writing, has been taking a lot of my time and energy. Other than that, I'm always gunning for a paying market, a teaching gig or newspaper essay. And I'm at work on an emotionally grueling memoir.
5) What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing and/or publishing? What's the greatest reward? Is it worth it? Or is writing something you'd do even if there was zero payoff?
The rejection is very difficult. But when you're gliding on the words, that is beautiful. And then there's all the writer buddies you amass. They're funny and smart. They pick you up when the rejection puts you down.
There is also the personal growth that writing affords. My compassion and capacity for love has never been greater. And it grows every day.
6) Stock question: Dinner with anyone, dead or alive. Who is it?
My brother John, we lost him to suicide in 1994, just two weeks after he signed the film contract.
7) One CD, one book, one DVD and a desert island. What book, CD, and DVD do you take?
Book: The Oxford English Dictionary
CD: The soundtrack from "The Royal Tenenbaums." It's got Nick Drake, Bob Dylan, Nico and the Velvet Underground just to name a few. I listened to this CD when I was grieving my father's death as well as when I was flying around gleefully in my Mini Cooper. It's a wonderful and diverse collection.
DVD: "The Wizard of Oz"
8) When did you first get the feeling not that you wanted to write, but that you could be so successful at it?
That's a pretty ambitious assertion. Actually, my successes thus far in this racket have been very humble, but the ball is starting to roll. Hence, all I can say is that one day I hope to be able to cite the event that pushed me into what I consider my most successful period.
My writing has begun to garner attention and for that I am thankful. This essay that I wrote for the Cleveland Plain Dealer (http://www.erinobrien.us/lbrown.html) got quite a few responses and gave my writing ego a much-needed boost.
9) Suppose you can't have both: Would you rather have respect from your peers and critical acclaim (but not making cash from writing), or would you rather be a bestselling author with the fat coin?
I guess I'd have to take the critical acclaim and depend on selling my body to pull in the big bucks.
*aside to husband, "honey, have you seen my thigh-high boots?"*
All kidding aside, I try to put forth my best possible writing all the time. That is what gives me the most satisfaction and, in the end, it is what garners the most attention.