Many of our readers singled out Michael Ehart’s “Without Napier” as one of the best stories that we’ve published so far, and sent it soaring up EDF’s “Top Stories” list. Not surprisingly, the story placed as April’s most-read story. Michael graciously agreed to be interviewed, and we’ve included it below.
Interview with Michael Ehart
EDF: What should people expect when they see a story with your byline under it?
ME: I think the most important thing people should expect from me is an actual story. I do everything I can to write the sort of stories I like to read— stylistically interesting, with characters as real as I can make them, doing the best they can to find their way through their life. Slice of life or character studies are far less interesting to me than a well-drawn character and their attempt to overcome a problem. Nearly everything I write has a noirish touch to it: a failed moral dilemma and how the protagonist deals with it, positively or not.
EDF: Double Edged Publishing recently released your short story collection, “The Servant of the Manthycore” to critical acclaim (as well as acclaim from one overworked EDF editor!). Please describe your experience as a first time novelist.
ME: I thought I knew how things would go, as my mother is a romance novelist, and I sort of grew up in the craft. I was completely wrong. The truth is that everyone’s experience is different. The constants seem to be that you wait for what seems forever between the time the contract is signed and the book comes out, and then everything happens at warp speed, with nobody at the helm. One day I am a guy who writes, the next I am having a launch party with hundreds of people drinking my booze and telling me how great I am, or how great I’m going to be. The book has been out for six months now, and so some of the hectic pace has eased. Happily the reviews continue to be insanely positive, which is just fine with me!
EDF: Your story collection featured an introduction by SFWA Grandmaster Michael Moorcock, creator of Elric. Would you say he influences your own writing? Do you have any other influences?
ME: Mike is an amazing writer, and as one of the shepherds of the New Wave influenced everyone who writes in Science Fiction and Fantasy, whether they realize it or not. His literary work is just as impressive, and he is as amazing a human being as he is a writer. I hope that I am just as influenced by his humanity as I am by his writing.
That said, if I had to pick just one writer whose style and storytelling skill I covet the most, it would be the late Roger Zelazny. Adding others would have to include Raymond Chandler, Jane Austen and Robert B. Parker.
EDF: As a dedicated SF convention attendee and panelist, would you mind describing your experiences?
ME: I do go to a lot of conventions, don’t I? I started years ago going with my mom to writers’ conferences, and literally wandered into my first SF convention in the late 1970s. For a number of years I stopped going, but the interest of my oldest son in SF got me going again about 5 years ago. I hadn’t written any fiction for over a decade and I had forgotten how much I liked it. So at first I was going to cons again to revisit old friends, but soon it was to make the sort of connections that help keep a writing career going.
Panels are fun. I get to talk about my obsessions to people who are equally or more obsessed, I get to plug my stuff, and when I’m moderating a panel on strong women protagonists with Barbara Hambly, or sharing a panel with Cory Doctorow on libraries of the future, the thrill is similar to jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, without the sudden unpleasant ending. Hopefully.
EDF: You have a fair amount of experience in politics, both as a writer and also helping to manage your wife Rose’s political campaigns. Have you been able to use that in your fiction?
ME: Absolutely! Someone once described politics as Hollywood for ugly people. There is an endless supply of dialog, personalities and weird goings on to steal, and enough daily drama for a dozen soap operas. The smallest struggle is life or death, and every word studied, dissected, and tumbled around like an agate in a rock polisher.
It is also kinda cool when chatting with that writer friend who just got a six-book deal that you would sell your first-born to have yourself, to let casually slip that last week you had dinner with the Governor. I take my victories, however small, where I can!
EDF: What has been your best moment as a writer so far? Your worst?
ME: Lots of good ones! I sold my first story in my mid-teens, which allowed me (I thought at the time) to argue with my English teachers, God bless ’em. One of my adult sons calling me to tell me he had read my book, and it was “kinda good” was another. Opening Michael Moorcock’s email with his foreword comparing me to Mary Renault was an amazing moment. Most recent was sitting at the Nebula Awards after-party at a table with illustrator John Picacio, Michael Moorcock, Joe R. Lansdale (who writes award-winning fiction in every genre and medium), Walter Jon Williams and Pulitzer winner Michael Chabon, talking about writing with these guys and thinking how none of my friends will ever believe me, when Steven Brust walks up and asks to join us. It was an instant Master’s class, and as a result I am now 3 inches taller, I’ve grown an extra row of teeth, and when I write the angels weep.
Worst? I’ve been whacked over the head with the publisher fairy’s magic wand, baby! Never again will I be an aspiring novelist. I’m sure I’ll eventually find something bad enough to complain about, but not quite yet.
EDF: What is next for you as a writer?
ME: More Servant of the Manthycore short stories, I am 3 or 4 sold in advance right now, and as long as the demand is high, I’ll keep writing them. Expect another complete Servant novel in early 2010, tying together the “Tears of Ishtar” story arc. I have another novel that got put on the back-burner last fall that I should have finished by the end of the year, a multiple universe story with modern protagonists. I would like to do something more with Yardi, the protagonist of “Without Napier” given time, and I write a Joe Denfar, Exorcist with Attitude story every year.
Time is not my friend!
EDF: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview.