Ivan Ewert is the author of Famished: The Farm. Its sequel, Famished: The Commons, is going through the editorial process right now.
What drew you to Speculative Fiction?
Ha, I just did a blog post about this! My father was a huge speculative fiction fan. His library was the thing I coveted most in my young life. When I started reading, I was actually more interested in legends like King Arthur, Robin Hood, and such – things that Disney probably turned me onto initially – but the trappings of fantasy were there.
Therefore, as I was reading, dad would suggest things I might enjoy. In third grade, I think, there was a confluence – my mother was teaching (voluntary) art classes to grade school kids, and she brought in the Brothers Hildebrandt, where I learned about The Hobbit. That was it. Done. Fantasy all the way.
Lovecraft was my introduction into horror, straight out of dad's library. He also had a lot of originals from Van Vogt, Asimov, and such, but he preferred hard science fiction, which I just don't find interesting. When I found social science fiction, I got more into it.
Was there a reason you started writing?
I drove my mother nuts with "Let's pretend" as soon as I was old enough to communicate. She humored me, though there was the occasional "Let's pretend you're Ivan, a human boy, and I'm his mother, okay?" I loved make-believe so much more than reality. (Let us leave that in past tense for the moment …)
So again, in grade school, I sat down and wrote a play at some point for my friends at school. I remember a cuckoo clock, living toys, and a lost girl. Not much else. Everyone loved it, though, and I was hooked on both the creative aspect and the attention it garnered.
Role-playing games distracted me for a long time, and didn't write much in high school – I was making stories but not having to work at writing them down. After college, I took it more seriously.
Where do you get your ideas?
Do you know I think you're the first one to ask? Ideas have always come to me most easily when moving through the darkness – driving before dawn, flying through the night. Moving silently, alert for danger, other travelers, and story fragments.
What's your current writing process? Outliner/Pantser, when, do you play music? pen/paper or keyboard/ink? any rituals? Etc.
AIP turned me into an outliner. Once I have the outline done, I carve time in my daily calendar, aiming for a minimum of one hour (usually my lunch hour at work).
When that time hits, I turn off my email notifications, my telephone, and any instant message programs. I work in Microsoft Word, though I just bought a new laptop and plan to give Scrivener a whirl. I don't like writing by hand as much. That distracts me.
Music is key. KEY. For horror and science fiction work, I'll usually go to bandcamp.com and search tags for ambient, downtempo electronica, or doomjazz. Fantasy is either Azam Ali Radio on Pandora.com or Darkfolk Radio on Last.fm.
Then, I just write until the time I allotted is up.
I don't have any real rituals. I do give a short "thank you" every morning to whatever's given me all the good in my life, which includes an imagination and the ability to convey it.
How did you get started with AIP?
I met Jennifer Brozek online through Livejournal; I think it was a friend-of-a-friend thing. I had a lot more spare time at that stage in my life, and I posted little snippets of tales and writing exercises online. We became friends online, then met up at a convention and – to my mind, anyway – became friends in real life.
When she founded The Edge of Propinquity, she asked me to contribute; and I can't tell you how happy that made me. I really enjoyed the work, and the discipline it required. Not that I was perfect. At all. I did enjoy it, though; and I'm beyond flattered that AIP continues to believe in me and work with me. They are wonderful, wonderful people whom I love very much.
Talk some about the Gentleman Ghouls series.
The Lovecraft short story, "The Picture in the House," which scared me sleepless, inspired the main subject matter. I wanted to examine the way that closed, insular societies work. Cults and secret societies have always fascinated me, as has the American experience as a whole, which I hope will come across more clearly as we release the books.
I wrote the first book, FAMISHED: THE FARM, over the space of four years. FAMISHED: THE COMMONS took a little over one year. I've written quite a bit about the process of editing those.
What are you working on now?
I have a dear friend named William Dolan who paints tremendous Chicago street scenes (check him out at http://www.dolanart.com/). His motto is, "I never talk about my work. Talking about it makes me feel like I've done something about it, and as such, the work never really gets done."
I saw a lot of truth in that. Talking about the work dilutes it for me and makes it easy to pretend it's moving along faster than it is. I'm still focused on the Gentleman Ghouls series as well as some poetry and short stories, one of which I'm very excited about.
Best and worst advice you've received or heard about writing.
The worst advice is "write what you know." I hate that phrase with a passion; it lines shelves with copyists and endless memoirs of suburban alienation. I've said it before; write what you're excited to know more about.
The best advice … Steven Raichlen, one of my cooking idols, says, "Set concrete goals with realistic timetables." Creative work is still work, and if you just dream up this great big book you want to write "someday," well. Someday never comes.
Any last words?
Not last, I hope.
But I believe in you. I believe in everyone reading these words … you can do anything you want to. It might not be easy, it might not be fun; but it's possible. When you think nobody has any faith, think again. I want you all to succeed and live a life that you find worth living.
Read more about Ivan at his website.