Friday, September 15, 2006
Eric Wilson, author of The Best of Evil
Aramis Black is determined to outrun his past. A formerly abused drug user that almost got himself killed, Aramis decides to move in with his wannabe country star older brother Johnny Ray in Nashville. He opens a coffeehouse on the east side, and for a while all seems well.
Black’s is a hopping java shop. But when a murder occurs right before his eyes, Aramis reels from the shock. The victim mumbles odd but familiar words that bring Aramis memories of his dead mother, along with more family trouble. What does it all mean? Will his digging cause him more pain, or will he finally find peace from his tortured past?
In the pursuit of the killer, strange clues surface that uncover Aramis’ past. Secrets long shrouded break to the surface once more and threaten his life and those around him. Can he solve his family mystery as well as help bring a criminal to justice?
I highly recommend this novel—another brilliant suspense plot from this talented author. Wilson magically weaves historical events into the plot in an intriguing manner. I expected a few surprises and was not disappointed. Wilson’s characters ring true--never perfect, but multi-faceted. My only personal difficulties with the book were that it took me a while to “get into” the 1st person POV, and that the beginning didn’t start fast enough for me. But those are two minor obstacles I quickly overcame.
I sank my proverbial teeth into this story in short order. While reading, I was reminded repeatedly that God brings good out of evil and that His plans can’t be thwarted. I also appreciated the encouragement to put the past behind and look to what’s ahead. Engaging mind and heart, this proved an immensely enjoyable read!
1. How did you get the idea for The Best of Evil?
For me, ideas grow from character. If I don't care about my characters, I get bored with an idea, no matter how intriguing. The Best Of Evil came to life when I came up with the name Aramis Black. This guy was there, fully realized in my head. After that, it was a matter of understanding why he had tattoos on his arms, why his mother had been shot when he was a child, and why all of this had converged during a murder in Aramis' espresso shop. Later, I came across Romans 12:21, which says "Don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good." Yes! There was my title. That title worked into the book's theme and also formed the backdrop for a reality TV show with which Aramis becomes involved.
2. What can we expect in the next book of the series?
Oh, I can't wait for you to read this. I've just finished the manuscript, titled, A Shred Of Truth. It'll be out next summer, hopefully in June. There are some surprises waiting, a bit of romance brewing, and some very tense scenes. The themes of the story deal with God's grace versus his judgment. What happens when a religious extremist tries to play God in the life of Aramis Black? The story opens the night Aramis finds his brother tied to a statue with two initials carved into his shoulder: AX. As Aramis tries to find the person responsible, he is led back to an ex-girlfriend, more family secrets, and a historical element that will link this series to my Senses Series.
3. What are you trying to accomplish in your writing? In general and specifically?
I'm trying to pay my bills. Since that's not working (Eric says with a smile), I hope to look really cool when I'm older, sitting in front of a bookshelf of my novels. In all seriousness, I write because I love to read. I've been entertained, broadened, educated, and challenged by novels. I want to pass on those same things to readers. I hope to touch those on the fringes of faith. I want readers to relate to my characters' struggles, to see themselves and their own doubts and frustrations, and then to find a ray of God's hope and grace. Often times, the Lord uses the writing process to even challenge and encourage me.
4. I love the way you weave in historical elements and cast them in a new light. When you started writing novels, did you know this would be a part of your "brand" or did it just happen?
Believe it or not, I never set out to make this my "brand." I just find it interesting how the past and present often collide, and how secrets snowball into bigger troubles. I suppose I learned it partly from Jack Higgins (The Eagle Has Landed). He's great at taking "what-ifs" and turning them into suspenseful stories. Despite the historical aspects, I'd rather The Best Of Evil be counted alongside mysteries by Harlan Coben and Sigmund Brouwer. It's very much a modern mystery, with a flawed but likeable lead.
5. You've traveled quite extensively. Do you think you'll ever set one of your books in a foreign country?
How'd you know about my travels, you burrowing spy? Yes, I've been in thirty-five countries, mostly in Europe and eastern Europe, as well as Asia. The most obscure: Iceland. My best friend and I smuggled Bibles during the time of the Iron Curtain, so my travel and ministry bugs were itched simultaneously. I would love to write books set overseas, and hopefully one day my career will cover the expenses of such travels for research purposes (Eric rubs his hands together while toggling his eyebrows). There is one idea, with Romania as a backdrop, that I'd love to sink my teeth into (wink, wink).
6. How do you balance your writing with your day job?
Me? Balanced? Are you serious? Actually, I worry more about balancing my writing with my family time. I love my wife; I have awesome daughters. They're more of a concern to me. As for writing novels and working a day job, that's the way it goes for most of us published writers. I don't watch hours of TV; I don't play Xbox; I don't shower daily (oops, scratch that). Instead, I discipline myself to write. That's what a writer does.
7. What is your key to sanity in the crazy writer's life?
Me? Sane? Are you serious? For me, writing is a form of maintaining sanity. I feel like God has given me a creative side, and if I don't give birth to these ideas, it's as though I'm causing something inside me to be stillborn or malformed. My brain is always active, focused on multiple things. Writing and storytelling become a conduit for much of that activity, otherwise I'd be on constant overload. During the actual writing of a manuscript, I'm told by my wife that I'm not all there. She's right.
8. What sources (books, people, etc.) have helped you the most in improving your craft?
You know, growing up, I read every book on writing I could get my hands on. Most of them seemed to come down to two things: read, read, read, and write, write, write. I believe both are very important. I'm still challenged by the prose of James Lee Burke, the plotting of Harlan Coben, and the characterization of Dale Cramer. When it comes to the craft of writing, I believe we should strive for excellence while still having fun with it. For the fun side of things, I suggest Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. For the craftsmanship side, I suggest The Elements of Style and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.
9. How do you plot? Are you an OP or an SOTP writer? Explain.
I start my plots with characters. I add to the mix their personal struggles--emotional, spiritual, physical. From there, I find myself building the story around a setting and theme. Once I have those components in place, I really let the story carry me along. I make constant notes of ideas and clues, etc, but I'm often surprised myself by things that happen. It's a very organic, exploratative process. For me, it keeps the interest high.
10. What do you want your readers to be left with when they have turned the final page?
When I read, I love to be swept away by interesting settings or characters. I like suspense and adventure. Even a little romance, at times. I want to read well-crafted writing that causes me to think about people or the world around me in new ways. Those are the same things I hope to leave with my readers. I want them to realize they are not alone in their struggles with faith, and they can find hope at the end of the day. Jesus is the hope I cling to.
11. Will you be appearing anywhere soon for booksignings, conferences, etc.?
I'd love to attend conferences and writer's seminars. I've still never been asked to speak at one, so that'll be down the road (hint, hint). I do coordinate as many signings as I can, particularly as each book nears release. In mid-September, I'll be in a radio interview in Goodlettsville, TN. I'll be at Davis Kidd Booksellers in Nashville on Oct. 4. I'll be doing signings at Borders and Barnes and Nobles locally as well. In mid-October, I'll be at the Western Kentucky Book Festival. My web site, www.wilsonwriter.com, is pretty current with these events.
12. How do you think God has prepared you through circumstances in your life for being an author?
Oftentimes, I wonder if I'm really cut out for this. God has opened some doors for me, though, and he promises that he will complete what he has started in me, so I have to hang onto that hope. With that assurance, I can look back and see how my early travels sparked my imagination and thirst for adventure. I can see how my parents (once pastors in Oregon) taught me to love and accept toward those who don't fit society's norms. These elements, mixed with my love of language and books, have combined to lead me to this point.
13. Give your best advice to aspiring novelists out there.
My best advice? Oh, boy. I'll start with the obvious, but most neglected: WRITE. You can spend time getting advice, going to conferences, networking, and so on. If you don't write, though, you will not get published. Finish the dang thing. You'll gain confidence, learn stuff about your own process--because no two authors are the same--and improve along the way. I wrote a 300-page novel in high school and a children's novel in college; neither will ever see the light of day, but they were huge building blocks in my path to publication. Even if you find a publisher, you'll wait another year or two till the things in print. It's a looooong, slow process, so come into it with few expectations and lots of determination. You can do it. As another writer told me years before my first book came out, "All it takes is blood, sweat, and tears."
Thank you so much, Eric. It's been a complete pleasure. God bless you!