Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing Edward M. Erdelac.
Edward M. Erdelac is the author of several novels (including the acclaimed weird western series Merkabah Rider) and dozens of short stories. He is an independent filmmaker, award winning screenwriter, and sometime Star Wars contributor.
Born in Indiana, educated in Chicago, he resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and a bona fide slew of children and cats.
Click here to visit the author's blog.
Click here to visit the author's Twitter page.
AN INTERVIEW WITH EDWARD M. ERDELAC
- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
Well I was born in Indiana and went to film school in Chicago. I moved to Los Angeles in 2001 and have lived there ever since with my wife, four children, and three cats.
- How did you become a speculative fiction author? Have you always been interested in speculative fiction?
I came to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting but didn't have much luck getting anything read. I had written a pair of western novels nobody was interested in, so I started leaning more towards the weird end, injecting genre elements into my stories, and started selling stuff. I wrote some short Star Wars fiction for Lucasfilm, and then started putting out my Merkabah Rider series. I have always read spec fiction right alongside historicals and the classics. The first two books that weren't comics I can remember being enamored by were Jack London's Call of The Wild and Simon Hawke's novelization of Friday The 13th Part VI. Pretty close on the heels of that I got into JRR Tolkien and Robert E. Howard. I wrote a bit in high school, and it was always sci fi and horror. Just took some time for me to come back around to it.
- You've written Weird Western books (the Merkabah Rider series: Tales of a High Planes Drifter, The Mensch with No Name, Have Glyphs Will Travel and Once Upon a Time in the Weird West) and your latest book (Andersonville, Hydra/August 2015) is a historical fantasy horror book. What inspires you to write this kind of speculative fiction? Have any books, stories, films or TV series been a source of inspiration to you?
As I mentioned, I discovered Robert E. Howard in high school, mainly through the John Milius movie and Conan. I was very inspired by everything I read by him, and after I'd rapidly gone through Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, Kull, Breckenridge Elkins, and his other character series, I discovered lesser known stuff like his cosmic horror and weird western stuff, particularly The Horror From The Mound, Old Garfield's Heart, and The Thunder Rider. Something in that marriage of history and the supernatural just took a hold of me, I guess. Since Howard, I've taken inspiration from a lot of different writers. Joe Lansdale, Lovecraft, Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurtry Mickey Spillane, George Macdonald Fraser, Patrick O'Brian, Alan Moore....for Merkabah Rider, the TV series Kung Fu played a big part in coming up with that.
- What kind of a book is Andersonville? What can readers expect from it?
Andersonville is a historical novel with a supernatural horror twist. I think fans of Lovecraft and Dennise Wheately will appreciate the occult aspect, though unlike Merkabah Rider, it's not a proper Mythos novel. It can be thought of as a secret history. Nothing in Andersonville contradicts the actual history of the prison. It can be considered a story about what occurs off the books. First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln's spiritual advisor has a vision of the White House awash in blood, and a dark power rising in the confines of the prison, which at this point in history, is an overcrowded and disease-ridden hell on earth. Somewhere in the depths of Andersonville, someone is enacting a dark ritual to swing the tide of the Civil War for the South, so the Union sends a man with a unique skill set to investigate and stop it. But of course, the Confederacy hasn't authorized any such undertaking.
- How did you come up with the idea of writing a story about a man in a deadly prison during the American Civil War?
The bare bones concept of Andersonville was brought to me by a pair of editors at Del Rey, Frank Parisi and Christopher Krovatin. They basically set up the concept I've outlined above, and asked me, on the strength of Merkabah Rider, if I had any ideas about where to go with it. I bounced some concepts off of them and we traded a lot of emails, and then they made me an offer to do it. I was reading a bit about the African American contributions to Union intelligence int he 1860's and was keen on writing something with that. The Union had what were called Black Dispatches - intelligence reports gleaned from runaway slaves and African Americans imbedded in the South. There was an educated ex-slave, John Scobell, who would undertake missions for Allan Pinkerton into the South. Scobell and others had a unique advantage as intelligence agents because civilians and soldiers in the Confederacy tended to overlook them or underestimate their mental capacity. They were practically invisible, and Scobell played upon that in his missions. There was a Black woman, Mary Elisabeth Bowser, who actually worked in Confederate President Jefferson Davis' own household. She passed sensitive information to the Charleston Union intelligence commmunity right under the noses of the highest level officials of the Confederate government, and once discovered, nearly burned down the Davis home itself to cover her escape.
- The protagonist of Andersonville is a man called Barclay Lourdes. Could you tell us something about him?
I wrote a novella back in 2009 or so called Dubaku, about a powerful Central African shaman who boards a slave ship to find his wife. I like to think that Barclay Lourdes is a descendant of Dubaku. He comes from a long line of Dahomey mystic traditions and Vodoun priesthood on his mother's side, and knows a smattering of Western magic as well thanks to his upbringing as a Creole aristocrat in New Orleans. He actually sees the outbreak of the war from the Confederate side, as a volunteer in the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, which was an all African American Confederate militia unit and the first militia unit in North America to have Black officers. The Confederacy didn't know what to do with the Native Guard though, and, perhaps due to political pressures, ordered them disbanded early into the war. Barclay Lourdes feels a sense of betrayal from this and another tragic event, which gradually turns his sympathies against his homeland and pits him against the South as a Black Dispatch agent. He has a personal vendetta against a former friend now in the opposite camp, and part of that plays out in Andersonville. He's something of a man without a country, not really accepted in the South or the North, and often finds himself allied with people who don't care much for his help, though end up depending on it.
- Is Andersonville a standalone book or will there be sequels?
It's currently standalone, but there are certainly other stories that can be told about some of the characters in it, if there's an interest.
- Is it challenging to write historical speculative fiction? Did you do any research during the writing process?
I do a ton of research, sure. The challenge is making the world believable to the audience. If I screw up a fact, the type of people who tend to gravitate towards historical fiction of any type, they're a well-read bunch and will take you to task for it if they catch you. And on a basic level, if the world isn't completely believable, if the characters aren't compelling, nobody's going to stick with it long enough to appreciate the fantasy elements. The people have to be interesting before the monsters and demons ever make an appearance. Something as small as the wrong firearm in the wrong time period can snap a person right out of a story. I know, because it's true for me as a reader. For Andersonville, I went in only knowing a bit about Camp Sumter. I read a lot of prisoner letters and primary sources, looked at a lot of maps, talked to the curators of the historical site, I did my best to make it so, you know, if you turn left at the quartermaster's, I knew where you were going to end up. It's obsessive, but I think it helps make the world believable. I still wouldn't consider myself an authority on the prison, but I only have to make the reader believe I'm one.
- How would you advertise Andersonville to readers who are thinking of reading it?
It's occult historical horror. Imagine Dennis Wheately and HP Lovecraft wrote a Civil War version of The Great Escape set in the Civil War with Brother Voodoo.
- In which formats will Andersonville be published?
All e-formats, and if sales warrant, in the future, there could possibly be a print version as well.
- What are you currently working on?
I'm doing a modern day novel for Rangarok Publications, for their upcoming Humanity 2.0 line, about a twenty five year old superhero who's trapped in a thirteen year old's body and has to defeat a high rise full of supervillains. It's sort of like Peter Pan meets Die Hard, but with superheroes.
- Is there anything you'd like to add?
Please stop by and take a look at the other stuff I've written at my blog, Delirium Tremens - http://www.emerdelac.wordpress.com