Author of Mannison Minibook
Tricks of the Blade
Thanks for joining us, Eric! Let’s learn a little about YOU! So tell us…
1. How old were you when you decided you were a writer?
I seem to remember having written all sorts of things since grade school, mostly as assignments, but I couldn’t say I “decided” anything until recently. I cringe at memories of handing in overly flowery term papers in college, mostly in subjects having nothing to do with writing. I can’t imagine what my professors endured in having to read them. Between college and grad school I read several books in different genres that all kind of congealed into a vague idea for a story of my own. I guess I was 25 or 26 when I first began scribbling down bits and pieces of it during boring lectures or conferences when I should have been taking diligent notes. It was just for fun, and not very good. It wasn’t until about 8 years later that I had any thought that anyone else might read anything I’d written. But after the first few completely surprising acceptances of some short stories in 2015 and 2016, I’d caught the bug. Still not sure how good any of it is, though.
2. What was the inspiration for your collection Tricks of the Blade?
Many of the stories are either adapted from or take place in the world of my novel The Heron Kings. I never really thought it would get published, so I’ve shamelessly stolen ideas, names, and plot points from it to use in short stories. Knowing the world already sometimes helps bring out stories set in it, although it can also limit creativity. Some of the stories feature magic, some don’t, and some it’s left ambiguous, which is what I most enjoy. I tend to prefer adventure stories featuring regular people in extraordinary circumstances—I’d much rather read about Robin Hood sticking it to some buffoonish nobles than King Arthur and Merlin, for example. These stories were mostly written independently, and bringing them together in a collection came later. I wanted to select stories lightly unified by the theme of things not quite being as they seem, and tricks, lies, illusions, or just plain misunderstanding can be a more dangerous foe than a sharp edge.
3. Which of the six stories if your favorite and why?
I’d say my favorite is actually “Justice Enough,” the one not based on the world of my novel. It’s heavily inspired by the Dishonored game franchise, which is the only game I still play at my age. An assassin using magical powers to carry out a diabolical penance is forced to consider another path, but at great personal risk. These morally ambiguous characters are the most fun to play with, since anything can happen when the story is unbound by classic tropes. I also think it has the most atmosphere. One can only read about forested mountainsides and shadowy rangers so many times before it gets monotonous.
4. Did you have any specific music in mind as you wrote this story?
Not really, but the ambient music for Dishonored—kind of dark, steampunkish Victorian-esque dulcimer strains—is equally appropriate for my story, I think.
5. What’s your favorite genre to write in?
I guess you’d say fantasy, but often my stories don’t contain many speculative elements, other than being set in a fictional world. I’ve been influenced as much by historical fiction as by fantasy and sci-fi, and I suppose I’d be equally interested in writing it, except for all that pesky history you have to research! I once pitched my novel to an agent calling it “historical fiction for a fictional world.” That went about as well as you’d expect. Though I do try to keep stories grounded in reality, in some cases I make pretty liberal use of terms like “alchemy,” which again is vague enough to mean any number of things, magical or not or left to the reader’s interpretation.
6. Got anything new cookin’?
I had a couple short stories come out recently, either new or as reprints. “A Hard Peace,” a kind of fantasy with some western notes, was in the inaugural issue of a great new magazine called Hybrid Fiction, which aims to mix speculative genres. A (hopefully) humorous story, “What We’re Looking For,” should also appear there soon. Another favorite story of mine, “Illicit Alchemy,” was brilliantly narrated on The Overcast podcast and reprinted in Cossmass Infinities. My debut novel The Heron Kings came out in April from Flame Tree Press, with a very nice starred review from Publishers Weekly, so anyone who enjoys medieval-esque grimdark fiction should check that out. I recently sent the manuscript of my as-yet untitled second novel to my editor, so I’m hoping to hear good news on that sometime soon, and I’ve just started outlining ideas for a third with the opening chapter already drafted. I always have short stories under submission somewhere, but that’s a long slog and I never get my hopes up until I see that too-rare acceptance email. I try to keep my website ericlewis.ink up to date on all these things, so anyone who wants can take a peek there.
7. And just for fun… What color is your favorite pair of socks?
I’ve got some fuzzy blue and lime green striped socks that I’ve just about worn out because I pick them most often. Partly because they’re so easily recognizable that I can pick them out of the dryer without having to search too hard, and they never get lost. They’re also very comfy.
Bonus! Can you stand on your head?
I used to be able to when I was younger, but I haven’t tried recently and I don’t think I will, thank you very much!
Thank you, Eric, for taking the time to indulge us! We hope you enjoyed sharing a bit about yourself and your work with our audience.
Up next: CHRIS DOERNER on Monday, July 13th!
Tricks of the Blade
Low Fantasy/Speculative Fiction (120 pages)
Bridging the gaps between classic fantasy, low fantasy, and speculative realism, these six tales show that sometimes our own preconceptions, doubts, and self-delusions can prove more troublesome than any magical or sword-wielding foe.
By day, Eric Lewis is a research scientist weathering the latest rounds of mergers and layoffs and still trying to remember how to be a person again long after surviving grad school. His short fiction has been published in Nature, Electric Spec, Allegory, Bards and Sages Quarterly, the anthologies Into Darkness Peering, Best Indie Speculative Fiction Vol. 1, and the upcoming Crash Code, as well as other venues detailed on his website at ericlewis.ink. His debut novel The Heron Kings is due out in 2020 from Flame Tree Press. You can also follow Eric’s Twitter account @TheHeronKing.
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