Interview with Ivan Ewert

by Jennifer 8. April 2014 09:36

Ivan Ewert is the author of Famished: The Farm. Its sequel, Famished: The Commons, is going through the editorial process right now.

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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.

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Read more about Ivan at his website.

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Interviewed by the Shadow Minion

by Jennifer 26. January 2014 11:18

AIP is currently open to query submissions for 3 linked novellas. We are looking for well-written, modern day, dark speculative fiction. The kind of story that could be happening around you as you walk out the door.

As creative director, what are you looking for?
I want to be transported. I want to read the story in a coffee shop, look up, and imagine it happening in around wherever I am. I want supernatural elements that intrigue me and horror elements that affect me. The worst thing is to have a story that I care nothing about.

Why go with 3 linked novellas?
Think of it like a serial novel. We want to get the novellas out 3 times a year in e-format only and the release a compilation of the stories in limited edition hard back, trade, and e-format. This way, content is coming out quicker throughout the year.

Can or should the link be obvious or subtle?
The link needs to be obvious enough that the three novellas together tell a whole story.

Why not Zombies?
I don’t like zombies. That’s not subtle. They’ve been done to death. They bore me.

Why have other queries been rejected?
For a number of reasons. For not fitting the dark speculative theme (urban fantasy / horror). For not being an interesting story. For having really bad world building rules.

Common flaws you've seen in submissions?
Weirdly, I’m getting a lot of people who don’t have a story idea. Instead, they want me to tell them what story I want written and to hand-hold them through the synopsis and outline. I have to admit, this was not something I expected. Other than that, just not suiting AIP’s chosen niche.

What would your dream submission be like?
A synopsis of 3 linked novella length stories with diverse characters (LGBT, POC characters encouraged), a fascinating take on the real world, with an interesting plotline. The synopsis is erudite and concise. The author is responsive and willing to take editorial direction. I want an emotional story with action.

 

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The Next Big Thing

by Jennifer 3. January 2013 10:18

Both Ivan Ewert and Jennifer Brozek have talked about their "Next Big Thing" in blog posts. As it happens, both of these are AIP projects.

Jennifer talks about The Children of Anu in her post.

Ivan talks about Famished: The Commons in his post.

Bonus! Ivan talks about a local eatery naming a sandwich after his book series that sounds very tasty.

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Talking FAMISHED with Ivan Ewert

by Jennifer 8. August 2012 09:46

1. Why did you choose to write about something as disturbing as ritualized cannibalism?
Ivan: When the opportunity to write a horror story came along, I knew I had to be both frightened and fascinated by the subject matter. None of the usual paranormal situations fit the bill - I like supernatural tales but they don't usually scare me any longer. So I asked myself, "what's the most frightening thing you ever read?" It was a Lovecraft story titled "The Picture in the House," about a South Sea captain who had encountered - and been changed - by exposure to cannibalism. It probably didn't help that I read it around age 12, but I still remembered it vividly.

As to the fascination, it's something so difficult to imagine. Even in times of desperation, the way this would change a normal person is almost unthinkable. That's why I made Gordon so normal - he's nobody's hero at the start of the book, and probably would have lived a quiet, normal life if he hadn't been brought into this circle. Watching him break down in my mind, then watching him rebuild, was a great process.

2. How much research did you do for FAMISHED: THE FARM?
Ivan: The land, weather and physical features of the novel were already familiar. I spent some time on a working farm in Allegan, Michigan while writing the first draft, which helped to get the sense of rural isolation down.

Most of my research for the Farm itself revolved around isolated compounds like Warren Jeffs' and the Minutemen, with information gathered from news reports, interviews with former members, and various hate watch organizations. Not fun research, but important.

The supernatural elements were made up of memories from things I'd read before, then re-read and altered to fit my view of the FAMISHED universe.

3. Is there a sequel forthcoming?
Ivan: With three more known bases for the Gentlemen Ghouls, I've definitely got two more books in mind. Gordon will change quite a bit over the next year, and so will the fabric of the cannibal cult.

4. What was the most disturbing part of FAMISHED to write?
Ivan: Martin's betrayal in the pigpen, during the siege. It came ripping out in a short night's work and I wanted to keep that raw, immediate, emotional feel of betrayal and pain as I went through edit after edit. The hurt, the blood, the weakness and the helplessness were all things I felt strongly while setting it down. It was definitely the most difficult and emotional section to write.

5. What was the best part of FAMISHED to write?
Ivan: The climactic scene at the Farm. There were so many moving pieces to keep track of, so many conflicting agendas and ways in which to cross one another. I had this great map all laid out across my desk for weeks and would just tear it off, re-create it, and figure where everyone belonged to get the most out of the scene. It was work that rarely felt like work.

6. Where can we find all things about Ivan Ewert?
Ivan: You can follow me at ivanewert.com. In addition to news on all upcoming creative endeavors, I can promise that all recipes posted there are perfectly safe for human consumption.


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