Interview with Ivan Ewert about Famished: The Commons

by newuser09876 19. August 2014 08:39

Famished: The Commons
Gentlemen Ghouls #2

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1. Previously, you've written series for me. Now that you are writing novels, has it been difficult to shift it from an episodic format to a novel format?

It’s a mixed bag. I prefer the structured cadence of the serial format, with a specific deadline every month. But that leaves little time for review of the work by independent alpha or beta readers, which sharpens the quality of the work I’ve done in novel format.

Peter Ball talked in his interview for Exile about some of the specific difficulties in the serial format around outlining and planning. While it’s true that there are restrictions there, sometimes those restrictions can result in wonderful things you never thought of. It’s similar to structured poetry vs. blank verse.

For example, I actually “killed” Gordon at the end of Year One, and only then learned the editor wanted me to continue the story another year. Without that wrinkle, Orobias would never have been created. He and his agenda have become so central to the story since then, it’s hard to imagine the books without him!

Overall, I’ve converted to the novel format. I wouldn’t mind going back to serials, but I’d use the skills I’ve learned in the past two years to approach it differently this time around.

2. Famished: The Farm and Famished: The Commons are set in middle America and on the East coast. Have you ever been there? Are parts of the story set in real world locations?

Nearly all the locations are real! Though I can’t speak to the activities of the people who actually live and work in those buildings. Every location Gordon visits exists – from St. Raymond’s Catholic Church outside Sun Prairie to Pete’s Hot Dogs in Greenville to the Attitash ski resort. A large part of the concept of the Gentleman Ghouls series is how closely tied to the real America their world is.

I’ve lived my entire life in the American Midwest, mostly northern Illinois along the border with Wisconsin. The landscape fuels a lot of my ideas and creativity, and Madison, Wisconsin (where Famished: The Farm begins) is one of my favorite places in the world. From there I use a lifetime of walking through forest preserves and woodlands in the upper Midwest to spin the rest of the Farm’s story.

There’s a special note of horror in parts of the Midwest. We have the wide open spaces of the West, but less of the self-reliance that could save an isolated individual. When you look across a prairie, realizing there is nowhere to hide from anything that pursues you, it’s a disturbing sensation...

As a child we often vacationed in Vermont and Maine. While I haven’t been back to New England in decades, the impressions of those resorts inform many scenes in The Commons.

With all of that said, Google Earth is a godsend! It’s not the same as being there, of course; but it does provide more of those wonderful restrictions I mentioned above. Putting Carol’s house on a specific cul-de-sac in Greenville, South Carolina allowed me to inform the attack of the Ghouls in a more realistic manner than just dreaming up a subdivision.

3. Will you explain who "the Boeren" is?

The Gentleman Ghouls place a lot of importance on bloodlines and families. Gordon Velander’s great-grandfather, Han Boeren, left the Farm in the prologue to that novel and remained free under the assumed surname of Velander until his death. His son, Hank, and grandson, Thomas, had no idea of their relation to the Gentleman Ghouls – or even of their existence.

When Sylvie finds Gordon and recognizes his bloodline, she immediately looks for other male relatives. Finding none, Gordon simply becomes known as “The Boeren” in her communication with the Ghouls, and the title sticks.

4. Do you have any other stories set in the same fictional world as the Gentlemen Ghouls universe?

I write flash fiction and small scenes when I need to fill out a character’s background, or see how they’d respond to different scenarios. Some of the character studies I draw up result in full-fledged short stories – Linh’s final estrangement from her father, Jacob’s encounter with his grandfather in the Commons cellar. Some are horror, some are more slice of life.

Understand that I wouldn’t share them in their current rough form. They’re more like exercises to give me a better feel for the character, though I’ve considered running Goodreads contests with these sketches as potential prizes for fans.

5. What are you working on now?

My number one priority is outlining and starting work on Famished: The Ranch, the final book in the Gentleman Ghouls series. I have a cycle of short fantasy stories and a young adult urban fantasy simmering on my back burners, but I don’t plan to do any more serious work until The Ranch is with beta readers.

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