Copyright Vicki Tyley (c)
Quote of the day:
"Happiness is the sense that one matters."
E. A. SETSER -
Today I introduce an interesting young man - E. A. Setser. After spending most of his life failing to gain footing in Knoxville,TN, E. A. Setser and his family packed their life into a truck and set their sights on Cincinnati, OH. Being nearsighted, his aim was a little off, and they landed 2 miles short in Covington, KY. But in the spirit of America, they got a rental house with some friends and decided to settle there anyway. Now, he works as a cost estimator, purchaser, machinist, and database administrator for a local sign manufacturing company.
As for writing, E. A. got started at the age of 4, writing short stories for his family. Seven years later, he tried writing a novel for the first time and failed. Another few years later, he tried again, keeping many of the same elements, and scrapped the 540-page end result because it sucked. It wasn’t until he was 28 years old that he finished a novel he was proud enough of to publish under his real name. Elder Blood is the first of seven novels in his 'The Epimetheus Trial' series, and it has nothing to do with vampires, so don’t even ask.
Welcome, E. A. Tell us more ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
If there was any time between my becoming literate and my taking to creative writing, I honestly don’t remember it. I was writing little one-page short stories before kindergarten, usually inspired by something that happened that day. The first time I saw a deer up close, I wrote a story about a guy who lost his talking pet deer and was trying to find it before a mad scientist stole it.
A few years passed, and I didn’t give writing much thought beyond school assignments. In middle school, I was a largely disliked social recluse. I went back into leisure writing as a means to keep my mind occupied, perhaps to create a world that I controlled. At some point, I discovered that this was the one thing that could make dozens of adolescents who generally hated me shut up and listen. If your enemies don’t dare to find fault, you’ve either got a good thing going, or they’re afraid of you.
I took it upon myself to be my own worst critic though. So it wasn’t until about fifteen or sixteen years later that I completed a novel I was comfortable putting my name on. I’ve lost count of how many failures to launch I had in that time, but I always learned something from even the shortest attempts.
WERE YOU A GOOD READER AS A KID?
Oh definitely! At least, up until school ruined it for me. I don’t like being told what to read, how to read it, or what to think about it. I also never bought into the idea that everything is symbolic or that three hundred pages are necessarily going to revolve entirely around one central theme. Sometimes, it is what it is. Sometimes, there’s more than one theme. Sometimes, there is no theme, and it’s just a story. I also never liked being told my interpretation was “wrong,” especially when the teacher couldn’t back up their view beyond it being what was written in their guidebook.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
Wait, what? I thought we went over this already. Ah well, I can go more into the teenage and adult years, I suppose.
Throughout high school, I could never really find a niche that interested me, something I could build a solid career out of. I took up a novel project I’d been developing throughout middle school and spent the duration of high school writing and rewriting. By graduation, I had something close to a working draft.
All through college, I had a feeling my pursuit of higher education wouldn’t end well. So, I took to writing all the more seriously, but that led to the conclusion that this current story needed to be thrown away. I had changed the canon of the series-to-be so many times that this opening tale was an incoherent mess.
A couple years later, I started building another series, but this time I moved through the first book slowly and cautiously. Between having a kid and having trouble keeping a job, I found the motivation to put thoughts to paper with two decades worth of finely tuned precision.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Definitely the control. Think about it. I can create an entire civilization, world, even a universe with words. I’ve breathed life into paper creatures, built a culture for them, and even gotten people emotionally attached to strangers that don’t exist beyond what I say about them. It’s an incredible feeling, knowing you can build and move worlds just with text, especially text written purely for entertainment.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The troubling thing about giving life to these paper creatures is that they eventually gain sentience. On the one hand, that can make it easy to move them through a scene naturally. On the other hand, that makes it difficult to make them do what I want. If their only motivation is “because I said so,” I either have to find a new route to Point B or make a new Point B.
I once had a character turn out to be a traitor, and I didn’t see it coming until (s)he flipped. Going back and rereading, it actually made a rather reasonable amount of sense.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I tried my hand at painting, skateboarding, poetry (free form and lyrical), and various forms of engineering. Poetry and engineering still interest me, but not as things to pursue for a career or lifestyle.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a mad scientist when I grew up.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
You might expect me to say finishing and self-publishing a novel is my best accomplishment. You’d actually be wrong. I don’t want to say anybody can write a novel, because they certainly can’t. But anybody can convince themselves that what they wrote is worth selling, even beyond all reason and peer opinions to the contrary.
No, my best accomplishment was throwing away a 540-page draft when I was more than halfway through editing. That one I mentioned earlier, nearly everyone I told about it like the idea. The one friend who read any of it couldn’t wait for it to be in print as a finished product. But I was intimately familiar with it, the work that was going in, and what was to come. It may have been good enough for them, but it wasn’t good enough for me.
That’s when I knew I could make it as a legitimate writer, when I discovered the willpower to detach myself and look at my own writing objectively.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Right now, I’m on the initial draft of the second book in The Epimetheus Trial. Into Antiquity a sequel/prequel to Elder Blood. For the most part, it takes place five years later, but it also establishes events and connections from before and during Elder Blood as well as the five years between the two. This is done through conversations, sharper focus on supporting characters, and sometimes flashbacks.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Honestly, I don’t know. This saga and the compulsion to write it have become so ingrained in my thoughts that I don’t know what triggers it anymore. At the risk of sounding crazy, this world has become real within my mind, and there’s no discernible boundary separating it from reality. Asking what inspires me to externalize it is like asking what inspired your mother to birth you. It has a life in its own right. It deserves to live.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Industrial fantasy, for lack of a premade label. Take a fictional world with modern-ish technology and civilizations, some real some fictional but viable, and pepper in a blend of sword and sorcery as well as sci-fi technology. Justify the variation with the fact that it takes place across multiple cultures, advancing at different paces and with different ideologies, and you have industrial fantasy. Quarterstaff vs. Giant Robot!
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Don’t concern yourself with trends. Say you want to write young adult fiction. Vampires are pretty popular these days, so that might seem like a good way to go. But think about how many others you’ll be competing with. Also think about where that trend might be by the time you’re finished and have an audience.
Write what you write because it’s something you like. Not because it sounds like something that could make you an overnight sensation. The big names that survive the test of time are the ones that went their own way and focused on quality, not mass marketability.
Also, remember that even your antagonist is a person, too. Justify their behavior.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
All the time! Yes, I said all these people and cultures are real to me, but we’re not always on speaking terms. Plus, there’s centuries of history to take into consideration, trying to understand how one civilization reacts to another’s behaviour.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I write whenever I’m capable and have the opportunity. My most common times are during my lunch break at work and at home after my son falls asleep.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Anywhere I can turn out a few solid pages is a favourite place. If I can get focused and catch my stride, it’s a good place to write. I’ve done it at my desk, on my couch, on the living room floor, and in the back seat of an SUV.
That sounded naughty.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
That would have to be building an emotional bond between my creations and my readers. Giving these creations such sentience that they develop their own relationships and dreams is also pretty great.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Is it bad to say I don’t really have one? I respect James Patterson’s ability to write across multiple genres, and sell like crazy while still having respect for quality. Too many writers are dumbing it down for the sake of marketability. Same goes for the late Robert Jordan, plus the ability to keep track of so many characters.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
In my first review from a stranger, he said the character depth was absolutely stunning. This was a guy who had never heard of me or my story, and he was lured in and eager to find out what happens next. Great words to hear after your first steps into the public eye.
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
A friend told me I might need to dumb it down. I don’t go out of my way to be obscure or dig through a thesaurus searching for the smartest-sounding word. I mean, I do use a thesaurus sometimes, but I don’t abuse it.
Anyway, I do write for an adult vocabulary and intelligence. I’m sick of anti-intellectualism permeating entertainment literature, and I wanted to write something that made people think while still being enjoyable. I know she meant well, but it was a real facepalm moment.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Beyond the stuff I talked about in the opening, not really. Having a kid has made it easier to relate to parent-child relationships in my characters though.
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU PUBLISHED?
Just the one, and it was self-published.
HAVE YOU WON ANY PRIZES OR AWARDS?
Yes, the Social Detriment Rookie of the All the Time Award.
WHAT DID THEY MEAN TO YOU?
It was great to know that I was proud enough of myself to outshine all the other newcomers in a field of one.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Movies, documentaries, science news, video games, cooking, spending time with my wife and son. That’s not in any particular order.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
I did not, but I might with Into Antiquity. My wife helped though, because she was the one second pair of eyes intimately familiar with the series as a whole. You know, sometimes certain details need to be left as they are because of their relevance later. Anomalies in one story may be there to get the reader asking how/why, only to be explained later. Those conversations are easier with someone who already has an idea of what’s to come later.
IF YOU HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK TO THE ENTIRE WORLD, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
Stop letting stupid people define your culture. Get off the bandwagon, and stop giving them a platform and a microphone.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
To put it briefly, start out with breakfast in front of the Playstation with my son, while listening to whatever documentary my wife is watching on Netflix. Straighten up a bit, get the house looking a little nicer, then go out on the town with my family. Along the way, hash out some ideas for my writing, maybe even get someone who overhears us involved in the discussion. That evening, cook a big meal for family and friends and sit around the living room eating and talking about our personal work. Once my son is in bed, put those ideas to paper, then spend the rest of the night talking and watching television.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ASSETS AS A WRITER?
It’s easy for me to see from someone else’s perspective, even if their personality doesn’t mesh with my own. It gets me away from the evil-for-the-sake-of-evil trope and helps me humanize my villains.
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE? WHY?
Michio Kaku. The man is a genius but can communicate in layman’s terms. Plus, he’s creative enough that I’m sure he could design a safe means for us to get off the island using only what’s available.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
In writing, I want to release Into Antiquity before Christmas 2013 and finish the rest of The Epimetheus Trial before I’m 40 (June 2023).
The rest of life, I want to move to Cincinnati proper in four years so my son doesn’t have to spend more than two years in a Kentucky school zone. I’d also like to get some money saved up to give him a leg up after high school, should he need it.
Lastly, I want to get the means to have my wife’s epilepsy surgically treated. She’s gotten rather accustomed to functioning normally with it, but it’s still an obstacle. She deserves to live a normal-ish life. Plus, if she can force herself to function normally with it, just think what kind of potential will be unlocked when the interference is taken away.
I guess the mad scientist never died.
E. A. Setser's Contact Points:
Clancy's comment: Thanks, E. A. Now, head off to the laboratory and pretend you're still a mad scientist - CT.
I'm Clancy Tucker.