Eric Luper has been writing for teens since 1999 when he decided to stop fighting the youthful voice that was trying to make its way into his “grown up” books. Since then, he has written a bunch of books for young adults, some of which have actually been published, including BIG SLICK, BUG BOY and SETH BAUMGARTNER’S LOVE MANIFESTO. Of Eric’s fourth novel (his first for middle-grade readers), JEREMY BENDER VS. THE CUPCAKE CADETS, Gordon Gorman says, “Hats (and tams) off to Jeremy Bender for a belly laugh not even the densest cupcakes could hold down!” Eric lives in Albany, NY but spends as many weekends as possible in nearby Lake George doing mountainey and lakey things. For more info, visit his website.
Let the conversation begin!
What’s one rule you’re dying to break?
I’ve always wanted to stick my hand out the bus window but I’m still paranoid that my arm is going to be torn off.
Was it easier to write before or after you were published?
I would say they are both difficult for different reasons. Before I was published, I had no deadlines so I could more lax about my writing schedule. I could play around a little more. However, it was more stressful because the question of whether I had the ability to get published in the first place always crept in around the edges. Now that I’ve published a few books, there is a lot more accountability. My editor and agent have expectations. My readers have expectations too!
Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?
Most of my characters are the sum of several people I know. I tend to merge the physical appearance of one with the humor of another with the values of yet another. I mix it up so much, though, that my friends and family very rarely recognize themselves.
What advice would you give young writers?
Most authors tell young writers to read and write as much as they can, so I won’t give that advice. My advice is to not be afraid to make mistakes. That’s what revisions are for. If you’re going off on some tangent and jumping all over the place, just go with it. When you’re done, put it aside for a few weeks. When you go back to it, it’ll be clear what needs to get cut or changed around. Also, never write to please others. Write to please yourself and trust that others will find it interesting.
What would you like your life to look like in ten years?
I’d like to be writing full-time in an apartment in a really cool city somewhere. Someplace I can walk out of and stroll to a nifty downtown. Maybe New Orleans LA or Saratoga Springs NY. Oh, and also I’m the master of both time and space.
How many words do you write each day?
I do not keep myself to a word-count schedule like this. I have too many other things going on in my life including a separate business to run, two small kids and some other side projects, including being involved with several charities. Plus, I tend to write in manic spurts. I’ll go a few weeks where I have no idea what to write and then I’ll have a burst of inspiration and write 4,000 words per day for a few weeks. I know when it’s time sprint and that’s when I sprint.
Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?
Typically, I know how I want the book to end, and when I say ‘how’ I mean the emotional change and growth of my characters. However, I have no idea how I’m going to get there. For me, that’s the fun part. And when I can surprise myself with a little twist or get excited, happy or sad, I know I’m heading down the right track.
What element would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue?
I would like to have a little cabin on a lake somewhere. Just a bedroom, some writing space, a bathroom and a kitchen. Nothing fancy. I’d want no television or internet access. And I’d like time to go there and WRITE!
What’s the first item on your bucket list?
I have a writing bucket list and a regular bucket list. The great thing is that so many of my writing bucket list things have already happened (getting published, having a subsequent book published, certain accolades, going to big book events, writing both young adult and middle grade, etc). On the top of my bucket list right now is to have a fantasy book published. The good news is that I’m working on one now.
My regular bucket list is peppered with places I’d like to travel to and visit. On the top of that list is Iceland!
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
I have a muse trapped in my basement, so I just go down there and tell her to give me a few ideas. In exchange, I give her some food.
Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? Or do you keep it a secret?
I have a small group of critiquers who I let read my unfinished things. Sometimes, I’ll hit an impasse and it’s one of my techniques to get past it. The hardest part was finding that group of critiquers I trust!
If there is one genre you’d never write, what is it?
Technical manuals. Do I really have to say why?
Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?
I love the idea of a series. When I was a kid, I loved reading them and I still remember the joy I felt when a new book in the series came out. I’d love to bring that same feeling to young people today. Leave the ‘one classic’ to Harper Lee.
Do you write with music?
I find music distracting, even if there are no lyrics. I find television in the background distracting too. I don’t mind ambient noise though, so I can write at the library or even at a café. I can edit with music, though. Is that weird?
Do you begin with character or plot?
I always start with a situation or a premise, a ‘what would happen?’ sort of question. Then, I figure out a character that would be interesting in that situation and go with it. For me, plot grows from this. Put an interesting character in a stressful of interesting situation and fun things happen. I just try to keep up!