Monday, July 7, 2014

An Interview with Erik Robert Nolan

I thought I'd change up a bit here and introduce you to one of my fellow Dagda authors, Erik Robert Nolan, who has a new novel out (available on Amazon) titled The Dogs Don't Bark in Brooklyn Anymore.

The cover of Erik's novel
In a post-apocalyptic future, mankind is at war with a mutated race of super-intelligent wolves. Rebecca "Red" O'Conner is a Captain in America's elite Special Animal Warfare Service, striving every day to protect the desperate East Coast cities from the cunning animal armies that have overrun most of North America. But for Rebecca, there are battles to wage both within and without, as she struggles to cope with memories of a childhood brutalized by violence, loss, victimization,and estrangement from those she loves.

Erik was nice enough to agree to do a Q&A with me so here he is to talk a little about his writing and himself.

What inspired the plot of The Dogs Don't Bark in Brooklyn Any More?

I've been a fan of survival horror since I was boy. I grew up on the George A. Romero zombie classics and the "Planet of the Apes" films. Among the the first horror movies I ever saw were "The Last Man on Earth" and Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds." My two favorite novels are the seminal Stephen King works The Stand (preferably the 1990 unabridged edition) and The Gunslinger, both of which depict post-apocalyptic or devastated worlds.

End-of-the-world scenarios make for great horror. They give us omnipresent threats that affect everybody, and not only those few unfortunates targeted by slashers or boogeymen. They also give us great opportunities for world-building -- exploring how people and institutions react to their impending end.

Did the story evolve over time or did you have a clear vision from start to finish?

It did evolve over time. I originally crafted the first draft of the first chapter as a standalone short story, entitled "Warning: Do Not Speak To The Animals." The characters acquired voices in my mind -- that is how characters grow with me -- and then they grew in depth. The sense of antagonism between Rebecca O'Conner and Francis Lestrade became something I wanted to follow and then share, and the world-ending war is really just a particularly big canvas for that.

At the same time, some things are clear for me. I know the fates of nearly all the characters, and those will be brought to page as the book series progresses.

How would you describe your main character?

She is a soldier doing her best. She didn't ask for the world she was born into. She did ask to joined the armed services, but she didn't ask for the trauma and consequent obsession that made that seem like the only choice for her.

She's no saint, but there is good in her. She's no genius, but she's a sharp girl and a quick study, and she has a few unique talents that will prove useful to herself and her colleagues, despite her very human shortcomings. She's driven, and committed, with a sense of service derived from Freudian sublimation. She'll be trouble for her adversaries.

Any significance to the title?

"The dogs don't bark in Brooklyn any more!" is a taunt spoken by one character to another at a key point in the novel. Revealing its context or speaker would be a major spoiler.

What authors influence or inspire you and why?

My love for language is nourished by the poetry of W. H. Auden. To be honest, I cannot always understand what he is saying. He was a sublimely cerebral man, and I am not. But an average man can recognize beauty when it is captured by language, and I am fortunate for that.

Stephen King is my most obvious influence. I believe he is under-appreciated even despite his fame, because people often don't realize how creative he really is. It's got nothing to do with the ghosts, the demons or the UFO's. It's the fully realized characters he creates, and his ability to render their thought processes and point of view. He creates what seem like real people, then renders their thoughts and voices perfectly. To me, that's amazing.

What's your take on indie publishing? 

It's the great equalizer. Indie publishing allows me to meet, work and interact with people like me -- just regular folks who enjoy stories and like to make up their own. The writers, readers, editors and publishers I meet are ordinary people who are excited about prose and poetry.

They're often very ambitious people, because that's what it takes in this business just to get your name out there. And they are occasionally eccentric, but I like that.

I honestly think there is a sense of connection there that you just wouldn't find with a major corporate publishing house -- a sense of commonality and community. I identify with them. And I have a hell of a lot of fun. It's why writing, for me, is more avocation than vocation.

And that's not even broaching the issue of the range of opportunities for new authors.

How do you like working with Dagda?

Dagda Publishing is a tremendous boon to poets and authors who want to find their voice and reach an audience. It has a firm commitment to new and emerging writers, and its editors and staff are not only highly professional, but also quite easy to work with. I have a blast working with them, and I can't think of a better publisher for an new independent creator. 

Do you have a project you're working on now?

I am currently working on the sequel to The Dogs Don't Bark In Brooklyn Any More. It will be the next book in "The Wolf War Saga."

Is there anything about the novel that took you by surprise once it was done? Perhaps a significance that you hadn't planned on but you caught after reading through the finished work?

I was surprised at how quickly and fully secondary characters developed. This book is largely Rebecca O'Conner's story, and it is told almost exclusively from her point of view. I tried to portray her fully, and let the reader know her and see her world through her eyes. I've gotten some very nice feedback from readers who said they enjoyed that character-driven narrative, and I've been really flattered by that.

What I didn't expect is how secondary and supporting characters became real to me: Janey Auburndale, Danny Ogilviie, Michael Donlon and Brian Keller. They are full characters and are "real" to me in much the same manner that Rebecca is. Martin Trask is one character I just need to expand on in subsequent books. And I currently have a disquieting vignette rolling around in my head told from the point of view of Marie Lestrade, Francis' mother, when he was only a small boy. Maybe that will become a short story, or maybe it will be an element in the later books.

Do you have any favorites in music? Does music inspire your writing process?

U2, Depeche Mode, Tori Amos, and She & Him are my everyday standbys. As far as inspiration for writing, I routinely turn to Sigur Ros, Brian Eno and Richard Wagner.

Which do you think is more important: Character or plot?

Character. Plots are easy to come by. But if you can't humanize your protagonist, or at least arouse the reader's interest in him or her, your story will fail to sufficiently involve the reader.

What are some of the books considered classics that you like?

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, George Orwell's 1984, Viktor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning, The Analects of Confucius, and the short stories of Arthur Conan Doyle and O'Henry. I also love Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie." Rebecca's shelf of "blue and pink glass figurines" in Chapter 6 of my book is a direct reference to this.

Would you like a movie made out of your novel? If so, would you like to write it or would you leave it to others?

I'm not sure I would want a movie made out of my novel. If I did, I would leave the screenwriting to others. I don't think that dialogue is my strong point.

Who would direct it?

David Fincher. I loved his work on the much maligned but brilliant "Alien 3" (1992), and I am one of that film's rare fans. But it would be just great if Ridley Scott was called in to handle the battle scenes, and Terry Gilliam handled the dream sequences.

What about a cast?

I've been asked this before. It is always a fun question, and I believe my answers change because I am a movie nerd and I am constantly seeing new films and remembering old ones, and remembering which actors I like.

Elijah Wood in "Sin City"
Right now, I'd select Ellen Page as Rebecca -- she's an amazing actress in films such as "Hard Candy" (2005). And I think she's short, enough! Annabeth Gish could be Molly Landers, and Elizabeth Mitchell could be Janey Auburndale, 
Elijah Wood could be Francis Lestrade. Forget the innocence of Frodo; he does genderless psychopath just fine in "Sin City" (2005).

Would you ever try other genres?

I think about it all the time. Lately I've wondered what it might be like to try historical fiction. But I know that would be challenging because of the need for accuracy. It's so much easier inventing fictional futures and then just making things up.

If you met them in real life what would you think about your characters?

I would admire them. They are little different than American soldiers in the real world, protecting the lives and freedoms of their family and neighbors. I would also worry about them. The fictional world envisioned in the novel is one that often visits tragedy upon those who act heroically.

Francis Lestrade would be the exception. He would make me uncomfortable.

If I met any of the wolves, I would run like hell -- and probably not fast enough.

Erik Robert Nolan
Where can readers find out more about your writing?

You can visit my website here for more information about The Dogs Don't Bark In Brooklyn Any More, as well as my poetry and short stories:

Thank you for this interview, Laura! Congratulations on all the success and great reviews you are receiving for To Touch The Sun. And I'm honored to be able to appear here on your blog.

Thanks for stopping in, Erik.

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