I had the good fortune to meet Erik on Twitter and he quickly became a favorite of mine with his wit and intellectual comments. After reading his book Demon King I was thoroughly intrigued and had to learn more about him, his wife Supergirl, their rottweiler named after the thunder god and their two crazy cats. Erik has done so many amazing things. Erik has a B.A. in Psychology, an M.S.C.S., and a Ph. D. in Artificial Intelligence. He has worked as a criminal investigator for a state agency, a college professor, a C.T.O. for an international software company, and a video game developer. Whew I am tired just writing all of his accomplishments! So let us find out more about this talented man!
~My fiction has always had a dark streak. When I was young, I heard the adage: “Write what you read.” At the time, I was reading a lot of science fiction, with a smattering of horror, so I thought I should write science fiction—dark scifi, granted, but scifi. I wrote some cyberpunk and tried very hard not to recognize that as much as I love reading scifi, I’m wasn’t that great at writing scifi. Let me put it this way—my “scifi” was frequently compared to Dean Koontz or Stephen King 😊
When I returned to writing fiction after being disabled, I first had the idea while re-reading one of my favorite authors, Stephen King—specifically I was reading the Dark Tower series and thought it would be cool to write something with the same depth, with the same “Epic Quest” quality. I had been playing around with an idea in my head about a serial killer that was a wendigo, and the Blood of the Isir series was born. It was so easy to write dark fantasy, and even easier to write straight horror, I was sure I found the right genres. Having said that, I do have plans for a scifi horror novel at some point.
What and who are some of your favorite horror films, books, and authors?
~I love Stephen King, Dan Simmons, Robert R. McCammon, Anne Rice, Ambrose Ibsen, Joe Hill, Walter Jon Williams, and many, many more.
As for films, I seem to be drawn heavily to scifi horror like the Aliens franchise and Pandorum, but I also love original movies like the Babadook, Gerald’s Game, A Quiet Place (I love, love, loved this movie!), The Others, etc. Having said that, I almost never turn down a horror movie.
What I dread in either setting is formulaic, repetitive stuff. You know what I mean… “So-and-so has sold a gerbillion books writing about butterflies, so my next book will be about butterflies. I’ll call it ‘Butterflies on a Train!’” Yech.
Can you tell us a little bit about your work in A.I.?
~I spent most of my time trying to make artificial characters into something more than talking heads. My Ph.D. explored building synthetic personalities by basing character drives and emotions on trait-based personality theory (from psychology). I also did some work in Natural Language Understanding and machine learning.
Also can you tell us about some of the video games you helped develop?
~I worked on Madden directly, and as a character AI adviser on many others under the Electronic Arts umbrella. Probably the most fun I had in the game industry was working on a project that never made it into production—an MMO concept set in Frank Herbert’s Dune universe.
I love the Hank & Jane IRL, would Supergirl like to comment on you and or your work?
~Direct from Supergirl:
Erik is one of those people who is good at everything he tries. This amazes and annoys me in equal parts. At the time he got sick, he was a professor at a private university. We had moved thousands of miles from family a few years prior so he could take the job. It was a difficult time and eventually, even with all the help and support the university provided, he had to stop working. I remember the day I filled the car with the contents of his office. The next few years are a blur to both of us, him due to pain and medication and me due to working and handling the family and house stuff. I do remember that we started to go for drives as a way for Erik to get out of the house and for us to chat. We have always been the kind of couple who enjoys spending a lot of time together.
At some point Erik began talking about wanting to write a story with a character that had RA. I encouraged (or nagged, potato/potahto) him at every turn because I wanted him to have something of his own again and be more than the RA. I told him we didn’t need to worry if it ever got published or how long it took to write but that the writing was what he needed to do. We set up the office with a recliner and a swing arm for his monitor and keyboard so he would be able to sit long enough to write more than a sentence or two. There were flares that interrupted and the writing went in fits and starts for a while but eventually he had something.
Any interesting stories (that you can tell) from your criminal investigative days?
~I can’t say much from the investigative days, but my experiences drive my writing, to be sure. There are far more horrible things in the world than we give it credit for. One of the scariest moments in my life was an interview with a homeless man when gradually realizing the depth of his paranoia and persecutory delusions, then discovering he was armed with .45 caliber pistol.
My years working on a psychiatric intensive treatment unit also fuel my work—in fact I am developing a concept for a novel or two pulled directly from my time there, and parts of Demon King came from this part of my life, as well (and not just the obvious bits 😊).
What would you like people to know about you?
~I have a so-called invisible disability. It’s not really invisible—it must easy to see based on the glares I sometimes get when Supergirl pumps the gas, holds the door open for me, or cuts my steak in a restaurant. It’s especially not invisible for my family and friends. It has changed me-physically, but it has not conquered me, and it has not changed who I am at the core (a big, dumb, stoic Viking). For more about my pointy-stick collection, please see:
Even with this stupid disease, I love life. I’m a positive person most of the time, and I try to have fun with whatever I’m doing because that’s the best sharp, pointy, monster-poking stick I can find. I love to laugh, and I love meeting and talking to people.
How do you combat writers block?
~I don’t really suffer from writer’s block. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I shouldn’t write, and most of the time, I’m bright enough not to waste time on those days, I just go relax with a good book or movie. I mostly have the reverse problem. I have far more ideas than I can write in the time my Personal Monster™ allows me. I’m rapidly filling up a digital notebook of ideas, beginnings, endings, characters, etc. Hopefully, I’ll be able to figure out a way to write faster (or develop implant technology that sucks the stories directly from my head while I sleep).
Any advice for other writers facing their own “personal monsters”?
~Push that monster out of the way and get to work. Find a way to do what you need to do. Experiment, take notes—whatever is necessary. DO NOT LET THE MONSTER WIN.
Do you have a personal mantra?
~If I do, it involves Personal Monsters™ and sharp, pointy sticks. Or maybe something funny.
I want to thank Erik and Supergirl so much for taking the time to answer my questions and give us such a personal look inside this amazing authors mind!
You can learn more about Erik and his books here : https://erikhenryvick.com/