Hello My Lovelies,
Today, I’m going to introduce you to my new friend author E. A. Copen and her latest work Beasts of Babylon. It’s not often you get to read a horror western novel with a female protagonist and this one is definitely worth checking out. It has a 4.9 star average rating at Amazon.
- What makes your protagonist different from the industry standard or genre standard?
Anastasia Thorne, like most of my protagonists, is a parent. She lost her children when they were murdered, but the whole book is about her avenging their deaths. Another thing that makes her different is that she’s a woman. Westerns traditionally have a male lead, but I really wanted to write a strong female lead, especially after reading about Calamity Jane.
- What’s your favorite paranormal creature and why?
The Phoenix. The legend about it dying in fire to be reborn is empowering to me. It says to me that there’s always hope. Just because your flame has burnt out, it’s only temporary and you’ll rise better, stronger, once its been restored.
- Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
There’s a balance there somewhere. Readers don’t want to read the same things over and over, but if you change too much it can be jarring. I think originality comes from how you approach a subject, even if it’s a trope that’s been used a thousand times before.
- Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I write books about people who push outside their comfort zones and challenge perceptions. I hope that everything I write represents that part of my author brand. Many of my books are connected, but Beasts of Babylon isn’t connected to my other series. There will be more books in this world, however.
- If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t throw away those old drafts. You’re going to need them someday.
- How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It changed everything! With my first book, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to market, how to find an audience or define the genre of a book. I just wrote what I wanted to read and put it out there, expecting it would sell itself. There are certain genre rules I broke that I wish I hadn’t at times. Other times, I’m really happy I did break those rules. If I had to go back and do it all again, though, I don’t think I would change anything. I would spend more time advertising before I launched the series, however.
- What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
My covers, of course. Covers sell books. Great covers sell more books. They’re worth investing in.
- How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
This is especially important when writing mysteries. I have to sprinkle clues throughout each book in such a way that if the reader guesses the answer correctly, it doesn’t feel cheap. It should feel rewarding, even if you guess the outcome right away. I do this basically by making sure to spread the clues out and leaving key information out, or keeping it ambiguous. Just when I hope you think you’ve got it figured out, it’s my job to present to you an alternative suspect or make you question your guesses.
- How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Dozens? Probably at least thirty. I wrote a lot of terrible books before I had one I thought was worth publishing. Of the published books I have out, many also have a really terrible first draft that’s vastly different from the published version. Sometimes I don’t finish these really bad first drafts because I realize how bad they are.
- What does literary success look like to you?
Literary success would be making enough as an author that I could travel to conventions and meet fans whenever I wasn’t writing.
- What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
There’s a lot of research that goes into writing paranormal novels. I have to learn all the lore I can whenever I use a new monster. Often, that means watching dozens of films and reading five or six books. It takes anywhere from two weeks to three months for me to prepare to write a novel.
- Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
Yes! Believe it or not, I used to hate anything paranormal. I said I’d never read it, never write in it, never wanted anything to do with it. To me, paranormal meant Twilight, which I hated. Vampires have always kind of freaked me out, so I don’t find anything romantic about them. I also had an unparalleled hatred of wizards and magic using characters. I hated that they could use their magic to get out of any situation. It felt like cheating to me.
Then, I read The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. It was totally different from anything I’d ever read before, and suddenly I couldn’t get enough fiction about wizards, werewolves, scary vampires, or mysteries with paranormal elements. In less than a year, I’d read every paranormal mystery people recommended to me. I needed more. That’s how I wound up writing my own.
- How do you select the names of your characters?
They’re all different. Anastasia Thorne’s name came to me in a dream. Judah Black’s name is in homage to a conversation out of Reservoir Dogs, and Sal’s name came about while listening to Johnny Cash’s Boy Named Sue. I have characters whose names were inspired by Scooby-Doo, and other characters whose name came from a list generator. It really all depends.
- What was your hardest scene to write?
The hardest scene I ever wrote is in Beasts of Babylon and I almost took it out. It’s a flashback detailing how Anastasia’s children were murdered in front of her. I found it so shocking that I wrote this scene, that I almost didn’t finish the book. I was really upset that my mind took me there in such detail to watch a toddler die. Losing one of my children is my biggest fear, especially being in a situation where I’d be helpless to save them. Writing that was like facing that fear. It really did scare me. I agonized over whether to leave it in or take it out, but decided it should stay in when I shifted the focus of the book from simply being a paranormal western to being a horror western. Stephen King says write what scares you and that’s exactly what I did.
- How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It varies a lot. The fastest full-length novel I’ve ever written was finished in just 15 days. The longest was probably the forthcoming novel of the Judah Black series, Playing with Fire which took 10 months to write. It isn’t the length that makes a difference. It’s often the subject matter. Playing with Fire is a government conspiracy book that deals with abuse in a religious setting, something I endured as a child. Revisiting those memories can be tough, but I feel it’s also important to do so.
If you’re looking for a horror novel to enjoy on Halloween, go check out E. A. Copen’s Beasts of Babylon. It’s available here.
Until next time,