Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Author Interview - Eric Edstrom

We had the opportunity to speak with Eric Edstrom, author of Undermountain, a YA adventure, and ask him a few questions about his book, work life, and upcoming projects. 

Six teens and a grizzled old guide embark on a ten day expedition into the wilds of the Canadian Rockies. Some came for adventure. Some came to learn. Two came to escape.
For sixteen year old Danny Michaelson the hike is a chance to escape—if only for short time—his troubled home.

For Breyona Lewis the hike is an escape from a terrible memory—of an assault she denies even to herself.

But when Danny and Breyona encounter a creature out of legend—an enormous beast they immediately tag as "bigfoot"—the hike suddenly becomes a race for their lives.

Swept into a secret underground city and told they may never leave, the hikers find themselves in the middle of a war between the bigfeet and their rebellious servant race, the tangoga. In their desperate attempt to escape, Danny and Breyona uncover the terrible plans that both races have for Earth.
To escape, to live, to save the Earth—Danny must fight. Breyona must surrender.

You can find Undermountain here:

Thank you Eric for taking the time to talk with us.  How would you describe Undermountain to someone who has never heard of it?
It starts off as a simple camping trip for six teens. It's kind of like an Outward Bound excursion in the Canadian Rockies. They're led by an experienced mountaineer who has seen just about everything the mountains have to offer. But then they encounter a creature they tag as "bigfoot" and the real adventure begins. They end up in the city of Undermountain, where the bigfeet live. There's a lot of adventure, a little splash of scifi, a dash of romance and a lot of "run for your life!" It's not Harry and the Hendersons, that's for sure. It's a YA adventure.

Were the characters in your book created around people in your life? How did you decide on the character names, Danny and Breyona?
Danny was not based on anyone in particular. He's more a product of his situation. His dad is not in his life and his mom is dating. He particularly hates his mom's new boyfriend. He's also turning sixteen in the book, which is a huge milestone age. So Danny is your average kid with normal problems.

Breyona is an upper class girl from Chicago. In the first draft of the novel her name was Beyonce! I knew it was a placeholder name because the name brings too much along with it. I don't mind if readers picture Breyona as a sixteen year old Beyonce though.

Do you have a favorite character? Which character did you have the most fun writing?
I loved writing both Danny and Breyona for different reasons. They have very different world views and histories, so the things they notice and the way they interpret events tends to be very different. I enjoy experiencing the crazy world they end up from those different perspectives

I also really like writing scenes with the tangoga creatures. Because they have two heads (don't worry, it's cool), they argue with each other a lot. I think they are hilarious, even though many of them are terrible villains. In a way, I identify with these weird guys because in real life I'm often of two minds about things. The tangoga literally have two personalities, and they have to find a way to get along with each other. It's a metaphor for the human condition, and part of the theme of the book.

What was your main source of inspiration for the story?
I just had this thought one day. "What if bigfoot isn't some kind of missing-link ape creature? What if he's part of a technologically advanced species that lives in secret city deep under the mountains. I followed that little thread and uncovered an amazing adventure.

Is there someone in your life who inspired you to write? Was there another author or a teacher who encouraged you?
My desire to write came from reading fun books. I spent endless hours reading fantasy novels as a kid. Anne Mccaffrey, Raymond Feist, Dennis L. McKiernan, Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, Lyndon Hardy. I'm also still somewhat obsessed with Star Wars. There are a few Star Wars "easter eggs" in the book. My editor caught one or two of them.

I wanted to write a story that I would want to read. It was that simple.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
There are some practical tools that I love: OmniOutliner is software I use for outlining my stories. I love it. I then transfer that outline to Scrivener, which is where I organize the actual prose. Finally, my digital recorder is essential because I dictate my first draft. I find that it's much faster and helps me get the first draft out of the way. I hate that part of the process, so I like to get it over with quickly.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
My process is evolving, but I consider my outline to be an alpha draft. It's much more detailed than a mere outline of "this happens, then this happens, then this happens." It contains all the plot points, plus bits of dialogue and the big emotional beats I want to include. I'm very much about mood and pace, so I encode those ideas into the outline. For the next book, I'll spend about six weeks in outlining mode. I'll get it broken into pretty detailed chapters and then I'll dictate the story. I really like to do this because when you're dictating, you can't see what you just wrote. When I type I always go back, endlessly tweaking each paragraph. When I'm dictating, I can't see it, so I push forward. Getting to "the end" is the most important goal. That doesn't mean I accept crappy writing or storytelling. I'll revise pretty heavily, but it feels like I'm polishing at that point.

Many people say, "I could never do that." That's what I thought. It took me quite a few tries before I got into it. Getting over the self-consciousness is the first obstacle. After that, it's training yourself to not compose sentences. You have to just speak as if you're telling your friend a cool story. If you stumble over a description or a bit of dialogue, keep going. You can always say, "note to self: that scene sucked. It should go like this …"

Once you forget the recorder and the words start flowing, you can get huge word counts in very short amounts of time.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in Undermountain?
There are few things I wish I'd included in it to better set up some things coming in the final two books.  But they are not big deals, just details that only I would ever notice.

Are you working on another book? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Of course! Undermountain was conceived as a trilogy. I know how much I hate waiting for sequels, so I'm committed to getting them finished as quickly as I can. My plan is to launch book two this summer and book three around Christmas. If I can do it faster, I certainly will. In addition, I have numerous ideas for short stories brewing.

What are you reading right now?
I'm reading Kevin J. Anderson's Saga of Seven Suns series right now. I'm currently reading book two, A Forest of Stars.

What were your feelings when you first saw the finished product for Undermountain?
Immense satisfaction followed by anxiety about how it would be received. So far the feedback has been positive, so the task now is to make people aware that it exists!

Thanks again Eric for taking time out of your busy schedule for us.  Hopefully we can help get word out of your book.  We wish you all the luck with your future novels!

You can find out more about Eric and Undermountain on  Eric's website. 

Feel like stalking Eric?  You can do that here:  Twitter or Facebook.


  1. I read this and it was really good. I would definitely recommend it.

  2. I am going to put it on my to-read list. I love the cover of this book!