Author of the acclaimed Monument 14 trilogy Emmy Laybourne interviews Eric Walters, author of the newly-released apocalyptic novel The Rule of Three, today on the NOOK Blog. The two discuss the inspiration behind Eric’s book, Eric’s children’s charity in Kenya, their respective writing techniques and more. The Rule of Three is now available on NOOK.
EMMY: One thing I really enjoyed about The Rule of Three was that it’s an apocalyptic tale—a story that takes place before, during, and then after the end of civilization as we know it—as opposed to a post-apocalyptic tale that would begin years after the end of society. Eric, do you think that apocalyptic authors are secretly control freaks, and want to dictate how we think it will, and should go down? Or is it perhaps that we are so anxious about the end of the world that we just need the catharsis of burning it all down?
ERIC: Both, probably. All I know for sure is that I decided to make Adam’s struggle personal for me as an author by basing his neighborhood on my own. The novel is set in the United States but the streets of Eden Mills are the streets of my neighborhood in Canada. I’d walk the dogs and notice the creek was high after a rain and think “well that’s good for the crops, and there’s enough water for us to live today.” I’m quite proud of the fact I didn’t go out and buy a gun—although I thought about it a lot.
EMMY: Good for you! So are there other aspects of the book The Rule of Three that came from your own experience?
ERIC: My background is in social work, psychology, and education so I applied that to my understanding of the characters and their reactions to the situations. I worked in an ER for eighteen years and was witness to some pretty horrific things. I tried to make my characters in the story act the way they should act, feel the way they should feel, think the way they should think given the circumstances around them.
EMMY: Herb, the retired spy who lives next door to Adam and basically takes charge, seems a little like my mother—he’s always right! Is there anyone in your family who’s always right? Is it you, Eric? You can tell me!
ERIC: My family claims I THINK I’m always right, although I’m always willing to be proven wrong. I hold my opinions dearly but you can always try to convince me differently, and if you do I will hold that opinion dearly. I am decidedly stubborn and have been described as not having a type-A personality, but a quadruple-A personality.
EMMY: That sounds a lot like Herb. Is he based on anyone you know?
ERIC: Absolutely. The great Canadian soldier and spy William Stephenson. He was an engineer by training, a decorated soldier in World War I, a fighter pilot who shot down the Red Baron’s brother (who was a better flier), a pioneer in radar and TV, and was in charge of 20,000 spies in World War II.
EMMY: A man of many talents. Yes, that is Herb all right. Switching gears, what has your career as an author allowed you to do in your life that you might not have been able to do if you had never put pen to paper (or fingers to keys)?
ERIC: I get to climb mountains, wander deserts, walk across countries (Kenya in 2012), all in the name of research. But I’m most proud of my children’s program in Kenya (www.creationofhope.com), a charity that supports orphans. We have 52 children in our new residence, 43 in residential high school, and close to 300 orphans who are supported in extended family situations. We have built water projects, run the only library in Mbooni District, operate a school for pre-school teachers, and distribute goats, chickens, uniforms, beds, tools, blankets and solar lanterns to orphans throughout the region. Last year we had over 100 schools involved and we promised them 100% of funds go directly to service and then we show them—line by line, dollar by dollar, school by school. Total accountability, total transparency. Being an author has given me the platform to talk about my program, raise funds, travel to Kenya regularly and get people involved.
EMMY: I’m so glad we got the chance to talk about it here. I’m going to make a donation today. Looking homeward, is your house prepared for a crisis? Do you have any chlorine tablets socked away for a rainy (muddy, and/or contaminated) day?
ERIC: Adam’s house is my house. We have a pool and lots of chlorine tablets, cases of bottled water and enough food to last at least a month.
EMMY: I’m impressed. Tell me, what’s the most exciting book you’ve read in 2013?
ERIC: I thought it was The Mountains Echoed but I just saw the trailer for Monument 14 so I’ll have to wait until I read that one to give you an answer. I’m going to pick it up today.
EMMY: You are very kind! I look forward to hearing what you think. In terms of craft, do you work from an outline? What percentage of the time would you say you know what your characters are going to do before they do it?
ERIC: I always have a rough outline but I’m shocked at how little I actually follow it. Those characters keep doing things that I never expected. I think if I crept up to my keyboard and peeked they’d be talking about things behind my back. Okay, that’s a little paranoid and delusional . . . but just a little.
EMMY: My characters are always surprising me as well! It’s one of the things I like best about writing. What’s your favorite part of the writing/publication process? What’s your least favorite part?
ERIC: I love just playing with the story, juggling the words, and making the story alive. I would love to just write and never have to actually publish—but for any of my publishers reading this: I just LOVE the publishing process.
EMMY: Ha! In my writing, I often lean on my experience as an actor. For example, I use acting techniques to help create characters and improv games to get me out of my head when I get blocked. What jobs or life experiences from outside the field of writing have helped you as a novelist?
ERIC: My whole background as a social worker has allowed me to understand human behavior in difficult situations. Working in Kenya, I see the most desperate situations, things I could never believe possible, and then have to try to find solutions. I witness both human tragedy and the ability of people to somehow overcome it, to find not only strength but truth and justice in their actions. I think those things are at the heart of the story, of Adam. It’s not enough to just survive, but to survive with honor and integrity.
EMMY: I got a lot of texts, tweets, and e-mails after Monument 14 was published—most of them begged one simple question: Will there be a sequel? And when?! Now I know how they feel! Tell me, Eric, will there be a follow-up to The Rule of Three? And when?! (And do you think Macmillan will get me an advance reader edition?)
ERIC: This was written as a trilogy. This is only the start. The second book is all about—okay . . . I can’t really tell you, but it builds off the first and ends with an even bigger bang.
EMMY: Excellent. Thanks for writing a sequel—and thanks for doing this interview!