SFFWRTCHT: A Chat with E.C. Myers, Author of the Parallel World Novels “Fair Coin” and “Quantum Coin”
E.C. Myers is the product of German and Korean parents, and was raised in Yonkers by his mother and by the public library. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts from Columbia which he put to no use as a technical writer, former software development, and women’s programming developer for TV. Currently a writer for a Children’s hospital development department, he spends way too much time gaming and on the internet. His debut young adult science fiction novel, Fair Coin (Pyr, 2012), received rave reviews and is a current finalist for the Andre Norton Award. His second novel, Quantum Coin, was released last October. He’s a graduate of Clarion West and member of Altered Fluid, a NY writing group. His short fiction has appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and Shimmer, amongst other venues. His romantic short story featuring horny zombies, “In the Closet”, received Honorable Mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2008. His nostalgic short story about horny cavemen, “My Father’s Eyes”, got an Honorable Mention in The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 3. Horny characters are thus key to his success. Myers was also a finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. He is an avid Star Trek fan who blogs about it at The View Screen. Myers can be found online at ecmyers.net, on twitter as @ECMyers, and on Facebook.
SFFWRTCHT: I couldn’t put your book down. But first things first: where’d your interest in science fiction and fantasy come from?
E.C. Myers: Thank you! That’s always a wonderful compliment to receive. Probably from cartoons I watched as a kid, like He-Man and Thundercats. And the first science fiction novel I read, Interstellar Pig by William Sleator.
SFFWRTCHT: Interstellar Pig? What a title! Who are some of your favorite authors and books that inspire you?
ECM: I used to read a lot more mysteries as a kid, but once I started on science fiction and fantasy, there was no going back! Too many to mention! William Sleator, Roald Dahl, Connie Willis, Octavia E. Butler, Scott Westerfeld, John Green, Philip Reeve. Many of my friends and colleagues are also writers I greatly admire. I really try not to play favorites.
SFFWRTCHT: When did you decide to become a storyteller and how did you get your start?
ECM: I can be inspired by fiction I don’t enjoy as much as fiction I love. And if a book is amazing, it can be kind of intimidating. I started writing short stories with the intention of being published in 2001. I was bored at work one day and just decided to start. If you’ve been planning to write or think you want to try it, my advice is to just do it and see how far you can get.
SFFWRTCHT: How’d you learn craft? Trial and error? Formal study? Workshops?
ECM: All three. I read books on craft and many short stories and flailed about until I attended Clarion West in 2005. Then I vastly improved. After CW, I joined a professional writing group, Altered Fluid, which kept me growing as a writer and critiquer and motivated me.
SFFWRTCHT: So you started with short stories. How long before you made your first sale?
ECM: I didn’t sell anything for four years, when I finally sold a flash piece just before attending CW. I sold regularly for a few years after CW to anthologies and websites, but never made any pro story sales. Still working on that!
ECM: I started with a YA novel because that was the only novel idea I had. Once I began reading YA again, I wanted to write it.
SFFWRTCHT: Fair Coin is about a teen who comes home to discover his mother has attempted suicide because she thought he was dead. In the effects given him by the hospital, he finds an odd coin and soon discovers it can change things with wishes and a flip. Where’d the idea for Fair Coin come from? Wishful thinking? (Just kidding…)
ECM: Ha ha. The idea came as an image, of the coin flipping and changing the world around him. I often visualize my stories first.
SFFWRTCHT: Have other parallel world novels influenced the writing of Fair Coin and Quantum Coin?
ECM: I haven’t been influenced by alt universe books as much as film and TV. I read a lot of YA parallel universe stories before and while I wrote Fair Coin, mostly to avoid replicating efforts. Until books like Planesrunner and The Broken Universe, I hadn’t been much impressed by what was already out there. I very consciously tried to make it different and better than Sliders, though I couldn’t avoid many of the similarities!
SFFWRTCHT: You read lots of YA parallel universe books. Did you ever find yourself imitating others’ voices?
ECM: I never noticed myself imitating another author’s voice, but if I did, it would have been corrected in revision. Some authors avoid it, but I like to read in the same genre and topic because it helps me generate ideas and keep it fresh.
SFFWRTCHT: It’s a near future science fiction tale. How long did the novel take to write?
ECM: Once I had that first inspiration, I kept adding ideas to it for two years, until I figured out what all was going on. Mostly. Five months for the first draft, then many months of revision. I went through four drafts before I was ready to query agents.
ECM: Ephraim’s a good kid who was forced to grow up too early, caring for his single, alcoholic mother. He feels forced to be responsible and resents it and he’s ashamed of his lifestyle. Otherwise, he’s a “normal” geeky kid who likes girls, TV, and videogames. He often tries to do the right thing but makes mistakes.
SFFWRTCHT: How hard is it to write a teenage voice?
ECM: Not too hard, so far. My default has always been YA-friendly, but it took me a while to realize that was an asset, not a flaw. But of course, every book requires a different voice and it might take me a whole draft to nail it down. A friend started her novel over 3 times, dropping thousands of words each time, until she found the right voice.
SFFWRTCHT: Are you an outliner or a pantser? Did you follow the surprising ride or have it planned?
ECM: I’m mainly a “pantser”. I’ve written four books and only outlined one when I got stuck. I plan a bit but leave room for serendipity. I’m most engaged with the novel I’m writing when I’m discovering it as I go. Many of my favorite bits were a complete surprise. Unfortunately, that sense of discovery diminishes a bit by the sixth draft.
SFFWRTCHT: That’s what I LOVE about the spontaneity of pantsing. Discovery! For those who might be unfamiliar with it, tell us a bit about the concept of multiverse.
ECM: The multiverse is a collection of other universes that may be similar or wildly different from our own. There are plenty of theories of how this might be, but in the books I mostly follow the model proposed by Hugh Everett III. Basically, every action and decision we make splits our universe into others, so there’s one for every possible outcome.
SFFWRTCHT: Quantum Coin picks up with the return of an old friend and the time shifting. Tell us a bit about that story please
ECM: I often compare Quantum Coin to Back To The Future 2. Everything seems resolved and perfect, but there’s a big problem to fix. Ephraim just wants to enjoy his new life but he gets dragged into another adventure. And I made things as tough as possible on him.
SFFWRTCHT: How many books are planned in the series?
ECM: There are only two books in the series. It’s done! You’ve collected them all! I do have some ideas on how I can continue the story when I sell out, but there’s really no need for that book. Not that there was a need for the sequel. I wrote that just for fun. I always wanted Fair Coin to be standalone, and it is.
SFFWRTCHT: Can’t wait to read it! Is Quantum Coin told through Ephraim’s POV solely again? Or do you add another POV character?
ECM: I actually did consider adding Zoe as a POV character, but I decided to stick with Ephraim only. I like symmetry.
ECM: My writing time is in flux lately. These days I grab it when and where I can, but I prefer a block of 1-3 hours if possible. My ideal is to just write all day on the weekends or days off, especially when revising. But I try for at least 1 hour a day.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you have any writing rituals or tools? Scrivener? Word? Something else? Do you write to music or silence?
ECM: I’ve started using Scrivener, but I don’t rely on it. I’ve always written in Word, but I use a similar organizational structure. I prefer writing in silence, but I’m often in coffee shops so I might listen to instrumental music to drown out conversations.
SFFWRTCHT: You’ve written short stories and novels — does your process differ from one form to the other?
ECM: I think I approach novels and short stories the same way: Come up with ideas until I feel “ready” then write and see where it goes.
SFFWRTCHT: Ever had a short story idea suddenly become a novel as you write, or vice-versa?
ECM: When I write novels, I only have novel ideas. Lately, I’ve been thinking some of my short story ideas might be novels.
SFFWRTCHT: Is there any difference to your approach in writing YA vs. adult? Different goals? Vocabulary?
ECM: Not much difference in my approach to YA vs. adult. Every story has a different goal–I think it’s a matter of tone. That said, I haven’t written much adult for a long time. I think the character arcs are the main distinction.
ECM: Fair Coin was on sub for a long time and one day I heard that Pyr was starting a YA line. I thought they’d be a good fit. They had a terrific reputation in adult science fiction and fantasy, and I thought they’d be open to a weird book that straddles genres. My agent submitted it, Lou Anders offered, I accepted, and here we are.
SFFWRTCHT: What’s the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
ECM: Best advice, from Octavia Butler: Persistence. You have to work hard and stick with it to publish, even with all the rejections. Worst advice: You should publish short stories for a while before switching to novels. I think you do grow by writing short. But novels aren’t an end-goal for everyone. Write what you’re driven to write, what you’re good at. Some are born to write short. And some might not be able to write or sell short stories, but could find their calling as novelists.
SFFWRTCHT: Last question, What future projects are you working on that we can look forward to?
ECM: I’m revising another YA novel at the moment, an alt-history about reincarnation. I’m hoping to finish it by the end of the month. If my agent and I agree that it’s ready, we’ll start submitting it. I’m very excited by it and anxious for people to read it. Otherwise, I may revise a different novel, but I’m kicking around a few ideas and I’m looking forward to starting a brand new book.
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