Interview with Anna Erishkigal

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
For fun I study Urban Gojo karate and also take a low-level gymnastics class (hey ... it's on my bucket list!!!). I also volunteer for our local CERT Team (Community Emergency Response Team) and also am a licensed ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) ham radio operator who works to support our local public safety officials during disasters. I also volunteer a bit of time for our local Science Fiction & Fantasy convention, ARISIA (because who else is going to understand your urge to dress up as Wonder Woman?). And when I'm not working, I spend an ungodly amount of time schlepping my three elementary-to-middle school age children around to activities.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Before I self-published, I used to find most of my books at the library or, occasionally, would go to the local Borders. These days I have more than I can read thanks to friends who are also authors self-publishing books who forward me their advance review copies, but I make myself hang out in non-author readers groups and soak up whatever other people are reading because 'author think' can be extremely limiting.

Our writing group meets 1x week at the local Barnes & Noble, so I buy several books there the old-fashioned way, but my FAVORITE place to buy actual physical copies of books is the local Salvation Army.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I published my first 'book' in the fourth grade, 'The Spook Cellar,' a paranormal thriller about a black cat, a chicken, and a spooky basement. It was edited by my wonderful teacher, Sandra Dobbins, who sadly died of breast cancer a few years later. Exactly three copies were bound up in official-looking book bindings ... one for me ... one to keep in the school library ... and a third copy which I'm told my teacher kept herself surrounded by as her health began to fade so that she would always remember her students. I cried when Mrs. Dobbins died even though I was no longer at that school. I don't remember much else about my crappy childhood, but Sandra Dobbins was a bright light in an otherwise very dark place.
What is your writing process?
I write for pleasure, so by inclination I'm a bit of a 'pantser.' This was great when my only goal was to sit down and amuse myself each night while my husband watched the baseball game, but now that I am editing up those manuscripts and trying to turn them into something readers will want to read, I am wishing DEARLY I'd paid a little more attention to outlining.

My newer stories use a plot spreadsheet as a guide. Because I write epic fantasy with multiple point-of-view characters and numerous interweaving plotlines, it's color-coded so I can see when I've gone too long without re-introducing a character, plot point, or theme.

I will frequently find some epic movie trailer music that fits the 'feel' of whatever character I am writing and put it on auto-play while I write that scene. Two Steps From Hell cures most writing blocks!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember Run Spot Run from the first grade. I was a voracious reader, but nothing really stands out until I started sneaking into my aunts nursing manuals to look at all the pictures of horrid illnesses. I was absolutely convinced that infected cut on my foot was leprosy! It wasn't until I read Lord of the Rings at age 9 that I really remember 'aha ... this is what I want to read!'
How do you approach cover design?
For my first book I was like, "I need a cover with an angel" and searched the internet until I found the perfect picture, ironically titled 'Michael' by a young New Zealand CGI artist who had posed her brother as her hero (yes ladies ... there -is- a real Michael walking around on Earth who looks like that). Rochelle aka Caelicorn graciously allowed me to use her cover for free, dismissing it as 'just something I did for fun,' so when the time came for my next book I commissioned her to create the Lucifer in my head who was very specific, right down to his belt-buckle.

I can't tell you who the real-life model for Lucifer was because I fear the KGB will come and slip a radioactive isotope into my morning coffee, but I can drop you a hint. The Prime Minister of the Alliance is a certain G8 leader who has a whole 'I'm sexy' campaign. Hah! Wait to you see what I do to Lucifer in Book 3. [*author laughs hysterically at undisclosed political joke*]

I came across the cover photograph for Angel of Death while searching for my Michael cover art. When I decided to publish that story, I contacted the photographer and asked for permission to use it and he said 'sure ... why not ... it's just a public monument.' Almost one year later and ... hello! ~Xartez ... answer your email! I got an autographed copy of the book with your name on it!!! The story behind the Angel of Death monument in Krakow, Poland is every bit as fascinating as the book.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Lord of the Rings - Shadowfax and Gandalf
The Art of War - 'cause sometimes you gotta take on a bigger foe
The Prince - 'cause sometimes you need to be a conniving bitch
Haze - not L.E. Modesitt's best sci-fi piece character-wise, but the society he built in this novel fascinates me
Anything by Isaac Asimov
What do you read for pleasure?
I'm an omnivorous reader. I'll read pretty much anything. Fiction. Non-fiction. Cookbooks. Fan-fiction. Scribbles left on napkins. If it's written down, I'll read it.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Nook Simple Touch that I won from a raffle. I can download books from B&N, but I like how the Nook also lets me download books directly from Smashwords into Calibre and then transfer them over without DRM-headaches. I like how it feels and the non-glare screen, so I bought one for each of my younger children so they'd have a low-level e-reader. For my older kids, though, we bought Google Nexus 7's because they globe-trot a lot and use them as smart-pads. The Nook has too many country restrictions to use as a global e-reader at the moment.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
All that blog-building, spamming, social-media crap the guru's tell you to do is utter and complete B.S. I've banded together with some other great authors and sometimes we'll put together a box set that's a bargain or pitch in to run a contest or other fun event. As for self-marketing? My first book is free. If you like it, chances are you'll like my other ones. I'd much rather go places where people who love the same stuff I love hang out and then, if they want to buy my books, that's great.
Describe your desk
I have this well-lit area in front of a big window with a sturdy little pine table my grandfather refinished for me when I was a teenager. I've got a big flat-screen because I'm batshit blind and too vain to invest in bifocals; and speakers, because I listen to epic movie trailer music a lot of the time when I write. The Archangel Michael hangs out with me, watching over everything I do and reminding me 'it's not about you.' Not the REAL Archangel Michael, silly!!! What do you think I am, nuts? No ... my husband brought this nice statue of him home 3 years ago and said, 'isn't this like you describe your hero?' The man may be clueless about many things (he's an electrical engineer ... he doesn't speak human), but I was so happy that I literally did a happy dance. Sunshine, angels, and a little reminder of my grandfather. What else do you need to write?
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born white trash in a trailer park. Literally. My father ran with the Hell's Angels, and my earliest remembered mode of transportation was on the back of my father's 1938 Harley Davidson knucklehead. My mom died when I was 5 and my father sent to prison, so it was off to relatives who didn't really want us, though we were luckier than some in that we didn't end up in a foster home. My father got out of prison when I was 8 and we were sent to live with him in a ghetto flat at the edge of the housing projects.

People look at me cross-wise when I tell them I know what it is like to be discriminated against, but when you are the only white kid in your class, and the only one who speaks English, you learn to look at things a little bit differently. We used to get beat up as we walked home from school (me and my brother) because we were white. If we told our father, he would laugh at us and tell us to toughen up, so we learned to live with it.

The teacher, who was also white, sent me into the corner to read. I never learned math, or science, or any of the other subjects you learned in school, but when you can read a whole new world opens up for you. I read through the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and anything else I could get my hands on. By the time I was 9, I had read all four books of the Lord of the Rings. I spent the remainder of my childhood in the woods with a bent twig, pretending I was Gandalf smiting the Balrog. I left home at 15, got a job, earned my own way, bounced between relatives and friends, and somehow finished high school, but it wasn't all bad. When you can read, you can teach yourself ANYTHING.
When did you first start writing?
My first non-class writing project was a 'group project' a few of us girls did in an old notebook we would pass around between classes in the 9th grade and see who could write the smuttiest chapter to top-off whoever had written the chapter before. It was filled with Mary-Sue heroines who all got the hottest (named) guys in school and was filled with nothing but sex and heroines one-upping the mean kids. Then one day the mean kids stole the notebook and read it aloud for the entire school to hear. The principal intervened, called us all into his office, called our parents, and made us read it to them. Besides getting a 3-day in-school suspension, I got my ass kicked and was grounded for a month, and then they made us all go talk to the school psychologist a few times. The mean kids had ripped out some pages before the principal confiscated the rest and they were passed around and read by everyone. I guess you might say that was my first best-seller. If this happened today, of course, things would turn out differently. Literary agents would descend upon us like flies and call it '50 Shades of High School.'
What's the story behind your latest book?
I've got older rough drafts that are so rough I don't know if I'll ever be able to salvage them enough to publish them, but my Sword of the Gods series was believe it or not inspired by superhero stories. I see a lot of darkness in my day job (and my childhood) and always wanted a superhero to ride in and save the day. Then things got weird in popular culture with conflicted anti-heroes. I wanted a hero I could rely on to be good no matter what, even when he sometimes had to make tough decisions between two undesirable choices. So I asked myself, who would be the greatest superhero ever? And I walked around with that question, trying to make something up, and then it came to me. Who was the greatest superhero to ever walk the Earth? The Archangel Michael. You don't get any more heroic than dragging the devil into hell.

When I started researching him, I found out almost NOTHING that we are told about angels and fallen angels is true. So I let -him- tell me the story. I asked myself why would this super-being stick around to help humans and the answer was 'a woman.'

I put my hero through hell, test him, torture him, make him take on responsibility he doesn't want and throw things in his face which are the last thing he'd rather do. I make him human, fallible, tempt him, and watch him make mistakes. But at the end of the day, he will always make the right choice because that's what heroes do.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
After I'd banged out my 17th manuscript 'for fun' (I don't watch television), my husband gently suggested I start looking into ways to publish some of it. So ... off to writer's conferences ... off to pitchapalooza's ... and off to the library to read 'how to find an agent' books.

The editors and agents told us all how worthless we all were, how we might get lucky enough someday if we plugged along for 20 years to finally get an agent, and then this little purple-haired gal (Adrienne Brennan) at the end of the table held up her book and said 'I self-published this' and started explaining how much fun it was to go to conferences and meet people who loved her books. The big meanies all jumped down her throat and shouted how her reputation was ruined forever, but when the talk was over and all the other people swarmed the agents to kiss their butts, I found Adrienne Brennan and bought her book. Hey ... it was pretty good. So I decided right then and there I would rather give away every single book I ever write rather than sacrifice my 'babies' to the Moloch publishers! But ... lucky for me ... most people don't mind PAYING for my books after they read the first one :-)
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Not only does Smashwords help me access big-boy distributors who are otherwise too big to care about a puny little self-published author such as myself, but we always have the feeling Mark Coker is out there advocating for us, opening doors and pushing the edge of the envelope to see what Indies are capable of. While not the easiest upload experience (it has its flaws) I'd rather put my money behind the guy who at the end of the day has your back.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Sometimes when I write a character, I can 'feel' them so strongly it feels as if they are actually inhabiting the same body as me. The feeling is always great when writing a hero, but the first few times it happened writing a villain was very disconcerting. Needless to say, I write from the points-of-view of Shay'tan, Abaddon the Destroyer, and of course Lucifer, so it was really icky at first, but once I let them start talking to me and researching the things they said to me, I found a lot of what we believe about the history of fallen angels is just plain untrue. These were real people who lived in Uruk (Baghdad) around 2,700 b.c.
What do your fans mean to you?
Oh ... fans. I love my fans. I adore them. A good cup of coffee. A good book. Chocolate. And a bunch of fans to sit around a table and yammer about whatever they love best about their favorite stories. Don't even have to be MY stories. All I care is that the stories are told with zest!
What are you working on next?
At the present time I have begun to edit up Book 3 of the Sword of the Gods Saga, 'Agents of Ki.' If my characters behave, I hope to release it by early 2014. If not ... well ... YOU try telling a bunch of archangels, evil gods, and fallen angels what to do and see if it's so easy to herd them all in the same direction. The series was written back in 2009/2010 ... for pleasure ... and not plotted out ... so there's a certain amount of re-writing involved to bring the story up to my 2013 writing abilities.

Hark ... another adverb ... SMITE!!!

I have another story I am working on as well, a brand-new one involving Merfolk living off the coast of Maine. It will probably fit in with my other series, Children of the Fallen, which I had originally intended to be a Young Adult series, but the characters who keep coming out of my head are all around late-teens/early-20's and the situations they find themselves in are rather hefty problems. So ... Ms. Mary Sue and Mr. Merman who I TRIED to write in high school are turning out to be college age. And then as I write this pesky middle-aged woman keeps speaking to me. Argh! Characters! Why won't you do what I want you to do!!!
Who are your favorite authors?
Sun Tzu
J.R.R. Tolkein
Dean Koontz
Charles Dickens
Alexander Dumas
John Keats
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Coffee....

No, really, coffee... I've got my 11-year-old trained to start the pot brewing on the weekends and wave a cup under my nose.

Get even ... live long enough to be a burden to your children!!!
Published 2014-01-02.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Sword of the Gods: Agents of Ki
By
Series: Sword of the Gods, Book 3. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 353,320. Language: English. Published: April 30, 2014 by Seraphim Press. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
As darkness rends the heavens, a tiny Mesopotamian village finds itself the epicenter of an intergalactic war between good and evil. But all is not lost. An ancient goddess has recruited two 'Watchmen' to turn darkness back into the light; mortal creatures who do not realize they are pawns. The saga of the greatest superhero to ever walk the Earth continues in Agents of Ki…
A Gothic Christmas Angel
By
Series: Children of the Fallen, Book 2. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 30,550. Language: English. Published: November 25, 2013 by Seraphim Press. Category: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Dumped by her boyfriend on Christmas Eve, Cassie Baruch thought her pain would end when she aimed her car at an ancient beech tree. But when a gorgeous black-winged angel appears and tells her ‘this ain’t no stinking paranormal romance, kid,’ she realizes death hasn’t solved her problems. Can Jeremiel help her exorcise the ghosts of problems past and find a little closure
Angel of Death: A Love Story
By
Series: Children of the Fallen, Book 1. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 154,440. Language: English. Published: August 29, 2013 by Seraphim Press. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
The Angel of Death falls in love with a mortal in this tale of true love, reincarnation, and forgiveness that spans from ancient Carthage to the Iraq/Afghanistan war. "This is the best book I have read in a long time. It is the first I have tried of this author, but it will not be the last. Fresh outlook and great characters make this a satisfying, hard to set down read." (reader review)
Sword of the Gods: Prince of Tyre
By
Series: Sword of the Gods, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 325,370. Language: English. Published: August 19, 2013 by Seraphim Press. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Mikhail has a new mission: train the warriors to fight back against the mysterious kidnappings. But the journey from soldier to general is never easy. The Emperor and Shay'tan are so busy outwitting one another that neither notices a much more ancient Evil outmaneuvers them. A tragic death forces the Alliance to choose which leader they will follow in an epic showdown. The Emperor … or Lucifer?
Sword of the Gods: The Chosen One
By
Series: Sword of the Gods, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 181,620. Language: English. Published: November 15, 2012 by Seraphim Press. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
A tiny Mesopotamian village becomes ground-zero for this fantasy fiction retelling of mankind's most epic story about the battle between good and evil … the clash of empires and ideologies … and the greatest superhero to ever walk the Earth. The Archangel Mikhail.