Interview with Eli Taff, Jr

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love telling stories.

That should be the core of every fiction writer's joy. But to really understand why I love writing, I want to break down WHAT I enjoy writing and to ask, what is more enjoyable to write: the world in which the characters live, or the characters, themselves?

First of all, I truly love to create worlds. Dreaming up the setting in which the characters must exist is always some of the most fun work for me. Is the world a fantastical one? Like the high fashion boulevard of a wealthy neighborhood in a Steampunk fantasy? Or the tower of a wizard who is on the verge of casting the greatest spell of all time? Is it similar or somewhere in our own world, where the fantasy and magic exist under our very noses? Like the secret, hidden alley in Chinatown where a peddler sells an unsuspecting boy a most unusual plant? Or the undersea ruins of an ancient kingdom in the depths of the ocean, where horrible fishmen hunt the survivors of an oceanic expedition trying to make it to the surface? Is it not even a world at all, but maybe a space station or the realm of Purgatory on a rainy Wednesday? I love creating locations, maps, stories behind the landmarks, and then setting the stage for the characters to dive in.

Maybe its the characters! I love to take an idea for a characteristic, or a strength or a flaw, and just run with it until I have a fully fleshed out character. Why does the character stutter? What's the story behind her robotic arm? Why does the hulking, savage werewolf keep a pet mouse? Why does the zombie apocalypse survivor refuse to attack any undead with blonde hair? The traits that makes a character unique often make for stories as interesting as the story he or she is in.

So, after reading all that, what is the greatest joy of writing for me?

I would say that it is simply being here, in my home, miles away and at a completely different point in the space time continuun from the one you, dear reader, are in. It is being able to smile, knowing that you took the words of these past paragraphs and visualized everything. Seeing something in your head days, weeks, months, maybe even years after I took the words from my head and typed them onto this document.

The joy of writing for me is sharing with my readers.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans are everything to me.

I am uplifted and invigorated by their encouragement and praise, and I enjoy the critique and allow it to help me reflect and build or improve upon my further work. I love my fans because they represent me: someone who loves reading science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and enjoys stories.

They enjoy leaving their own worlds and their own circumstances to get lost in a world that I have created, and if they feel these worlds can be improved, or if they feel that need something more to let them become even further invested into that world, then I want to provide it for them.

My fans are my heartbeat. They keep me writing.

And I think it goes without saying that I am always appreciative of any monetary support they send me.

In that respect, my fans may one day become my literal heartbeat, if I decide to write for a living and give up other sources of income, my heart will not beat without the food I need to survive on hahaha!
What are you working on next?
My great ambition is an epic story that has been rolling around in my head for the better part of the past two years. It will contain elements of science fiction, MUCH fantasy, and a little bit of horror, so everything I love to write about.

It is an overarching story that traverses time, space, and reality, and although I wish I could share more about it with you all, I really need to take care that I don't jinx myself, or scare off my muse, because this story is going to take me a while to properly tell, and I don't want to make any mistakes on the way.

For more immediate writing, I am working on making my way through the entire backlog of writing contest prompts from the forums on Fantasy Faction, a community where writers such as myself can find encouragement, inspiration, and guidance. I've released all of my submissions as short stories, for free, here on Smashwords, and will continue to do so.

I'm also working on getting that pesky degree in Creative Writing - Fiction at Southern New Hampshire University, so wish me luck in that!
Who are your favorite authors?
All of these authors are masters at crafting amazing worlds and engaging characters, so let's just assume that I include that praise with each notation hehehe...

Since I was starving when I wrote this, I will compare the work of each author to the experience of a good meal:

Anton Chekhov - Called the greatest short story writer for good reason, I read his work in high school and have it now on my iPhone library to dive into anytime I need inspiration. A terrific gourmet burger with a side of garlic fries.

H.P. Lovecraft - Such an amazing writer. Reading Lovecraft short stories is like eating gourmet steak and lobster. His use of language is masterful.

Stephen King - I've always enjoyed his full-length novels, but I've had just as much fun with his anthologies of short stories. He sure can churn them out, too. Reading King is like eating at a Brazilian buffet. The deliciousness keeps on coming, and you can take as much or as little as you like.

J.R.R. Tolkien - The classic. The father of Fantasy writing. A three course meal at a medieval themed restaurant, with rack of lamb as the main course, and a dessert that just has to include ice cream in some way.

George R.R. Martin - I've loved his A Song of Ice and Fire series since the books first came out. I thought, "There's no way they can take this and make a good T.V. show." Just like I thought I would hate eating at an Indian restaurant, I was wrong.

...Now I'm even hungrier.
How do you approach cover design?
I love this question!

1.) Take an interesting picture on my iPhone, hopefully incorporating my wonderful fiance. She's hot.

2.) Use an app to mess with settings and add text.

3.) Email the finished picture to myself.

4.) Open it and save it to my laptop with the correct settings (1400 pixels, taller than it is wide, etc.)

5.) Upload
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I ever wrote was a short story for my seventh grade English class. If I remember correctly, it featured a boy with a dragon egg, and a villain who wanted to sell the dragon egg to an evil organization. In the end, I got a pretty good grade for it, but the teacher did mark me down because the boy somehow got a hold of a cop's gun and killed the villain "in self-defense", during what I thought was an amazing action sequence. My teacher said the violence of the last part didn't match the fantastic adventure story tone of the first half, and said I was watching too much late night movies.

Hahaha I haven't thought of that story in years...
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first stories I remember reading were from a series of books called Scary Stories to tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz. Even though Mr. Schwartz was a terrific horror writer, it was the illustrations by artist Stephen Gammell that continue to haunt me to this day. I really don't know why they put these books in my Elementary School library, but I loved them so much, I bought the entire series at Waldenbooks after reading just the first few stories. The art is horrifying, I have no idea why they sold this stuff to kids.

If you are lucky enough to find a copy, give these stories a read. And I dare you to not be creeped out by the art.
Published 2016-08-14.
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