Interview with Erin S. Riley

How do you approach cover design?
I love symbolism, depth, and layers of meaning. I chose a deceptively simple design for the cover of Odin's Shadow: a ring lying discarded on a pile of pebbles, with a shadow being cast from the ring onto the rocks. The ring has great significance to the story, which the reader will learn very early on. The fact that, on the cover, the ring is apparently being cast aside on the ground will be a question in the reader's mind until the end of the story.
I took the picture for the cover myself, with my phone! It took a couple of shots to get the shadow right. The ring was my great-great-great-grandmother's wedding band, so I feel very honored to have been able to use such a lovely piece of my own family history on the cover of my book.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Wow--only five? I'll do my best!

1. OUTLANDER: Best. Book. Ever. Jamie and Claire are so absolutely perfect for each other. Who wouldn't throw themselves into a stone circle and go hurtling through time to find their Jamie?
2. BACK ROADS: This is a dark one, but there is still something sweet and hopeful about it. I so wanted Harley to be okay.
3.CATCHER IN THE RYE: Another dark one with a tragic hero. I'm sensing a theme...
4. AMANDA/MIRANDA: I read this as a teenager and I've loved it ever since. It's set in the early 20th century and features doppelganger young women.
5.EMILY OF NEW MOON FARM: Okay, this is a kid's book but I love it. I first read it when I was eight or nine years old, and I've easily re-read it 20 times. I have my old, worn original copy on my bookshelf, and the cover is held together with tape.
What do you read for pleasure?
I will read anything as long as it's well written! I like all types of fiction. From classic to modern, from literary triumphs to smutty escapism, I will read it! I prefer stories with well-drawn characters who are smart and resourceful but not too perfect. Life is not perfect.
I also am an equal-opportunity reader of non-fiction. When I look at my book shelves, I own about 50% fiction and 50% non-fiction. I love to read about psychology, sociology, anthropology, archaeology, and just plain history. The Viking era is my favorite.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle Paperwhite. I balked at the idea of getting an e-reader for years because I love "real" books. I love the feel of them in my hands, the smell of the paper, and the act of turning the pages. But I finally broke down and let my husband get me a Kindle for Christmas this year. I have to admit I love it! I'm looking forward to taking it on vacation this summer and not having to lug a dozen books with me.
Describe your desk
Desk? What desk? I write on a laptop that goes with me from room to room in my constant search for a quiet space. We do have a room upstairs in the attic that is currently used for storage but I someday hope to make my "writing room". Maybe I'll actually have a desk in there! One can only dream....
When did you first start writing?
I first started writing in elementary school, in the second or third grade. I wrote and illustrated a sweet little book about a German immigrant girl in the 1800's and her experiences in America. I still have it in my attic storage room!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love to get lost in the writing. To become so involved in the little world I created that the roof of my house could be crashing in around me and I wouldn't even notice. Eating, sleeping, and showering become annoyances when I'm writing. When life interrupts and I can't write for a few days or longer, I find my mind wandering to my characters. I miss them and wonder what they're up to, as though they're real people!
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Most of my free time is spent with my kids. My 14 year old daughter is a fashion model and a gifted artist. My 9 year old son is involved in every sport known to man. Between the two of them I spend a great deal of time chauffeuring them all over the great state of Ohio. But I am a proud momma and love every minute of it!
I enjoy sewing, quilting, and crocheting. I also like making "movies" out of home videos and putting them to music. For two seasons now I've made an hour-long video of my son's football team and given a copy to all the parents. This is a huge amount of work but so much fun!
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I inspire myself to get out of bed every day! Five years ago I had a life-threating illness and I was sick for nearly a year. It was really easy to get lost in the pity party and wallow in misery. But I made a decision to be thankful for what I had instead of focusing on what I didn't have. I stopped worrying about tomorrow and started living for today. And as I regained my health I realized that positivity and joy can (and should) be found everyday.
So I start each day the same way: I have my coffee, do my stretches, and sit in the quiet of the morning and thank God for all the blessings I have in my life. Gratitude really is a wonderful thing!
What is your writing process?
I have my books in my head, all completed! So I don't use much of an outline, I just sit down and start writing. The first draft usually isn't so great but I keep at it. When I'm unsure about the historical accuracy of something, I'll put that sentence in brackets in order to remind myself of the parts that need more research. When I'm done with the draft I read the book, over and over and over again. I add things and move things around, so even though the story itself doesn't change drastically, the book fleshes itself out. While I'm writing I'll get an inspiration here and there that I hadn't thought of originally, so I weave that in. I dislike "fluff" in a book so I make sure every sentence written has a purpose. Some extraneous things get edited out. This is always painful at the time, but it makes the story sleek and solid. My goal is always to write a book that can't be put down until it's finished, and then sticks with the reader long afterwards. I also like to drop little bread crumbs that won't be made clear until later (sometimes not until later on in the book series) so I'm careful to make sure those are included.
Published 2014-02-27.
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