Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Exclusive interview with Edward M. Erdelac

We're in for a real treat here at the UFOC today. Edward M. Erdelac, author of With Sword and Pistol, has decided to give us an interview about his work.

With Sword and Pistol is a Sword and Sorcery historical fantasy collection containing four of his previously-published novellas detailing adventures ranging from feudal Japan being invaded by zombies to a story of Sinbad the Sailor battling an ancient demon for an incalculably valuable treasure. Recently released by Ragnarok Publications, you can read my review here.

Edward M. Erdelac is the author of eight novels, including the acclaimed Judeocentric/Lovecraftian weird western series Merkabah Rider and Andersonville. His fiction has appeared in dozens of anthologies and periodicals including, most recently, the Stoker award winning After Death, Atomic Age Cthulhu, Flesh Like Smoke, and Star Wars Insider Magazine. Born in Indiana, educated in Chicago, he lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife and a bona fide slew of kids. News and excerpts at his Delirium Tremens blog,

1. Can you describe With Sword and Pistol for us?

With Sword And Pistol is a collection of four hard to find previously published novellas with a running theme of outlaw characters who ply their trade by force of arms in dark adventure stories.  The title comes from the Highwaymen song.

2. What are the stories about in two-sentences or less?

The first, Night of The Jikininki is about a sadistic samurai sword tester banding together with two inmates of a Feudal Japanese prison to escape a horde of ravenous undead. Red Sails features a British Marine and a Dominican Blackfriar being hunted across a cannibal isle by a vampire pirate and his crew of savage werewolves. Sinbad and The Sword of Solomon follows the legendary sailor as he travels to an enchanted island to retrieve a magic sword from its demon bearer for the Caliph of Baghdad. Finally, Gully Gods concerns a South Houston gangster who falls in with a gang of ex-Liberian child soldiers and learns the dark secret of their apparent invulnerability.

3. Can you describe what compelled you to make a collection of your novellas?

Basically I had a couple readers contact me about Red Sails, which was long out of print but still showed up on my Goodreads page. I was looking for a way to bring it back out, and also to bring more readers to the rest of these stories, which had gone mainly unseen due to a combination of factors. I recognized a running theme between the stories and decided to bundle them together into a collection.

4. Would you describe "Night of the Jikininki", "Red Sails", and "Sinbad and the Sword of Solomon" as historical fiction or Sword and Sorcery?

I think they’re a combination of both. Robert E. Howard wrote a lot of weird historical stories, like The Thunder Rider, Wolfshead, The Grey God Passes and the Cormac Mac Art and Solomon Kane tales. They’re in that vein. I like introducing the fantastic into historic or real world settings as opposed to pure fantasy worlds, where it’s taken for granted.

5. What was the inspiration for "Night of the Jikininki"? 

The biggest inspirations were Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s Lone Wolf and Cub manga, 60’s chanbara movies like Sword of Doom, Hara Kiri, and Yojimbo, and George Romero’s zombie flicks.

6. How did you come up with "Red Sails"?

Red Sails was definitely influenced by Rafael Sabatini and again, Howard, as well as Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series. That story started with a hypothetical conversation with my friend and fellow author Jeff Carter on the way back from one San Diego Comic Con, where he asked me, if I were to put werewolves, vampires, and zombies all into one story, how would I do it? The concept popped right into my mind, I guess because of what I was reading at the time (O’Brian). I ended up excising the zombie plot, and using them in a novella not in this collection, called Dubaku, about a zombie outbreak on an English slaving vessel. But with Red Sails I wanted to a full on actioner with that Most Dangerous Came vibe.

7.  What inspired you to write a Sinbad the Sailor pastiche? 

That one was in response to a call for a New Pulp company called Airship 27. They had the characters of Sinbad and his immediate, motley crew established in their bible, I just came up with the quest, the adventure, and the characterizations. It was the multinational crew that first appealed to me, the Viking and the Japanese swordwoman, the Gaul archer and a Nubian Sinbad. I had been reading Charles Saunder’s Imaro and some Sword and Soul from Milton Davis and wanted to try out a story in that genre. I was going for that old school Ray Harryhausen feel too in terms of the fantasy.

8. You mentioned in your introduction to the story that you didn't want to glamorize gangs in "Gully Gods." What did you want to accomplish with your story?

I don’t think I had any greater ambition in mind other than telling the story as it came to me. I conceived of the basic concept about ten or eleven years ago, but besides the misgivings of writing solely about gangbangers, it just took me awhile to find another layer to it to really get the thing firing in my head. That came when I read Beasts Of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala and saw a VICE news story on child soldiers in Liberia. 

Making the Trip Sixes ex-child soldiers altered the story considerably (they were originally Puerto Ricans and there was going to be this Santeria angle that wasn’t really working) and I was able to work in a thinly disguised Joshua Blahyi and the weird mythology he developed to control his troops, which involved human sacrifice. This is a pretty monstrous practice, and I hoped to draw some attention to organizations like that work with former child soldiers as well as American charities like Homeboy that work to rehabilitate our own native child soldiers, namely inner city street gangs. 

When I wrote Gully Gods and put it out in the collection Four In The Morning, I donated everything I made from that book to Homeboy. It admittedly, wasn’t much. The story’s lurid, and is basically I guess, inner city weird pulp, but I’m proud of how it came out.

9. Do you see any common themes in your book?

These are all stories about men who make their way through the world on the fringe of society, using violence. I think the stories pair up in away. Jikininki and Gully Gods are the closest to each other I believe. Red Sails and Sinbad are more fantasy swashbucklers.

10. Which of the four is your favorite?

I think Gully Gods is one of the best things I’ve written, though I recognize it’s a difficult read. Night of The Jikininki is probably the runner up. But you know, choosing between your babies is a hard question.

11. Who was the most fun to write in your collection?

Sinbad’s first mate, Omar. He’s a sharp tongued grouch that kicks everybody’s butts around the ship, keeps them working, and seems to have no respect for anyone or anything but is also Sinbad’s father figure, doling out real wisdom when nobody’s looking. He’s a bit like Bones on Star Trek. I enjoyed coming up with his Arabian Nights-style curses. 

12. What can we expect from you in the future?

Towards the end of the year April Moon Books will be running a kickstarter for a new series which I think my novel Mindbreaker will be the inaugural book of, so watch for that. It’s a 60’s era spy novel with a Lovecraftian twist, featuring a pretty well-known character. I’m supposed to be doing another Star Wars story for Lucasfilm which should appear sometime next year. Then I’ve got two novels coming from Ragnarok, an Arthurian fantasy called The Knight With Two Swords and a superhero book, Perennial. I’m working to put together a short fiction collection, Angler In Darkness, which I also hope to put out next year. My Judeocentric/Lovecraftian weird western series Merkabah Rider will be returning in the future as well.

Thanks for being here!

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