Today on CSReview, author Eric Thomasma is sharing his love for science fiction, and being part of a wonderful world called children’s literature.
CS: Welcome to CSReview, Eric. Let’s start with something I ask every author of the genre – why do you write sci-fi?
Eric Thomasma: As a young boy I was captivated by those now iconic words, “Space, the final frontier…” I was fascinated by the concept of faster-than-light space travel and the possibilities of life on other planets and the contrast/comparison with our own societies. I remember watching the moon landings and the early development of NASA and looked forward to the days of being able to be a passenger on a flight to Alpha Centauri or other seemingly unreachable destinations. In time I came to realize that the reality of our world politics would keep us from achieving such goals within my lifetime, so I turned to the world of fiction to keep the dream alive. When I decided to write a story, Sci-Fi just seemed the most natural genre for me to write in.
CS: Alpha Centauri fascinates me too. Ok, here’s one question I think we all want to know – why do you write children’s books?
Eric Thomasma: Because they are stories that demand to be told. I wrote the basic story for my first children’s book years ago when my kids were little (they’re in their thirties now) and set it aside without any plans to publish it or to ever even write again. After putting out my second novel, I came across that old story on my computer and liked what I read, so I decided it was worth publishing. At our annual family reunion I talked to my brother Lanin (a cartoonist, amongst other talents) about it and he liked the idea, even suggested a name for the dragon. He readily agreed to do the illustrations and that set the framework for publishing what I thought was going to be a one-off. Then one day shortly before the next reunion, while working on my third novel, the story for my second children’s book invaded my mind and wouldn’t let me continue with the novel. I wrote the story, sent it off to my brother for illustrations, and went back to work on the novel. The third story was similar, in that it interrupted the flow of my fourth novel and wouldn’t let me continue until it was written and off to my brother. The fourth children’s book came as a request from my niece. She asked for a book about a yeti in the freezer because she had just told her kids that it was a yeti making the noise when the icemaker dumped a load of ice. This was so similar to the inspiration for my first (my wife told our boys that a dragon lived in our furnace to keep our house warm), that I couldn’t let go of the idea until it was written. Much the same with my fifth (coming soon). I was inspired with a phrase, that turned into a short poem, that kept me from getting to sleep that night. I got up twice to get additional lines into the computer so I wouldn’t forget them by morning. Over the next couple of days, I could think of little else and eventually came up with enough lines to become a book. I don’t really try to write children’s stories, I just don’t seem to have a choice.
CS: What is your message to the young generation?
Eric Thomasma: Reading is fun. It opens doors, takes you to impossible places, and stretches your view of the world around you. Reading allows you to see beyond the what-is and encourages you to look for the what-if. Reading allows you to learn about things that existed yesterday, events and developments of today, and dreams for tomorrow. Reading is the stimulant that awakens the imagination.
CS: In your opinion, what do adults need to learn from children?
Eric Thomasma: How to find adventure in an empty cardboard box.
CS: Perfect! Tell me, where do you find your inspiration?
Eric Thomasma: That’s an interesting way to phrase the question. It implies that I go looking for it. My experience has been more like having inspiration sneak up from behind, render me immobile, torture me until I understand what it is I have to do, and only then releasing me enough to follow its will. I never know where or when it will strike, but when it does, it’s impossible to ignore. On the other hand, there are certain themes that I’d like to write stories for, (Halloween and Christmas come to mind), but for some reason, when it’s something I’d like to do, inspiration remains annoyingly quiet.
CS: I suspect this to be true of many fellow writers, so all I can say is hang in there! What are you currently working on?
Eric Thomasma: My fourth novel in the SEAMS16 series, as yet untitled. I’ve been working on this novel longer than any that came before. More than once I thought I was nearly finished, and then a character would do or say something that took the story in another direction. This is one of the dangers of being a “pantser”, or someone who “writes by the seat of their pants”. I outlined my first novel before writing it, but by the end of the first chapter, the story no longer bore any resemblance to the outline. Since then I’ve just chronicled each story as it presented itself. It’s fun being able to enjoy the story as it’s being written in much the same way the reader will later, but it can take an unpredictable amount of time to complete and often requires a lot of editing. This book returns us to the station and picks up about a month after book two left off. (Book three was designed as a stand-alone story that took a leap back to the beginning of the society the others come from.) It includes family dynamics, religion, politics, espionage, kidnapping, intrigue, action, and more.
I’m also in the process of preparing a new children’s book, entitled Everyday Wonders. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but as I mentioned above, it’s a poem. It’s the first time I’ve used a poem for a story and I came up with a different concept for the illustrations, so I’ve been far more involved in that part of the process than I was for my earlier books. It’s been a fun challenge preparing the source material for Lanin to work with, but it’s taking longer than I’d hoped. I was hoping to release it yet this year, but that seems unlikely now. But watch for it soon.
CS: We will! Thank you for sharing your story, Eric. Good luck on your journey creating new books!
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