Creator Focus—Zach Eccles

After a few weeks off, we’re back with a new Creator Focus! This week’s target…err…focus, is my metaphorical big brother, and budding writer, Zach Eccles.

I know we’ve talked about it before, but what made you decide to write a book?

Well, first we need to clean up that intro. I hope the metaphorical tag applies only to the big brother shout out and not the writer part. As you well know, I was a metaphorical writer for far too long. That said, I really appreciate your optimistic use of budding. At 51, the idea that I have the potential to grow and blossom into something more than I am is great. Now, to your first question. ‘Decide’ is a great verb choice, Chris. But before I can answer Question #1 I need to address something you’re too kind to ask. Let’s call it Question Zero, and that is ‘why didn’t you do this thirty years ago?’ and the answer is fear. Fear of failure, fear of being told that nothing inside me is worth anyone else’s time, fear of finding out this thing that means so much to me, storytelling, is a passion for which I possess no acumen. I am an object lesson in letting my fears stop me from doing the thing I love. So “deciding” to write a book involved reaching a tipping point where my desire to tell stories vanquished my fear of failure. That finally happened in August 2014, and I’ve been working on a story that began rolling around inside of my head in 1987 ever since. I regret sitting on the creative sidelines for so long, but maybe just maybe that allows me to better cherish each day that I can truthfully refer to myself as a writer of the non-metaphorical variety.

Your background is in American history so what made you decide to base your book on Welsh history?

My concentration in college was actually in Russian history. It was the late ‘80’s, the USSR was still a thing, and I planned to do post graduate work and eventually teach at the collegiate level. The shortest version of that story is that I had a falling out with academia and none of that happened. As far as Wales, it had (and has) to do with its mystery. I don’t mean from a historian’s point of view, I mean in general. The game I like to play in explaining this is…Off the top of your head, name three things about England, Scotland, or Ireland. They come quickly to almost everyone. The Beatles, Princess Diana, Shakespeare. Kilts, bagpipes, Sean Connery. Leprechauns, St. Patrick’s Day, U2. Great, now do Wales…Most of the time you get blank stares. That’s what hooked me. Why don’t I know more about this place? Why is it the part of the British Isles I’ve heard about the least? So, having access to the stacks at the IU library (pre-internet days), I consumed as much information as I could. That research, combined with my love of myths, legends, fantasy novels, and human frailty became the seeds of what I hope will be a story that people can both get lost in and see reflected in the choices they themselves make in their own lives.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting their first book?

Start. That’s it. The blank page is the single most paralyzing thing in the word. Get something on the page. It’s going to be shit. It’s going to be nothing you can use. It’s going to be something you would never ever ever want anyone to read. It’s like the first day at the gym. You have no acumen, muscle tone, or coordination. Fuck it. Put in the work. The only way to write well is to first write badly, be told why it’s bad, and then go back and do it better. Beyond that, there are nearly as many ways to write a book as there are books. There are classes to be taken, workshops to attend, writers groups to join, books on craft to be poured over, mentors to meet and learn from, and on and on and on. It’s a craft, so like anything else, you have to put in the time. That’s my biggest regret. I spent years not writing. How much better would I be at 51 if I’d been braver? Follow Neil Gaiman’s advice. “Make Good Art.”

How do you balance finding time to write with all of your other responsibilities; full-time job, etc.?

There’s no secret or trick. It’s a Yoda thing. “There is no try, do or do not.” For me it’s all about scheduling the time. It has to be treated as a matter of wellness. Like going to the gym, or attending daily mass, or doing yoga, or whatever the thing is that you do to make yourself whole. I have a full-time job and I’m a husband and a dad, but I’m better at all of those things now because I’m writing. Not to get too deep, but I believe each of us has an emptiness within us that must be filled, and filled daily. For better or worse, we will fill it with something. The healthiest ‘something’ that I have found for me is writing.

Describe the experience of being in a writing group.

50% mosh pit, 50% twelve step support group. That’s mostly a joke, but it’s been said there is truth in all humor. I’m so incredibly lucky to have found a group of people with whom I can share my work and who will give me much needed feedback. Writing is a solitary enterprise, and having other writers who are willing to give of themselves to help their fellows improve their craft is a gift beyond measure. I’ve heard some writers’ group horror stories, but the Fort Wayne Writers Guild is a space where people are encouraged to put themselves out there and take a risk. We don’t blow smoke up each other’s asses, but the focus is always on helping one another get better at this thing we love to do.

Some days you must feel like NOT writing, right? What do you do to push yourself on those days?

Well, this one’s very personal to me. I gave away almost twenty-five years of my life to not writing. I’ve used up all of my “I’ll do it tomorrow” tokens. I’m standing on the beach in Rocky III and Carl Weathers is screaming at me. “THERE IS NO TOMORROW!” That said, I have days where the well seems dry, where the idea of sitting down in the chair seems like a bad idea. I wish I could say I always find a way to make progress on my story, but I don’t. On those days, I find some other way to do something, anything, that gets my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard. It usually turns into writing backstory for a minor character just in case I need to flesh them out at some point down the road. Some pretty neat stuff can come out of those little sidetrips.

What kinds of projects are you working on now?

I’ve got two things going on these days. In 2014, after 22 years of cowardice, I resumed work on my large scale piece of historical fiction with a spot of supernatural goings on set in 10th century Britain. That’s going to be three volumes (at least). I’ve got a completed second draft of the first volume (just under a thousand pages), and I’m currently first drafting the second volume. In addition to that, which I work on three weeks out of each month, I’m writing a modern day ghost story set in a small college town in Ohio. That sprang from a monthly writers group I attend on the last Saturday of each month and an interview I saw with Stephen King. I was curious if I could write a compelling ghost story. So, the week prior to the last Saturday of each month is spent drafting the next chapter of that story. It’s good, for me at least, to spend some time each month in 21st century America, where I don’t have to worry about whether or not a particular word had come into use yet.

 

And now the fun stuff.

Top three movie car chases.

Bullitt, The French Connection, Raising Arizona

Who is your favorite Transformer?

I have none, so I asked my son. Campbell says Dinobot from Beast Wars.

Who do you feel is the Prince That Was Promised?

Jon Snow, aka *whatever Lyanna whispered to Ned* Targaryen.

If you had to choose one, who would make for a better best friend:
Andy Dufresne or Ellis Redding?

Chris George, and I know the Pacific is as blue as it is in my dreams.


I should really try to keep these going. Even if no one is reading them, it’s a fun exercise to get people thinking and to learn more about the people in my world. My thanks to Zach Eccles for letting me pick his brain about inspiration, writing a book, and life in general. It’s like that one movie he’s always quoting…oh wait, there’s never just one.

I have a few more interviews set up for the coming weeks, but let me know on Twitter if you have someone you think I should talk to.

For more about Zach, find him online