Author Interview: Eric Vance Walton

Written by Emily Harstone | September 12, 2013

Each month we interview one emerging or established author to learn more about their writing process and how they go about turning a writing dream into a more possible reality.

This month we are interviewing Eric Vance Walton. Eric is a poet and novelist. His poems have been widely published in a diverse assortment of places.  He has also won the James Thurber award for his comedic writing. His first novel Alarm Clock Dawn was recently self published and he is currently editing the sequel.

Emily Harstone:
When did you start writing?

Eric Vance Walton:
The first time I discovered how much I enjoyed writing was in the tenth grade. The assignment was to write a few pages about an experience we had during our summer break. I wrote a story about taking my driver’s test. I was a comedic piece and the teacher and class really connected with it. I dabbled in writing poetry throughout my high school years and then began to take my writing more seriously in college after an English professor recognized something in my writing and encouraged me to pursue it. It didn’t take much persuading, really. Writing doesn’t seem like work to me, rather it fills me with positive energy.

Emily Harstone:
When did you start trying to get your work published? How did you go about doing this?

Eric Vance Walton:
I got my first poem published in 1992 in the German Village Gazette newspaper in Columbus, Ohio. There were two wonderful gentlemen, Fred and Howard, who were kind of patriarchs of The German Village Gazette and they connected with my writing. They wrote a regular column for the Gazette and they would print almost everything I sent them. I will be forever grateful to them for that, they instilled me with courage.

After that I began submitting to national and regional poetry contests and won a few of them. This really fueled my desire to seek publication. After moving to the Twin Cities in 1995 I started contributing regularly to a new age publication called The Edge and created a monthly comic strip for them.

In the years following I kept trying to get my work accepted by major publishers but was never successful at it. In retrospect I think it was mainly because I didn’t focus enough time and energy on the submission process. I was more concerned with churning out writing than I was the business side. Sometime around the late nineties, after countless rejections, I started self-publishing.

In 2005 I was lucky enough to win the James Thurber prize for my humor piece, “The Heiress and the Pea”. Winning this prize got me some notoriety and really was a wake up call that I might be able to make a living at this. A few years later I started working on my first novel, “Alarm Clock Dawn” and absolutely fell in love with writing fiction, the novel was self-published this year.

Emily Harstone:
What is your advice to a writer who is just starting to submit their work to editors and agents?

Eric Vance Walton:
It’s a marathon and not a race. Endurance is key. It’s imperative to have two things if you want to be successful in this business: a thick skin; and persistence. Realize that if you want to do this for a living the submission aspect is every bit as important as creating quality writing.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a positive response right away. Keep writing and keep learning, always. Recognize that as much of an art as the craft of writing is to you, in the end, this is a business to publishers and to attract a major publisher as an unknown you have to be able to demonstrate that your books will sell.

Emily Harstone:
What are your writing habits? When do you write? What are your rituals?

I’m lucky in the fact that sometimes it’s as if the words are being channeled to me. Sometimes entire poems will come to me at once and if I don’t write them down, they’re gone. The most frustrating thing is the small amount of time that I can devote to my craft.

I still have a very demanding day job plus the normal responsibilities that everyone has, so finding the time to write is challenging. I’ve found that I must schedule two weeknights and one morning or afternoon on the weekend to get any serious work done on a novel. Luckily, I have an abundance of vacation time at my day job so I’ve taken a whole week off at a time and write eight or more hours each day.

While working on my first novel, Alarm Clock Dawn, I discovered I have the discipline to do this and that I absolutely love it. We have a great writing nook our house on the second level. It’s secluded and I’ll turn on some relaxing music, mostly classical or meditation music to help spark a creative mood. Our beagle, Amstel, was my curled up right by my side during almost the entire process of finishing the manuscript of Alarm Clock Dawn.

Emily Harstone:
Why did you choose to self publish? What impact has self publishing had on your life?

Eric Vance Walton:
I chose self-publishing after becoming discouraged with traditional publishing in the late nineties. I found most traditional publishing houses would only consider authors who were agent-represented or those who had already achieved celebrity status.

Literary agents were hesitant to take a chance on an unknown writers. The writing world really seemed like a closed loop. I wanted nothing more than to do this for a living and get my work into the hands of readers so self-publishing was the only choice left.

Fast forward almost twenty years and technology has made it feasible for self-published authors to sell as many books as traditionally published ones while keeping more of the revenue.

I’ve found there still is a stigma associated with publishing your own work. I hired an very talented graphic designer, Daniel Smith, so my book looks like it could’ve been done by a major publisher. When people ask who I published with I tell them I did it myself and more often than not they seem instantly less impressed.

Self-publishing is a tremendous amount of work and, if I had a choice, I would rather spend my time and energy creating. The one thing I really do enjoy about self-publishing is the direct connection with readers that it allows.

My goal for the coming year is to continue to grow the sales for Alarm Clock Dawn, complete both the manuscript of the sequel, Dream No More and the synopsis of the third novel, Truth Is Stranger. This should put me in a good position to sell the whole trilogy of novels to a major publisher. If I can accomplish this, my twenty year dream of writing full time will finally be realized. (Editor’s note: Eric’s book is available here: Alarm Clock Dawn)