Alys: On this lovely and stormy December day, I have Madame E.B. Black, who is reportedly holding Elizabeth hostage, or so her website and cute dog’s nose say. Welcome! How much is the ransom?
E.B. Black: Lol. Elizabeth will only be allowed to leave once all the stories have been written. The problem is, every time I write one of them, I come up with ideas for ten more.
Oh, what a problem to have! Many authors would give a few teeth to have the ideas spring forth from the well!
So far your books have tended to at least touch on mythology. Your first two, in your Fate of Eros series, were about two different goddesses. What inspired you to explore two well-know, but often-ignored goddesses?
I love fantasy and fantasy’s roots are in ancient mythology. We take aspects of those ancient stories and make new tales of our own, changing them a little every time. I wanted to be more direct when I borrowed from those old stories and retell the stories in a more direct way. I wanted to change a few of the details, without changing the stories at all themselves, to give a more modern perspective and to give new insight into old, beloved characters. I want to flesh out their personalities and lives a bit more.
Why did you choose Pandora first?
I kind figured out the timeline for all the characters I wanted to write about, when each of them was born in relation to each other, according to the myths and Pandora came first because she was the first woman created by Zeus. I also want the characters in the background of these stories to slowly develop over many years as the main story is happening and it makes more sense if I keep it all in a chronological order.
And Medusa came second. Inquiring minds, well, mind, wants to know which goddess will be presented next in the Fate of Eros series, and if you may branch out into the gods as the primary protagonists next.
I write for women, so I usually write from the perspective of a woman. But the next book is actually about a man named Sisyphus. Most people know him as the guy who had to roll the rock up the hill in Hades for eternity because it keeps rolling down whenever he gets to the top. But there’s a long story as to how he got there. I wanted to write about him because I found him interesting and a lot of people have told me my books have taught them so much about Greek mythology because they stick so closely to the originals. Sisyphus is an interesting character that not a lot of people know much about.
He was only touched on briefly in my mythology classes. Such a shame. He’s basically got the punishment that’s the equivalent of moving rocks from one end of a field to the other and back again. Pretty awful!
This year has brought us two books in a new series, God of Light.
Is there any potential for crossing these two series over at some point?
Probably not. They take place in two totally different worlds. The God Of Light world is completely original and I’ll be finished with it once I finish writing the third book for the series. It will only be a trilogy.
The third will definitely bring even more heightened tension between the two and the love triangle they have with Adonya. Rather than bringing in a new brother, I actually bring in a female character named Star who makes their loved triangle even more complicated.
That makes me think of characters from a tv show I love. Princesses Celestia, Luna, and Twilight Sparkle.
I can see several ways that Star would complicate matters for the brothers and Adonya. Will she had the chance to do so in 2017, or will she wait until Sisyphus has an opportunity to tell his story?
Probably her story will come first because I have more of it written as of right now than my story about Sisyphus. I work on several projects at once, though, so I am not always able to predict which one I will finish first accurately. But I am very excited about her story. She’s very sweet, innocent, and naive and she’s thrown into this world with these three damaged characters. It’s interesting to write how this changes her and how she changes them.
So she won’t know much about this established triangle before finding herself in the center?
She doesn’t know anything at all. The first page of the book is actually about her coming into existence. She’s named star because she is a star that became a human. And she’s still learning what it means to be a human-how to eat, how to drink, how to speak, how to walk, and why humans do the things they do.
What an overwhelming experience for her to have to learn about being in the first place, and then entering a triangle. The mother in me already wants to give her a cup of cocoa and a hug.
Do Fate of Eros and God of Light influence each other as you’re writing them?
As an author, I learn more about writing and what it means to be a good writer with every page and chapter that I write. The stories don’t influence each other directly, but the things I learn from writing each one of them helps me do a better job at writing the other one.
Would you tell me a bit about your journey from deciding to write to finishing your first manuscript?
I’ve always loved to read and I have been an introvert a lot of my life, daydreaming about various things. Daydreams always relax me and help me sleep when I can’t or get me through a bad day. When I was in college, I had a professor tell me about how the people who change the world are the ones who provide entertainment, that we learn a lot through stories and entertainment. I thought that sounded cool and I wanted to make my stories into a real, tangible thing, so I started writing and studying writing. I learned that you can’t finish a story in a couple of days, you have to have discipline and write regularly if you want to be an author.
Eventually, all that hard work turned into a completed manuscript. Although I wound up deleting that one a long time ago. My Fate of Eros series were the 3 & 4 books I’d ever written in my lifetime.
Your professor hit on a very important point that has been blatantly ignored over the last several years. Society /does/ learn a lot through what we view as entertainment. Sometimes this is good and progressive and moves us forward by normalizing natural situations and challenging our thoughts, and sometimes it’s dangerous and sets us back by normalizing and romanticizing dangerous situations.
What responsibility do you think authors have for the influence their work can have on others, and how much responsibility to you think readers have to limit how much books and pop culture influence themselves and others in society?
That’s a really good question and I feel like people could write many books discussing it because it’s so complicated. I don’t think, first of all, that authors should be held accountable for other people’s actions. Authors use words to explore every scenario they can think of and try to make sense of it in some way. They wrestle with thoughts and with characters sometimes that commit acts that most people would find deplorable and it helps us understand why people do horrible things.
But actions have more serious consequences than thoughts; actions are different than words. “Dexter” is one of my favorite television shows of all time and I think there a lot of people who watch that show and take the wrong thing from it. They want Dexter to be real. They want some serial killer to go around killing other murderers and sexual predators on the streets. Some of them even want to be Dexter. But what I think people should get out of it is that we have an imperfect justice system and that a lot of people out there are being hurt because of it. Dexter isn’t a solution. No serial killers are heroes, although some might think they are.
So there’s a bit of truth in there that you can glean from every story, because it highlights the problem with justice in our society, but I think it’s important that readers think critically for themselves and do research before taking actions. Stories are needed because sometimes they are the only way to help someone empathize with a problem because they are experiencing that problem with the characters themselves, instead of just being told about. They can feel the pain through the story.
But critical thinking is also important because everywhere in life, on television and in social media especially, you have to think critically about what you consume or you might be lead down bad paths. It’s the same kind of discernment you need to have when you’re trying to decide who to be friends with and what people to trust. You can’t accept everyone or you’ll get hurt. Neither can you accept everything entertainment tells you as fact because the truth is, it’s all fiction, even though it has grains of truth sprinkled throughout it.
But not every story is about exceptional situations, about serial killers or winged fairies or angels with superhuman powers. Some stories are about common everyday people, and influence on a more subtle level. It’s hard to not be affected when a story has managed to subtly affect the way society idolizes danger. When an author realizes their work is normalizing danger on a wide scale, should an author continue to push their work, or should they denounce those actions? Is this not, in a way, similar to inciting a riot, then washing one’s hands of the resulting actions?
I think it depends on the situation. Authors are fallible people, so sometimes we might misrepresent a group of people in some way or a situation because we weren’t being empathetic enough or doing the right research on it. If we realize that we were ill-informed and that we’ve now spread misinformation to the public that is hurting people, then it is 100% our responsibility to do whatever we can to remedy it including possibly, taking the book down. And even if we were well-informed but a lot of people are using our books to hurt people, I think it’s good for the author to speak out and tell those people to stop and try to correct their misunderstanding if possible.
But if we were just writing a story exploring the psychology behind a murderer and someone decides to murder because of it, I don’t think that’s our fault. Authors can’t control how people take their books and what they do with them. If we could, then there would be no one star reviews. And there are just some really crazy people out there who are looking for an excuse to do something bad and they’ll pin it on some form of entertainment, even though they were going to do something bad all along. Authors aren’t responsible for those people.
No, we can’t control, but we definitely can influence, and sometimes authors intentionally push damaging angles. Right now Ayn Rand comes to mind, given the state of America.
When you write, do you ever feel a desire to touch on social issues, whether subtly or more blatantly? Gods and goddesses seem to be a great opportunity since typical social norms often don’t apply (like Loki turning into a female horse and giving birth to his own equine son).
I constantly want to touch on social issues, to be honest. But I also love the escape in fiction, so I’m constantly going back and forth between writing both things. I love fantasy because it always takes place in a world different than our own, so it’s so much easier to sneak parallel issues relating to things happening in our world without being too obvious about it.
But I also am sometimes more obvious, although none of those more obvious stories that I’ve experimented with have become published. Like I’ve been working off and on sometimes, writing a story about a girl who discovers she’s diabetic because diabetes is such a huge problem in our society and a disease that a lot of my family and myself suffer from. I have subtle themes in my books related to other issues as well and sometimes it’s easy to hide behind fantasy, so you can pretend you’re not really writing about certain issues just in case people are angered by your thoughts. But I’ve been writing for Hubpages lately as well and on Hubpages, it’s all non-fiction, so you have to be direct and have a real opinion on things. So I’ve written about some of my experiences and thoughts on things there directly.
Sounds like you may have the start of an anthology of short stories with the story about diabetes. The Lifeline series that was popular in the 70’s and 80’s had quite a few shorter stories that tackled real-life issues such as chronic illnesses in young people. Powerful stories.
Writing is obviously a very complex issue, whether on a conscious or subconscious level. What advice do you with someone had given you before you started writing in earnest?
I think I wish someone told me that it is okay to make mistakes. You should try your best and not be timid. Be proud of what you do. You’ll make mistakes, but you learn from them and become a better author because of them.
What are some of your earlier mistakes that you think have taught you the most?
I made another author really angry at me. It wasn’t just any author either, it was the person I looked up to the most at the time. She basically told me, after first talking to me, that she hated me because of something I posted on my blog, even after I told her that she was the person I looked up to most. It hurt really badly and I cried for a week. She even threatened to destroy my career, but I just did what I could to repair things and it didn’t destroy me or my career. I got through it and it taught me that I can get through any rejection or any negative thing that is thrown at me.
If she had tried, it probably would have reflected more on her than on you.
What would you say to people sitting there with stories in their heads that they’re afraid to start writing?
I’d say that this fear comes from a fear of being vulnerable, of opening up your heart and throwing your innermost thoughts onto the page and people actually reading it. We’re afraid of being vulnerable because we want to protect ourselves from rejection and pain. But if you always try to protect yourself, then you can’t have any good things. You have to be vulnerable to have friendships or romantic relationships, too. You can’t do great things unless you are willing to risk your heart. You’re stronger than you think and rejection doesn’t hurt as bad as you think it does. Just take it one step at a time. Write the first word, the first page, and worry about all the rest of the things later, when it’s time to worry about them. Just focus on the bit you can do right now.
That is probably the best advice I’ve read for new authors.
And so, with that piece of excellent advice, I’d like to thank you very much for your time.
More information about E.B. Black can be found at the following: