My guest today is Eric Thomas. I recently read his novel Fall of the Citizens, which is profound and maybe even a little controversial. Of course, I love books with a bit of controversy.
Eric has agreed to the torment of my questions. Before we get to that, let’s meet the man behind the words:
Eric has spent most of his 30 years in journalism. He has worked in radio and television in Washington, DC and Detroit after he started out working at a rock station in Flint, Michigan. He currently lives in Detroit and is having a blast writing fiction.
Connect with Eric in the following places:
A pharmaceutical company receives a lucrative government contract for a vaccine currently coveted by the entire U.S. population. They set the price at $60,000 per shot, putting the vaccine out of the reach of all but the
wealthiest of Americans. The situation creates a class warfare powder keg that only needs one thing to ignite, the words of a man.
This man is known simply as Max, a man who believes revolution is the only remedy to the disparity between the haves and the have nots. He sets to
work at gathering a talented, highly motivated group he calls “The Citizens” and tasks them with recruiting all those who feel like the world stopped being on their side a long time ago. Together they record a message to the American people with Max’s moving words “I refuse to be your slave. I refuse to let you distract me with fear and promise me a tomorrow that will never come. I refuse to let you drain me of hope so that I am docile,
broken and clinging to the absolute minimum. I refuse to live my life as a reaction to your choices.”
A revolution has begun.
On to our conversation:
What was the inspiration for writing this profound story?
I’ve always been fascinated with the cyclical nature of history. If you ever want to see the future, you can always find answers in the past. With Fall of the Citizens, the story takes its cues from things that have already happened. Reviewers often remark that the story could happen, but the truth is that it has already happened. The story takes a lot of cues from the French and Russian revolutions, to the point where it draws from specific events.
The book’s second half is probably far stronger than the first, because I was really interested in what happens after the revolution. You’ve burned down society, now what do you do? What’s the next step after you’ve won? In history, the people who sought this massive social change usually find themselves drunk on the power. They often fall into the same trappings that they revolted against. Everyone cries for revolution, but they never plan out the next step. That’s what makes the American Revolution so unique. They were willing to limit their own power (to a degree).
I’m a sucker for a phrase that paints a picture or sparks emotion without a lot of extraneous words. You have quite a few of those moments, and I highlighted a few as I read. One is:
Their lies would crystallize and dry, lacquered into the woodwork.
(that’s one of my favorites, too)
Another is this phrase, which is part of a longer sentence:
… cramming their foot on the gas of hysteria …
In these instances, do you spend a lot of time finding the perfect words? Or do phrases such as these happen in the moment?
Citizens was a tough book to write (and edit) because I decided early on it should employ prose. I like rich language that relies on visuals. The “Lies would crystallize and dry…” line came to me one night and I slipped it in. The story was far less lyrical when I wrote the first draft, and those things were slipped in later while I was re-writing it.
The first chapter is the most prose-y, because I found myself really angry with how the story ended. I wrote the first chapter a few months after I had finished the story. I felt angry with Max, and how he turned out to be. I was angry because all of these people followed him without question, and I knew that they would never admit their mistakes. Again, in history, the population never does. Whenever terrible things happen the population just covers it up out of understandable embarrassment. The emotional nature of the first chapter was genuine.
Did you spend a lot of time outlining the plot for this story? Or did you have a general idea and run with it?
I knew how it was going to end and I just drove in that direction. I wrote the first draft blind. It was more interesting for me that way. I have read a lot of authors who say, “Write the interesting parts first if you get bored.” I’ve always thought that was cheating the reader. If I’m not entertained while writing it, I imagine it would be boring to read. There were plenty of things that happened in Citizens where I was genuinely surprised.
What do you find most challenging to write – the beginning, middle, or end? Why?
The second hardest thing is starting. The hardest thing is getting stuck in the middle. The end is pretty easy.
With Citizens, I had a problem when they got to Detroit. I just didn’t know where to go from there. I had written half a book and I didn’t know where to go from there. Weirdly, the second half of the book is stronger because I got so stuck there, in my opinion.
The character that gave me the most problems was Max. I wanted to let the reader make his or her own choices about his motivations, so I had to keep him at an arm’s length. But he was the hardest to predict because he’s so logical and emotionless. He’s the most important character in the book, but he had to be also the most mysterious.
You have a new book out called DRT. Tell us about that.
Its a ghost story about a traffic reporter that witnesses a horrible crash. He feels responsible, because he didn’t warn the driver about it. The ghost of the driver starts haunting him, because he had unfinished business. Its a much smaller story than Citizens, delving more into psychology than sociology.
What, if anything, did you find easier about writing your second book? Did you find anything more difficult this second time?
DRT is from a first person perspective, so I didn’t do the lurid prose. I had some fun with the idea that this is a person who is telling you a story of something that happened to him. It gave me a chance to have fun with foreshadowing.
I wrote DRT in between drafts of Fall of the Citizens. Its deliberately a very different book. While Citizens is firmly footed in reality, DRT is proudly paranormal.
What scares you the most, and why?
I hate flying. I had a bad situation in a plane when I was young and I don’t think I have ever gotten over it. I have flown many times since and I am a nervous wreck when I do.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
The exchange of thoughts, ideas and love. Communicating thoughts and ideas to people, even if they totally disagree with you, is the most cleansing thing that you can do. The feeling of being loved pales in comparison to loving someone back. But perfect happiness, is a warm puppy.
I love that!
Thank you, Eric, for hanging out with us here today.
Here’s a look at Eric’s books on Amazon:
Also on Amazon UK
I hope you’ll take the time to connect with Eric and explore his fictional world.
Thanks for reading.
Tags: author interviews, Books About Revolutions, Books About Social Change, Cults, DRT (A Ghost Story), Eric Thomas, Fall of the Citizens, indie authors, Indie Authors on Kindle, Revolutions, Social Change