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Interview with Eric Malikyte

He sits in his office, face and fingers aglow from monitor light, headphones wrapped around his head, and fingers whacking away at a keyboard that probably needs to be replaced. It’s a wonder that a decade of blasting crushing guitar riffs pumped up to max volume hasn’t damaged his hearing. He’s a man possessed by his machine. 

Churning out paragraph after paragraph. Mind deep in lore, research, and worldbuilding documents that have made his digital note organizer as cluttered as his desk. Most of that stuff’s in his head, anyway. He thinks the fact that his ADHD lets him hyperfocus while ignoring notifications on his phone. Sprint after sprint, he writes, rewrites, revises, and edits his way to the finish line.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
I’m a big guy. So most people don’t know that the quickest way to my heart isn’t food but presenting a soft kitten for me to befriend and (hopefully) pet. It’s kind of a problem, honestly. 

Upon stepping into a friend’s house for the first time, if I see a cat, I will likely make a b-line straight for the fuzzy thing, where I will try my best to make friends with them. My success rate isn’t too bad.

Q.2 What inspired you to write Suleniar’s Enigma series?
That goes all the way back to middle school. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and initially, I wanted it to be a comic, designed after a lot of the manga that I was reading at the time. Over the years, as I got more into Lovecraftian horror and read more contemporary fantasy, the world took shape.

Although the magic system Sulen has been around since those days, it’s become much more nuanced over the years. But the themes, they’re a lot closer to home. I took inspiration from the fact that so many of my millennial peers feel like the world has largely ignored us, treating us like we’re still children even though most of us are pushing into our mid-30s. 

So, I imagined an authoritarian society that treats a generation of younger adults in a similar (albeit worse) way.

Q. 3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
I write in a bunch of genres. I love Lovecraftian horror (heh). I’ve got a story in an upcoming Cthulhu Anthology with crossroad press, two cyberpunk novels, and several short stories in the same universe that should be done this year, the third Suleniar’s Enigma novel that’s been in drafting since Book 2 came out, and several cosmic horror novels that are at various stages of development. So, yeah, the release slate is stacked.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
The research and awkward questions. I’m a dude, so I’m constantly asking my wife and female friends questions about how they feel, how they might experience a certain scenario differently than me, etc. 

It’s a similar process to writing a person of color or a character from the LGBTQ+ community. Research and empathy. Fortunately, my female readers have been pretty happy with the characters in Suleniar’s Enigma.

Q.5 Do you plan out your books before you start writing, or do you just write and see where it takes you?
Sort of. I usually start with an idea and just riff until the mental outline falls into place (many shower epiphanies later). In that way, I’m a hybrid between a discovery writer and a plotter. I like my intricate plots, but I hate writing outlines (because my ADHD ass is not gonna remember to check it, it’s just gonna get buried in Evernote). 

I’m told my mother’s side had impeccable memory when it comes to conversations, so I like to think that has something to do with it. I’m usually juggling like ten outlines in my head at any time.

Q.6 How long, on average, does it takes you to write a book?
Once I get going, I’ll usually have it drafted within a few months of consistent writing. I use the Pomodoro technique (otherwise known as writing sprints in the indie community) for pretty much everything. The downside is that I can sometimes get burned out and end up not touching my work for several months. So it really varies. Sometimes you just can’t rush art.

Q.7 What’s your writing schedule while working?
I do my best work in the morning while having my coffee. Besides that, I have to work around video editing clients and other paid projects. Though, Thursdays are reserved for a friend to write sprints together over Discord and me.

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’d probably end up a director or working on film projects. I also paint and occasionally make comics, though I haven’t released anything in the latter medium in a long time.

Q.9 Do you try to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I don’t write to market. I write the kind of stories I crave to see on the shelves. So, I’d say I do my best to be original while trying to balance the tropes and genre elements that are typically expected. As a reader, I love to be surprised, to be taken on a journey.

Q.10 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing? Tell us about your marketing campaign?
I’m not great at marketing, but I’m learning! I’m slowly building a mailing list and working closely with someone who used to work in marketing to learn the ropes. So, even though I’ve got 5 books on the market, I’m fairly new to all this.

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
I’d be a Saiyan. They’re long-lived, can fly, and with the right training, can instantly transport themselves to any known planet in the universe (so long as there’s a ki signature to latch onto). I’d basically abuse their powers to seek out strange new worlds and boldly go where no one has gone before…did I just mix a Dragonball reference with a Star Trek reference? Yes. Yes, I did.

Q.12 If you could invite one character to dinner from your books, who would it be and why?
A. Detective Cai Shen.
He’s a whiskey fan, but in his time, it’s hard to find anything besides rain, and I knew a few eligible bachelors I could introduce him to.

Q.13 What three things can a reader expect from your books?
Mind-bending physics, strong worldbuilding, and flawed but deep characters.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your books, who is dear to you and why?
A. Sage
of Yce Ralakar. I’ve put him through hell (I mean, I’ve done that to all of the characters in my books, especially Suleniar’s Enigma), but his struggles have directly reflected some of my worst experiences. He’s one of the few characters where I’ve gotten emotional while drafting scenes. His tenacity and willpower are probably the only reason why he’s still kicking.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select them?
I painted it. I usually look at book cover trends and try to push the limitations of my own painting skills. I’m a trained illustrator, though I’m partial to painting environments (characters can be a struggle if I’m not doing line art for some reason).

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
Depends. I’m not Tolkien, so I’m not going to great lengths to make up the entire Sulekiel language, so most of the names are made up based on the limited understanding I have of their language. For other books, I’ll either pick something I like or I’ll use Scrivener’s name suggestion tools until I find something that fits.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I read both! If a negative review is reasonable, I’ll usually take it seriously. I do my best not to take them too personally, though. Art is very subjective, and no book will ever appeal to everyone. Weird fiction, for example, despite Lovecraft’s apparent modern popularity, can be quite divisive even with casual horror fans.

Q.18 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
Over 10 at this point.

Q.19 Are there any new books or authors in science fiction or fantasy (or both!) you are excited about? What are you reading right now?
T.R. Napper is quickly becoming my favorite modern cyberpunk author. Neon Leviathan is so good! Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary had me laughing out loud and hungry for more. And I’ve really been enjoying CT Phipp’s varied work.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
No matter what people tell you, this stuff takes time. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to try to get readers to try you out. If you’re good, if you’re willing to take constructive criticism and grow, and if you’re patient, good things will come.

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