Eli Bloom is a mysterious young adult writer living in Los Angeles. He believes in ghosts. SEER: The Ghosts of Gray Fable is his first novel.
Tell us something about your book. The basics: what’s it about?
SEER is about 15-year-old girl, Grace Fable, who’s been able to see ghosts since she was six. When her single-father dad moves in with his girlfriend, Grace has to transfer to Willowbrook High School in California, the scene of a school shooting five years earlier. Soon she meets the ghosts of everyone involved in the shooting that day who tell her about someone else who’s currently planning a shooting. She needs to track the new shooter down, so the victims of Willowbrook can move on.
What drove you to write this particular book?
You heard it here first, but SEER is the response to a series of paranormal experiences I had with my wife a couple of years ago. I’ve always had some passing interest in the paranormal, but I had never had any paranormal experiences. Our apartment was properly haunted. Mattresses flipping over. We woke up one day with a chair on top of the couch. There was scribbling in crayon on the walls. One time my wife woke up with scribbling on her face.
My wife is also highly (reluctantly) psychic, which actually exacerbated the problem, because she can see and sense presences on a very deep level, and she knew something was happening that wasn’t just ghosts, but something much darker.
All of this is very hard to believe, I’ll admit, especially coming from a fiction writer. But it happened. I could show you a picture of a mattress flipped over, but it would mean nothing. Anyway, this strange and horrible year had a very profound affect on me, and I had to put it in writing to make some sense of it. I like writing fiction more than non-fiction so that was the medium I chose.
SEER, about a girl who can talk to the dead, is very much based on the experiences and talents of my wife. I wanted to write it from a young girl’s perspective because my idea is to write the trajectory of her life with these talents, starting very young.
I didn’t intend to write about school shootings as I sat down to write the novel, and many steps along the way I wondered if I should be. I wanted to be sensitive to the very real pain that people have gone through, and not turn this terrible problem into pulp entertainment.
But the prevalence of mass shootings is highly mysterious. I am not saying that school shootings are the result of paranormal activity, but they are at the very least small-d demonic, they’re evil. Part of the book is catharsis that maybe they can be overcome. The novel is ultimately about forgiveness and love; overcoming hate. It’s a horror story with a positive message.
What’s your writing regimen? Where do you do your writing?
This book took me two years to write, because with my day job and family life, I didn’t really have time to write any more than one day a week. I wish I was the kind of person who could wake up at 4 am and write by any means necessary, but I don’t really have the stamina for that. This book, given its subject, took a lot out of me so I really needed to tackle it with a full head of steam. So basically I wrote for 8 solid hours every Sunday for two years.
My other regimen was listening to Brahms’ string quartets from the start of writing the book to the end.
Who are your greatest writing influences?
I’ll admit that I’m not a huge devourer of young adult books. I’ve read the big ones (The Hunger Games, John Green, Harry Potter), and I read a bunch in preparation for writing about a modern teen girl, but most of what I read is for adults. And actually much of what I read is non-fiction stuff related to the supernatural. A couple books that were instrumental in putting together this novel are The Demonologist (about the Warrens, basis of “The Conjuring” movies) and The Scole Experiment – about pretty convincing scientific tests contacting the dead.
This book is Young Adult Supernatural & Young Adult Horror. I want to say YA Paranormal as well, but there’s not a lot of romance in it. That may be a mistake marketing-wise, but I wanted to write a female character who doesn’t need a boyfriend to complete her. I also think it’s a bit weird for a man to write a romance about a teen girl – I guess I’ll have to cross that part of her life as she gets older in future books. I could have made her a boy, but I find it more interesting and more challenging to write from her perspective.
I wanted to write about a teenager because I think kids and teenagers are more open to the idea of ghosts. Grace is just starting to figure out her abilities, and I hope to take her on a trip as she uses these abilities more and more as she gets older, on into adulthood.
How did you come to self-publish? Did you try to get published traditionally?
I was concerned that this book would be a tough sell to the mainstream, though I think it’s entertaining. But school shootings are a very sensitive topic, understandably. So I didn’t bother submitting to mainstream agents, though I considered it.
It’s like how “Back to the Future” was rejected at first. On the surface the story is creepy: guy goes back in time and his mom has the hots for him. Not putting my book on the level of “Back to the Future,” but whatever innate creepiness there is to the plot I hope is overcome by its forward-thinking message.
Would you self-publish again?
That depends. I believe a lot in my book and think that it should be successful, so I think it should be able to take off on its own via word of mouth. Maybe that’s delusional. But of course any writer dreams of having a massive medium campaign behind a book. But I also really like being independent, and releasing what and when I want.
I decided to publish with Kwill Books, the imprint of SPR, which is both self-publishing and not self-publishing. So, the tools are the same, I get 100% royalties, but I get a publisher’s marketing muscle behind the book, which I couldn’t have done on my own. It seems like a happy medium. The book has been holding steady sales wise, it’s gotten good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, it’s had a nice book tour. So all’s well so far, and I’d do it again.
Any words of advice for those looking to self-publish? Any big missteps/successes?
I’ve really just started the process, but I think my biggest misstep so far was not preparing for marketing enough in advance (despite advice from Kwill). I figured I’d market the book after the book was released, when I should have been spending more of the last year tweeting, blogging, and building more of a following for when the book was released.
I made the stupid decision that it only made sense to promote myself if I literally had something to promote. But I could have been building up relationships in that time.
What’s next on the horizon for you as an author?
I want to write more Gray Fable novels. If she’s really able to predict tragedies via talking to the dead then she might be able to tackle bigger issues, like terrorism. There’s a lot of places I can take her and a lot of good she can do (at least on paper).