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An Interview with Eirik M. Dahll-Larssøn: Author of Rented Souls

Eirik M. Dahll-LarssønEirik Moe Dahll-Larssøn lives in Bergen, Norway, with his girlfriend and their imaginary dog, Waffle, and imaginary hairless cat, Palpatine. They also have a real dog now, named Luna. She’s cute and all, but really needs to stop eating cigarette butts off the ground. Eirik also has a degree in Literature from the University of Bergen, and through Patreon and self-publishing, hopes to make a living off his writing.

Why did you want to write a book?

I’ve always loved fiction, and I’ve always loved being creative – I’ve always had more ideas than I know what to do with, and if I don’t get an outlet of some kind, then my brain tends to stop working right. I started drawing comic books when I was fairly young, making long series of increasingly-convoluted plots that almost always ended up being tossed out for the sake of some new idea I had. Eventually, though, drawings had to make way for the ever-expanding speech bubbles, which finally just turned into pure text. I’ve been writing ever since – so, since I was ten or eleven years old – and it was then I knew I wanted to be a writer. Ultimately, I guess, any book I write is a desire to sort through the things cluttering up my brain in such a way that I can make sense of it.

Why did you choose to self-publish?

There’s a few different reasons. I’ve had some bad experiences with publishers, for one. I also think publishers and agents have an enormous aversion to risk, a fear of taking chances on something interesting or different, which will leave a lot of great writers without a place to go. I think that, right now, the industry is stuck in a bad place, where you’re forced to either write something that sells – something safe, or aping the current best-sellers – or publish things on your own without the resources to make your book all it could be. So, you’ll end up with thousands of books with something beautiful at their core that never see their full potential, because someone decided to publish another by-the-numbers romance or crime thriller.

Ultimately, what made me choose to self-publish though, was the fear of being conformed – if someone did take to my novel, what would they change? How long before they decide parts need to be cut, or altered, until the book is no longer mine? The freedom to do what I want is incredibly important to me, if only because it allows me to experiment, and to try new things. Yeah, they might not work out, but ultimately that’s how you learn.

Rented Souls Would you self-publish again?

Yes. I’ve done it before, and I intend to keep going. The freedom it affords me is invaluable – writing the sequel to Rented Souls has been a much more valuable experience because I was allowed to write essentially three different versions of it, and then choose the one I felt made for the best book. Which, I suspect, is not something a traditional publisher would’ve let me do, unless my previous book ended up selling exceptionally well.

What do you think are the main pitfalls for indie writers?

Probably getting too caught up in marketing and trying to sell our books, rather than spending time improving our skills as writers. I think the freedom being independent affords you is an incredible boon, but it can also lead to a fair amount of complacency. There’s a certain amount of self-doubt and reflection needed to improve yourself, and unless you’re lucky enough to have lots of people nitpicking your work, it can lead to stagnation.

Beyond that, it also threatens to leave you stuck in a single genre – one that you’re comfortable with – rather than spread your wings a bit and explore what other things are out there, taking cues from other works and other genres to expand and deepen your own writing. The great thing about fiction is that it’s fictional – it’s all made up. So, there’s nothing wrong with writing a dramatic romance set in a fantasy world, or a futuristic take on the trappings of a period piece. Some things won’t work, to be sure, but that doesn’t really matter.

The point is, you’re allowed to try. You might be tempted to find a formula that works and then stick to it, but the publishing industry is stagnating because of that mentality. As an independent writer, you don’t have to stagnate – you can experiment, you can play, you can be inventive in whatever ways you want.

What tips can you give other authors looking to self-publish?

Learn to edit. Learn to cut. Be merciless. The sooner the better. I’ve had too many projects ruined because I didn’t know how to cut them down, or how to turn a half-decent paragraph into a good one. I tend to read things out loud when I edit – especially dialogues – because if I’m having problems making the words sound natural, then they’re not likely to flow all that well on the page either. Also know when to let things go. If you’ve written the most beautiful sentence of your life, be aware that you might have to cut that sentence later – no matter how much you want to hold on to it.

As a writer, what is your schedule? How do you get the job done?

I’ve had a lot of different routines through the years. When I was working a regular daytime job, I’d spend my lunch hour writing, and then finish up when I came home before I’d have free time. When I attended university, I’d do my schoolwork first and then do my writing after – until I started writing my master’s thesis in comparative literature, at which point I’d rework the routine so I would do my writing first, and then thesis-related things after.

Right now, I’m unemployed, and so the routine has changed again – every morning I get up at nine, walk my dog, and then sit down to work until I’m satisfied with the day. I’m doing classes on the side, a few days a week, as well, to help me find a job down the line, if I can’t make ends meet through my writing alone. Really, it’s just being stubborn – it doesn’t matter if I’m tired or in a bad mood, or even sick. I just do it – I just work, until I’m satisfied. Almost no matter what.

Tell us about the genre you wrote in, and why you chose to write this sort of book.

Rented Souls is a horror/comedy, and it’s the first book in a series that I’ve been planning out for several years now. It’s horror, because fear is a great thing to elicit in a book, and it’s comedy because I tend to make a lot of really bad jokes when I’m scared. They’re also two genres that are notoriously hard to get right, so I get to challenge myself in a major way. I’m also a fan of both – horror in particular, even when it’s done poorly – so it’s a matter of writing something I’d want to read, as well.

Who are your biggest writing inspirations and why?

J.K. Rowling is an obvious one. She’s incredible at world-building. But more than that, it’s the way she does it. She seems to spend a lot of time on trivial details because it amuses her, as well as illuminating the audience. So, you get all these nice little details about poltergeists and moving staircases, the intricacies of life in Diagon Alley, of the wizarding world in general, as a way to keep herself from losing interest or from slowing down too much, as well as forging that connection between reader and world. It’s a way of making sure no part of her books feel redundant.

I’ve also taken a lot from Stephen King – in particular his use of minutia and real-world connections, to build a moment, a character, or a place. David Wong, too, is a big inspiration, as his book, John Dies at the End, was the first actual horror/comedy that I read. I’ve also been thinking a lot about Marge Piercy’s book, Woman at the Edge of Time, lately. It’s got a great take on more didactic fiction, and manages to balance the overly-positive with the overly-negative really well.

Why did you write about this particular subject?

The narrative itself came from an inside joke between me and a friend of mine, which snowballed into something genuine. That friend also served as inspiration for one of the principal characters. The central theme – the idea of “you are a body, you have a soul” (paraphrased there, obviously) – is something that’s always fascinated me. Not as a literal thing, but as almost something of an excuse; a separation between the things you DO, and the person you ARE. What does that mean, if the person you are is not the same as the things you do? What will that excuse do to someone with certain ambitions, or tendencies – what atrocities can you justify, if you can look yourself in the eye and think, “I didn’t do this thing – my body did”? Or something less hackneyed than that.

What’s next for you as an author?

I’m currently in the editing phase of the sequel to Rented Souls – titled Reaper Town – and I expect it will be out in December. I’m also in the early stages of the third Rented Souls-book, untitled as of yet, while I work on editing Reaper Town. I’m planning four books in the series. I’m also working on a pure horror novel, called Grant us Eyes, which I’m hoping I’ll be able to publish sometime next year. Although I will be prioritizing the Rented Souls-series. There’s a lot of other things in the works as well – a trilogy of fantasy-novels, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, and a possible sequel to my first book, In the Seraphim City. So I doubt I’ll be out of projects anytime soon.

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