I first learned about E.C. Myers back in January, when I was sent an ARC (advanced review copy) of his wonderful Young Adult sci-fi fantasy novel, Fair Coin.
A fantastic read about a young boy who finds a coin that grants wishes or destroys lives based on the flip, it is easily one of my favorite YA reads this year. The sequel, Quantum Coin, is due out in October. Even though I’ll likely get a review copy in the mail, I still pre-ordered the hell out of it. You should too.
A few weeks ago, I ran into him in the Rittenhouse Barnes & Noble at a writer meet-up. And now, here he is as Geek of the Week. Read on to learn more about the local YA author, his book, and how he’s enjoying life in Philadelphia.
So tell us a little bit about yourself, E.C. Like, what’s with the E.C.?
Obviously I’m a big fan of the old EC horror comics, like Tales from the Crypt! Actually, I am, but that didn’t influence my choice in pen name; my initials are really E.C., so it was just a beautiful coincidence. I decided not to use my given name, Eugene, in print primarily because when I first began writing science fiction and fantasy short stories with the goal of building a literary career, the only Google hits for “Eugene Myers” were a fictional author in another novel who was supposedly writing about the future history of America. I was worried that would confuse my potential fans.
I also like that initials are gender neutral, which can be a strategic advantage for writers depending on their intended audience. Readers often make assumptions about the text based on an author’s gender, and I would rather my name didn’t influence how or whether they approach my fiction before they read it. I suppose knowing the author’s gender is important to some people; I came across a French review of my book recently, which in Google-translation began with, “E.C. Myers, who is a boy…” Personally, I take it as a compliment whenever a reader tells me she thought a story I’d written with a woman’s POV really was written by a woman.
I publish all my fiction as E.C. Myers, but I use my real name for nonfiction articles. It just happened that way when I started blogging TV and film reviews; I never intended to make that distinction, but it seems appropriate.
Now this book of yours, this YA novel. What can you tell us about it?
You know, the basics: It’s called Fair Coin, it was published by Pyr in March, and it’s now available in the usual places and in that newfangled ebook form. It’s about a 16-year-old boy, Ephraim Scott, who finds a magic coin that seems to grant his wishes whenever he flips it — as long as it lands on heads. As you can imagine, a teenager can get into a lot of trouble with something like that.
There’s plenty more going on than Ephraim realizes, but that’s all you’re getting out of me. I don’t like spoilers, and this book can easily be spoiled. But I can say Fair Coin has appeal to anyone who likes fantasy and science fiction, and I hope readers will give it a chance and keep an open mind.
So why the move to Philadelphia?
That story is completely unoriginal: I moved for love! Two years ago, my wife relocated here from New York City to attend the Temple University School of Medicine. I followed as soon as I found a new job. We did the long-distance thing for about seven months while I looked for work, which wasn’t a lot of fun even though it’s easy enough to travel between Philly and New York; Bolt Bus and Greyhound are as close as we can get to transporter technology, at least on my budget. Now that I live here, that proximity helps me stay connected to the NYC speculative fiction crowd and my friends and family, along with video chats.
What are you liking the most about living in Philadelphia so far?
I can’t argue with the lower cost of living. We have a huge apartment with a washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, air conditioning, and access to a gym and a pool, all for the same rent I paid for a tiny sublet in Astoria, Queens — with two roommates and a cat.
Finally there’s enough room for all my books, Nintendo games, DVDs, and laserdiscs! (Laserdiscs take up a lot of space.) This is still shocking to someone who has lived in a series of smaller and smaller rooms in New York; one time my roommates and I even had to build our own walls, but that’s another story, best told over drinks. Even my commute to work is shorter and cheaper than it was in Manhattan.
I also love Philly cheese steaks, and of course they don’t make them better anywhere else.
How about the literary scene?
When I first moved here, I was too busy writing to hang out with many other writers, which means I was probably doing it wrong. I had to revise Fair Coin and its sequel, Quantum Coin, all while adjusting to my new day job — which is also writing — and planning a wedding.
For a while, I didn’t even know there was a literary scene, and I didn’t have many opportunities to meet other geeks. I was thrilled to stumble across Geekadelphia soon after I moved to Philly, but I never managed to make it to any of the events I heard about through the site. Lame.
But as I’ve slowly weaned myself from the comforting glow of my laptop screen and begun to venture from my fortress of solitude, I’ve discovered a great community of writers in and around the area, and I’ve become friends with a fun bunch of local young adult, science fiction, and fantasy authors. I still miss all the fiction readings back in New York, so I was happy to be introduced to the monthly Philadelphia Fantastic reading series at the Moonstone Arts Center, and the Liars Club also holds many events. I’m always looking to meet more geeks; geeky, creative types are the best people to hang out with!
Any advice for geeks that are reading, and have literary aspirations?
If you want to write, just sit down and do it. Don’t worry about getting every word and sentence perfect or whether it’s any good when you’re working on the first draft. Chances are it isn’t — yet. But once you have a rough manuscript, you can always go back and make it better. Publishable, even. The important thing is to finish it and then revise. And revise some more.
You should also read a lot and outside of the genre you’re working in. Even if you prefer science fiction, pick up a New York Times bestseller once in a while, or maybe the New York Times itself. You never know where your next idea is going to come from. Try out an interesting nonfiction book or graphic novel. Seek out many different types of books and writing styles, which will help you grow as a writer and generally make you into a more interesting person. But be forewarned: If you aren’t careful, you might actually learn something.
Heads or tails?
I know a trap when I see one! I bet this is some sort of psychological test. Whatever I say, you’re going to judge me, aren’t you? Fine, I’ll play along… I call heads, but I would never make a wish on it, just in case it comes true.