Thanks for checking out this week’s interview. If you haven’t read our last interview already, you can check it out here.
Today we had a chat with science fiction fantasy writer, Dan Ervin, a photographer and music maker with a love for Lord of the Rings.
We hope you have funning learning more about his journey to be an author, his writing process, and the intricate details included in his writing style. We did!
1 – Hi Dan! Thank you for agreeing to do this interview with us today. Could you introduce yourself and your book/s to our readers?
Thank you for reaching out! My name is Dan Ervin—I’m a new author in the process of completing my debut YA sci-fi novel, The Great Flight.
2 – Is The Great Flight the first book you’ve ever written? If not, can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
This is my first serious attempt at seeing a story through to publication, although my love for writing and I go way back. In the 3rd grade, I rewrote James Cameron’s Titanic from the perspective of a random unnamed passenger watching the events unfold as they did in the film.
If I remember correctly, that was my very first attempt at writing something that wasn’t required of me for schoolwork. From then on, most of my early stories were recreations of existing stories (films & video games rather than literary stories) from that same sort of fly-on-the-wall perspective—something I find interesting to reflect on as I’ve gotten older.
3 – We’re not sure how long you’ve been writing for but have you always wanted to be a writer? If not, what else did you want to be when you grew up?
Ever since those early attempts at writing—along with positive feedback from teachers and family members who read them—I’ve enjoyed writing, mostly for myself. Writing novels wasn’t something I saw myself doing with my life right away.
Once I got into high school, I was more interested in songwriting, although my love of words did give me an advantage when it came time to put lyrics to music. In my adolescent and younger adult years, writing for me became an exercise in corralling these complex new thoughts and emotions that came with growing up, becoming my own person, and assuming more responsibility.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a little better at stepping outside of myself, and generally have become more interested in trying to understand the world from someone else’s point of view. I circled back to writing stories a few years ago in 2018, and found that to be a great outlet for exploring different perspectives. When the pandemic began in 2020, I decided that was a great time to shift gears, let music take a backseat, and try my hand at turning this story idea that I had into a proper novel. That idea turned into what is now The Great Flight.
4 – Some authors don’t like to confess to having favourites, but if you had to save any of your characters who would it be and why?
Keon and Olivia (ages 3 and 5, respectively) are my youngest characters who accompany the main cast on their adventure. Given that they’re the smallest and most vulnerable—ironically, also the most prone to mischief—my first instinct would be to help them before anyone else. I suppose I don’t think much about having favorites; I love all these characters for different reasons.
5 – We saw your story chart on Twitter. (Which is beautiful, by the way) Can you tell us a little bit about that and your writing process in general?
Thank you! I’ll be honest: at first, I found plotting the story out on a chart beforehand hurt me more than it helped. The problem was, I was trying to force my story in a specific direction and found that as I developed these characters, the plot I was trying to establish would fall apart as soon as they did or said anything.
So I changed my approach for this draft of the story. I developed a back story and a world, dropped my characters into it, planned a few general story beats, and imagined how they would react to these events and how they would be driven to change. Then I would write about it.
And I kept writing—and before long, I had a story I was generally thrilled with. With some editorial touches, I would be proud to share it with the world. That’s the phase I am in now. The chart was my way of breaking down the events of each chapter and where each character would be in their arc at that point in the story, and keeping everything straight as I carry out the editing phase. Now that the foundation is in place, the chart is extremely helpful. Figuring out a process that works for me has been a learning experience, one which I’m grateful for.
6 – From what we understand, you like to create music and sing. What kind of music do you write and does it match the songs you like to sing?
In high school, I fell in love with alternative music—punk rock, emo, indie, metal, things in that realm—and a lot of the music that I liked to write in my younger years was along those lines. Bands like Green Day, blink-182, and Saves the Day were huge influences on my musical style at that time. Lately, my music taste is all over the place.
My Apple Music playlists range from country music to film scores. Nowadays, I find myself writing less original music and mostly singing along to classic rock artists with very theatrical voices—Elton John, Freddie Mercury, etc. It’s a fun challenge for my vocal cords! Although, I confess I’m nowhere near in their league as a vocalist. It’s just for fun in my living room from time to time.
7 – In your Twitter bio, you mentioned that you’re autistic. If you don’t mind telling us, do you think this has an impact on your stories, the way you write etc?
That’s an excellent question. I like to include lots of sensory details—the way a sunset looks, how a surface might feel against a character’s hands, etc. Many of my characters are people who are marginalized in some way, I suspect because I’ve always felt a kinship with them in the real world.
Beyond simply being an outlet for my own thoughts and ideas, I like to use my writing to elevate people who society misunderstands and mistreats. If they are able to see themselves as the heroes in a story, with all the nuance and humanity that we give to characters like Luke Skywalker, for instance, I feel like I’m doing something good.
When I was younger, the stories I wrote from before I knew I was autistic had a lot of fly-on-the-wall main characters who were just observing everything the “real” main characters (i.e. the characters from the stories I was retelling) were doing. They had little autonomy of their own, but were just passive observers who noticed things that were often ignored in the original stories. I think this was just a reflection of my mindset at that time, and the disconnect that I felt from the people around me who were different from me in ways that I had not yet learned how to articulate.
8 – Besides music, songs, and writing, do you have anything else you like or enjoy doing?
I took photography classes in college and did it as a little side venture for a long time until the pandemic. I’ve recently gotten into gardening and growing things. I like to spend lots of time outside, so lately my hobbies have all pertained to the outdoors in some way—hiking, camping, kayaking, etc. It’s a rare occasion to find me at home during the summer months in northern Michigan, that’s for sure!
9 – If you could meet any character you know (excluding your own), who do you think you would choose and why?
Easy answer: Gandalf the Grey! Who wouldn’t want to kick back, smoke some shire weed, absorb some gentle wisdom, and then be gently but persistently nudged into a grand, life-changing adventure?
10 – And lastly you seem supportive of indie authors and the writing community in general. Is there anyone you would like to shout out here?
I recently finished Emma and the Minotaur by Jon Herrera (@JonHerreraCa) and I love how much it feels like the classic sort of children’s fantasy stories I grew up reading, but for a new generation. I’m about to start on a sci-fi story called City of Shattered Light by Claire Winn (@Atomic_Pixie), who I believe is also a fellow Michigan writer.
Lastly, I’d like to shout out Shannon Conway (@sconwaybooks) and Madison Sasser (@Madiii03) for being such kind people and fervent supporters of independent writers, particularly neurodivergent ones like myself. They’re wonderful people and I’m very thankful to have met them both.
Thank you once again for allowing us to interview you, Dan. You make an excellent point about Gandalf the Grey 😜 and we wish you all the best with your author debut.
As previously mentioned, Dan Ervin is currently working on his debut novel, The Great Flight, which will hopefully published at some point in the future.
You can find Dan on Twitter.
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