Josh Erikson: Author Interview Series

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Josh Erikson’s debut, Hero Forged, launched him onto my favorite author’s list a couple years ago. His books are fun, wildly entertaining, charming, and witty. I listen to a fuckload of audiobooks and he’s also one of my favorite audiobook narrators. Dude self narrates – the fuck is one person doing with that much talent?

He wrote his own intro on his website and it went something like this:


That’s my face. I call the style “Picard on top, Riker on the bottom.” If you don’t get that joke, congratulations on having all those better ways to spend your time.

I’m a writer. I mean, nobody’s given me a badge or anything, but I figure somebody will eventually take pity and pay me for it. I’ve been writing and editing for about ten years, and now I write fiction in several flavors. I also sing and bake cookies, though I don’t get paid for those things. The former I do well enough to raise eyebrows, and the latter I do well enough to raze your current concept of desserts to a molten, chocolaty heap.

Im so excited, let’s get started!!!!



Is writing a full time job or are you currently working a day job?

This is actually my full-time job now! The success of the audiobooks has made that possible, and I could happily talk for days about how thankful that makes me. But before this little miracle, I used to manage a hotel. It was a decent gig with great coworkers, and when I wasn’t slowly dying from the stress, I didn’t mind being there. Then one day the place was sold to an evil shadow corporation who started talking about cutting jobs and raising rates, and I saw a chance to follow a dream instead. Best stupid decision I’ve ever made.

Is the plan for 10 books? Does that mean you’ve got a rough outline ready for the series? 

10 books…it looks crazy all by itself like that. But yeah, that’s the plan. And there is a rough map for the story, including some important things that need to happen for the series to make sense. But I don’t outline more than that. Some of my favorite writing moments are when the story deviates from the plan, and I just go along to see where it heads. So in that respect, I often feel less like a writer and more like an eyewitness. I’ve never liked tightly plotted books as well as organic ones, so I definitely let my characters off the leash more often than not.  

We are both Pratchett fans, what is your opinion on Vetinari’s style of rule?

This is a heavy question, and I have to be careful not to ramble too long. 10 years ago I would have said that he’s a criminal puppetmaster manipulating his wreck of a city to keep it running at the very outer edges of “functional”, thereby ensuring its dependence on his rule–much to my delight. But that was a simpler time…back when I didn’t have to care how the sausage of government was made. Now? He’s ruthless, sure. And dangerously unchecked. And he takes way too many reckless shortcuts and gambles. But everything he does is to protect or improve Ankh-Morpork, and I would love to have someone like him leading my city. Imagine knowing for a fact that your leader was the smartest person in the room? That he had plans extending beyond his lunch? Plans that he’d actually given some thought to before the moment he shouts them?

So what if he’s also a trained assassin? Small compromises.

How long do you spend each day writing? Is it consistent day by day, or do you go through spirts and lulls?

I might be a weirdo here. Some people can be disciplined to varying degrees, turning the dial up for morning exercise and work, then back down for chill time. But all I have is one of those giant lever on/off switches that mad scientists use, and the wiring behind it is super faulty. So when I do manage to turn my creativity on, I don’t dare turn it off again until I’m done–resulting in periods of weeks or months where I can do nothing else but write. Like…NOTHING. Even playing a video game or reading a short story is enough to short circuit me out of the creative spell. But then when I’m done writing a book, I’m done. Shut off. I don’t write another word for a month or so, and that’s when I recharge and consume all the culture I missed. (Did you know there’s a baby Yoda now? Adorable.)

You wrote yourself a whole lot of characters who have accents from across the globe. How much extra work did that require for the audiobook? Was there a difference between the amount of time it took to produce the first one vs the second one?

The second book did take WAY more prep work, and so did the third. I think that’s just my life now. And it all started with Writer Josh being a bit of a jerk to Narrator Josh.

New characters usually come to me fully formed, complete with personalities and backstories, and their origins rarely have anything to do with the accents I’m actually capable of. But while a smarter person might say that I should just change the accent or eliminate it altogether, Writer Josh has too much “creative integrity” for that. Like a moron. So I give it my best shot and hope people are too entertained to be offended.

But I’m also okay with it, you know? This story is about someone getting his narrow view of the world expanded exponentially. So I feel like it’s kind of appropriate for me to accept this diverse cast for who they are as they stumble into my brain, and not try to force my own limitations onto them. It’s my job to improve and make space for them by coming up with a passable voice.

What’s your favorite word?

Prestidigitation. It’s the first big word I learned when I was a kid, and back then I mostly used it to impress adults. I’ve yet to find another word that sounds so truly magical and mysterious while meaning basically the opposite.

What’s your least favorite word?

I’m not sure I have one. Even words like “phlegm” and “masticate” have their uses, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid them. I don’t want to cheat though, so I’ll say I do get slightly annoyed at cutesy bastardizations of words like “preggers” for “pregnant” or “nugs” for “nuggets”. Everybody stop that.

If you were in the Potter-verse and were given Amortentia, what would it smell like?

That’s a great potion. Smell is such a potent sense, and I think it’s underused in fiction. For me, a love potion would probably smell like baked fruit and vanilla, the pages of an old book, and a hint of woodsmoke carried on an Autumn breeze. At least, that’s the poetic answer. It’s just as likely it would smell like a hot graphics card and Snickers ice cream.

What are your favorite binge-able Netflix/Hulu shows and have you seen What We Do In The Shadows?

I haven’t seen this one yet! Right now I’m rewatching Community, and I’m still amazed at how creative that show was. The first two seasons are some of the best television ever made, and the rest of the series still has plenty of genius moments. I’m also watching The Good Place for the third time, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that show.

What is your favorite cookie? Do you cook/bake other things, or are your culinary skills limited to cookies

My personal favorite is oatmeal raisin…which, I know, makes me a monster. And I happen to be pretty good at making chocolate chip. But I definitely don’t limit myself to just cookies. I also make a mean banana bread, my grandma’s secret best apple pie in the world, and twice a year for my kids’ birthdays, I go all out and make a massive tiered cake with as many custom decorations as I can cram onto it. That’s what happens when you go to culinary school for two years and then decide you don’t want to wake up at 3am to be a baker or work in a restaurant for any amount of money. That tution money has to be good for something. 

5 good Tv shows or movies or books to lift one’s spirits for people having a shitty quarantine.

I mean, Community and The Good Place, because I’m lazy and already had those in mind. Also The Great British Baking Show (Bake Off) because it’s one of the few reality shows where everyone is just…nice. Competitive, but kind. That’s fairytale stuff these days. As for books, I have 1,000 of those to recommend. So in deference to your bandwidth, I’ll just say that if people haven’t been watching the SPFBO contest for new indie Fantasy, they are SERIOUSLY missing out.

Which Star Trek character would be the most fun to be quarantined with?  

This took me way longer to answer than it probably should have, but I had to meticulously separate the actors from the characters in my head before I could find the truth. Picard or Wesley Crusher were my immediate answers, but I don’t think either of them would be as much fun to hang with as Patrick Stewart or Will Wheton themselves would be. So it’s a straight tie between Geordi La Forge and Data. If I could pick both, even better. The only reason those guys don’t spend every waking hour roleplaying their favorite literary characters on the holodeck is because they’re too busy rerouting things to and from warp nacels all the time.

If your novels had soundtracks, what would be on them? Or, vaguely, what genre of music? 

I’ve tried to do this, and it’s hard. Video ads and book trailers often have some kind of rocking soundtrack behind them that makes clicking the “Buy it Now!” button feel like the first step on an epic quest. But my books are so weird. Does anyone remember the opening theme from the show Angel? Something like that, I guess. Strings and rock and a cheesy choir, so you’re never quite sure if it’s really awesome or a ridiculous parody that undercuts the whole genre. That’s my books pretty much exactly.

Video games, I tend to be a healer and play FPS, MMORPG, and puzzle games. Portal, WoW, Skyrim, Mario64, and Kingdom Hearts took up far too much of my life. What are your top 5?

Only five? Torture.

Okay, I guess if I HAVE to choose…

Final Fantasy 7 is probably my favorite game of all time. The original. I haven’t played the remake yet, so we’ll see how sad or happy my inner child is about to be. 

Next, Witcher 3 gets a spot because it’s just incredible all around. Then Fallout: New Vegas. The whole series, really, but New Vegas really captured the essence best. I’d also have to say Planescape: Torment deserves to be on the list. It’s an old D&D game from the 90s that prioritized story over everything, and it’s still better than most games today. And for the last spot I really can’t decide between Dragon Age: Origins and Skyrim. They’re both fantastic, and modding on PC makes them even better. It actually physically hurts me to decide…so I think I might just ramble for a bit longer to give the appearance of careful deliberation before kinda casually fading away as if I had some sort of aneurysm. 




Bonus Questions Unlocked For Trek Fans! 

What do you think of Janeway’s decision about Tuvix?

 Holy cow, you came out swinging with this one! The short answer is that I think Janeway did the right thing, but also that I’m probably wrong for thinking that. 

The long answer is that this is basically the Trolley Problem, and there is no correct way to solve it. It’s more about feeling and perspective than logic, and trying to rationalize one way or another is just an ethical trap designed to make you feel bad and take a good look at the squishy insides of your own psyche. Janeway followed her gut and made it a numbers game to break the stalemate in her own mind, giving preference to two lives over one. And that was a way to go. But in the end, I think the only “wrong” answer is that there’s a right one at all.


What captain would you prefer to serve under? 

Picard. Partly because I grew up with the Next Generation crew, but mostly because the Enterprise D is by far the best option to live on. It has all the coolest technologies and amenities with no worries about power restrictions, and there’s a constantly shifting cast of characters coming through depending on what mission is going on that week. And you can ostensibly head back to Earth whenever you want! There’s no contest. So what if you occasionally get assimilated?


What is your opiniom on Garak, the simple tailor? 

I love characters with layers, and Garak is that. And I recall enjoying how he evolved through the series. DS9 never quite caught me the same way TNG did, but now that you mention it, I should probably do a rewatch of the entire series just to be sure. It’s only fair. And I will absolutely take a tailor/assassin character any stardate!