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An Interview with Eric Taveren

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Eric Taveren writes and lives in Minneapolis. He is in the tail end of his MFA program at Hamline University and his work appears in Great Weather for Media, F(r)iction’s Dually Noted, and Avalon Literary Review, among others. One of the small percentage of people with aphantasia, he writes to create the worlds he cannot see.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

The premise of the book stems from a line from a song in The Greatest Showman, or at least how I think that line should have been written. The line goes “There’s a house we can build, every room inside is filled, with things from far away.” I want the line to be “There’s a house we can build, every room inside is filled, with dreams from far away.”

From a metaphorical sense, that’s an easy idea to work with. Fun, but nothing novel. But what about from a literal sense? What would it mean to have actual dreams stored in a physical house? How could that work? Why does that work? And what’s the point?

At first, I thought this was going to be a novella, but ninety thousand words later, it’s now a novel.

Tell us the story of your book’s current title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The term Dreamfall initially came as a placeholder. Humans have a tendency to title phenomena, and given what happens to the world in my story, the phenomenon definitely warranted a specific in-world term. Dreamfall made sense, and the more I used it the more it grew on me. It’s vague enough to not give anything away (excepting the fact that dreams are involved), weird enough to draw the eye, and accessible enough for people to break apart the compound word and want to puzzle out what it could possibly mean. I normally hate making titles. It’s one of the hardest parts of writing stories. But this time it worked out.

Describe your dream book cover.

That’s tough. I’ve got something called aphantasia, which basically means I don’t have a mind’s eye. I can’t picture anything: a house, a loved one, even a circle. Just blank, empty space. I’ve got it particularly bad and can’t recall any sensory details, so coming up with an ideal cover is tricky.

Covers I’ve been drawn to recently have been those of Atlas Six and The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, and with the idea of an interconnected universe of dreams, I think a merging of those cover styles could be fun and inviting.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

In no particular order:

“My Immortal” – Evanescence

“Immigrant Song” – Led Zepplin

“One Winged Angel” – Nobuo Uematsu

“Moonlight Sonata” – Beethoven

“My Own Worst Enemy” – Lit

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” – John Denver

“Bad Reputation” – Joan Jett

“Orinoco Flow” – Enya

What books are you reading (for research or comfort) as you continue the writing process?

Olivie Blake’s Atlas Trilogy has been fantastic through this process. I’ve described them as the philosophy of magic, with some metaphysics and quantum mechanics tossed in for fun. That plays A LOT with what my characters go through and learn throughout their journey. Also, N.K. Jemisin’s The Great Cities series. The impact of different cultures on a place is super interesting, and I have a similar function for establishing place (read: dreams). Reading through those books has given me so many fun ideas. Comfort reads have been all over the place (I read 54 books last year). I’ve always been a firm believer that good writers are good readers.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

Let’s see, I started out in high school at Dairy Queen, did a stint after college in Worker’s Comp, then almost a decade and a half in mortgage banking. Most of that was keeping people in their homes after the crash in the 2008. For the last couple years, while I’ve been doing my MFA, I’ve been a middle school and high school substitute teacher. You would not believe the stories I have. Without details (which might make it funnier), I call one of them White Board Poop Marker Sword-fighting. Yeah. Ridiculous.

Something about me you wouldn’t know… I’ll use one of my two truths and a lie staples. Hopefully I never have to play with you in the future as you’ll be down to a 50/50 guess. When I was younger, I spoke with members of British Parliament about the rise of communist China.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember. The first non-family member I recall saying I could professionally write was my fifth grade teacher. We’d just moved and I was at a new school and he’d, jokingly, told the class that the two page narrative was now ten pages. As it was my first day I hadn’t figured out his humor yet. So I came back with a ten page story about collecting metal for the war effort during World War Two. They ended up talking about it over the announcements. Both a good (with the teachers) and bad (with the students) way to start at a new school. But I went on to be the yearbook and newspaper editor my junior and senior years in high school, wrote (most of) a novel for my senior project, then majored in English and Theatre Arts in college. Definitely on the path.

As far as influences, I started reading Stephen King in fourth grade (in hindsight, IT might not have been the best intro to King), and Terry Brooks shortly after. I love fantasy and sci-fi, with mystery close behind. Michael Crichton was a regular, along with Bradbury, Zelazney, and Piers Anthony. College introduced me to David Mitchell and Walter Mosley, and I can’t omit, more on the basis of pleasure than quality, the Star Wars novels (pre-Disney). I write in a lot of different genres because I read a lot of different genres.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I’m not lucky enough to have a favorite place to write. Yet. Most of my writing now is during prep periods at school, which isn’t ideal. There are six, soon to be seven, people in my house, along with two big dogs. I write when I can, where I can.

If I had to conjure up some idyllic location, I’d probably pick a lakeshore with mountains in the distance. I grew up near Mt. Rainier so that is a peaceful, nostalgic place. I’ve never written at a place like that, but as I think about it, it feels right. And by lake, I mean a small, peaceful lake. One canoe, two at most. God save the duck that breaks the serenity.

Do you have any writing rituals?

The closest thing to a ritual I have is to make sure I have a sugary drink. Normally that means Mtn. Dew, but I’ll settle for hot chocolate in the winter. I always write on the computer, which makes my desire to buy every cool notebook I see seem super silly. But I hate the idea of re-writing everything I’d already written. Also, I can type soooo much faster than I can write. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I’m in the middle of edits on it, but if it all shakes out like it should, the main thing I was readers to take away from the story is the importance of letting go. People carry around a lot of baggage, most of which isn’t worth the effort. Elsa got it right: Let it go.

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