Erik Therme is a true blue-collar writer. With little traditional support, Therme has built a writing career through hard work and networking. His first book, Mortom, was self-published and then acquired by a traditional publisher. Since then, Therme has continued to write and grow his fan base. Wanting to learn more about his career, Therme was kind enough to let me interview him about his growth as an author, his thoughts on this career, and his current book, Resthaven.
Nicholas Yanes: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Thinking back to your youth, was there a book that deeply influenced you to become an author?
Erik Therme: In junior high I discovered the book Misery (Stephen King), which inspired me to start writing my own stories. They weren’t very good, but I kept at it, worked hard to hone my skills, and eventually developed my own writing style.
Yanes: There are thousands of people majoring in creative writing and getting MFAs because they want to become writers. What do you think about getting a formal education to become a fiction writer?
Therme: The beauty of writing is that it can be done by anyone. I’ve read terrible novels written by college graduates and brilliant novels written by high school dropouts. The important thing is not to be intimidated into thinking you need to take formal writing classes. For some people the act of writing comes naturally, for others it’s endless hard work. A good writer knows that you can always learn something new, whether it be from connecting with other authors, reading voraciously, or taking writing classes.
Yanes: In your bio you mention that you live in Iowa City, one of only seven places in the world that UNESCO has certified as a City of Literature. How has this environment affected you as a writer?
Therme: The community here is extremely proud and supportive of authors, and there’s a never-ending supply of author fairs and book readings. A recent addition to our town is the Iowa Writers’ House—a literary nonprofit founded and directed by Andrea Wilson—that continues to bring exciting opportunities for authors and readers alike.
Yanes: Your first book, Mortom, was self-published and then acquired by Thomas & Mercer. Could you talk about what it takes for a self-published book to get acquired? On this note, do you think this avenue to publishing is becoming more common?
Therme: I chased literary agents for years in the hopes of bridging the gap to a traditional publisher. After a very close call with Gillian Flynn’s agency, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and self-publish. I knew I was going to have to aggressively market the book (and myself) to be successful, and I did everything from hanging flyers around town to contacting libraries to help spread the word.
Six months later I received a goodreads message from an editor who wanted to acquire Mortom for Thomas & Mercer. Would they have discovered my book if I hadn’t worked so tirelessly to promote it? Probably not. As with many things in life, it was undoubtedly a combination of luck and hard work. I do believe that many traditional publishers are now scouring the self-publishing battlefield for diamonds in the rough. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
Yanes: Your latest book is Resthaven. What was the inspiration for this story?
Therme: Resthaven centers around a pack of kids who decides to have a scavenger hunt inside an abandoned retirement home, only to discover they’re not the only ones roaming the hallways. I wanted to write something my teenage daughters would enjoy, and I’ve always been intrigued by old, creepy buildings.
Yanes: When people finish reading Resthaven, what do you hope they take away from the story?
Therme: Simply that: a good story. My job is to entertain. I love to evoke emotion in people. I don’t care if you laugh, cry, or throw my book across the room—as long as you feel something, I’ll consider the book a success.
Yanes: For Resthaven, you are turning to Kindle Scout. In your opinion, what are the benefits of authors turning to Kindle Scout?
Therme: Kindle Scout is an interesting mix of indie and traditional publishing. The author uploads an original cover along with an edited manuscript, and readers vote on whether or not the book ‘deserves’ a publishing contract. The final decision is made by the Kindle Scout team, and if the book is selected, they acquire the digital and audio rights. One of the greatest benefits of Scout is that the program is ongoing and anyone with an Amazon account can participate.
Yanes: What are your long term goals for Resthaven?
Therme: I have the luxury of a day job, which alleviates the pressure of trying to support myself solely through writing. One of the biggest challenges of being a new author is developing a fan base, and my hope is that Resthaven will bring my work to the attention of new, younger readers.
Yanes: Finally, what are some other projects you are working on that people can look forward to?
Therme: I’m putting the finishing touches on a short novel entitled Roam, and I’ve begun work on an untitled novel—very similar to Mortom in style and substance—which I hope to release through Thomas & Mercer next year. Readers can learn more about these upcoming projects at www.eriktherme.com.