Friday, November 11, 2011

Razored Zen Interview: Travis Erwin

I think it’s time to run another author interview. My guest today is Travis Erwin, who has his first book out. It’s called The Feedstore Chronicles. I have my copy but have not read this one yet. I have read his short collection for the Kindle, called Whispers and loved it very much. I’m looking forward to his newest. Without further ado, here’s Travis. (RZ represents Razored Zen and I’m sure you can figure out what TE stands for.)

RZ: Tell us a little about yourself outside of writing. Home town. Family. Job. That sort of thing.

TE: Born and raised in Amarillo, Texas, I’ve never strayed too far from the crib. By day I work for the US Postal Service making certain the machines that sort the mail keep chugging along. Being that it’s nearly Christmas card season let me say glitter is an evil thing. When you mail a glittery card half of the sparkles end up in the bottom of postal machines . Meaning when I open them up to make a repair, I come away looking like a craft store junkie or an overzealous Twilight fan.

RZ: What made you want to write? Is it a desire that’s always been with you? Or was there some particular event or book that ignited the fire?

TE: Reading. I’ve always been an avid reader and for as long as I can remember I’ve had the thought: Hey I could make up characters and stories. But for years I saw publishing as an unobtainable goal for a country boy from Amarillo, Texas. Then I met a local writer, Jodi Thomas, who writes historical romance and mainstream. Seeing the success she’s had gave me the confidence to actively write with publication in mind. Still, it took better than a decade for me to find a publisher for my first book length project.

RZ: Writers always get asked about their influences. Consider this that question.

TE: There are the folks I know. My mentors. Writers like the aforementioned Jodi Thomas and Jennifer Archer and Debbie Upton that have patiently read, critiqued, and offered advice every step of the way. Then there are the authors I love to read and whose style influences me because when I grow up I hope to be just like them. I love Richard Russo for the way he builds communities of characters so real that I begin to think I used to live in the town where it was set. Christopher Moore and Carl Hiasson both taught me nothing is too absurd for the sake of humor, and David Sedaris made me realize poking fun of yourself is sometimes the only answer.
RZ: Travis, The Feedstore Chronicles is based upon your real life experiences working at a feed store in Texas. Can you tell us a bit about that?

TE: I’m not sure if you mean a bit about working at that feedstore or a bit about writing based on real life, so I’ll tackle both. Working at the feedstore for a man who is still the most morally bankrupt I’ve ever met was, in one word, an adventure. My boss would say or do anything and I was an eager but naive teenage boy in the throes of puberty. After my four year stint I felt a bit like a natural disaster survivor—lucky to be breathing. But these days I look back with nostalgic fondness on those years. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

As far as writing about that time. It was harder than I imagined. For one thing, I didn’t want to vilify the character based on my boss. He was a likeable guy and even though I haven’t seen or spoken to him in years I still consider him a friend. Some of the events, when taken out of context, would paint an ugly picture. So it took some manipulation to turn my experiences into a story that followed the arc I created, as well as retaining a strong element of humor. There were some experiences I wanted to include but I’m not entirely certain the statute of limitation is up so I left them out. Last thing I wanted was my book used as criminal evidence. I’m only half joking.

RZ: Writing can be hard work. What motivates you to keep going? What inspires you?

TE: I’m never satisfied. I suppose that is what keeps me going. I sold my first short story about 2 months into writing. I sold three or four more in the year that followed and then, for about 5 years there, I amassed nothing but rejections. That was hard and I did get discouraged, but back in the day I refereed high school football here in Texas and trust me when I say nothing an agent or editor says to me will ever compare to the criticism I heard back on those Friday nights. My wife and boys inspire me. They believe I can do the impossible so I keep battling along trying to prove them right.

RZ: What are you working on currently? And what’s next for you?

TE: Outside of promoting The Feedstore Chronicles I am working on another humorous food based book, titled Lettuce Is The Devil: The Culinary Dogma of a Devout Meat Man. It’s a tongue in cheek mixture of memoir, comedic essay, and cook book. I also have a trio of novels in various stages. A comedic women’s fiction project about a woman whose life is being ruined by sex, a serious work of literary fiction about a man trying to redeem himself before cancer claims his life, and an erotic western titled Saddle Up and Ride. Actually that last one is bullshit. The one thing I can’t seem to write is a steamy sex scene.

RZ: Besides The Feedstore Chronicles, what other work is available from you right now, and where can readers find it? Is there a place online, such as a blog, where folks could go to learn more about you and your work?

TE: I self-published a small, novella length collection of three stories called Whispers. The stories contained in it are much heavier emotionally than most of my writing, but I felt compelled to share them with the world. Whispers is available for 99 cents on both the Nook and Kindle. I also have a short story titled “Plundered Booty” in the e-anthology Deadly by the Dozen. “Plundered Booty” is perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had writing a story and I’m glad it found a home alongside 11 other great authors.
Travis, thanks for visiting Razored Zen.

Charles, thanks for having me. Yours has always been one of my favorite blogs and I can’t wait for the day when I get to meet you in person. Hopefully over a juicy steak and a cold beer.


Cloudia said...

Two, Two, Two bloggers in one! (post)

Nice to see Travis make his dream a reality!
Aloha from Honolulu

Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >


Deka Black said...


JR's Thumbprints said...

Now I'm thinking Travis needs to write a story about a craft store junkie / postal worker. Nice interview.

laughingwolf said...

well done, podners... were i closer, would love to join you both for a rare one off the grill, and a few ice colds! :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Never realized working in a feed store was such an adventure! Sorry about the glitter letters. I promise they don't come from my household.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, I know, I was very pleased to see it after the wonderfulness of Whispers.

Deka, Indeed!

Mark, yes!

JR., that sounds kind of scary.

Laughingwolf, Maybe Travis will take a book tour through Canada and invite me along. :)

Alex, lol

Ty said...

Nice interview. Always good to see writers working on their dream.

And I promise to tell the wife not to put glitter in any of our Christmas cards this year. Oh, wait, she's Jewish. How does the post office feel about baklava?

Charles Gramlich said...

Ty, lol.

BernardL said...

Congratulations, Travis! I hope it leads to many sales.

Travis Erwin said...

HI Cloudia thanks for coming by.

Deka- right back atcha.

Walking man - That's it.

Travis Erwin said...

JR - I have plenty of postal stories that will no doubt someday hit the page.

laughingwolf - That sounds great

Alex- It was an adventure every day and thanks for going sans glitter.

Travis Erwin said...

Ty- It's quite tasty.

Bernard - Thanks, how have you been?

Beth said...

Great interview!

Golden Eagle said...

Great interview.

And since you mentioned him--I love books by Carl Hiaasen. He's hilarious.

Old Kitty said...

I look forward to Saddle Up and Ride. Truly. Steamy sex scenes a-plenty! Oh yeah! Go Travis! :-)

Take care

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernardl, I'm looking forward to reading it.

Travis, I've never had baclava but I'd give it a try.

Beth, thanks for dropping by.

Golden Eagle, glad you came to visit.

Old Kitty, yeah, I'll put that one on my wish list. :)

Ron Scheer said...

Excellent interview. Travis is one of those guys you want to start a fan club for. Thanks.

sage said...

Good interview-I haven't read him, but his work sounds interesting. 99 cent and I can get him on my Nook--good idea (I just got a Nook, actually my wife upgraded and I got her old one)

eric1313 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eric1313 said...

I have seen Travis around the blogoverse from time to time, but this interview was a nice way to get a deeper understanding of his work--and by extension, the man himself.

I like your interviews, Charles. You a nice and diverse selection for certain.

jodi said...

Charles, 'Lettuce is the Devil'? OMG, that is so funny, and I have been saying it for years!!

Charles Gramlich said...

Ron, it's the humor thing. He makes you laugh. :)

Sage, I have the Nook app on my computer but mostly use my Kindle.

Eric1313, glad you are enjoying the interviews. I've been having fun doing them.

Jodi, I know. He has a facebook page about Lettuce is the devil, I believe.

Triplezmom said...

Great interview!

Oscar Case said...

My neighbor hates lettuce, but the book sounds like fun, along with the Feedstore Chronicles. Fine interview!

Charles Gramlich said...

tripleZmom, thanks, and thanks for dropping by.

Oscar, his lettuce is the devil posts are pretty hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Great interview and a good introduction to Travis's work. Thank you.

laughingwolf said...

welcome any time, youse guys! :D

Charles Gramlich said...

Richard, thanks for visiting, man.

Laughingwolf, t'would be fun.

Jessica Ferguson said...

Good interview.
I won't be sending any more glittery Christmas cards. :)

EA said...

Nice interview, Charles. Thank you.
Elaine Ash

Charles Gramlich said...

Jess, I won't either.

Elaine, I appreciate that. I enjoyed your interview as well.

Chris said...

Another excellent interview. Great to see so many folks out there defending the faith.

Tyhitia Green said...

Congratulations, Travis. Good to see blogger friends doing well. Now I want to read your book too! ;-)

Steve Malley said...

Okay, sold! :)

Soon as I replace my Kindle (yes, again- and yes, that's four this year), I'll be picking this bad boy up. I can't wait!

Charles Gramlich said...

Chris, indeed it is!

Tyhitia, I'm looking forward to Christmas break, which is when I'm likely to have time to read it.

Steve Malley, dude, you're pretty hard on your kindles I'd say.

Travis Erwin said...

Sorry for not getting back over here quicker, but wanted to say thanks again to Charles and all of you who read and took time to comment or hopped over to Amazon and purchased the book.

This promo stuff is far to hectic for my liking.

Charles Gramlich said...

Travis, and it never really gets easier. I know you had your signing party on the same day so I imagine you were reallllly busy.