Disclaimer: I understand that these questions will seem odd or out of place compared to what “could be asked”. I created these questions as they were interesting to me, and could be answered quickly, so I wouldn’t take up too much of the author’s time. As I’m known to say, this is a “no-nothing blog” and I’m a no-nothing writer, so even getting an author to answer a few of my questions is a joy.
About the author: Eric ran away from Seattle to join the circus. And then he came to his senses, and moved to Manhattan. Now he’s a novelist in Los Angeles. Don’t worry, it doesn’t make sense to him either.
1. There’s a common idea, within the reading world of litRPG, that litRPG don’t exactly have a plot structure to follow. Do you believe this is true, and if yes or no, why?
I mean, yes but also no. The quick and dirty explanation is that LitRPG is obviously built off of and around role-playing games. These games have a plot, yes, but the plot is doled out, primarily, through quests and/or short chunks. In the gaming world, this makes a great deal of sense because they’re trying to play off the reward cycle, in which you want the player to complete a quest, feel that reward, and return for another quest. Ideally, I think, you’d want the player to be in the middle of quest B when they complete quest A so there’s no good stopping point. In LitRPG, and I can really only speak to my own workflow here, but I aim to do something similar. I try to layer storylines/plots on top of each other in overlapping arcs. A big arc to tie the series together, smaller arcs to pull books/trilogies together, and smaller ones even to wrap up within individual books or chapters.
And we’re also usually writing longer series, which requires a different concept for a plotline as well. I think it would be easier to compare these long-running series to tv shows instead of other books or movies. Each book is a show, and you’ve got your basic five act tv structure to work from. Opener -> Act 1 -> Act 2 -> Act 3 -> Hook for the next show. So, in that context, I think there is a structure for books.
But, then again, LitRPG is more of a companion genre, because it doesn’t necessarily describe the book as a whole. There almost always needs to be a secondary descriptor. LitRPG fantasy, LitRPG sci-fi. And you can drill it down even further, LitRPG sci-fi space-marine. Each one of those has their own plot structure/series of tropes to follow, so trying to shoe-horn one into LitRPG is problematic at best.
Finally, LitRPG is an emerging genre, which means the ‘rules’ are being established, broken, and reformed on an almost daily basis based on what is popular today. And I think because LitRPG seems to be born out of somewhat rebellious writers and embraced by many who wouldn’t necessarily have called themselves readers prior to stumbling upon LitRPG, those rules are always going to be somewhat fluid and nebulous.
2. What inspired you to create the magic/game system you currently use, and if it’s a specific game, what game is that?
A bit of a peek behind the curtains here, but I needed a magic system that would allow me to abuse it as necessary, but have the appearance of something rigid. So I looked at how a lot of books used their magic, Sanders and Rothfuss in particular, and how some video games did, World of Warcraft, Skyrim/Elder Scrolls. And then I looked at ttprgs, Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Vampire the Masquerade (and all the others of that). And I also read nearly all the LitRPG out at that point. I didn’t really see anything that offered what I needed, so I took a little from all the columns and mushed them together. But I also wanted to create a layered system, where if you just look at it surface level, it appears one way. You learn a spell from a book, and you cast that spell and it works the same way every time, more or less. But if you start dissecting magic and learning exactly how it all functions, you start to see that there’s a fluidity to how it works. That you can alter the spell a little here, a little there. That there’s a certain relationship to weaving in terms of pulling a spell together.
3. You’re well known as one of the funnier litRPG authors. Where does your humor come from and how do you blend it with the brutality found within your series?
I don’t really know where the humor comes from, necessarily, but the blend is just from being in bad situations and the only thing you can do is laugh. I’ve worked a few jobs that were rather shitty, dangerous, or stressful, and humor goes along with brutality surprisingly often. I think you see it with soldiers, cops, nurses, that sort of occupation. I haven’t had any of those jobs, but I’ve had lots of those kinds of friends.
4. If you could clearly state what the difference is between The Good Guys and The Bad Guys in a short paragraph, what would you say?
The Good Guys is about a bad brute trying to be a good guy on his second life. The Bad Guys is about a young man trying to be Robin Hood. Good Guys is a more swords and sorcery classic fantasy romp, while the Bad Guys is more of a sneak and peek sort of a thing. Almost a thriller, but not quite.
5. What kind of writing schedule do you place yourself on, and how does it affect your personal life?
It changes a bit as life changes, but lately, I start writing somewhere around 9am-10am. I write until 2 or 2:30 in twenty minute sprints with ten minute breaks. After writing, I switch and I do thinking, planning, researching until about 5. Then I hang out with fam and whatnot. After the kiddo goes to bed, I’m usually watching a show or reading a book to refill that creative reservoir.
6. Why be a writer at all? It’s arguable that self-published authors are within the “starving artist” realm, so why go for it?
It’s my most marketable skill, really. I’ve had a bunch of terrible jobs over my life, and this is the only one where I’ve been excited to get up and do it every day. Plus, I used to do it for free around work, so might as well get paid for it and then have that free time for other things.
7. Eat,Slay,Love is due to be released in February of next year, can you give us a hint, and is this the end of the Montana storyline?
It is not the end of the Montana storyline. I’m not exactly sure where the end is, but there’s quite a bit left to be resolved. It just looks like the end because of the preorder and how Amazon places things. As far as a hint, there’s probably going to be a lot of fighting…
8. I’m going to ask one final question, which is just burning within my brain. How the hell did you come up with Dwarfchair?
I used to have to split wood for my uncle every summer. The axe head always get stuck at some point, and I used to just pick up the axe with the round still on the end and slam that down. I figured if Montana got the sword stuck in the middle of a fight, it would be faster to grab the chair, and then the rest is just history. Perfect joyous history. 😉
A large thank you to Mr. Ugland for agreeing to answer these questions. It is always a joy when a writer takes time out of their day to respond and answer questions from their fans, and a fan I am. If you haven’t read his excellent series, both are quirky, fun, and arguably the funniest series within the fantasy genre. You can look below for the first two books of each series and a link to Mr. Uglands goodreads page, and most if not all of his books are on kindle unlimited. Thank you for visiting my website.
Link to goodreads page: Link
I'm a high school English teacher in Texas. I also hold degrees in radiography and radio and television broadcasting. Though I obtained certain knowledge and skills from my prior degrees, I do not currently use them.