In the late 1980s, Erik Arneson ran a play-by-mail professional wrestling simulation called the Global Wrestling Federation. It was small, but players joined from about half a dozen different states, and it generated enough income to buy an Apple IIc clone (the Laser 128), which he used throughout college.
These days, Erik is celebrating the release of The Throes of Crime, which is a collection of 26 short stories, as well as six true-crime essays.
Erik offered a glimpse into the inner workings of his mind with his Q&A for Spinetingler.
What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?
Other than books like the Bobbsey Twins, Encyclopedia Brown, and the Hardy Boys, the first book I remember reading is The Count of Monte Cristo. The themes of wrongful conviction, escape, and revenge hooked me, as did the sheer adventure of the book. I was fully immersed in the novel, and I hope someday to write something that has the same impact on a reader.
The first short story I remember reading was “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. I haven’t re-read it in many years, but what I recall is her ability to generate terror and horror with simple, direct language. “The Lottery” was my introduction to the real power of words.
Did you try your hand at poetry as a teenager or use stick figures to illustrate your comic books? Tell us about your early writing efforts.
The first story I wrote was in first or second grade — it must have been something like 100 words long in total! (Maybe it would have even fit into a single tweet, who knows?) It was about King Kong, and I have a vague recollection that the action all took place on Skull Island. Sadly, that masterpiece has been lost to time.
Do you relate more to Sherlock Holmes or Professor Moriarty? Why?
Holmes. The job of running a vast criminal enterprise is far beyond my abilities. Being a fairly solitary writer — as Holmes was a fairly solitary detective — is more my speed.
Practice pitching: tell us what your book is about in 30 words or less.
The 26 short stories in The Throes of Crime feature calculating hitmen, corrupt politicians, and a sword-wielding orangutan. All proceeds benefit a scholarship fund for high school seniors in Wilmot, South Dakota.
What’s the best thing about writing?
Finishing. The first draft can be fun when I let it develop without getting too judgmental too early. Rewrites are tough, although working with my wife as my editor makes that process much more enjoyable than it would be otherwise. But nothing comes close to the feeling of knowing that a story is 100 percent finished.
You have to flee the country. Where are you headed to and why that location?
Among places I’ve been, it would have to be Christchurch, New Zealand. My wife and I visited once and absolutely loved it. As I recall, there are plenty of places to hide out in the nearby countryside. I would, however, be very tempted to flee to Norway, the land of my father’s ancestors. I’ve never been there and look forward to visiting.
Erik Arneson lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and editor, Elizabeth. His first book, The Throes of Crime, is a collection of short stories. He hosts the Title 18:Word Crimes podcast. His comic book Fortune is available from Comixology, Indy Planet, and NoiseTrade. Watch for his novel Dragonfly. Find him at ErikArneson.com
Erik Arneson with Jessica Zempel of Wilmot, South Dakota, the first recipient of the James & Jeanne Arneson Memorial Scholarship. Jessica’s story, “Love, Lust, and Death,” was chosen as the 2016 winner by novelist Jon McGoran.
We started the scholarship to continue my parents’ legacy of encouragement. It’s awarded each year to a high school senior in Wilmot who displays an aptitude for creative writing by authoring a short story. (Why Wilmot? It’s one of the first places my Norwegian ancestors settled in America.) All proceeds from The Throes of Crime go to the scholarship fund, which is managed by the South Dakota Community Foundation.