#NanoInterview: Thom Erb returns

DD: Thanks for plugging back in, Thom! Tell us about your latest release, THE LAST IN LINE.

TE: Howdy! Thank you! It's great to be back. 
The Last in Line is a book, ten years in the making. (Writing-wise) Thirty-years, Ideas and inspiration wise. You can think of it as Stranger Things meets Night of the Living Dead, meets Dungeons & Dragons, all set to a kick-ass 80's music soundtrack.
As with most of my zombie stories, it has far more to do with the living, breathing folks, than the moaning undead. It's 1985 and a group of terrorists have detonated a series of deadly dirty bombs all across the world, spreading a virus that kills nearly instantly, then causes the dead to rise and feed on the living.
These aren't your grandfather's zoms, no way in hell. Well, Hell, is actually quite accurate. These undead have red glowing eyes and cry black tears as they mournfully devour their loved ones.
A dark, shadow cult has risen to exact their revenge and one a group of blood-sworn guardians, calling themselves the Keeper's of the Eternal Flame can prevent the cultists from opening a hell-gate that would set their vile master free on this plane.
Among all of that is our group of unwitting, and wanting heroes. Warren, a chubby, comic-nerd just wants to graduate and draw for marvel and his yellow lab, Maico. Dex, Arnie, Jack, high school friends. A tough, inner-city girl. Throw in a gruff wheel-chair-bound Vietnam vet turned rock DJ and a strange, diminutive British guy spouting off about ancient prophecies, demons and casting spells.
It has all the elements of an 80's horror-flick, if it were directed by hybrid of directors, Stephen Spielberg, George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino.  It's really a love letter to my childhood and teenage years. I had a great time writing this book and book two, Heaven & Hell is nearly finished, as well as the outline for book three, To Hell with the Devil. It certainly gets wild as the story rolls on. I do hope the folks check it out.

DD: What does your writing space look like?

TE: I have the third bay of our garage converted into a studio for all of my creative shenanigans. Inside, I have my drums, a PA system (which I use to crank my writing soundtracks, see the question below.) A drawing table (with a Wacom tablet) and art easel for my visual pursuits. And even an area for my friends and I to play Dungeons & Dragons.
My actual writing space if a large corner desk with two monitors, printer and wireless gear for all my creative fun. I have tons of zombie toys, Funko-Pop Stranger Things figures and Buddha statues and incense burners and candles to keep me inspired, along with some printed out quotes from my writing heroes/mentors to keep me focused. (Maberry, King, Keene, Lansdale, more.) I even have some Dallas Cowboy paraphernalia just in hopes to raise some positive mojo. (it never helps.)
On the walls I have posters of some of my book covers for when I am feeling like I completely suck and having a hard time keeping my big bum in chair.
I try to surround myself with things that put me in a “happy place”. A spot where I don't worry about the bills, yard work, politics, how bad my Cowboys are losing. You know... the real world crap.
I truly believe, every person needs their own “space”. Especially creative souls. It took me twenty years or so to finally get mine, but lord, almighty does it kick moby butt.

DD:. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what's the music of THE LAST IN LINE?

TE: Oh, hell yes. Music is the very-life-blood of my existence. I was a musician before I was a full-time writer and it was inevitable for the music to find its way into that aspect of my creativity.
Every book, or short story, for that matter has a soundtrack. The Last in Line was no different. It was all 1980's hard rock and heavy metal. (with a little pop stuff thrown in for fairness to my childhood.) Mostly, DIO, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, Scorpions, WASP, Stryper, Whitesnake, Metallica, King Diamond, Queensryche, AC/DC, KIX, Accept, Krokus, Black 'N Blue,  Rainbow, Dokken, Van Halen, Y&T, Triumph, RUSH, Foreigner, and so many more.
Well, truth be told, there were some 80's tunes of a lesser “heavy” vibe. Such as Men Without Hats, Bon Jovi, Duran Duran, Genesis, Culture Club, Bruce Springsteen, Dexy's Midnight Runners, The Tubes,  The Hooters, and so much more lame 80's tunes. (I kid. I dug those songs too. Don't hunt me down and take away my devil horns.)

DD: You did the cover for this novel yourself. What's your process from conception to completion?

TE: Well, in truth, I did the initial sketch and layout of what I wanted for the cover, but I hired a tremendously talented horror artist, Jim Kavanuagh to actually illustrate the cover. It was his unique style and brilliant color choice that I thought captured the essence of an 80's movie poster/rock album cover.
We worked closely together and made changes and tweaks as Jim went along.
I'll speak to my aspect of the creation.
Since the story was an 80's retro tale, I wanted to go with an action movie poster vibe, mixed with the same excited, over-the-top elements from some of my favorite rock/metal album covers.  Ya' know, all our heroes are surrounded by the bad guys/monsters and all hope seems lost. Yet there's an element of something amazing about to happen. It just seemed spot-on to me.
So, I did some sketches, send them off to Jim, with a few photo references and he send me back his ideas and we hashed it out from there. It came together rather quickly.
And before we knew it, we had us a kick ass, 80's cover.
As a side note, Jim also illustrated the back cover, but sadly, with all the text, blurbs and such, much of it is lost. I do plan on making the images available to my Citizens of the Erbal Nation group, so if anyone is interested in checking out those groovy pics, they can click here and join me.
You can also check out Jim's great artwork right here.

DD: Can you tease what readers can expect as the Eternal Flame Trilogy continues to unfold?

TE: I don't want to give too much away, but we find our reluctant heroes in a pretty dark place at the end of the LIL. But, the story takes a sharp turn and will be turned up a notch.  Fraught with a whole new realm of dangers and bad guys.  A new world(s) embedded with magic, hideous abyssal creatures with a mix of various mythologies, overwhelming love and gut-wrenching hate. Old characters will return. While a slew of new, fun personalities show up and take the story in a whole other direction.
By the end of book three, the stakes will have changed, risen and been violently burned to cinders. All of the tangled story/character lines will have been untied and the hectic gauntlet set forth in book one will end in an explosive and powerful crescendo.
All the over-the-top hyperbole aside,  man, I've worked hard to make these books match my vivid dream I've had since 1986.  I can only hope that the reader enjoys the roller-coaster ride and joins me for a few hours.
I do promise that it will be a thrill ride that I hope captures what it was like being a seventeen-year-old kid in 1985. That is, if it were in a zombie apocalypse, rife with demonic cults and drunken magic-user and dark assassins trying to kill you.
That's not too much to ask of their suspension of disbelief, is it?
Hey, the Erbman had to ask.
Come on and join the adventure. Let's do this!

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