Hello. Let me introduce myself. My name is Eric and I grew up on a ranch in the Arizona desert. Now you may be thinking I’m talking about the kind of ranch that’s a big, fancy spread with the wrought iron gates and manicured lawns, but I’m not. Despite the grazing cattle you often see on those places, they aren’t real ranches. They’re tax write offs for rich folks or some such thing.
Or you might be thinking of the kind of ranch where someone buys five or six acres of land, builds a house, maybe a small barn, and proudly puts up a sign at the end of the driveway proclaiming it to be Howling Coyote Ranch or Mountain Views Ranch.
But you’d be wrong. No, I’m talking about the kind of place where the cattle are skinny and mean (on account of too much cactus and not enough grass), the buildings are all rickety and termite-eaten, and the vehicles, being largely held together by baling wire and hope, only function when they feel like it. (Which ain’t often, let me tell you.)
I learned to ride about the time I learned to walk and by the time I was five or six I was helping on the roundups, riding a bitter, old, sway-backed mare that just might have been the meanest horse to ever live. She sure liked biting me and if I wasn’t paying close attention she’d stand on my foot for a while just for kicks.
The cattle part was not the whole ranch, though. I spent a lot more of my childhood with a shovel in my hand than I ever did on a horse. That’s because most of the time the cows are out there in some pasture, trying their best to find something to eat, and our job was mainly to make sure they had water and the fence hadn’t fallen down somewhere. I spent a lot of time fixing fences, since ours were ancient and in the same general state of disrepair as the rest of the place. Fixing corrals too, after some bull got tired of being choused around and decided to level a section as he made his escape.
The work never ended. We kids worked after school every day. We worked weekends. We worked summer breaks. It didn’t matter how much we worked, because there was always more. Most of the time it didn’t feel like what we were doing was making any actual difference. Truly a Sisyphean task.
We were a half hour from town and we had no phone. There was only electricity for a few hours in the evening and then only when we hand cranked the generator to life. We had two channels on the TV and half the time you couldn’t tell what was on. Every show looked like the characters were lost in a snowstorm.
Reading was my escape. I read whenever and wherever I could. I read anything and everything. From Westerns to mysteries, fairy tales to Hardy Boys. Even romance novels, if I was desperate enough.
Somehow all this lead to me taking a Creative Writing class in college and from the first story I wrote, I’ve been hooked. I graduated with my degree in 1989 from the University of Arizona and I’ve been writing novels ever since. The first half dozen really weren’t all that good, to be perfectly honest. But I kept scratching away and my newest five books, well, I’m pretty darned proud of them. There’s things happening in there that even I’m not aware of. I guess it comes from doing something long enough. After a while something deeper takes over, some kind of instinct. It’s not really something I plan; it just happens.
My favorite thing is when my characters just kind of take over the story, when they say “Get out of the way, Eric. We’ve got someplace to be.” When that happens I just try and keep up. I also love it when a minor character refuses to stay in the background, when she or he has a story that’s so compelling I just have to stop and listen to it.
Currently I’m working on the fifth—and hopefully final—book in my fantasy series, The Devastation Wars. This series was originally a trilogy, completed in 1999 or so. I had an agent for a while but it never went anywhere and one day I started looking at it and I realized the books started too late in the story. There was at least a 100 pages of interesting stuff I’d just skipped over.
So I went back to work on it. It took years but I finally got all that earlier stuff written down. It turned out to be a lot more than 100 pages. It actually turned out to be two full books, 700 pages or so. Not only that, but by then the characters and the story had evolved so much that the original trilogy no longer fit. It’s a completely different story now, though with many of the same characters. Kind of an alternate-timeline sort of thing, you know?
If you’re interested in reading it, I want to warn you of a few things. I love fantasy. I’ve read loads of it. But I feel like there’s elements of fantasy that I’ve seen way too often. For instance, the Dark Lord who is evil simply for the sake of being evil. I won’t have it in my books. You are hereby warned. Melekath (my Dark Lord) is not who you think he is. His “crime” is not what you think it is.
Another warning: I’m tired of stories where the “happy” ending is achieved by finally killing off all the bad guys. They seem to me to be offshoots of the larger cultural/societal myth that all our problems could just be solved if we just kill enough bad guys. The ending I am working toward is a lot more challenging than that.
In January I finished my latest book, Watching the End of the World, which is an action/adventure/suspense tale. It’s about a group of people chosen to be on a reality TV show. While flying to the location in Africa they learn that a major terrorist attack has shut down all the airports and the plane is forced to crash land on an airfield in the jungle. At the airfield is a warehouse that looks like the answer to their prayers: food, water, living quarters, even solar power and a satellite TV. But they also find drugs and weapons in the warehouse and when armed men begin attacking them they realize the place belongs to a drug lord. Meanwhile, the TV brings increasingly bad news: millions dying in the cities, countries under martial law, rioting. Civilization is collapsing and no one is coming to get them.
I’m also doing quite a bit of blogging, including stories about my childhood on the ranch, which will probably turn into my next book. Besides ranch stories, you can also find book excerpts, short stories, and now and then some deeper stuff drawn from my other career as a social worker.
I love to connect with people so stop by and drop me a line. I pretty much like to talk about everything!
Eric T Knight