Loren Walker has written stories since she was a little girl. In this interview, her passion for fantasy and science-fiction shines through while she talks about the first book on her debut series, EKO.
- Let’s start with the basics. Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Southern Ontario, Canada, with an equal love of writing stories and creating art. When I was 20, I dropped out of university and moved to Boston, Massachusetts on a whim; eventually, I wound up in Rhode Island, where I earned a Master of Arts in Poetry, wrote, drew and self-published comics, and built a career as a freelance writer.
- When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve written stories since I was a little girl: fairies and space battles and superheroes, very fantastical. But when I went back to university in Rhode Island and started creative writing classes, genre fiction wasn’t considered to be “real writing,” and was deeply discouraged. I was young, and impressionable; I felt ashamed of my love of SSF, and didn’t write anything but poetry for many years. I’m happy to say, though, that I’ve since realized that I adore fantasy and science-fiction, I love to write it, and it’s not “lesser” to me or millions of others out there.
- And when did you decide you’d be self-publishing?
With Eko, I went through the traditional publishing process of query letters to literary agents; I accumulated over 100 rejections from agents over two years. In a way, I think it was a good experience, because it toughened me up to criticism; my reaction to Rejection #1 vs Rejection #100 was miles apart. But at the end of it, I still loved Eko and my characters; I was still proud of what I’d done, and I wanted to share it. And the more I looked into self-publishing, the more feasible it seemed. So I dove in.
- Can you tell us a bit about your project Octopus & Elephant?
I created my own company, Octopus & Elephant Books, to publish Eko and its sequels, and in time, I’m hoping to publish other authors. I went this route because I wanted a professional name to my publications, and I’ve always had a secret dream to be a publisher. The name Octopus & Elephant was originally a joke between me and my best friend; she liked octopuses, I liked elephants, and we were going to design weird T-shirts. That idea never went anywhere, so I took the name (with permission!) and made it into my imprint.
- How did you come up with the idea for EKO? And did you know you’d be writing about a tech-fantasy world from the start?
In 2012, while sifting through screenplays, stories and sketchbooks from high school and college, I began to pull out characters and ideas that still resonated. I thought it would be interesting to mash all these different ideas together in a single setting and see what happened in the course of a short story. But the ideas kept coming, and I fell in love with these reborn characters, and EKO was created over the course of a year.
Initially, EKO was a science-fiction story, like space opera. Then I decided I wanted to keep it more grounded. But I didn’t want any existing cities or sights on Earth, so Osha was created as a sort of parallel world to our own; some similarities, some not. I’m addicted to world-building now!
- What has been your biggest challenge since you started writing your first draft until now?
Time. Always time. I work a ton of different jobs, I have a young son, and finding the time to do any of this is always a challenge. But I always try to do something every day, even if it’s just thinking about the storyline and where I want to go with it.
- Pick a character from the book, and tell us an interesting fact about him or her.
There are two main characters in Eko: Sydel and Phaira. Both appear as total opposites; Sydel is small, shy, naïve to the world, while Phaira is a brash, powerful warrior. But Sydel is unwavering in her beliefs; she may look traditionally feminine and not so strong, but she holds herself to high morals, and she never, ever backs down from them. Ever! She’s a real pain at times, but she will always do what is good and what is right, no matter the cost, and in ways, she’s the toughest one in the story. And Phaira: I’m proud of her layers, how she’s this ex-soldier/special ops expert who bickers with her brothers, struggles with addictive behavior, but she can also be warm, joking, protective, and vulnerable.
- What other writers or books have inspired you?
My favorite author is Haruki Murakami; his clean writing style, the fantastical elements mixed with everyman storytelling. Neil Gaiman is a huge influence too; the Sandman series remains one of my favorite collections. I love Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynn Jones; I was also recently sucked in by Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. For EKO, I drew on other forms of media for inspiration, such as the films of Hayou Miyazaki (and his version of Howl) particularly when creating the world of Osha, and other films and television shows such as Firefly, Cowboy Bebop, Star Wars, Doctor Who and many others.
- Who should read EKO?
EKO will appeal to fans of paranormal, fantasy and science fiction, comic books and anime, world-building, fast-paced action, and psychic phenomena. As one of six siblings, I’ve always been drawn to stories that delve into the natural drama between brothers and sisters. I’m also a big advocate for the promotion of complex female protagonists in genre fiction; I want to see strong women who aren’t just tough and serious, but also funny, sexy, silly, and human, and I strove to create them in EKO.
- Who do you feel you have to thank the most?
Honestly? I thank myself the most! This has been a huge undertaking on my own, and many times I’ve wanted to quit, from writing the first draft to figuring out how to format e-books. Couple that with the fact that I’m quite shy, so putting my work out there to be judged has been pretty scary. But I keep moving forward, even by increments, to make my dreams happen. So: yay, me?
- And finally, let us know of any future projects and where else your readers can find you.
The sequel to Eko is Nadi, and it will come out in 2017; it’s the second of this four-part Osha series. I have notes for a number of fantasy/science fiction stories that I’m looking forward to working on soon. I’m also delving back into writing poetry; I post regularly on Wattpad on topics like alcohol, world travel, mental illness and others.
by Loren Walker
Published by: Octopus & Elephant Books
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Paranormal
Print Length: 428 pages
Midnight in Osha: an injured woman is left at the gates of a Midland commune. Eighteen-year-old Sydel, an apprentice hungry to prove her worth, is certain that healing the blue-haired stranger will finally win the respect of her community.
But tensions spike when two men appear in search of their sister: Phaira, the woman in the clinic. And when Sydel’s experimental medical treatments prove successful, instead of offering accolades, her elders make the sudden decision to banish her.
Guilt-ridden, Phaira and her brothers, Renzo and Cohen, offer shelter to the bewildered girl, and take Sydel with them into the industrial North. Then the reason behind the expulsion comes to light: Sydel is an Eko, a being that can read minds and accelerate healing, an anomaly that hasn’t been seen in generations.
And when word of her talents goes public, Sydel becomes a hunted prize to possess, with the siblings as her only means of defense.
You can read an excerpt here.Amazon UK Amazon US
About the author
Loren Walker is a pseudonym. Originally from Ontario, Canada, I live in Rhode Island and make a living as a freelance writer. I’m also a life-long artist; I produced comic zines and minis, and create illustrations now on contract.
I hold a Master of Arts in Poetry; my chapbooks and poetry are available for free on Wattpad.
In 2016, I dove into the world of self-publishing through my company Octopus & Elephant Books. The first release is EKO, available in print and e-book formats, and shortlisted for the Half the World Global Literari Award.