An interview with Author Eric Madeen

Eric Madeen

Award-winning author Eric Madeen is an Associate Professor of American Literature at Tokyo City University and Adjunct Professor at Keio University. His work has appeared in Time, Asia Week, The East, The Daily Yomiuri, Tokyo Journal, Kyoto Journal, Metropolis, Mississippi Review, ANA’s Wingspan, Japanophile, The Pretentious Idea, numerous academic journals and so on. For two-plus years he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in francophone Gabon, Africa where he built a primary school complex in a remote village surrounded by rainforest, an experience which inspired his first novel Water Drumming in the Soul: A Novel of Racy Love in the Heart of Africa. He has been interviewed on several radio programs (8 American and 1 Japanese) and for various print media. He has travelled widely as witnessed in his recently released travelogue Asian Trail Mix: True Tales from Borneo to Japan, which scales down the sprawl of Asia by focusing on the unique and revelatory – from the razzmatazz of novice monks at play in Laos to the hustle of pedicab drivers in Ho Chi Minh City. Finally, get down with the full body with his high-octane second novel, the crime thriller Massage World. By turns erotic and exotic and set in SoCal and Japan, it’s always zesty … peopled as it is with a rogues gallery found in the nether reaches of a Dionysian dream.

Q: Please tell me about yourself – what kind of a person you are, your beliefs, your nature, your follies, anything.
A: As for handling crises and dramas I’m laid-back but not so laid-back as to be horizontal. At the same time I’m considered to radiate high-energy and a certain joie-de-vivre and charisma. A Japanese fortune-teller using Chinese astrology fortune-told me, determining that I have an extremely high energy rate based on the total numerical value of the five essential elements she read in my character. Anyway, my tremendous curiosity, energy and love of adventure and travel took me fresh out of university as far as francophone Gabon, Africa to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer, building a primary school complex in an equatorial village surrounded by rainforest. Village friends and I would at times go camping and hunting (yes, monkey, too ended up in the cooking pot). The bottle of booze I’d pack in served as elixir to help draw them out, to get them to crack it open regarding the oral tradition, or orality opposed to literacy. In short, the gin or whiskey helped inspire them to recount dramatically folktale after folktale around the campfire. Their culture, with its living-in-the moment-full-blast for the moment, was so alluring that I basically went native. Moreover, I lived for several months with a young, gorgeous Gabonese lady. The whole experience fed obliquely AND directly into my first novel, Water Drumming in the Soul: A Novel of Racy Love in the Heart of Africa, which is personal, passionate and, methinks … metold, unputdownable.  

Q: Tell me about your writing journey, when and how did it all start?
A: From a very young age reading and writing came as naturally to me as breathing. My first stories were inspired by the TV-show Batman — back in early grade school. English classes were always my favourites after P.E., of course. Circling back to curiosity, I was always asking questions and follow-up questions, to draw friends and family out if something interested me. This curiosity also led to a love of reading. I also loved – still love! — to play with language with the witticisms early on termed by my family as “Ericisms.” I was always searching for synonyms in the thesaurus Rex and looking up words in the dictionary with an eye to etymology; curiously, did you know porcelain derives from the term for female porcine genitalia? That mel in ameliorate the French mel, or honey? My love of writing and language led me to major in journalism undergraduate then literary writing and literature in graduate school where I earned my MFA. I worked for several years as a copywriter for at that time the world’s largest ad agency Dentsu, for clients as diverse as Mazda and Sony (Sony No Baloney!). During vacations at Tokyo City University where I’m an Associate Professor of English, a photographer and I were hired by All-Nippon Airways’ inflight magazine Wingspan to venture and chronicle far and wide in Asia. These diverse travel stories just fed into the travelogue Asian Trail Mix: True Tales from Borneo to Japan.  Since voice is more than a language function but rather the sum totality of a writer’s experiences and means of expression, I’m always working on my voice, humping the hell out of the muse to crank out one immortality project after another. In sum, I hope that my riffing here has honeyed up your love of language and desire to put it all down after, needless to say, visiting

Q: Tell me about all the difficulties faced in getting a publisher to publish your book.
A: For my first novel many years ago, I was agented for several years but he never found a home with a traditional publisher but came very close several times so he stayed with it. Since a writer has to find an agent who will then hopefully find a publisher, it’s an arduous process, time consuming and wracked with frustrations. Agents are big-time whiners and basically glorified first readers but also gate keepers. Hundreds of queries will be met with “Due to the high volume of queries we receive …” You get the picture. So I gave up on them because they gave up on this white dude who went indie bigly which has distinct advantages in that the cut of royalties favours the writer and the fact that most readers these daze buy their books online via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The negative is that most traditional print media won’t publish reviews of  independently published books, alas. Before I went indie I published two books with POD houses who scammed me royally on royalties up their arse. So I went Amazon and more and more positive reviews are streaming in – the joyous streaming in of them!!!!

Q: Do you believe that marketing is essential for the success of a book?
A: Absolutely. You can’t find readers without marketing. It’s the be-all end-all of any publishing endeavour, be it traditional or indie. Ca va sans dire, alors!

Q: What marketing ideas did you deploy for marketing your book?
A: I bombarded my Facebook page and hit up family, friends and colleagues, etc. I hired Fiverr Level 2 pros but their drawback is that they hit the same targets time after time so their targets become desensitized and thus unreachable, and platforms such as LinkedIn have ad blockers, so it’s a damned tough nut to crack. I’m now happily engaging the services of one AuthorWriterEnchanter who I’m hoping will enchant the socks off potential readers! 

Q: Do you interact with your readers? What do they say about your book?
A: Besides family, friends and colleagues giving me baths of compliments about my work, Amazon reviews are trending quite positive to the point that 98 percent of them are 5 stars. I also engage with them on my website where we jam.

Q: What suggestions would you like to offer potential authors?
A: Block out precious blocks of time so you will block out interruptions and distractions. Write religiously in those blocks of time and your imagination and subconscious residing there will reward you with sublime gifts. Read deeply and widely and whichever way the current’s flowing, swim against it. Read the Greeks. Read Freud. Read Jung. Know archetypes. Know and write your dreams – journal them. Know the canon not only so you can dialogue with it but also so you can write beyond it and break new ground.  Travel your ass off. Be a spy as in eavesdropping on whomever to develop that fine ear. Finally, ignore the trends of the day by going alone going deep. 

Eric Madeen is the author of four books – Water Drumming in the SoulAsian Trail MixMassage World, and Anyone for Tennis. His next, Tennis Clubbed, will be out soon.

Check out Eric’s page on


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