Author Interview: A.R. Crebs

 

A.R. Crebs is a multi-talented author, creator, graphic designer, and artist. I’ve worked with her enough to know that she’s fast, talented, and smart. She is a friend and I’m thrilled to introduce her and her writings to my readers.

As a bonus, she shared a short story from her new book, Whispers from Beyond, found at the end of this interview.

Biography:

           

Illustration from The Esoteric Design

A. R. Crebs is the writer and illustrator of the Esoteric Design series and a couple of stand-alone novels.

A native to Kansas, Crebs dove into the creative world at a young age. Her passion for gaming and creating characters led her to pursue an art career, taking art classes throughout her academic life, leading to her attendance at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, where she received a BFA in illustration / children’s book specialization.

With experience in graphic design, formatting, illustration, and writing, Crebs creates and designs everything for her novel series while working freelance on the side.

    The Esoteric Design is a sci-fi/fantasy novel series with chapter illustrations. There are currently 3 books in the series. The Trouble with Mystery is a romantic thriller. Whispers from Beyond is a collection of miniature horror/thriller stories.

    Go to www.ARCrebs.com for more information.

Share a little bit about your latest book Whispers from Beyond: 30 Miniature Tales

A small child survives the end of time in a silent world, but is he truly alone?

People awake within a dark tunnel haunted by death. Can they escape?

A woman strives to make her husband happy with a new dinner recipe, a meal he will never forget.

An evil being assists a man trapped in a psych ward.

As fire consumes an entire city, a mysterious figure emerges, its intentions unknown.

A simple game of hide-and-seek goes wrong, destroying a family.

​This collection of miniature stories explores the dark side of both humanity and the supernatural. Whispers from Beyond is a series of ever-changing themes and styles per chapter, offering thirty horrific tales of death, murder, loneliness, and revenge.

Tell us about your previous books

The Esoteric Design is an action-packed sci-fi/fantasy novel series paired with illustrations in every chapter and an additional section with character biographies, bestiary, weapons, and more.

There are currently three books in the series, with more to come in the future.

            The Trouble with Mystery is a romantic thriller that does contain mature content. The plot-twist is the real inspiration for creating the story.

How long have you been writing and why did you start?

I’ve been writing and creating stories since I was a child, along with creating art. Character creation is my favorite process, and from there, I move on to world-building.

It was a hobby at first, but I started writing heavily in college and posted the stories online, where my readers encouraged me to write and publish my own books. A few years later, I worked on The Esoteric Design while working full time until I published it in 2014. I then focused solely on running my own business for 5 years as an author and illustrator and freelance for businesses and other authors, acting as a publisher, editor, and designer.

I currently work full time while continuing my business.

What is the most difficult part of the writing process for you?

I have suffered dramatically from writer’s block in recent years. The hardest part for me is finding the motivation I once had to write and getting started in the first place. I’m not sure why the trouble started in the first place, other than stress and constant significant life changes over the past few years.

Soundtrack music, video games, and film help inspire me. When my block is too dense to fight through, I often create art, a book cover, or a book trailer to motivate myself to finish.

Do you have an interesting writing quirk?

I’m not sure. I am inspired by video games mostly and often binge play games to build up my creative gauge. A glass of wine always helps, but that isn’t a very unique trait for most creatives!

Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?

The idea of not writing enough exhausts me and discourages me. Once I start and get a good flow, I feel energized and more motivated.

What are the essential characteristics of a hero you can root for?

A hero that is relatable. I enjoy flawed characters who have development and growth, maybe even a dark side. Perfect heroes with little personality bore me.

A.R. Crebs at a comicon dressed as Aria (from Esoteric Design)

Talk about your interest in graphic design/art. Is it related to your writing or a separate interest?

I started drawing as a small child and always wanted to be an artist. As I aged, I wanted to work as a concept artist for games and film.

I went to the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design and received a BFA in illustration with a specialization in children’s books, which taught me a bit about formatting, graphic design, and the publishing world.

For my grad show, I reworked the concept art for The Esoteric Design characters, which I had created through character concepts when I was fourteen years old and continued to revisit over the years. Though the art was initially intended as a concept for a video game, I wrote out the storyline in a novel format due to encouragement from readers and the fact that I had no way to create the story as a game. So, frequently, art inspires the stories I create, whether from character concepts or book covers and trailers I create along the way, which helps motivate me to write when I feel stuck.

Who has been the biggest support(s) or your writing?

I have regular fans and a few close friends who encourage me to continue writing. They purchase my books, visit me at shows, and help bring in new customers.

What does being a successful author look like to you?

Success, to me, is continuing to create and publish. Furthermore, it’s obviously about selling your product and growing your business. Everyone has the dream of being rich and famous off of their books, but as long as you can keep creating and maintaining readers, I would say you are successful.

It’s a challenging world to compete in, especially with how easy it is for everyone to publish their own books now. There is a lot of good stuff and a lot of bad for readers to wade through, which has harmed the indie community a bit. That’s why I’ve educated myself in writing, art, design, publishing, editing, and marketing. It requires a lot of motivation, but as long as you maintain a good work ethic and understanding of the shifting marketing world, you can make things work out in your favor.

Is indie publishing all bad? Absolutely not. There are pluses and minuses to both the indie and traditionally published world. I have spoken with traditional publishers in the past for my Esoteric series. Due to its size, art, and design, they would have made many changes to my books that I disagreed with. Because of this, I stuck with self-publishing so I would have 100% creative control over the project.

Would I publish something traditionally? Yes, I wouldn’t mind in the future, and I’ve been invited to work on professional projects as well, which are still in progress. I would love to be a part of both worlds. And to be in both worlds, I would consider that successful as well.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

The most important part of writing is actually writing. Every year I come into contact with people who label themselves as writers and sometimes even authors when they have never completed even one project.

To be a writer, you must write. To be an author, I believe you must actually finish a book and publish it in some format. But don’t be discouraged if you find your progress to be slow. Force yourself, find new ways of motivation and inspiration. The challenge is finishing.

Also, your story will never be perfect. So, yes, while it is crucial to have a clean and professional manuscript (please don’t publish a book full of mistakes and errors.), you also have to let the project go eventually. Let people read it. Learn from trial and error and reviews. Learn from your own creative processes and experience. But, most importantly, don’t give up. Even if it takes you years to finish a manuscript, it’s better than never finishing at all.

Links to book trailers:

The Esoteric Design

The Trouble with Mystery

Whispers from Beyond

Pumpkin (From Whispers from Beyond)

Little Victoria sat upon the wrought iron fence, kicking her feet back and forth as she stared at the pale moon of the midnight sky. It was larger than usual, and she wondered if that meant it was closer, brighter, or had merely grown in size like her tummy used to when she overindulged in Mr. and Mrs. Kaplan’s baked pies. A dense fog eddied low across the dirt roadway in front of her, a chill wind carrying dead leaves along with it.

The clip-clop of hooves echoed in the distance, attracting her attention. She narrowed her eyes. Rarely a man journeyed along this path, especially at this time of night. A large silhouette formed within the mist—tall, dark, a man on a giant horse. An excited whinny blared into the night, and Victoria smiled.

“It is Mr. Irving and Sir Washington!” she happily declared.

The horse and man neared her position; the clopping hooves provided a parading fanfare as they approached the iron gate. The young girl smiled and waved. Mr. Irving’s shoulders turned toward her as Sir Washington reared, crying out. She wasn’t sure what the real names of the man and his horse were. Mr. Irving never spoke, but she felt it odd not to have a proper title, so she made up her own, which she believed to be very fitting. The man never protested, and so the labels remained.

“It’s been countless nights since you paid me a visit, Mr. Irving!” Victoria hopped off the fence and strolled toward the man and his horse. “How is Sir Washington? He seems a bit bonier than last I saw him.”

Mr. Irving remained silent as the girl inspected the horse’s hooves. Black goo covered the front right foot, where a chunk of flesh had fallen off the leg, revealing dried and torn muscle and a bit of bone. The girl patted the horse’s neck with a frown, inspecting Sir Washington’s blood-red eye and muzzle, which also looked about as poorly as his legs. On one side, a pair of ribs shimmered white in the moonlight.

“He needs to eat,” Victoria scolded Mr. Irving, who sat straight as a board upon his saddle, his leather-covered hands tightly gripping the reins. “And I dare say you don’t look much better. Where has your head gone? Did you lose it once again?”

Irving’s shoulders slumped, a gesture that told her he was slightly disappointed and perhaps a little tired. She couldn’t remember ever seeing the man’s real head, but frequently he wore a replacement, usually something Victoria had made-up herself.

“No matter! I have just the thing!” The girl skipped away, capturing a plump orange pumpkin that sat beside the entrance gate. “I was bored earlier, so I carved this! I think it is quite lively, don’t you?”

Mr. Irving turned a bit toward her, still no words spoken, as would be difficult for a man without a head. The pumpkin was large in her hands but appeared to be about the right fit for his shoulders. A pair of carved eyes and a crooked smirk decorated its surface. Leaning forward, a large hand reached toward the girl. She happily dropped the gourd into the man’s palm. Without much more than an invisible glance, Mr. Irving placed the pumpkin directly where his head should be. After some twisting and adjusting, he peered down at Victoria with a sizeable black smile.

“I think it lacks something,” she said, holding her chin.

Mr. Irving nodded and snapped his fingers; a blaze of yellow flame sputtered to life inside, illuminating his features. Victoria giggled and clapped.

“Perfect! That is much better! I must say, I think this is my favorite look for you. Any time you lose your head, be sure to come back to me, and I shall make you another.” Victoria twirled, eyeing the pumpkin patch that lay on the horizon in a faraway field. “I shall take stock to hold us over for the rest of the season…just in case.”

Mr. Irving remained silent, but he did manage a short nod. After a moment, he returned his attention to the small town occupying the edge of the forest. It mostly lay dark save for the glowing lanterns lining the main road and a few windows. Smoke seeped from the chimneys, the scent carrying on the breeze. Victoria followed his gaze, eyeing the sleepy little town.

“You’re going into town, aren’t you?” she asked. There came no response. “Well…as you most likely are, it may be pertinent information for you to know that little Billy Kaplan passed away the other day.”

Mr. Irving met her stare, and Victoria continued. “Turns out, he drowned unexpectedly in the river on the edge of town. But whispers on the wind say it was no accident. Mrs. Kaplan had become quite friendly with Mr. Parker in recent years. A few quiet rumors spread that Billy wasn’t Mr. Kaplan’s child but Mr. Parker’s instead. It seems the allegations reached Mr. Kaplan’s ears, and not long after did he and Billy go on a fishing trip, where the boy met his untimely end. Tripped and hit his head on a rock, says Mr. Kaplan.”

Irving looked toward the town, his fiery eyes narrowing a bit.

“But I know the truth,” Victoria sang. “For I spoke with Billy before he crossed over. Mr. Kaplan knocked him upside the skull with a rock and then held the poor boy underwater for a whole ten minutes!”

Squeezing the reins, Mr. Irving readied to ride forward. Sir Washington snorted, the animal’s red eyes looking straight ahead.

“You know, it’s been an awfully long time since I had one of the Kaplan’s fine pies. Despite being a mean, crotchety man, Mr. Kaplan surely knows how to bake.” Victoria lightly kicked at a small rock. “I would think it’d be nice to share a warm apple pie with you before you disappear again.”

Mr. Irving pulled back on the leather straps, and Sir Washington reared, neighing like a wild beast. Without another word, the pumpkin-headed specter and his horse sped off into the foggy night toward the small town. Victoria turned back to look toward the cemetery behind her, passing through the gate entry. She’d sit atop her stone, gleefully awaiting the return of her friend, for she knew that despite his scary exterior, he would be kind and thoughtful enough to bring her some pie.

She played with a trinket lying across her tombstone. It had been many years since her own family, close and extended, laid flowers on her grave. However, Mr. Irving always returned with a gift in thanks for any information regarding the latest victim of the atrocities that occurred within the small, dark town. It was home to a long list of filthy crimes and corruption, governed by a society that protected their own. After Victoria’s murder, she made it her pastime to avenge those who similarly met their end. And for those who appeared within the cemetery—lost and confused—she helped guide them to the other side. The girl could leave whenever she wanted but chose to stay in the cemetery until she felt she had assisted enough, and the ugly, dark secrets would come to an end. Besides, it wasn’t entirely lonely. She had Mr. Irving and Sir Washington. A scream roared in the distance, and one by one, the windows of the small town lit up, a few more shrieks following in panic throughout the streets as the frightening specter took his revenge upon Mr. Kaplan. Victoria smiled. She could almost smell the pie from where she sat, and then she wondered if he would bring her a slice of pumpkin pie as well.

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