Today we’re joined by E.M. Markoff, author of the ongoing The Ellderet Series. Keep scrolling to read about her inspirations, thoughts on self-publishing, and her writing process. Also be sure to enter the giveaway to win yourself a physical copy of her dark fantasy novel, The Deadbringer!

About the Author

E. M. MarkoffLatinx author and publisher E.M. Markoff writes about damaged heroes and imperfect villains. Growing up, she spent many days exploring her hometown cemetery, where her love of all things dark began. Upon coming of age, she decided to pursue a career as a microbiologist and spent a few years channeling her inner mad scientist. Her works includeThe Deadbringer, To Nurture & Kill, and “Leaving the #9.” She published the charity anthology Tales for the Camp Fire under her imprint, Tomes & Coffee Press, to raise money for California wildfire recovery and relief efforts. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and is mostly made up of coffee, cat hair, and whiskey.
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We already have your official bio, now we want to challenge you to describe yourself in ten words or less…Go!

Perpetually shifting realities.

Who or what are your inspirations when it comes to writing? Is it a particular author or authors, art, history, culture, current events, something else? How have they influenced your work?

Consciously and subconsciously, the greatest influences on my writing are my Mexican culture and life in general. To me, fantasy is just another way of looking at reality, and writing a series set in a secondary world is my way of exploring my culture. When I was a kid, my mom used to take me with her every weekend to the local cemetery to visit lost loved ones. The Mexican “side” was very colorful, with toys, holiday decorations, trinkets of all kinds, candles, cups filled with water for the spirits of the dead, and so on. It imprinted on me that death could be just as colorful and joyful as life, and yet still be sorrowful. It showed me the importance of duality. 

Other influences include classic horror films and surreal films, both of which my mom introduced me to despite her not knowing English. I’m also a huge fan of anime—the way anime can balance multiple characters and tell a story over multiple seasons (or one) is always inspiring. Bookwise: Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew was the first book I read where I remember something in my brain saying “Reading is so cool!” and that most likely set me down the path I’m on. Carlos Fuentes’s Aura also had an impact on me because of how surreal the story was. I enjoyed the sense of dread it left me feeling when I first read it.  

As a writer, books that have spoken to me because of their approach to creating include David Lynch’s Catching the Big Fish and Gloria Anzaldúa’s Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro.

What do you love about self-publishing and on the flipside what drives you nuts about it? What aspects of self-publishing do you excel at and in what ways do you struggle?

I love how self-publishing allows for more diverse voices to be heard, and I love the freedom to create and collaborate. You’re basically Victor Frankenstein putting your Monster (book) together, and oh there are many, many parts to piece together. What drives me nuts is the stigma that is still associated with self-publishing and how the amount of time, cost, and labor is underplayed, dismissed, or considered inferior. Indie authors don’t have the backing of an industry or an in-house publishing team. Yes, there are services that can take your story and turn it into a physical book and ebook, but the indie author is the one who has to do the research to find these people (and there is no shortage of people who want to take advantage of you) and is the one who puts down the money upfront. Being an indie author means that you are a writer and an entrepreneur, with all the extra work and financial risk that entails. 

As for what parts of self-publishing I think I excel at … I feel like I have the design and logistics sides of the business down pretty well, and I enjoy selling my books in-person at conventions, which unfortunately is on hold for now because of COVID-19. But really, I’m always learning. The learning never stops. 

The main thing I struggle with is marketing my own work, which I’m actively trying to get better at. Because my marketing game is not on point, I’m very grateful to my readers who have taken their time to post pictures of my books and help spread the word about the world of the Ellderet. Their support is invaluable.

What does your daily writing process look like? What do you do to get in the writing zone?  How many hours do you write or do you go for a word count? Tell us everything!

At the moment, I’m working on revising the third draft of The Faceless God, which is the second book in The Ellderet Series. Lately, my process has involved a lot of chapter dismemberment and character analysis. Since I write from multiple POVs, I have to analyze each character separately, as each one has different wants and needs. Colored post-it notes and post-it cards on my wall help summarize each chapter and make it easier for me to move bits around. This layout allows me to see at a glance the characters that are in play and how the story itself is playing out. I mention this because when I do sit down to revise, this wall is what I look at first. The next thing I reach for is my research copy of To Nurture & Kill and The Deadbringer, the latter more highlighter than book now. To help keep me on track, I’ve been meeting monthly via Skpye with fellow dark fantasy and horror authors who have been providing invaluable feedback and support.

My “word count” will be when I’ve reached the end of the third draft, because on some days there’s word vomit and on other days the cursor just stares at me like a fucker. 

As for what helps me get in the zone: Coffee if I’m writing during the day, whiskey if I’m typing at night, music is a must as is my trusty assistant, Kanoqui the Feral Prince. Because there’s nothing quite as inspiring as cat hair gathering on your keyboard, lol! 

What do you think makes a good story?

Something dark and bloody and drowning in symbolism.

Is there one particular platform you find is most beneficial as a self-published author?

Bookstagram. I would probably not be doing this interview if not for Bookstagrammers who have looked out for me and the world of the Ellderet. 

Name an under-appreciated novel that you love. Let us know why we should check it out.

C.S. Friedman’s first book in the The Coldfire Trilogy is phenomenal—Black Sun Rising. Colonizers from a distant earth set up on a world where your worst nightmares can manifest. The dynamic between the antagonist and protagonist is really well fleshed out and enjoyable to read. All the characters are morally ambiguous and nuanced; the worldbuilding is dark and extensive, and the description is delightfully meaty. 

What comes first, the characters or the plot?

Characters. The characters are the organs and flesh that bring to life the plot, which is the skeleton.

Has writing and publishing a book changed the way you see yourself?

Yes, because by making the choice to publish my stories, I made the choice to have a responsibility to the reader. When I failed to meet my own self-imposed deadlines for publishing The Faceless God, I felt like I had failed the readers who believed in me. I started to really doubt myself. And then I began reading Gloria Anzaldúa’s Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro, in which she talks about the profound depression that can visit you when writing because “you feel that you have betrayed the piece by not writing it up to your expectations.” Those words were very powerful for me and helped me realign my perspective as a writer. Mainly, that the book will be done when it’s done. But I also have to know when to step away, and I know that this draft will be the final draft.

What do the words “literary success” mean to you?

When The Faceless God drops, that will be my “literary success” because the story will finally be in the readers’ hands. After that, only the Twin God knows which way the pendulum will swing—whether toward Fortune or Travail.


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