Derrick Ferguson: For the benefit of those who don’t know you, tell us who Erik Fromme is, where you live and what is it you do to keep a roof over your head.
Erik Fromme: Well, I’ve been living in North Tonawanda, NY for the last 14 years. This is my third turn here since I first moved here from the city of Buffalo in High School. Since then I’ve lived in 5 other places before returning, leaving then coming back. And before NT the first time I had 3 other homes. So, I’ve been around. I’m in between Niagara Falls and Buffalo, but it’s just easier for me to say I’m from Buffalo when I’m travelling. It’s an easier landmark and I’m cool with it.
By day I make a living drafting as a Mechanical Contractor designing heating/cooling systems for commercial buildings and process piping for industrial plants like 3M or other chemical plants. I pull about 10 hours in front of a screen daily before I even get around to doing it recreationally. But it’s a decent job that helps support the wife and 2 kids… none of them are teenagers, yet. 2 more years before that chapter starts.
My current hobby, aside from writing which I’ve been terrible with lately, is a weekend bb warrior with airsoft. That means I take replica weapons and in military, or guerilla scenarios shoot plastic bb’s at people to get shit done. Capture HVT’s, recover laptops, defend a building… It’s the most exercise I get these days and gives me a reason to stay active.
DF: How long have you been writing?
EF: Jeez… I got my start in serious consistent story telling writing about 20 years ago. Most of them were comic based. It was easy to make up stories about character I’ve been reading about or seeing on TV for just about always. From PBeM stories that really taught me how to collaborate (for the uninitiated you’d start a story in an email, go for a paragraph or two and then shoot it off to a group of people and see who continues it and where it goes. You’d build the story randomly) I worked myself into a few websites and then ended up becoming their EiC for about 15 years. Once family and life/work began to take up larger chunks of my time and priority my handle on the sites shrank and I had to step back. After the sites closed, I can’t really say I did a hell of a lot otherwise, that was until I read Dillon’s bio on your website and had some key details get planted in my head like little seeds. Eventually, those seeds grew into a story that mixed in elements of Johnny Quest with elements of Dillon’s life I wanted to see explored. And here we are: my first published story in DILLON: THE ODD JOBS
DF: What was the first Dillon novel or story you read?
EF: The first novel I read was the first novel that ever came out: Dillon and the Voice of Odin. Yeah, that’s how long I’ve been with it. It was one of my first forays into written pulp. I’ve seen several movies like The Phantom, The Shadow, Indiana Jones…etc…and loved them all, so it was cool to see a story in the modern day that still captured the spirit of those tales that were period driven.
DF: What’s your favorite Dillon novel or story?
EF: Um, I don’t know if there’s any particular favorite story… I’m not trying to cop out on the answer or blow smoke where smoke tends to get blown. They’re all good. If anything, I feel like I have favorite scenes like the opening scene in The Voice of Odin (not the 10th anniversary one) with Dillon walking in knee deep waters on an old, abandoned ship, or the description of the palace in the Alchemist’s Morning Coffee that featured endless halls and endless ways the sunlight interacted with them. The lush jungles in the Legend of the Golden Bell and the village description in the Bad Ass Belt Buckle. Each book, if I really focused hard enough, I feel I could point out a scene that stuck out to me. In terms of MacGuffin’s I think the Alchemist’s Morning Coffee is a damned brilliant plot device. Very clever and a bit ahead of its time for when it debuted compared to when DNA research broke certain discoveries.
DF Who’s your Favorite Dillon Sidekick?
EF: Hands down it’s gotta be Wyatt Hyatt. I like how Dillon and Wyatt complement each other. Dillon is the muscle and Wyatt, even though he’s built like an ox, prefers to use his genius. Wyatt is a great behind the scenes character and the most recent story of him in ODD JOBS really showcases that. Wyatt’s keeping Dillon’s fat out of the fire, but you don’t see his fingerprints guiding the scene until the end. And Dillon’s very complementary of just how invaluable Wyatt’s technology is to him. I think that’s also why I like Dillon, because he is fallible and he does depend on his friends to help him out of a jam. They’re not just background characters who accomplish fuck-all just to make Dillon look good by pulling the victory out in the end by himself. Wyatt’s a great sidekick because I feel like even when he’s not there physically, he’s still present in one way or another.
DF: What is it about Dillon and his universe that made you want to write “Dillon and The City of Stone”?
EF: Well, as I said before… I’ve seen pulp movies and I loved them. But I really never explored them through print before. But the genre has always intrigued me and I felt like some of my experience writing Daredevil helped give me the tools to really dive in. Dillon seemed like a good vehicle to that goal since I’ve already been exposed to his world and have seen him in action enough to get a good feel for him. And, honestly, to have a shot at the main man himself was a treat I couldn’t refuse myself.
DF: What is “Dillon and The City of Stone” about?
EF: The story was born out of Dillon’s biography. There was a sentence that stated how Dillon likes to take vacations, but not like a Las Vegas vacation or a trip to the islands – even though he certainly makes time for them too – but these vacations were far more grounded. He’d find himself in a random place doing random jobs, like cooking in a kitchen of a restaurant or being a school janitor for a short spell. I found that part fascinating. It added an element to Dillon that I hadn’t seen in other characters of his type. Dillon’s a mercenary. He’s done serious shit. Been to places that border on the unreal in terms of either their technological advancements that we’ve only just seen on screen with Wakanda, or the supernatural like the caves in The Vril Agenda. I could imagine it’d be easy for a person to just lose themselves in that world…but Dillon doesn’t.
So, I wanted to see what a vacation for Dillon might look like, especially if he really didn’t set out to be on a sabbatical like he found himself being on. What would it take to make Dillon slow down, purposely take a step backwards and remove himself from the world he’s immersed in. So, my story starts off with him a month and a half into that vacation somewhere in southern Mexico. How recognizable is Dillon when he’s washing dishes, preparing lunches and serving drinks in a bar or working as a farmhand for 10 hours in a day?
But, being a Dillon story eventually things have to happen that push Dillon into action. And in contrast to stories when Dillon opened up his personal life to his friends in the adventure world like Renard Hanson or Wyatt Hyatt and shock them both with those details, Dillon exposes the people he developed relations with in that month and a half of bartending, playing baseball and staking hay to what he does as a mercenary. Some are willing to go with it; others have a harder time coming to grips that this person really does have a particular set of skills that make him a bad dude to deal with. But I didn’t want Tibecaudor to be entirely innocent and naïve. I liked that they had their own secrets and their own soldiers of fortune. Even if they are retired. It helped give them a history that helped Dillon plug in when needed.
DF: The story focuses a lot on relationships and most of what drives the action are those relationships. Was that intentional?
EF: I don’t think the story started out intentionally being about relationships, but the deeper I dug into Dillon in my own way of figuring out who he was, what his intentions are the more that theme just grew on its own. Certainly, I think I wanted to break Dillon down a little and explore him in a different environment where he wasn’t dodging bullets. I wanted him to be removed from the crew he’s built around himself, because as I’ve said before they’re competent people who really do influence the direction a scenario can take. And in isolating him like I did in the beginning of the book I could get down to what I felt in that moment the rawer elements of Dillon… and discovered that Dillon is built a lot out of his relationships. They’re the center of who he is. The ones he has and the ones he lacked. And that gave me a chance to explore how he evaluates those relationships and why he has them.
In developing the relationships Dillon made with the people of Tibecaudor, be it Guillermo, Abelinda, Cruz, Miguel, Alberto… and so on… it showed me just how much Dillon really wants to create meaningful bonds. Dillon has a short range I feel. Either you’re his friend, or he’s simply heard of you. There are few acquaintances in the mix. And in life in general, I feel like relationships are a giant motivator of every action taken or not taken.
When Dillon spills a little of his soul to Guillermo on the porch, I think Dillon sees that it’s not just with other people, but with himself he needs a good relationship with. To do what he does comes with a price and I think his vacations are a neat way of keeping that cost to stay very low. To keep that price from taking too much from him.
But the story isn’t just about Dillon. Guillermo has motivations based in a relationship beyond the new one he has with Dillon that fuels his actions forward in the story. The same with Abelinda not just with what she has in common with Guillermo but with Dillon too. And to see their relationships change in the course of their adventure down a giant sinkhole to an underground world was interesting. It shows how relationships evolve. How you think you can know somebody to realize you really don’t. And there’s an example of how just witnessing a relationship can inspire motivation when Dillon meets Julieta and experiences her tragedy.
Relationships become the bond that holds everything together.
DF: How much research did you have to do for this story?
EF: Dillon was a pretty easy topic to research. The dozen or so stories I’ve previously read served enough of a foundation. But, to write about Tibecaudor and the mythology around The Path to Mictlan I really dug deep into Mexican lore about the ancient civilizations that previously dominated the regions and their gods. I’m sure I won’t win any badges from historians, but I definitely wanted it to feel authentic.
DF: Are we going to see Guillermo, Abelinda and the good citizens of Tibecaudor again?
EF: I’d like to hope so. I think they offer a good perspective for Dillon both personally as a character and for an author to see him through a different filter. And Dillon did extend them an invite to his sprawling Colorado estate and I don’t think they’d take that invite lightly after coming to know Dillon as they have. There’s plenty of story in Guillermo’s past that could be nice to explore and Abelinda still has stories of her own she wanted to share with Dillon before he took off. So, there’s some unfinished business there for sure.
DF: Assuming there’s going to be a “Odd Jobs II” do you have any ideas for a story?
EF: Oh, hell yeah. I’m happy with having a part in the first book… hell, even before it was a book and “The City of Stone” ran as a serial on your Patreon. If there’s a second book and I’m good to give another story a shot I’ll be there for it.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Erik Fromme: God, I don’t know. Other than to go check out ‘Dillon and The City of Stone’ in ODD JOBS as my first published story I really can’t think of anything else. Besides, I’m sure there’ll be opportunities for me to ramble on more. Thank you for the opportunity you opened up for me and for a chance to get to share my thoughts on this story.
And with Erik’s kind permission as an added bonus, here’s my Casting Call for “Dillon and The City of Stone”: