Interview with Eric Ferguson, author of “Cold Record”
Eric Ferguson was born in Texas, but migrated west as a preschooler and was raised in Los Angeles. The son of writers and a lifelong reader and rereader, he earned his undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Los Angeles. After several years as a journalist, freelance writer, marketing copywriter and editor, he attended Chapman University School of Law, where he served on the editorial board of the Chapman Law Review and graduated with honors in 2004.
Eric joined the district attorney’s office for a major Southern California county in 2005, and spent his first five years in a colorful trial assignment on the rural fringe of the county. He then moved to his office’s appellate unit in 2010, and has since focused primarily on post-conviction writs and motions, including habeas corpus, DNA and discovery litigation in murder cases. He has also represented the People at more than 50 parole-suitability hearings for inmates convicted of murder.
Eric and his wife Susanne are the parents of two adult children now living abroad. Cold Record, written over a period of more than a decade, is his first novel.
What is your favourite dragon in literature?
I hate to be predictable, but the only dragon I know well is Smaug, and it’s a little hard to imagine there’s a more impressive one. I should qualify by admitting that I largely missed out on Game of Thrones – not that it’s too late to read the books, of course!
I use an ‘egg rating’ system here on The Cosy Dragon when I rate books. Do you have a favourite way of eating eggs? I’m partial to fried eggs, with a base of rice and some spicy sauce.
Omelettes, ideally cooked very firm, though I’ll settle for plain scrambled!
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
I actually have two, and the first is certainly abandoned – it was an idealistic political tale, of all the obsolete ideas in America! I do wonder whether the second could be revived.
Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?
Self-discipline, organization and the willingness to “kill my darlings.” (I do miss a few of them!) And in law, I’ve finally found something I know enough about to explain with confidence.
How long did your debut novel percolate?
Well over ten years. I’m not sure the exact date when I started, but I know I was looking for a properly inspirational setting when I was in northern California in 2011! (And found it, though I’ve altered and renamed it in the book.)
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
Only on my laptop, overwhelmingly at home. I’ve occasionally jotted down an idea on a notepad, but can’t imagine writing a book by hand, or even on a typewriter – more than anything, I know how compulsively I want to edit and refine!
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
I do have loving family members, and undoubtedly they’d have humored me with feedback, but I chose to write and edit the book almost entirely alone – in part from wanting not to make a fuss of it, and in part because I did want to make it as legally authentic as possible, which meant a lot of technical thinking. In its late stages, however, I connected with a good friend, Mike Goodenow Weber (also an Amazon author), who was utterly invaluable as a proofreader, question-asker and perspective-shifter. And I did have the benefit of a read-through by a close friend who is a judge. If I summon the initiative to write another novel, I’ll certainly share it more widely – while I believe my internal editing process was ultimately effective, and am happy with the final structure, it was certainly time-consuming and mood-dependent.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
I love bookstores, and physical books. To be fair, the only e-reader I’ve used was a very basic Kindle, but I didn’t find anything about it compelling, so aside from creating a Kindle version of the book, I am fully analog! These days, the only physical place I regularly shop for books is Barnes and Noble – but that is normally good enough for me, unless I find myself grumbling about their selection. A bookstore always lifts my spirits.
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?
The safest answer is mystery, because I discovered Agatha Christie by way of my mother when I was about ten years old, and have never yet tifred of reading her books. (I’ve long since read every one, many of them five or more times.) But the more accurate answer would be that I think more in terms of favorite authors, and they vary across genres. I love John le Carre, yet haven’t read many other spy novels. I love Daniel Woodrell, whose genre is hard to define. I appreciate Cormac McCarthy, though “love” isn’t really a word to apply to his books or his style! I’ve immensely enjoyed several long historical epics, like “The Far Pavilions” and “The Pillars of the Earth.” And as far as changing taste, I’ve discovered Larry McMurtry and do have a strong new interest in Western novels, but have barely scratched the surface. So I’m a bit of an omnivore about fiction, but don’t get too far off the beaten track.
Ironically, I have never been much of a fan of legal novels. I tend to find them overheated, contrived and full of sinister motives and silly complications. But I may well not have read the best examples yet.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?
A great topic, since I know it’s very important but am starting from scratch. I signed up for Twitter a decade ago, probably, but only to follow a very few people, and have never yet posted anything myself (!). I don’t take myself seriously enough yet to imagine I have a “profile” to manage, but I’ll probably have to get with the program, and that will require advice. With help from GoDaddy and my reliable friend Mike I now have a website, and will soon embark on Amazon ads and a few other things, including a second book giveaway on Goodreads. But I’m just getting started, and basically clueless.
Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?
Apart from an interview we generated for the website, this is the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to answer questions from the perspective of a writer, and I’ve found it quite painless and satisfying. Thank you for giving me the chance!
About the book
An indie book, Cold Record was released on September 15, 2023, and is 385 pages.
Cold Record depicts the investigation and trial of a brutal killing, its unexpected aftermath, and the impact of the crime on all those it touches. A courtroom drama that evolves into an unpredictable legal mystery, Ferguson’s novel reflects the justice system as he has found it to be in his nearly two decades as a prosecutor. Rather than the caricatures of win-at-any cost DAs, imperious judges, and deceptive defense lawyers, Cold Record presents attorneys and judges as skilled, ethical and — like the accused himself — all too human.
Cold Record is available in hardcover, softcover, and e-book.
Eric’s website is at www.ericmferguson.com