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411 talks w/Eric Miller About 18 Wheels of Horror, Hell Comes to Hollywood, And More

January 24, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
18 Wheels of Horror

The 411 Interview: Eric Miller

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Eric Miller has been working in the movie business since the very early 1990’s and as a book publisher since 2012. He has worked as a screenwriter, producer, production manager, and transportation coordinator at various times and was the head of the Raw Nerve horror film company founded by Eli Roth, Scott Spiegel, and Boaz Yakin. He has written the screenplay for such movies as Ice Spiders, Night Skies, Mask Maker, and Swamp Shark. Miller’s Big Time Books has released the anthologies 18 Wheels of Horror, Hell Comes to Hollywood, and Hell Comes to Hollywood II. In this interview, Miller talks with this writer about Big Time Books, his career in Hollywood, and more.

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Bryan Kristopowitz: How did you get involved in publishing?

Eric Miller: I’ve loved books and wanted to publish them my whole life, so when Print On Demand (POD) and E-Book technology made publishing accessible I jumped in. It took me a couple of years’ research- with lots of help from J.A. Konrath’s “Newbies Guide to Publishing” blog and other resources- and a lot of trial and error to learn how to do it right. It’s much easier these days thanks to the many online platforms that do much of the work for you, and easy to find information on the Interwebs.

BK: How did you come up with the name Big Time Books?

EM: I was inspired by a line from one of my favorite songs, Ian Hunter’s “Big Time.” Like it says, you’re never too small to hit the big time. And though I am a small press and not a giant company, the books and stories and ideas I put out are big time creative and professionally produced, so I wanted the name to echo that.

BK: What goes into editing an anthology like 18 Wheels of Horror or the Hell Comes to Hollywood books?

EM: It’s a ton of work. You have to come up with a cool idea first, then find writers and stories. That takes lots of time, chasing down people and getting stories in and selecting the ones that are not only the best, but the best for the theme of the anthology. There are often notes on stories, working with the writer to polish them. There’s contracts and payments, then you have to copy edit and format each story, and physically assemble the book files and get someone to turn them into the right documents for printing and downloads. Once that’s done you have to go back and forth with proofs to make sure it prints right, and then you can finally go on sale. After that is the hard part- publicity and sales. This is a vast simplification of hundreds if not thousands of hours of work. I’ve gotten much better at it since the first book, but it’s still a big effort and takes a lot of time and it’s worth it to get a good review, or introduce a writer or story to a new audience.

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BK: How do you choose which stories to use? Is it all you or do you have “helpers”?

EM: It’s 95% me- I just get a gut feeling about stories when I read them. Following the theme is very important, as is the quality of writing and creativity of the story. I am pretty strict about keeping to a theme, but sometimes I let a story in that is a little off topic but the writing and story blow me away. Ed Erdelac’s “Crocodile” from 18 Wheels of Horror is one of those. It’s about a waitress in a truck stop falling for a shady character, not about a truck driver or truck as the theme suggests. But it’s an incredible story and takes place in the trucking world- you can smell the diesel fumes in the parking lot- so I included it in the book. As for helpers, I do have a few close friends that help out, the “Big Time Books Irregulars” that I bounce ideas off of to make sure I am on the right path. Shane Bitterling helps a lot- and he has had stories in each of my books- and though we like a lot of the same stuff he can be more critical about things that I may not be. So, in the end I pick, but pretend to listen to his and the others’ advice.

BK: Do you have plans to publish novels or do you want to stick with anthologies?

EM: I want to do some novels, yes, but as Big Time Books is more or less a one man operation I don’t have time to take submissions. I am looking at developing some of the short stories from the anthologies into full length pieces. But I love the anthology format, and am committed to the 18 Wheels series for the time being (with the upcoming 18 Wheels of Science Fiction the next in line) so I am focusing on that for the next year or two.

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BK: How did you get involved in the movie business?

EM: I grew up in the Midwest loving movies and dreamed of making them when I was a kid, so I got a film degree before it was cool and moved to Hollywood for an internship. Then I basically worked for free at first, then eventually got paid on jobs, and sold my life and soul to the industry to have a career. It’s been a very long, very hard, very winding road to get where I am at, and I am often still astonished that a kid from Indiana has made a place for himself in Tinseltown. It’s a small, dusty place, but it’s mine.

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BK: What exactly does a “transportation coordinator” do?

EM: They are in charge of the Transportation Department, the unsung heroes of film making- but I may be biased. We move every person and every piece of equipment on set, find, modify, and work the “picture cars” that appear on screen, and generally help every department do their jobs. As the saying goes, “we move Hollywood” and we move it across town and across the country at times It’s often a huge department with a large budget, and we have to not only comply with difficult locations and logistics but also union rules and state and federal laws. It’s a physical and busy job with insane hours, but attracts some very interesting people.

BK: How many produced screenplays have you written and which one do you think came out the best as a movie?

EM: Five or six with my real name on them, a few more re-writes that are uncredited, and a few others with a pseudonym. I think Ice Spiders came out very well, it’s as close to my original script as any of them, and was fun to work on. I did want it to be a lot funnier- I mean, how can giant spiders attacking a ski resort not be funny- but the producers and the SyFy Channel wanted to play it straight. I did manage to sneak a few gags in, though. It had the largest audience of anything I’ve written, and has lots of fans, so that makes it special, too.

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BK: How difficult is it to get something like Ice Spiders or Night Skies made?

EM: It’s hard to get any script made. You have to put in lots of time writing and perfecting the idea and screenplay, then get an agent or manager to love it enough to send it out, and after that you have to find someone to finance and produce it. Not to mention working through the dreaded rewrites without losing your mind. I do not recommend screenwriting for the faint of heart. You pretty much have to move to Hollywood and write your fingers to the bone and network like a lunatic for years and be ready to have your cherished script torn apart by various other people and smile while they do it. It can be very rewarding and fun and it can be very frustrating. A lot of the writers and stories in the Hell Comes To Hollywood books tell tales of tortured screenwriters. So, if nothing else, the process is good for a scary story.

BK: What’s the difference, if any, between making a movie that goes direct-to-video and a movie that’s produced for a TV channel like Syfy?

EM: SyFy and other networks work through elaborate development routines, often starting with an approved title and working with the writer at every step, from log line to treatment to various script drafts along the way. Most features take another route, in that the writer creates his screenplay and sells it, then it gets modified by them (or other writers after they leave the project) to fit the ideas and needs of the producers, directors etc. Different paths to the same end.

BK: What happened with Dog Soldiers: Legacy?

EM: It’s in development, that’s all I know. I hope it gets made, as I am proud of the script we created, and love the first film and werewolves in general.

BK: What was it like working with Eli Roth?

EM: He’s a wildly creative guy with an unapologetic love of gore and horror films, which is refreshing in an industry where many people look down on horror films.

BK: You’ve directed a short film called The Waffle House Incident. Is directing something you want to do again?

EM: That was more of a joke than anything else- I apologize to everyone who watched it and want their 2 minutes back- but many people get the joke and love it. So check it out on YouTube and let me know which side you are on. Politely, I hope. But I might direct a real film one of these days, mainly because I think it would be fun to adapt stories like my zombie tale “Culling The Herd” from Hell Comes To Hollywood II and also because I am jealous of my director friends who get to order people around on set. It looks like fun.

BK: Any future projects that you can tell us about?

EM: I am assembling stories for the 18 Wheels of Science Fiction anthology now, and plan to have it out in the summer of 2018. As the title suggests, it will consist of science fiction stories set in the trucking world- or universe as it may be. It’s for fiction fans as well as truckers- like 18 Wheels of Horror there’s something for everyone. I am also editing my own novel now, a pretty unique horror/action story, and have a few scripts working their way through the Hollywood machine.

BK: What nickname suits you more: “Raging,” “Eyore,” or “Erc”? And where the heck did those names come from?

EM: You really do your research! I like Raging the best, even though I am pretty mellow most of the time (I have my moments). I got that one working on a film called Rage and Honor back in the day, and someone called me “Raging Eric” and I guess it fit. They call me Eyore as he is my favorite Poo character and like that lovable donkey I often see the world like it really is, rather than through rose colored glasses. I put a lot of joke credits in movies because so many people take filmmaking way too seriously. On sets it is often psychotic. We have to take a step back and realize we are making entertainment, not curing cancer. Art is very important for sure, but we need balance. So I try to not take it too seriously.

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I want to thank Eric Miller for agreeing to participate in this interview and david j. moore for helping set it up.

You can buy 18 Wheels of Horror: A Trailer Full of Trucking Terrors here.

You can buy Hell Comes to Hollywood: An Anthology of Short Horror Fiction Set in Tinseltown Written by Hollywood Professionals here.

You can buy Hell Comes to Hollywood II: Twenty-Two More Tales of Tinseltown Terror here.

You can check out the Big Time Books website here, Facebook page here, and official Twitter page here.

Book and DVD cover images courtesy of Amazon. All other images courtesy of Eric Miller.