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Interview with Author Erik Marshall

Here is an interview with Erik Marshall, author of Death of the Author, a new lighthearted detective set in academia, featuring Chandler Cain, adjunct instructor turned private investigator. You can buy it on Amazon here (affiliate link).

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. This is Erik Marshall’s site. Who is this other Erik Marshall? Is it someone who happens to have the same name? No, it’s me. I’m interviewing myself.

Why a detective novel?

I was in the middle of writing a memoir, which was getting heavy and personal. I couldn’t figure out where to go with it, so I thought I’d take a break and write something a little more…silly, fun. I love film noir, so I thought I’d adapt that voice to the life of an adjunct instructor.

Erik, what is your background?

I have a Ph.D. in Film and Media studies.

So, we should call you “Dr. Marshall.”

If you like. But Erik is fine.

What is your writing process?

Usually, come up with an idea, think about it for months on end, start to write it, get discouraged, come back to it…

When I really start writing, I get 80-90% done and either stall out or start the revision and editing process. It’s at this point that I get mired in perfectionism, which, I believe, is actually a veil for insecurity and a sign that something else is going wrong. In the case of my memoir, it was my fear of revealing too much of myself, and the fear that someone might sue me. I was too close to it.

I decided to start a different process with Death of the Author.I wanted to finish something, not just start it. So I decided to write fast. I put a small twist on a formulaic genre, and I decided to have fun. I neglected plot holes and forged ahead, one corny simile at a time.

Death of the Author was an exercise in finishing quickly?

Yes, but it didn’t work out that way. I wrote it fairly quickly, but then rewrote it. Then started revising. Then started doubting aspects of it. What was supposed to take a month or two took ten months. But I did finish, and that was the goal. Could it be better? Yes, absolutely. Is it good enough? I think so. I laughed a lot while writing it, and that in itself makes it worth it to me.

Tell us more about Chandler Cain

The origin of the name should be obvious. He’s a disaffected adjunct, underpaid and overworked. He’s bored with his job, disenchanted with disengaged students, feeling disillusioned by the dream he feels he was sold about academia being this magical place where people share ideas, read good literature, explore ideas together, that sort of thing. Instead, for him, it’s about dealing with grade-grubbing, putting in time, doing the same thing over and over in front of people who don’t care.

How did this Adjunct Instructor become a Private Investigator?

There’s an origin story yet to be written, but at some point, he begins taking cases as a side gig. He finds a connection between literary analysis and detective work.  It’s almost impossible to live on an adjunct salary, so most have other jobs. This is his.

Why doesn’t he quit teaching and be a full-time PI?

That has never really occurred to him. Teaching has become he does, even if he’s not always totally into it. Plus, he’s too lazy to advertise.

Death of the Author hits many of the major tropes of a detective novel, including the femme fatale.

That’s not a question.

What I’m saying is, maybe that’s not the most politically correct trope these days?

True. I’m not saying I endorse the worldview that women are evil, or that they always lead to the demise of a man, or that they exist only to be objectified. It’s a flaw in Chandler Cain’s character, perhaps, and a weakness of the genre, although one could argue that the femme fatale is actually a strong, independent woman.

Chandler Cain falls for a student. Is this ethically fraught? And isn’t that itself a tired trope?

You are really hitting me with some hard questions. One of Chandler’s main flaws is his attraction to women. He falls hard and often. Yes, he objectifies Susan when she walks into his office, but, again, this is a genre convention. I suppose the notion of the male prof/female student relationship is a bit tired and cliche, but Chandler Cain lives in a cliche. He is a walking cliche.

Are you being a bit defensive?


Are you Chandler Cain?

No. I mean, any writer puts him/herself into characters on some level, I suppose, but is Stephen King a possessed murderer a la  Jack Torrance? I don’t think so. Maybe a little? I do fear people will read this and think I endorse everything Cain does. I think I’m fairly straightforward in portraying him not as a hero or someone to be emulated, but some hapless schmuck who’s trying to find his place in life. That part comes from real life.

Buy Death of the Author at Amazon:

Learn more about Chandler Cain

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Words Dragon learned from my memoir

I’ve been using Dragon Naturally Speaking dictation software, and I recently found that I had to re-train it after a reinstall of Windows. I had it look at the text of my almost-finished memoir about grad school, and here are some of the words it learned:


Bloody Marys


Not sure what this says about me, my memoir, or Dragon, but I found it interesting.

WET046 – From PhD to Life with Jennifer Polk


Today’s guest is Jennifer Polk, of We talk about her journey from PhD to, well, life. We talk about coaching vs consulting, networking, informational interviews, finding the work that’s right for you, and poutine.

From her bio: Jennifer Polk works as an academic, career, and life coach. Her clients — graduate students and PhDs — are a diverse group of individuals based all around the world, from Canada, the US, the UK, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere. Jen speaks on campuses and at conferences throughout North America on issues related to graduate education and career outcomes for PhDs, and her writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, University Affairs, Vitae, and Academic Matters. Find Jen online at, which features resources for PhD career changers, and at her award-winning University Affairs blog. Join her twice a month for#withaPhD chat on Twitter, at the monthly Versatile PhD meetup in Toronto, and for Beyond the Professoriate, an annual online conference for PhDs in transition. Jen earned her PhD in history from the University of Toronto in 2012.


Web links:



Facebook Page,

Storify (archived Twitter chats),,



WET045 – What do you do?

Such a simple question, but I have such trouble answering it. Why do people ask this question? Am I supposed to condense my entire identity down to what I do for work? Is that all I am? 


Links mentioned

Surviving the Dissertation Defense on Amazon

or get it free here.

That’s a Wrap with Robert Burgoyne


Support WETPatreon | Amazon Affiliates (click before shopping at Amazon and we’ll get a kickback on what you buy!)

Subscribe to the WET Podcast in iTunes | Main page for The WET Podcast

You can follow me at @emarsh.

Music: “Double the Daily Dose” by Revolution Void (

Check out this episode!

WET044 – MC LARS on DIY Post-Punk Nerdcore Laptop Rap

I had the great pleasure of interviewing MC LARS after a show in Lansing, MI.

emarsh and MC Lars

Me and MC LARS after the show.

We talk about crowd participation, making a living as an independent artist, his punk rock and hip-hop roots, the term “nerdcore,” and the merits of getting a Ph.D, among many other things.

This was Trent’s first concert, and MC Lars invited him onstage to help with “Mr. Raven.”


MC LARS’s website

MC LARS on Spotify

Pre-order the Zombie Dinosaur LP (which, I can assure you, is very good)

Dragon Blood Video: