Gaspar: How long did it take you to write Three Eyed Man?
Owen Essen: Well, many of the stories came out of ideas I’d been toying around with for a long time, but as far as when I actually started buckling down and writing the stories as you see them today, that was about five and a half years ago.
G: It took you five and a half years to write Three Eyed Man?
OE: Yeah, working on and off.
G: That’s a long time.
OE: It is. I think part of what’s interesting about it is that you can see, I would say, a thematic progression. I was still a teenager when I started writing Three Eyed Man, and while working on it, I graduated from high school, went to college, dropped out of college, went traveling a few times, grew up really. So I would consider it a coming of age story in a sense. It might not look like the coming of age stories people are used to, but I think if you look at the themes, a lot of it’s really about figuring out your place in the world.
G: The stories seem really different.
OE: Yes, on the surface they are. You have King of the Empty Desert, which is very surreal and very dark. Almost existential. And then you have Superstition, which some people feel reads almost like YA at first.
G: So what holds the collection together?
OE: If you look past the surface I think they’re actually pretty similar in terms of the themes. There’re parts of Locker 99 that almost mirror parts of King of the Empty Desert, for example, even though one’s about high school kids and the other is about a supernatural despot. Part of what I like about the collection is you have these stories and these characters that seem incredibly different at first, but as you get to know them, you see all this overlap.
As I said, I wrote the stories over a number of years, so in some cases I explored the same themes in different stories at different points in my life, obviously with somewhat different perspective.
G: Do the stories appear in the order they were written?
OE: No, they don’t. I asked a number of different people what they thought the order should be. Everyone had a different answer. But no, they’re not in the order they were written.
G: In addition to coming of age, what are other themes in the collection?
OE: I would say loneliness is definitely present in some form in most of the stories. I would say family. Family is pretty obvious in Superstition and Man on the Floor, but I would say it’s in other stories as well. In Locker 99, Rob and Felicity don’t have parents any more but they have, I would say, a pretty negative relationship with Burason, who is a father figure in the story. In King of the Empty Desert characters are more fluid in terms of their relationships to each other, but there’re definitely some parental-type relationships.