Eric Praschan might not have familial roots in Columbia, but he knows it is home. Praschan and his wife, Stephanie, arrived here in the fall of 2007.
“We came here in faith,” he says. “We didn’t have jobs or family waiting here, but we felt that this was where we were supposed to be.” It was a whimsical risk for the couple, trusting in the college-town environment to fulfill their dreams. The risk paid off and soon both had jobs, a remarkable circle of friendships and new roots of their own.
In 2009, Praschan enrolled as a graduate student in English at the University of Missouri. A firm believer in education, Praschan already had a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Bible studies, and a Master of Arts in theological studies.
Shortly after rejoining the student ranks, Praschan suffered a medical scare that served as a wake-up call. He had always admired and dabbled in the arts, but felt he was expected to keep a firm focus on the practical. “I had been terribly afraid of taking writing seriously,” he says. “I wrote in a vacuum, but my health episode kicked me into gear. It made me look at what I wanted in life and truly pursue it. I realized that everything I had thought was important was truly not.”
Taking hold of a dream that had been hiding since age 11, Praschan took a serious look at his passion for the first time. He realized, he says, that his perception had been wrong all along. “The only thing holding me back that whole time was me.”
Fueled by a renewed desire to write and the support of his wife, Praschan wrote relentlessly and published his first book, the psychological thriller Therapy for Ghosts, in 2012.
Columbia not only brought about Praschan’s writing career, it also inspires his work. All of his novels are set in fictional Missouri towns. “I love setting books in Missouri because there is something mysterious and haunting about the landscape. I love the clash and contrast of the rural and urban,” Praschan says. “There is a lot of fodder to be found in the Midwest for literature. Small-town settings are rife with intrigue for character interaction. I love the concept that one thing is presented on the surface, but that is only the veneer, and by stripping away that veneer through the course of the story, you show the underbelly of society or the small-town dynamic. An idyllic setting is a great way to do that because it reveals the intentions of the characters.”
Praschan admits to a car filled with notes, little inspirations found when driving through town. “Nature inspires me to write,” he says. “Columbia has inspiring visuals that you don’t get in an urban jungle.”
Praschan’s deliberate and descriptive writing style lends itself to his suspense/thriller novels. He artfully landscapes patient plotlines, feeding them into his work bit by bit. Deep character development pulls readers out of their own minds and into his twisted worlds.
The James Women Trilogy (Therapy for Ghosts, Sleepwalking into Darkness and The Reckoning) unlocks the dark family legacy of cognitive behavioral therapist, Cindy James. Even as Praschan bombards horrors upon the James women, he leads them to find their inner strength to break through their harrowing history.
In his 2014 novel, Blind Evil, Praschan presents a twisted love triangle in which good and evil are entwined. The psychological thriller plays upon the closeness and bonds of love and friendship to reveal the skewed perception of sanity when devotion is at play.
Set to release his fifth novel, The Burden of Silence, in September and midway through writing his sixth, Praschan is now firmly embedded in the writing community of Columbia.
“There is something unique about the artistic community in Columbia,” he says. “I’ve never seen anything like it before. It is invigorating and inspiring and encouraging. Writing is a solitary business, so having a community helps you feel like you have a home that enables you to identify with others, to feel supported and to feel like you are part of a larger family.”
Learn more about Eric Praschan and his work at www.ericpraschan.com. His next public event is on Sept. 12 at the Boone County Historical Society. Find details at www.boonehistory.org/meet-the-author.