How long have you been writing?
I started telling stories with pictures before I ever began writing. So it was a natural transition to writing them down as a child. Luckily, my Uncle Danny encouraged me by paying me a quarter a page to write stories. Didn’t matter what, just that I wrote a story. I kept writing to keep those quarters rolling in; they could actually buy something back in the day. My first story to be published was featured in my elementary school newspaper; it was a horror tale about an archaeologist and a mummy, even then I knew two things: I wanted to dig and I wanted to write.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Stylistically, I prefer older, pulpier writers who actually played with the language without padding their stories heavily. As a reader, I like a lean style similar to Ambrose Bierce who once said that a novel is only a short story…padded. However, I do not like the extreme of modern industrial fiction that insists one remove every adjective, adverb, and dialogue tag other than “said” and “asked.” I try to be flowing, florid but not excessive. I also find that I break the fourth wall often, especially in first-person perspective stories. I feel I can credit that to writers who feel comfortable reaching out and speaking to their audience, such as modern writers like Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, and others. Older writers such as Dickens, Poe, and Lovecraft use this style but without the humor. I try to embrace that for horror. Thematically, I can go back to those writers as well as people like Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne. I like to deal with speculative fiction mostly, so I like writers with imaginations who have something to say about the state or fate of humanity. Attitude wise, I am probably too much like Harlan Ellison, only without the talent, money, litany of works, and clout.
Where have you found inspiration for your stories/books?
Depends on the story to be honest. I have found inspiration in so many places. Not all of them turned into stories that ended up being written down, but I find myself spurred to daydream little scenes of situational tales based on any number of things, from a real life incident, to a song, a person, or even a photograph or scene in nature. My latest story, “Beta Male, Alpha Wolf”, was actually inspired by a real life event that left me broken and battered physically and emotionally; so this wild, unhinged tale of a werewolf with a broken heart was how I dealt with it. It was therapeutic, even cathartic to write.
How did you come up with your story titles?
That’s almost as varied a process as coming up with the stories themselves. Inspiration comes from a number of places but titles can be trickier. Sometimes it comes before the story and spurs and steers the tale itself. Other times I find myself enjoying a particular phrase or piece of dialogue and use it for the title. I’ll give you some examples. If a story is inspired by a song, such as my short submission for Chaosium’s Summer of Lovecraft anthology, “Some Kind of Way Out of Here”, it comes from the song lyrics. In the case of my story about dwarves on a submarine in Capes & Clockwork, “Deep Diving Death Defying Dwarves of the Deep” is a twist on what Navy submariners call themselves. Only they use “denizens” instead of “dwarves.” For the first Cycle of Ages Saga novel, its title, Finders Keepers, refers to the mercenary company that Kaladimus Dor, the main character, partners with on the island.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing, and how do you deal with this?
So many things. And the longer I do it the more challenges I encounter. Motivation is an issue with me. I deal with depression and insecurity issues already, so writing, which is a self-motivated endeavor that ends up with one exposing their creative endeavors to the world for criticism, can be a bit daunting. People who say that it is only fun for them. Well, I hate those people. I enjoy what I do. But I also know that there comes a moment when the bird has to fly the coop and face being shot to pieces by every asshole on the internet. Or worse yet, have it ignored for a bestselling, ghostwritten book about Snookie’s new baby and people writing Bigfoot and dinosaur porn. Despite all of that nonsense, writing is very freeing, even liberating. It’s the part where I try to talk other people into reading the results and then awaiting their feedback that I hate. Though I am told that I pretend to deal with it quite well. I guess a steady regimen of bitching about it keeps my ulcers from exploding like the super volcano under Yellowstone and drowning me in my own blood.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Get a stable job that pays you six-figures first and then budget the time to write into your schedule. Trying to write for a living nowadays is a fool’s errand for the most part. Less than ten percent of writers can pay their bills and live off of what they make. So plan on telling your story your way for you; with 15 million books flooding the market every year, no one may be reading but you. And if you do plan on running the gauntlet and trying to keep the lights on with your writing, you must be prepared to write to your market, unashamedly and unabashedly, as the well-paid whore that you will become, a euphemism that Harlan Ellison uses to describe himself as a professional, successful writer. Build a platform online, branch out, and if you can stand people on the internet, be social with them. Start this process a few years in advance of actually releasing your magnum opus. If you don’t, you’ll be playing catch up with people who have 100K followers but not a single book on the shelf, much less on Kindle. Don’t worry about an agent or a manager for now. If you have to share you profits with anyone, other than a publisher worth their share of the profits, do yourself a favor and find a good, eager, and energetic publicist. Find one, hire one, and then call me, so I can hire them too.
Do you sit down and write “by the seat of your pants,” or do you carefully outline all the plot points before you start creating? (Or in other words, are you a “pantster” or a “plotter”?)
I am only a pantster when it comes to poetry and very short fiction. I find that if I don’t work on careful notes, research, and outlines, I do not finish longer projects. Hell, with my attention span, I have enough trouble starting them. But mission planning is always necessary in my opinion, especially for a genre that requires a lot of world-building, like most sci-fi and fantasy. I started my endeavor to become a professional writer as a screenwriter so there are plot formulas, scene lists, character bibles, and more that I used for writing screenplays and I find that those are helpful to regular fiction writing too, from mapping out worlds to complicated action scenes.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see as the star(s)?
Funny you ask, the first two installments of the Cycle of Ages Saga, Finders Keepers and Sands of Sorrow were written as screenplays before they became novels. Producers told us we’d need a fan base to push for enough funding to do them right though. They are pretty high concept, big budget affairs. So we’ve contemplated this before and talked it over. My preference for Kaladimus Dor, our calamitous mage of Myth, would be Robert Sheehan, an actor from the British series Misfits. Though I think Freddie Highmore, Norman from Bates Motel, could do the role justice as well. We’d actually talked to Peter Mensah’s agent about our saga and sent them the scripts for him to read, but we never heard back, which is pretty typical without any sort of funding behind a project. He would make the perfect Breuxias. As for our elven war-mage, Yax’ Kaqix (pronounced Yahsh-hah-keesh), I think Jeffrey Donovan from Burn Notice would play the part perfectly; he even has the martial arts background to make the fight choreography believable.
If you could talk to any writer, living or dead, who would it be, and what would you discuss?
Honestly, I’d love to say Douglas Adams, as he writes some of my favorite books, but I think Mark Twain would be a helluva lot more fun and insightful in the long run. It’s a close call though. If we’re talking ideals, I’d just have the Doctor swing by in the TARDIS; we’d pick up Adams and then travel back in time to catch old Sam Clemens on a particularly ornery but talkative day, preferably after he’s completed War Prayer but realized he cannot published it while he’s alive. Then we can all sit back over some whiskey and talk about the life, the universe, and everything.
What writing project are you currently working on?
For the moment, I am on a hiatus while I recover from a back injury. It took me too long to get my last story out the door and then I had to bow out on a hardboiled detective anthology. So I am taking it easy and trying to decide what is next for me. I spend so much time and energy on short submissions that I may discontinue most of those projects for the interim and focus on mission-planning and world-building for another novel. The main problem is that I have so many ideas outlined and in different states of development that I am not sure what to work on next. It may come down to which genre I want to try my hand at or which theme/tone I am more in tune with emotionally at the time. On top of that, there are people in my circle of friends, family, and fans that are pushing me to write something more commercially appealing, like erotica or a children’s book. I thought fantasy was commercially appealing. Judging by our sales, I guess not, at least not our saga anyway. How about you? Got any suggestions? I have at least one idea or premise for every genre. I just have little faith in what I am doing at the moment, and chronic pain and depression are not the best companions for crafting coherent, much less entertaining fiction.