What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Zion Chronicles by Bodie Thoene
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Dune by Frank Herbert
Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft
Toss up: Either The Gunslinger series by Stephen King or The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey
What book do you think everyone should read?
Other than the Bible? Definitely The Princess Bride by William Goldman. It will change your life.
How long have you been writing?
Thirty-two years, on and off. More consistently for the past thirteen.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
I usually start with the core characters, then others materialize as the story progresses. Sometimes they end up stealing the show and become core characters in subsequent drafts.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
Not much. I tend to research on the go as I revise, typing searches into a tab adjacent to the document I’m working on.
Do you see writing as a career?
I’m a teacher/writer at the moment. I’d like to write full-time at some point, but for now, I enjoy having two careers — but only one that feels like work. (That would be teaching.)
What do you think about the current publishing market?
It’s tough but not impossible to break in. Publishing is a business, and if a company thinks they’ll make money selling your work to the masses, they’ll sign you.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I read mostly cross-genre, similar to what I write: science fiction, fantasy, horror, and humor combined.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I write best to instrumental music, either post-rock or cello. Somehow it makes the words show up faster for duty.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I draft one at a time, but I’ve always got notes-in-progress for my next project or few. I can usually revise and edit one while I’m drafting another. The first draft is just a sloppy copy anyway; it really takes shape during the revisediting process.
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
Fahrenheit 451 — there’s so much in there that’s still relevant today with social media, cancel culture, and the importance of free speech.
Pen or typewriter or computer?
I’m drafting my current novel by hand as a break from the computer screen, but I tend to go back and forth. My thoughts flow better when I write by hand, but I often can’t write fast enough to keep up with those thoughts. I was able to draft, revisedit, and complete a 125K-word novel last year in six months, and I did everything on my laptop. That wouldn’t have been possible time-wise if I’d started drafting it by hand.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
Roland from Stephen King’s Gunslinger series is an unforgettable character. He’s so mysterious, and we don’t learn much about his tragic backstory until a few books in. When we do, he makes so much more sense as a character, and we can’t help but root for him.
What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?
I have stories to share, and some people seem to enjoy them. I can’t ask for more than that.
A day in the life of the author?
During the school year, I teach my 7th and 8th grade students the joys of the English language for eight hours or so, then head home and try to cram in an hour of writing. If I’m lucky, I can manage a thousand words a day. During my time off (one of the perks of being a teacher), I write whenever I feel like it, often producing a couple thousand words each day between all the fun vacation activities.
Advice they would give new authors?
Write every day. Doesn’t matter how much, just keep the words flowing. Have a notebook either online or physical to jot down ideas for new stories. Revise and edit until every line is the best it can be, then submit the piece to a publisher. Start with short stories and use the feedback to hone your craft. Never give up. Never surrender. Commit to being the best writer you can be. And always look for ways to improve.
Describe your writing style.
Action and dialogue-oriented. I want my readers to picture everything that’s happening without being bogged-down in paragraph-long descriptions or info-dumps. I want the story to come together like a puzzle. This can be frustrating for some readers, but personally, I enjoy writers who value my intelligence and reward me for it by the end of the book.
What makes a good story?
Conflict, and lots of it. Realistic characters worth rooting for. Hope, not nihilism.
What are they currently reading?
The Hod King, Book 3 in the Babel series by Josiah Bancroft. Highly recommended.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
I usually have a general idea in mind, plot-points with plenty of wriggle room in between. Then I stalk my characters. I make life difficult for them. I stay true to them, and they lead the story. I write one chapter at a time and try to keep the chapters equal in length. Often the first draft veers away from the notes I wrote ahead of time; if the end result is better than what I’d planned, awesome. If not, I know where I need to prune the wandering tale.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
One trap I know of is writing to market. Just because vampires and zombies were popular five minutes ago doesn’t mean they will be by the time you submit your novel to a publisher. Instead, write what you enjoy reading. If that happens to be vampires and zombies, great; be true to yourself, and give it your own spin. But maybe your story will be something we’ve never seen before, and that could be exactly what readers want — as well as publishers.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Stress. My center needs to be calm but energized in order to write.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I just do my thing. As a result, readers tend to either love or hate my work. There isn’t much in between.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Write more! Stop playing video games!
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Avoiding charges of gender appropriation…
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
About six months from first draft to being publisher-ready — and then the edits continue.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Anytime I don’t know what to write, I take a step back, remind myself who’s boss (that would be me, the writer), and then take my story in a new direction. If I don’t like that direction, I can change it later. But I always have something to write about. Writing requires inspiration as well as perspiration. If you do the work, putting in the hour every day to scribble something down, the ideas will show up. Praying also helps!