A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?
I don’t feel socially inept. I will admit that, sometimes in social situations, I can be introspective and quiet. I suppose authors are not socially inept, but rather observers of human behavior.
Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?
To the chagrin of my English teachers, I am not a grammar Nazi. In fact, I rely on editors to clean a great deal of that up. I’d prefer to focus on the characters and plot.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
The Bible. Think about the influence you could have on human behavior.
How important is research to you when writing a book?
Important enough to make the book authentic. Not so important that I find myself more interested in the research than the characters within the novel.
When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
I cannot really say that I wanted to be a writer. Writing is frustrating, often painful, and fraught with anxiety. What kind of lunatic would want to do this, I do not know. Writing is something that I have to do. If I didn’t my head would explode.
What inspires you to write?
Usually, I get inspired when I am interacting with people. They help flesh out my characters and solve plot points without ever knowing that I am using them.
How often do you write?
Daily when I am inspired. I can sometimes go a week without writing a sentence while I chew on something that is bothering me. Then, I can write for sixteen hours straight. Thank God for my wife who brings me food!
How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?
It was not hard at all to start writing something. What becomes nightmarishly difficult is to write something that you feel satisfied with.
Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
Sometimes I set goals for myself. Other times, I just admit early on that I am going to disappoint myself and skip the façade altogether.
Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?
To some degree, I suspect. Writing is lonely by nature, but I don’t think a person can write well if they shun human interaction. We need characters in our lives. They are, after all, our the medium through which we tell stories.
Do you think writers have a normal life like others?
If I understood what normal looked like I might be able to answer that question. My life feels normal, mostly. I suspect some of my friends would vehemently disagree with that assertion.
Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
I outline a plot and character arcs, but I don’t tie myself to those initial ideas. Once I start to write, the character takes over the plot and I just sort of get out of their way and allow them to do whatever it is they are going to do.
Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?
Yes. It lasts for as long as it is going to last. It isn’t something you control, really. There are steps you can take, but ultimately, if the idea or solution isn’t there, it isn’t going to be there until it presents itself.
Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?
I write other parts of the novel while I fight to solve the roadblock. Eventually, someone does something that triggers a solution for me or I am in the middle of a conversation and it hits me. I apologize if I stop our conversation and have to run to write something down.
What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?
Books are judged by their covers. My artist is probably more important than I am in selling the book.
Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?
I do. I see them as the other half of myself. I write, they read. The relationship is symbiotic and one cannot exist without the other. They are as important as I am in the process.
Does a bad review affect your writing?
It may guide it if I felt the review offered constructive criticism. Not all books are for all people, so I know that I am not going to satisfy everyone.
What did you want to become when you were a kid?
An astronaut. The Challenger explosion changed all that. As I researched the history of the space program, suddenly, I was a history geek.
How much of yourself do you put into your books?
I think that if someone who had never met me read the three novels I published, they would have a very strong sense of my character and history.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Yes, though it was sufficiently fictionalized to avoid offending any loved ones.
It is often believed that almost all writers have had their hearts broken at some point in time, does that remain true for you as well?
I have. I cannot speak for other writes, but a broken heart is part of life. I’m not sure you are a complete person if it hasn’t happen to you.
Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?
My wife. She is the one who pushed me to publish. She is the one that helps me to make time to write and is willing to take the financial risks. Without her, I doubt I would have ever published more than a short story or two.
Poets and writers in general, have a reputation of committing suicide; in your opinion, why is that the case?
They are deeper thinkers. If you cannot quiet your mind, I think you run the risk of committing suicide simply to find peace. So, I think it is plausible. It is difficult to silence my mind and I find that writing helps me work out my thoughts. Without it as an outlet, I could see myself suffering from mental illness and depression at some time in my life.
Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?
I am a teacher. I love my job, though I hate the bureaucracy and politics that surround it. People who do not teach have no idea how complex and utterly draining the job is, but they often think it is easy. I secretly revel in the failures of those folks when they enter the career and leave it almost as quickly. Like writing, teaching is a need, a calling, not a job.
Does your day job ever get in the way of your writing?
Of course. I do not write at work, ever. There is no time to do it anyway, but I feel that if you don’t keep strict lines between the two, you run the risk of not giving yourself fully to one or the other. Plus, it is easier to say no to writing than it is to say no to a group of students who need your attention and energy.
Another misconception is that all writers are independently wealthy, how true is that?
If it is true, then someone failed to tell me that I have a bank account somewhere in the Caymans. Do you know anything about that?
Is it true that anyone can be a writer?
No. That is like saying that anyone can be a professional athlete. Anyone can play a sport, just like anyone can write. Not everyone can be a writer.
Do your enjoy book signings?
I love them! I love to hear from people who have read my work. It gives me a sense of how I am doing and what they like.
They say books die every time they are turned into a movie; what do you think?
I see it more as a metamorphosis, though not always a positive one. I think people need to understand that different mediums require different story telling structures and that success in one does not always translate to success in another.
Which of your books took you the most time to write?
The Outhouse. It was my first and I stumbled in places and had hard lessons to learn. It is also the work I am most proud of.
Are you satisfied with your success?
Never. Sometimes. Always. I am happy, but I want to keep pushing myself. Sometimes I feel like a failure and other days I am riding cloud 9. It all depends on the day.
What advice would you like to give writers who are struggling with their first novels?
Finish what you start and suddenly you will be an author. The difference between success and failure is often a willingness to complete the task.
How did it feel when your first book got published?
Terrified. Panic and fear would be the emotions I had. Will anyone like it? How bad is it? I know my friends and family said it was good, but . . .? Just because one editor liked it . . .
Do you think you still have a story to tell to the readers?
I have too many ideas and not enough time. I will write until I am dead and then haunt someone to finish whatever it was I was writing when I croaked.
Do you believe you have done enough to leave a legacy behind?
I have a wonderful wife, two great children and many people who would consider me a great friend. Then there are the students and colleagues I have helped over the years. That is a wonderful legacy, regardless if anyone reads a single word I write.
Although all books say that all the characters in the book aren’t real or related, but are they really all fictional and made up?
All of my characters are amalgams of myself, people I know or people I have interacted with. Though they are fictional, they are as real as you or I, too.
Which of your novels best describes you as a person?
I think that would depend on the moment and the situation. No one particular novel, rather a blend of them would be the best summary of my character.
When can the readers expect your next book in print?
It takes me about two years between projects. Since I am publishing a novel in Spring of 2016, I would not expect something until sometime in 2018.
Have you received any awards for your literary works?
I have won a CIPA EVVY for Best Historical Fiction and Honorable Mentions in the Great Southern California Book Festival, The Florida Book Festival and the New England Book Festival.
If you were given the opportunity to form a book club with your favorite authors of all time, which legends or contemporary writers would you want to become a part of the club?
I limited myself to twelve, including myself. Otherwise the list would have been pages long. Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas, Thomas Hardy, Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Stephen Ambrose, Thomas Harris, Stephen Crane, Ken Follet, JRR Tolkien and George RR Martin.
Tell us about an interesting or memorable encounter you had with a fan?
I attended a book club meeting with a friend. The club had adopted my novel based on her recommendation. I had to convince them that I wasn’t a celebrity, but an utterly normal guy. It was surreal for me. Truth is, I learned to love those ladies at that club.
Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?
My dad was an avid reader when I was young. My mom has become one later in life. I was laways encouraged to read. I grew up on comic books and pulp novels and expanded from there.
How do you think concepts such as Kindle, and e-books have changed the present or future of reading?
They have made books more accessible and cheaper to obtain. I like e-readers for that. They are also portable libraries, which is very cool for a long vacation. They have their downsides though. People get distracted by technology and it eliminates the hand-off that often occurs when a person shares a great book.
Which literary character do you most resonate with on a personal level?
Tyrion Lanaster. In my opinion, he may be the greatest character ever created in fiction.