A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?
I’m actually a very outgoing person and enjoy meeting and talking with people. My biggest hindrance is my reluctance to talk about my own works, mostly I think it’s because I don’t want to come across as egotistical about what I do. I’m a very modest person at heart.
Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?
When I write I’m not concerned with grammar or punctuation in the rough draft as much as I am with just getting the story told. However, when it’s time to clean up the draft, I am very conscious about wording. I’ve found that when words don’t flow, it can jar the reader and ruin the moment by pulling them out of their imagination. It’s important to keep the reader inside the story and I feel the best way to do that is to not have them stumbling over grammar mistakes or by using unfamiliar words that are too obscure and have to be referenced for definition.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
I’ve been an avid reader since junior high and have read more books then I can remember. I’ve never thought about the question above in terms of what I would have done with someone else’s story. I do have a favorite book by Joe Haldeman titled The Forever War that I’ve had since 1974. The pages are stiff, brown and a little fragile, but I’m still inclined to pick it up now and then and read it again. My favorite part of the story is the love relationship between the two main characters and the possibility that they might lose each other forever. My wife says I’m a romantic at heart. As long as she thinks so, then I’m doing something right.
What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?
I’ve always had a special liking for sci-fi. I think what has always attracted me to the genre are the endless realms of the imagination that are open to both the author and the reader. I have found it to be an excellent platform for future speculations about humanities destiny and also a place where observations about our current societal issues can take place side by side. The real magic about science fiction is the moment when the fictional dreams become factual reality. For example, in the 1950 era pulp magazines space travel was just a science fiction dream. In the 1960’s Star Trek TV show by Gene Roddenberry, we were shown flat screen computers, digital video discs, lasers, pneumatic injectors and hand-held communicators to mention only a few of the items that we now take for granted.
How important is research to you when writing a book?
I believe it’s important to know at least enough about the subject matter to be able to keep it believable for the reader. There is such a thing as overkill and I believe it’s important to find a comfortable balance between describing something and giving a lecture about it.
What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
When I first started writing I did so with a pen and a college bound notebook. I still have those notebooks for nostalgia sake, but I would not recommend that method to anyone serious about writing. It’s called longhand for a reason, and I found my writing simply could not keep up with my imagination. Thankfully my wife introduced me to a computer which I have found to be a much better way to work. Editing used to be difficult, but now it’s a breeze.
When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
I woke up one morning about eighteen years ago with a desire to write a story. Prior to that morning I had never really given it much thought. So I guess it’s safe to say it really did “dawn” on me. I’ve always had a very creative personality and I suppose writing was just another way for me to satisfy my need to create.
What inspires you to write?
Life. I know that’s a very ambiguous answer, but for me it’s a very simple truth. My inspiration comes from my personal life and from the world around me. Some of my story ideas come from my dreams or from the need to define a particular event in my life in order to bring closure. I have found it to be very healing and also inspirational for others.
How often do you write?
The frequency of my writing depends upon my schedule, but I do write at least a little bit everyday even if it’s only a few words.
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
It has been my experience that the creative influence behind my inspiration cannot be forced. There have been times where the story flows from me like an open faucet and I will write tirelessly for days or weeks at a time. Then I reach a point in the story where I’m stuck or life’s little urgencies will pull me away sometimes for long stretches. It’s these times that can be the most difficult to muddle through. But I’ve learned to have patience and to believe in myself because experience has taught me that inspiration will come, I just have to be ready for when it happens. Then it’s back to the keyboard and the two-finger styled author is pounding the keyboard once again.
Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
I have a general idea of what I’d like to write about. What I have found amazing is that once I start telling the story it takes on a life of its own. I find that I’m merely a co-creator being guided by the events in the story while guiding the characters through the world that evolves around them. It’s very exciting for me to see how the story unfolds, sometimes in ways that I never could have imagined without the help of my imaginary friends.
What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?
I think the hardest thing about writing is having the courage to open your soul to the reader. When I’m writing, I use my own life experiences to bring real emotions into a character’s life. I have laughed and cried while writing down my feelings into the story. But I believe that by having such strong emotions while writing that the feelings come through to the reader.
Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?
Yes. It’s been my experience that the block comes from something in the story line that doesn’t make sense. It’s frustrating to find oneself at that juncture and the solution is not always obvious. It takes time to work it out. How long depends on the individual. I try hard not to be discouraged by these blocks, but rather to be patient and believe that the answer is out there and know that I will find it.
Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?
What I’ve done to get past writers block that has helped. I go back a few chapters or maybe all the way back to the beginning and just read what I’ve already done. This has worked on more then one occasion. By re-immersing myself into the story, I get inspired by the characters. I imagine seeing their world through their eyes, then I’m better able to see the things they might say or do, and this usually helps me get back on track. I also keep a pad of paper and pen close at hand because even though I might not be able to write, I’ve found that my mind is unconsciously trying to solve the riddle and the answers come at the most inconvenient times. I jot notes to myself so I can refresh my memory the next time I’m able to sit and write.
Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?
I will read what I’ve written countless times before I finally sit back and say it’s done. For me I’ve found it best to let someone else proofread it because if there are mistakes, I’ve already overlooked them a thousand times. I paid for a service when I wrote my first book. The reviewer was honest and it was difficult to leave my ego in the other room. But the best thing I did was take his criticism to heart where I thought it applied, and I made some changes that ultimately proved beneficial to me as a writer.
What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
I was given some sound advice early on by someone whose opinion I valued deeply. She said that a good book was one where the reader could identify with at least one of the characters. If the reader is pulled into the character’s life, feels what they feel, knows what they are thinking, then that character becomes real to the reader, and the reader becomes concerned about their fate. The reader wants to know what’s going to happen to them. I believe that if I can evoke an emotional response in the reader, then I’ve done my job as the story teller.
If you had the choice to rewrite any of your books, which one would it be and why?
I think that there’s always something that we feel we could have done better if we could do it again. But there comes a time when it’s good to let go and move on to something else. Otherwise a person would spend an entire life re-writing their story and it would never get out into the world. But if I did go back it would be to fix those annoying little mistakes that slipped past spell check and the editor. Every book has them to some extent. The object is to eliminate the glaring ones and not sweat the little things.
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
Start writing and keep writing. If you need direction, find an author you really enjoy and study their work. Start small with short stories and work your way up to a full novel. Use your life as a template of experiences to help you develop your characters and pull the rest from the people around you. Every person is a unique personality waiting to be your inspiration. Write in a genre.