A: I had
no choice. From a very early age it was a natural gift that came very easily to
me. In 7thgrade,
my teacher thought my essays were too good and were being written by someone at
home, either by my parents or older siblings. In order to catch me cheating,
she changed the day’s entire lesson and had each of us write an impromptu essay
at our desks. Of course, I had no idea about any of this, and it was only
revealed later at a Parent-Teacher Conference when she explained the trap to my
mother. She told her that I wrote an even better essay than any of my former
ones on that particular day, and thought I was destined to be a writer. No one
at that age could write like that! As a result of this stunt, that’s all my
beaming mother ever said to me when a career choice came up, “You should be a
writer.” I’m sure that made her day to hear about my abilities from my teacher,
but I can’t really take any credit for a gift from God. It’s innate. I have no
idea how it works. I will say that, despite such accolades, I was slow coming
to the writing table. I became a pastor out of college and did ministry for over
20 years, but I always knew I was a writer and eventually gave in to His
is your typical writing day like?
Routine bores me. I appreciate discipline and schedules, but it doesn’t help me
to be creative. For me, “variety is the spice of life.” It sounds
contradictory, but I need to have lots going on to stay focused. It also
depends what my project is that day. A screenplay is different from a newspaper
column, a novel, a blog post, or an article. Usually I start late and write late.
I am not a morning person and all the dribble about “up at dawn” doesn’t work
for me. I usually write for a while, a couple of hours, and then take a break
and walk around outside or post something on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
Then I’m back at it for another couple of hours. If I’m on a deadline, the
breaks are fewer. If I’m writing for myself (not being paid), then it’s a
slower process with lots of time to percolate ideas. That is critical, to let
ideas simmer and form themselves. I like to have several things going at once
so I can jump around between projects. (If I get bored or stuck on one thing,
then I can go to something fresh and this makes for a continuous flow of ideas.)
Q: Do you
outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?
A: I hate outlines. If I do one, it is very sparse. I have a general idea of
where I’m going with a scene or chapter, and so I just write it. I do know the
overall story, and I usually have a synopsis of it (one page and then a longer
version of 8-10 pages), but not anything too detailed as far as an outline.
many revisions will you typically do on a novel?
not like most writers, I think. I don’t move on until it is absolutely the best
it can possibly be (for me, at this stage of my abilities). I will rewrite and
revise until it’s perfect, and only then will I go on to the next chapter or
scene. The first chapter or two gets polished so many times I can’t even say
with certainty how many passes it gets. I go by the “five and dime” rule. Any
reader will read the first five pages and the last ten to see if it’s any good
before buying or recommending it, so I spend a good deal of time on the front
and back end of my stories. So an actual number of revisions would be hard to
nail down. Maybe 50-100 per chapter? They say easy reading is hard
writing, and I think that’s true for me. I revise it until it’s just right.
is your best tip for editing a manuscript?
it when you finish it. Put it away for several months and let it rest. You
can’t see the forest for the trees after being in so deep on every decision;
your objectivity is shot. Your brain needs to relax and get recharged with
other things before you can really see what’s wrong with it. If you did your
best, when you read it again it should impress you. If it doesn’t, then you’re
not done. Your first read of it in this period should get this reaction: “That
was pretty dang good!” If you don’t like it, neither will the reader. You are
not writing for you, you are writing forthem.
writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?
A: Write the scene you see. You do not have to know everything
about your story. Sometimes you get stalled by not knowing what the next scene
should be. Forget it. Write the ones you know. Don’t be a perfectionist
initially. The first step is just to get some “clay” on the page that you can
mold later on. That’s when perfectionism comes into play, later in the rewrite.
For now, just get the clay on the page. Stay in the chair [and] resist the urge
to get up. Keep writing. Find a mentor when you’re first starting out. Go to
writer’s conferences and make friends with writers who are further along,
network with them, and ask them if they’ll look at just one chapter. Try to
keep those relationships alive. Learn to say no to things. It may be TV,
events, people, appeals for your help, etc. You cannot do everything. I
always pray and ask God for help. If He’s really my Creator, and I think He is,
then how stupid of me to think I can do what He does (create something out of
nothing) without His help. I only look dumb.
Q: Do you ever suffer through writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it?
It’s a fallacy. The real issue [is] fear. Stephen King said,“I’m convinced that fear is at the
root of most bad writing. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather;
you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for
the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the
feather; the magic was in him.”The
magic is still in you, despite what you feel. If not fear, then it’s just being
lazy. You can write. The question is: Do you want to writetoday? Either you’re afraid or
you’re not ready. Writer’s block is an excuse. To think you cannot write when
you obviouslycanwrite (you’ve already proven that) is
drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?
Overall, [it was] movies, especially war movies, and books that I was exposed
to as a kid. Seeing history on the screen or in my mind just fascinated me.
There’s something about true historical stories, like the Wright brothers, and
Civil War heroes like Mosby. The history of the world is so amazing when you
realize these people really walked the earth. Alexander the Great,
Jackson, Napoleon, and Lincoln were real men. I’d also say becoming a Christian
led to my enjoyment of supernatural thrillers. The spiritual element of life,
how God fits into history, fascinates me—and truth is stranger than fiction,
Q: Do you
utilize beta readers?
I will show what I’m doing to a select few folks I trust. But I’ve found that
most people are not writers so they either say things your mom would say that
doesn’t help you improve (“This is the greatest thing I’ve ever read in my
entire life!”), or they don’t have any idea what they’re talking about and give
you criticisms that only depress or confuse you. The best thing to do is find
someone who can write or who reads a lot and ask specific questions of them
after they read your stuff (one chapter at a time or they’ll never finish it).
My biggest question with them is: Did I wake them up from the dream of my story
world? I don’t want anything to jar them awake to the reality that
they’re just looking at a piece of paper. The other option is to join, or
start, a writing group, the smaller the better, where you review each other’s
stuff. That, of course, takes time, so you lose that aspect of it having to
read other’s stuff.
your most recently published novel, what’s one scene you really enjoyed
is a hard one to answer, but if I were honest I’d have to say there are three
of them: the Prologue toXposurebecause I spent a lot of time on it
and it really rolls, and you feel like you’re in the Vatican; the following
chapter because I love turkey hunting and it captured the thrill of it so well;
and the very next chapter on Stan being activated as a sleeper agent in Ybor
City’s pawn shop. That last one really smokes. You can visualize what I write
in all three, which is my strength as a writer, but the last one admittedly
seems so very real.
makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?
guess it’d help to know the gist of theXposurestory first.Xposureis about a conflicted Soviet “sleeper”
agent—Stan Stanislaw, a US Navy SEAL—who reneges on a deal his parents made
during World War II, and now without a country, tries to survive long enough to
expose a plot that threatens more than an antiquated Cold War agenda. He
discovers that the future of the human race is up for grabs after stumbling
onto a UFO aspect to his activation as a spy. Stan is special because he was
inspired by a real Navy SEAL that I know, and the research involved with who a
SEAL is made him very genuine to me. I did make him fit my story and who I
wanted him to be, but the core of Stan is very real. The other aspect is that
it uses some theology theories I have on the Book of Genesis…so it has a
personal appeal to me regarding demonology and UFOs.
is your best advice for author self-promotion?
A: Make a short video trailer for your book. That does more than
almost anything because then you have something to share on social media. You
can see two of mine forXposureandSomething
Grayon my website [linked in
name caption above]. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are also very helpful
to get the word out. You can join groups on Facebook that relate to your genre,
and give away free chapters to members there, or create a page for it or a related
field like archaeology or some aspect of your book. (I have two FB pages on
Civil War history and supernatural events with periodic promotional stuff
posted on my writing.) Write articles on LinkedIn about writing tips or your
genre with related news/articles. You can also promote it for free on certain
book sites, as well as through Amazon’s KDP Select program. Just Google free
books and lots will come up. Sometimes it has to be scheduled well in advance,
so don’t wait too long to contact them about your giveaway. You should also
include writing samples on your website. I have several chapters and articles
there for folks to read. Also add your website link to your signature on your
emails. Or you can skip all that and just pay someone a lot of money to do it
Q: How do
you deal with negative reviews?
think of Clark Gable inIt
Happened One Nightwhen he
says, “Don’t make me laugh.” It’s easy to criticize, but unless they have some
credibility, ignore them. You’ll sleep better. Same principle as beta readers.
One “writer” posted a negative review that bugged me initially, until I went
and read some of her stuff. It was absolutely awful. I felt much better after
that because she couldn’t write…at all. So just because someone has an opinion,
it doesn’t mean they’re right. You need to value therightopinion because the person has
credentials. Tolkien said,“I am dreading the publication, for it will be
impossible not to mind what is said. I have exposed my heart to be shot at.”No matter what you write, somebody
will not like it. So be it.
is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?
money! Ha! Seriously, I’ve never thought about that. The freedom is nice when
you hear friends complain about their job or not getting time off to go
somewhere. It’s just who I am and what I do. I will say that it’s pretty
rewarding when people read stuff you made up and your words make them cry (in a
good way), or they compliment you profusely. It’s nice to be liked, but I write
because I can and never thought much about adulation or perks.
is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?
nice to be paid for putting words on a page, but it doesn’t pay a lot. Not
unless you have some big platform to promote yourself. In life, you usually
have time or money, but almost never do you have both. I guess I’d say a
guaranteed paycheck is nice every two weeks, but that steady income will come
eventually if you’re good.
is your current writing project?
A: I have
three screenplays going; two are paid gigs and one is my own spec script. There
are also two more books on the slate in theXposuretrilogy. And regular things like my
newspaper column or some freelance stuff always seems to come in, too.
are three of your favorite novels?
Tolkien’sLord of the Ringstrilogy is hard to beat, butThe Chronicles of Narniastill works on so many levels, and on
several that are just being discovered now with Lewis’ love of planets coming
to light. I’m not sure which of those would make a desert island easier to
take, but Tolkien has three versus seven for Clive, so I’ll sayLOTR(if I can haveThe Hobbittossed in). Seriously,LOTRis epic and still stands up pretty
Q: If you
could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be? What would
talk to them about?
Charles Dickens, hands down. I’d ask him every question I could think of aboutA Christmas Carol, which is a
timeless classic that changed so much about the world’s view of Christmas and
the Industrial Age abuses of the poor and children. LikeLOTR, it holds up even today,
and it’s nearly perfect in so many aspects. That is a classic that holds a ton
of skillful writing in very, very few pages. If you have not readA Christmas Carol, do so
is your best piece of advice for budding authors?
every book you can on writing before you go to a good writer’s conference. Then
repeat that advice for the next year. If you can afford it, repeat again. Be
friendly and outgoing; meet and eat with as many people as you can; walk with
speakers to the next session, ask questions, give away business cards and get
as many as you can in return.
is your favorite inspirational quote?
A:“Don’t fool yourself. You
cannot create without knowing the Creator. Read the Bible, still the number one
bestseller of all time.”
No witches, warlocks or vampires...
just a sexy tale about a guy trying to live the Hollywood dream...
I used to be a troublemaker in my early years. I spent most of my
teens and twenties in and out of juvenile facilities. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life and that contributed to my troubles. I got arrested at the
age of twenty-four and was sentenced to ten years with six years suspended.
That turned out to be pivotal [moment in time] for me. I was sent to M.C.I.J.—a medium security
prison in Maryland—where I ran into a childhood friend I had seen maybe three
times in ten years. He worked in the kitchen at the prison. He was transferred
to my section and my writing career started shortly thereafter. I’m a fast
reader. I used to read three, sometimes four novels a day. I was reading so fast that after a month I’d read all the books on the tier. I asked my friend Ronald Wilson, "Do you have anything to read?" That's when he gave me a book he'd written. After a few
pages, I was hooked. Of all the crime dramas I've ever read in my life—and I've
read hundreds—his book was by far one of the best. I hate to say it, but after I
finished, I became jealous. I thought "if this person can write a book, so
can I.” After [reading Ronald's book], I started writing. I attempted to write a crime drama as
well but I never sold a hard drug a day in my life,
so I didn’t feel my story would be authentic. So I changed the direction and
decided to try a comedy. It took eleven months, but I finished my first book
called County Bounties. Ipassed it
around to be read. I was sitting in the day room, watching someone as they read
it on their bunk, without them knowing. The guy leaned in, furrowed his eyebrows, slammed the book on his bed and
laughed until tears came out of his eyes. At that moment, I knew this was my
calling. I came home and started typing my book. After formatting, [the manuscript] was so
long that I was able to turn it into two books. After that, I began writing in my
spare time. My writing process is pretty simple. I make myself write a minimum of one page per day for each book. Usually it’s more than a page; but on those lazy days, I do the minimum. My influences, believe it or not, aren't authors. Growing up, I was a big fan of the Farrelly brothers. I’m a big fan of There's Something About Mary,Me Myself & Irene, Kingpin, as well as their early movies. [I'm also a fan of] early Adam Sandler. I prefer to write dark comedies and my novels are reflections of those movies. I write slapstick comedies that have situations that would never be allowed in real life. I've been told my first novel reads like a black South Park or Family Guy. Now I’m working on my sixth and seventh books. I’m also trying my hand at screenwriting. I went through doubts with my other books as
I'm sure other authors do. No matter how down or how little I believed in my
novels, the responses [to them] have been overwhelmingly positive. I look back now and
remember writing books and reading them to myself when I was in elementary
school; or, as a teen, making my mother a birthday card that made
her cry and laugh at the same time. I realize it was always in my future to
write. I just had to learn it the hard way.
No witches, warlocks or vampires...
just a sexy tale about a guy trying to live the Hollywood dream...
A: I’ve always written contributing
articles and book reviews to periodicals, mainly archaeology related ones. I’d
always wanted to write novels and my head began to fill with ideas until I got
to the point where I sat down to write the first words of my first book. Once I
realized I’d be able to finish the book I decided to leave my job and become a
Q: What is your typical writing day
A: I have two typical types of day. The
first is to get up and have breakfast while I read the paper. After about an
hour or so something tells me I need to write. I listen to music as I write and
write for as long as the ideas flow and the writing isn’t forced. The second type of day is when the
ideas don’t come and the writing doesn’t flow, in which case I do something
completely different until it begins to happen. I also need many days to
research, make notes and prepare for writing. This preparation creates a
structure that allows me to write.
Q: Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?
A: I find I need an
idea of the story line to provide me with a structure that shapes the novel but
provides space to accommodate the flashes of inspiration that all writers get.
In this way the inspiration changes the dynamic but stays within the overall
intention of the book. I write novel cycles and this demands discipline to
prevent one novel subverting the others. The only way I can do this is by starting
with an idea of where the series is going to end and the only way that works
for me is to road test the validity and integrity of this before I begin. Once
the structure is in place I know I have plenty of freedom in how I deliver the
story and action.
Q: How many revisions will you typically
do on a novel?
A: I constantly revise and revisit as I
write. Then I try and leave the book for a period without thinking about it.
Once it’s out of my head I return and do a full scale revision of the plot
after which I give it a final revision for style and mistakes before it goes to
Q: What is your best tip for editing a
A: I have two tips. If you have the
slightest hesitation about anything then cut it. The second is that the
first draft, however much revised, is always too long and will require pruning,
often quite savagely. It helps if you try to view your writing from the
perspective of a hostile critic.
Q: What habits and tricks have made you
a better writer?
A: I am fortunate to have someone who reads
my books and comments critically as I am writing. It is very easy to become
too wrapped up in your creation and complacent about it. I also pay attention
to criticism of previous books where it is helpful. I think after one book has
come out it is a good thing to consider what I could have done better before
starting the next.
Q: Do you suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it? A: When I get blocked, which happens
periodically, I stop and do something else. I find that going for a walk, or
other exercise helps. If I set out to walk the fields
for a few hours I take a note book with me as once my head clears the ideas
come....and the ideas are back.
Q: What drew you to your preferred
A: I was an archaeologist and ancient historian
and the ancient Greek books came out of a question which was difficult to
understand through research. The feeling grew that the best way to try and
explain the reasons why the Athenians invented and then defended, against all
the odds, democracy was to try and fill in the gaps and that included the
psychology of the individuals concerned. The best way to approach that was
through imagining their situations; from that it was a short step to a novel. The supernatural thrillers were inspired
by a love of the more subtle, atmosphere-driven examples of the genre and also,
and there’s no way to get around this, by my own experience.
Q: Do you utilize Beta readers
Q: In your most recently published
novel, what was one scene you really enjoyed writing—and why?
A: I enjoyed writing the scene where a
disoriented Jed Gifford is hunted across the moss in Dark Coven (book 3 in the
Ancient Gramarye series). It deals with the demise of a particularly unpleasant
minor character and is written from his perspective. It is a particularly dark
scene and very fast moving. I felt the sense of strange
atmosphere as I wrote and because of that managed to inject an element of
sympathy for Jed I hadn’t anticipated, and even a touch of dark humor. After
all everyone has their own story to tell. I think it is a genuinely ambiguous
and frightening few pages
Q: What makes the characters of your
most recent novel so special?
A: I finished Greenman Resurrection last
night (Halloween). It is the last in the Ancient Gramarye series. I think the
characters are special because they have loved, suffered and evolved over the
best part of twelve hundred pages. The longer you spend with a character, sharing their feelings, the more real they become. This is particularly
difficult in the case of the less flamboyant, ordinary characters so necessary
in delivering a believable cast. If the characters don’t work, the book won’t.
Q: What is the best advice for author
A: I’m not really the person to answer that
as I don’t think I’m very good at it. I’ve taught myself social media, etc., but
the best advice I can give is persevere with the writing. It took me a long
time to build up a readership. I also think it helps to promote and help other
writers; it’s a very lonely occupation.
Q: How do you deal with negative
A: We all get them, they are a fact of
life. I have three points on this. If they hurt too much, stop reading reviews.
Otherwise try and differentiate the spiteful from those that make a serious
point. Once you have got over the upset consider that point and see if you can
benefit from it. The best help I ever got was when I was writing my first book.
I showed a draft of it to a friend who was an experienced author and then sat
back expecting a shower of praise. She eviscerated it, told me some home truths
about how much hard work it takes to write well and then gave me some very good
advice on how to start again. It is the most significant help I’ve ever had,
based as it was on honesty.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of
being an indie author? A: The freedom that comes with it and the
feeling of self worth when you begin to succeed. By succeed I mean acquire a
readership who love your books.
Q: What is the least favorite aspect
of being an indie author?
A: Having to learn everything for yourself,
no book promotion, and the isolation of the role.
Q: What is your current writing
A: I’ve just finished the Ancient Gramarye
series of supernatural thrillers which began with Skendleby and I think for a
few days I will sit emptily and miss them. In mid November I’ll start writing The Sacrifice of Athena, the third of the Luck Bringer series. I’m looking
forward to inhabiting my favorite character, Mandrocles, again.
Q: What are three of your favorite
A: It is so hard to choose and I’m
constantly reading, but three that come to mind are Bleak House by Charles
Dickens, Waterland by Graham Swift, and probably, because I loved it when I was
at school, Lord of the Rings. However apart from the Dickens, although it’s a
tight thing between Bleak House and Great Expectations, on another day it could
be a different list.
Q: If you could have lunch with any novelist,
living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?
A: Not quite a novelist because there were
no novels when he was writing, but I’d like to have lunch with Aeschylus, the
Greek poet and dramatist from the fifth century BC. He was the first war hero
poet who fought at Salamis and Marathon where his brother bled to death next to
him. He invented modern drama and managed to write about women as strong
characters and not just ignore them like the ancient historians did. He is a
major figure in the Luck Bringer series and I’d like to talk to him about how
my portrayal of him could be improved. I’d also like to share experiences about
how facing violence and dealing with death affects writers. I think there is
plenty of that in his writing and there’s a little in mine.
Q: What is your best piece of advice
for budding authors?
A: Do it because you love it, not for money
Q: What is your favorite inspirational
A: The final words of the politician Lord
Palmerston. “Die, my dear doctor? That’s the last
thing I intend to do!" #
don't remember becoming a writer. Perhaps it would be better to say, I don't
remember becoming a storyteller. As far as I or any of my close family can
remember, I have always been telling stories. My memory being somewhat hazy, I
don't remember when I first sat down and put one of those stories into writing.
I suppose it would have been at school, in a creative writing lesson. Since
then, I haven't ever stopped. I've been scribbling in notebooks and filling
word-processor documents with ideas ever since.
What is your typical writing day like?
don't know if there is a typical day for me, to be honest. I fairly frequently
have a long bus journey to and from work, so I may spend part of that journey
either working over ideas in my head, or getting something basic down on my
laptop. If I'm at home, I like to have a cup of coffee on hand and some mood
music playing. By mood I mean something that evokes whatever place or feeling
the scene I'm about to write should convey.
Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?
a huge amount. I can't write from the seat of my pants, as the saying goes, but
equally I don't like to map every scene out in advance of writing it. I've
actually just this week started a blog post series exploring
the ways that I am applying frameworks from my day job, as a software
developer, to the writing process.
How many revisions will you typically do on a novel?
hard to say. As many as it needs, I should think. My first pass at anything I
write is inevitably littered with grammatical errors and needs a thorough
scouring for any misplaced apostrophes. After that, there's always plenty to
consider in the editing process.
What is your best tip for editing a manuscript?
someone else to look at it for you. Multiple someone elses, in fact. Not that I
don't think there is a lot to be gleaned from setting aside then returning to
your own work, to review and revise, but a fresh pair of eyes—someone else's
eyes— is an invaluable tool.
Which writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?
not sure that you could call it a trick, but the word-processing program
Scrivener has served me especially well, when it comes to being able to plot
and plan in a structured but flexible way. In terms of habits, I'd say reading out aloud
what I've written. It's often a great way of getting a feel for whether a
sentence is structured well, or testing whether dialogue sounds believable.
Do you ever suffer through writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it?
do, and I envy any writer who doesn't. One technique that I have found useful
in clearing the blockage, so to speak, is to work on something different. I
know it sounds a little counterproductive, but sometimes spending a couple of
hours—or days—working on a different creative writing project, or on
something not related to writing at all, does wonders for me. If in doubt,
though, going for a run has become a sure-fire way of jiggling the blockage out
of my brain.
What drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?
never occurred to me to chose a genre to write. Fantasy and science fiction are
the genres that I love to read, so it was natural for me to write in those
genres too. I can't think of any other genre that I would want to write. Not
that I don't like to read outside of sci-fi and fantasy, but I definitely have no inclination to write, for instance, a thriller or a piece of literary
fiction. I know where my interest and strengths lie.
Do you utilize beta readers?
haven't so far, but it's definitely something that I would consider for
projects in the future. The concept makes a lot of sense to me, since I work in
the software development profession, where we release software into various
stages of alpha and beta before letting it loose on a wider audience. I've seen
firsthand how the feedback of beta users has been key in refining a product
into something better, so I can only imagine the same would be true of using
beta readers on a novel.
In your most recently published novel, what’s one scene you really enjoyed
not published just yet, but I can answer this in reference to my novel
Witherfist, which is currently in "funding" on Inkshares. In the very first
scene, the reader is introduced to the central character, Irusai Daud. This
introduction has to do a lot in the way of establishing what the world and its
people are like. I enjoyed writing it, and I'm proud of it, because I think it
struck the right balance between building the readers' understanding of the
world, and progressing the narrative. There is a lot of backstory in place,
for the characters and the setting, but the scene is never weighed down by any
of it. Instead, it's sprinkled here and there with hints and teases in a way
that, I've been told, keeps the reader wanting to know more.
What makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?
like to think that they're both something you've not seen before. Irusai is a
woman in her late thirties, a mother and a wife; but also an incredibly
accomplished warrior. She was once a provincial governor, in the same vein as
the Samurai lords of feudal China. When a political coup threatened the
country, she and a number of her peers made pacts with spirits to gain the
upper hand in combat. Now, Irusai finds herself permanently bound to a creation that feeds upon the life energy of others. She is effectively in self-imposed
exile, and to return home she must not only find a way of ridding herself of
the spirit tied to her, but also potentially come to terms with the knowledge
that going home means accepting an illegitimate ruler, if only so that she can
be reunited with her husband and young daughter.
other central character is Arren, a princess of the Empire that Irusai was
sworn to protect. Her father was overthrown by her mother in the political coup
that drove Irusai into exile. Arren sided with her father in the conflict and
consequently is also a fugitive. At the time of the coup, Arren was outside of
Imperial territory, leading diplomatic and trade negotiations in the desert
sultanates of Isherban. She's an incredibly capable woman, who has been well
educated since childhood, but doesn't have a huge number of friends in the
Imperial court. She is also a lesbian, something that perhaps shouldn't be so
special but to me, as a gay woman myself, actually is. Her sexuality is only a
small part of her character, but it's an important one to me, as someone who
grew up surrounded by images of Disney princesses who never quite represented
What is your best advice for author self-promotion?
it personal. As I'm taking part in a publishing contest for the first time, a
lot of what I've been doing is feeling out what works and what doesn't. I've tried
all sorts, from placing adverts both in print and online, to joining networks
of readers and authors. What has been the most successful, without a doubt, has
been engaging on a one-to-one basis with potential readers.
How do you deal with negative reviews?
always happy to receive constructive feedback, or feedback that amounts to not
much more than "this just isn't my thing." So far, touch wood, I
haven't had any majorly negative reviews from readers. If or when I do, I'm not
sure how I would deal with them, other than to accept that not everyone will
like what I do, and not let that knowledge become a burden.
What is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?
have to say the supporting community. There are so many of us, all trying to
make our voices heard and share our stories with the world. It can be daunting,
but sharing the experience with others makes it less so. On top of that, I have
found there is a real willingness to help not only promote within the
community, but offer frank and honest feedback on any work you might have in
What is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?
my time between writing and promotion. Though having a support network in place
is fantastic, you ultimately have to be a one-person promotion machine,
unless you're willing and/or able to sink a bunch of cash into getting someone
to promote for you.
What is your current writing project?
current project is the epic fantasy novel Witherfist, which is part of Inkshares. Witherfist is an epic fantasy, the first in a
series of novels. The story revolves around two women, both of whom have been
expelled from an empire they once either fought to protect or, in time, stood to
What are three of your favorite novels?
is such a tricky question to answer. After mulling it over for far too long,
I've settled on three by some of my favorite authors.
Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett
Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
If you could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be?
What would talk to them about?
think it would be a toss up between two. The first would be George R. R. Martin,
since I'm eagerly awaiting his next release and would love to pick his brains.
The second would be Brandon Sanderson, whose work I admire and draw a lot of
inspiration from. Failing that, Hemingway. I feel like he'd show me a good
What is your best piece of advice for budding authors?
writing. Start getting involved with communities of like-minded writers and
potential readers of your fiction. These networks will become invaluable for
What is your favorite inspirational quote?
or do not, there is no try." Can't go wrong with the wisdom of a Master Yoda!
No witches, warlocks or vampires...
just a sexy tale about a guy trying to live the Hollywood dream...
A: My love of books. I've always loved reading. Books are so awesome! I have been on so many great adventures and have received so much enjoyment out of reading other people's stories that it just seemed like way too much fun to not try writing my own stories. I found out that writing was even more fun than reading, which is saying a lot for me.
Q: What is your typical writing day like?
A: I usually write while commuting to or from work using speech to text on my iPhone. I have a very easy commute with little traffic on the freeway. It's a great time to think and it's a great time to write. Writing with speech to text takes a while to get used to but I think my dialogue is better for it. If I happen to find some free time in the evening I'll get some words in then. Anytime my wife goes out with friends, or if I find some time for myself, I get some writing done. I usually do my first drafts in an app called Simplenote because it autosaves to the cloud. I can use the app on my phone or write in my browser on my laptop. It's great to pick up where I left off on another device and know it's been saved automatically.
Q: Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?
A: I am an outliner. If I know where the story is going in the first draft, my next draft requires less revision. I usually write down any ideas I have about the story. My subconscious works on it for a while and then the first scene comes. It often comes out all at once; even if I don't end up using it later it informs me about who the characters are. Then I write down the main plot points. I start with the 3 act structure following these headings: Orphan, Wanderer, Warrior, Martyr. In act 1 my character is an Orphan, either figuratively or literally. Once his world has changed and I'm in act 2, he's a Wanderer. Once he's passed the midpoint of the story and has gone from reacting to the problem to actively fighting against it, he's a Warrior. In act 3 he's come to a place where he is willing to be a Martyr to accomplish his goal. This gives me a rough shape to the character's story. Then I use the 7 point system for the structure (search on YouTube: "Dan Wells, Story Structure"). It uses: Hook, First Plot Point, Pinch Point 1, Mid-Point, Pinch Point 2, Second Plot Point, and Resolution. I also use Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet. Knowing these story points and where they go really helps me further flesh out my story. Once I have these story points down I decide on how long I want my book to be and how long I want the chapters to be. Then on a piece of paper I write down a line or two for each chapter using the story points. When I'm done I move this to a digital file. Granted it's only a sentence or two for each chapter but seeing the whole story on one piece of paper gives me the confidence to move forward. Sometimes filling out this page takes several sessions over the course of a few days. It's kind of like putting a puzzle together. I put each story point (or beat) in the chapter they go in because they all go at a certain point in the story. Then from there I fill in a few lines for the remaining chapters. Once every chapter is done, I usually write a paragraph or two for each chapter. I use this as a reference while I write. I often do a few of these paragraphs before writing them as full chapters. They're only a paragraph or two so I'm still able to discover a lot about my story while writing, but I always know where I'm going. Outlining and learning story structure has helped me go from stories that meander and don't have a good flow, to stories that, at least I think, are worth publishing. The story may change and grow as I write, but I just keep fleshing out the next chapter in a paragraph or two before I write it. I'm not chained to the outline—but man, does it help me write better stories! [Note: A sample chapter outline page is included below.]
Q: How many revisions will you typically do on a novel?
A: Short answer: as many as it takes. I've only written 3 novels and a novella, so I'm still learning. It seems after a first draft I need one revision to make the story work better and fix the plot elements. Then another revision to make sure each chapter makes sense. Then another revision to clean up the prose as best I can before giving it to beta readers. Then another revision after beta readers have given me feedback. Then I'll read it again with all the changes and make notes as I find things to fix. I'd say I need 3-5 revisions because I'm still learning a lot about writing a great story, but I'm hoping that number will go down as I get more novels under my belt. Using the outlining methods I described above seems to help me skip the first revision where I make huge sweeping changes to fix the plot.
Q: What is your best tip for editing a manuscript?
A: When editing your manuscript read it in a different format than the way you wrote it. Some people print it off, others read it in a different program. I am used to reading e-books in my Kindle app on my phone so I make my book into a Kindle file and read it on my phone. In the Kindle app you can highlight things and make comments. I have found these tools to work perfectly for marking things that need to be fixed. I make a note and then just keep reading. Once I've built up a bunch of comments I go back into my manuscript and make those edits. But reading your book in a way that looks different from the program you wrote it in helps your brain see mistakes that it might otherwise overlook. Another great tip is to read your work out loud. It's pretty easy to have Siri read an e-book to me on my iPhone, so that's what I do. It helps me hear all kinds of mistakes my eyes might have skipped.
Q: Which writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?
A: In sixth grade my teacher used to have us do timed writes. At the beginning of the year she had us write for 5 minutes. It felt like forever. She just said "Write about whatever. Just write." By the end of the year she had us writing for 20 minutes. When she said stop it felt like we had just started. Now when I sit down to write, the words just flow. I'm forever grateful for that teacher. Do your own writing sprints. Start with 5 minutes. Write about whatever. Just get used to writing. Once that feels like nothing, do 7 or 10 minutes. Work your way up to 20 minutes. If you do this you will build the habit of sitting down and writing and the words will flow. Now I can just sit down and start writing immediately. The other best tip I ever heard was to turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft and keep writing until you finish your story. A lot of writers have been rewriting the first chapter of their novel for years trying to get it perfect. You might end up cutting the first chapter once you're done with the book. Don't worry if everything you write seems like it's crap. Even the pros feel that way sometimes. Keep going and finish your story. You can always go back and edit it as many times as you need to make it perfect later, but you need to finish your stories.
Q: Do you ever suffer through writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it?
A: I used to. But now that I outline and know where I'm going, I don't. That said there are times when I'm outlining and can't figure out a part of the story. I just keep thinking about it and trying to figure out what would work best. I keep thinking about the problem of what should happen next throughout my day. Eventually my subconscious figures it out and at a random point in time it comes to me and I write it down and continue outlining.
Q: What drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?
A: Science fiction and fantasy are my favorite genres to read so that's what I usually write. I occasionally write thrillers and literary fiction too but have only done those in short story form. I've really enjoyed the few thrillers that I have read but I mostly stick to science fiction and fantasy. I just go with whatever genre my story ideas fit in. I'm not one of those authors who only writes in one genre. Maybe I will someday if I find success with a series or something, but I'm still learning what my preferred genre is. More than likely I'll just keep writing in all the genres my story ideas suggest.
Q: Do you utilize beta readers?
A: Yes, and I wish I would have early on! I tried making a manuscript the best it could be on my own and then handing it to an editor, only for the editor to point out big things that beta readers could have caught that needed fixing. It's great getting different perspectives from different readers.
Q: In your most recently published novel, what’s one scene you really enjoyed writing—and why?
A: The last scene. I felt like it was a very emotional and satisfying scene. I had a lot of fun coming up with imagery that the main character recalls as he's remembering his dangerous journey. It's sad but I think it leaves the reader in a good place. It's probably the scene I am most proud of in any of my published books to date.
Q: What makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?
A: I would have to say the fact that he's brave and resourceful. Also that he literally has a little magic up his sleeve. He's also the only one who knows of the great danger facing his family and the only one who can warn them of it. He's no one special but he is an everyman who has to conquer some pretty extraordinary circumstances, and I like stories about people like that. In my humble opinion, the hero shouldn't always be the chosen one or a prince. In my story he's just a village merchant on a quest to save his family and fulfill the dying wish of a loved one. I'd like to think he becomes a man along the way. Q: What is your best advice for author self-promotion?
A: Write the next book. The best marketing is to have more books available. It also doesn't hurt to try and get the word out about your book by being a guest blogger. (Thanks, Jim!) Getting on podcasts is great too. I've found a lot of authors by hearing them being interviewed on podcasts.
Q: How do you deal with negative reviews?
A: I try really hard to learn from them. If I can't I try to ignore them. I'm not saying it's easy. I will get a review that praises my story for a certain reason, and then another review on that same story that leaves a negative review for the same reason others loved the story. You can't please everyone. Maybe if you get tons of negative reviews that mention the same issue, it's a clue that you might need to revise something in your story; but you will always get negative reviews no matter how good your story is. Some authors say they never read any of their reviews. I find reviews encouraging, so I read mine.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: Being in control. I can't imagine finishing a story and not being able to pick the title, the cover, make the interior design decisions, or choose the release date. I'm sure many authors would want nothing to do with formatting or choosing the right font for their cover but I love every aspect of making a book. It would be so frustrating to wait months or a year for your book to come out once it's ready to go; or to have a cover or title you don't like put on the story you spent so much time on. I also love making covers and I have come to love doing the interior design. I'm lucky I'm a digital artist for my day job, so working in Photoshop is something I've been doing professionally for years.
Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: Not having a free professional editor. Not having distribution in physical book stores, even though that seems to have become much less important these days. Q: What is your current writing project? What's it called?
A: A children's chapter book. I'm calling it The Case of the Missing Snowman (A Barnabas Thackeray Mystery). It's going to be about 10,000 words long and have fun black-and-white illustrations inside that I'm really excited to draw. If things go well it will be the first in a series. I'm a quarter of the way through the first draft as I write this. This year my oldest son started to love reading. This made me want to write a book he would love. I hope he likes it. Him and everyone else!
Q: What are three of your favorite novels? A: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie; Wool by Hugh Howey
Q: If you could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be? What would talk to them about?
A: Stephen King. I would talk to him about characters and ask him how he makes them so real. I think his characterizations are some of the best out there.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for budding authors?
A: Finish your stories. Don't worry if you feel like you're writing crap. Just keep writing. Turn off your internal editor and just keep writing until you finish your story. Even though we all thought we would—none of us will write The Great American Novel on our first attempt. Most authors don't even write a novel worth publishing until they have already written several terrible novels. Do some research and you'll find that most authors' "debut" novels are really like their fifth or sixth novel and they have a whole trunkful of awful novels they'll never show anyone. It takes a lot of writing to learn how to do it well, so get to writing! The best way to get better at writing is to write a ton. Get inspired, get your butt in the chair, and get your fingers on the keyboard. Or, as in my case, get your voice dictating so your smart phone can turn your words into text.
Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote? A: Honestly I don't have a favorite inspirational quote so I looked one up. But I really like this one: "Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on." — Louis L'Amour