Q: S.L....what made you become a writer?
A: I like telling stories. There's something very satisfying about sitting down with an idea and being surprised where it guides you. I've told stories longer than I've been writing but something clicked one day about thirty years ago and made me realize these great stories (spoken and unspoken) were vanishing as the memory of them faded...so I started writing them down. I was a prolific writer, sometimes pounding out ten or fifteen thousand words at a time. But that would usually be enough to satisfy my desire and I stopped. It wasn't until the longing occurred to see a book cover with my name on it, that I finally sat down and got serious about the hard work involved in writing a book.
Q: What is your typical writing day like?
A: I start each day with my social media. Networking with other authors and trying to drive new readers to my books is the business I get out of the way first thing. Then, hopefully, I'm motivated to drive my story forward. If not, I fall into the same trap as many writers and play solitaire until I'm so disgusted with my lack of progress that I either turn off the computer or go back to my manuscript.
Q: Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?
A: I do outline. That's what allowed me to break out of the dozens of first chapters I had written with nothing else to show. Outline rarely constrain me. In fact, I'd say not a single book has ever followed the outline. But then again, I usually just need a frame to fill in my story. Bullet points for each chapter are usually plenty to get me going and I almost never have to go back to it once I start writing.
Q: How many revisions will you typically do on a novel?
A: I typically do three writing passes. First draft, second draft, and then developmental edits with my editor.
Q: What is your best tip for editing a manuscript?
A: Hire an editor. Authors are too close to their work and need the second (or third) set of eyes for clarity and objectivity. Be sure you choose an editor with a compatible vision. Otherwise, there will be unnecessary conflicts.
Q: Which writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?
A: Writing habits would include excessive amounts of coffee and a comfortable writing space. If you aren't comfortable in your physical world, it's nearly impossible to exit it to create a fictional one. Tricks? Reading out loud. Reading my books aloud has given me a much better sense of rhythm and flow. I believe that is one of the major reasons my work improved so dramatically between the first and subsequent novels. Also...don't be afraid to go back and rewrite previous works to make them consistent with your current level of expertise. It may be old news to you, but as long as those older works are out in the world, new readers will see them and judge your skill by them. You can stop revising after you're dead. If you haven't perfected your skill by then, there's not much you can do about it.
Q: Do you ever suffer through writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it?
A: Yes. All writers suffer from writer's block. It usually comes from an unfortunate combination of lack of self confidence (hopefully temporary) and trying to force a story in a direction it doesn't want to go. Writing fiction is not a force of will. It is a translation of an idea in the subconscious to a real medium. If you try to muscle the story out, you kill the creative process and it stalls. To fight it, I imagine myself as a silent observer in my story and watch what happens when I let it play with no control... If I like what results, I write it down. If I don't, I back up further and repeat the process. Works like a charm every time.
Q: What drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?
A: I love the action, I love secrets, and I love liars. The idea of writing people who fight for good, but are raw, flawed and full of personal quirks and hangups is so appealing to me. But in all honesty, I feel I could write in most genres if I'm allowed to produce the same sort of characters. I plan on testing that theory more fully in the short term.
Q: Do you utilize beta readers?
A: Yes. And more than that, because the novels have become so popular, I'm able to choose beta readers who will give me scathing feedback...I love the brutal truth when it comes to early reads. They allow me to refine my story and make it better entertainment.
Q: In your most recently published novel, what’s one scene you really enjoyed writing—and why?
A: Harbinger is my most recent. It's number five in a seven part saga. My favorite scene is a confrontation he has with another character (and love interest) midway through the story. I'd recount it but it would involve a major spoiler and I'd prefer not to do that.
Q: What makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?
A: At first glance, my main character is perfect. He's genius level intelligence, physically more than capable and sees so much of the world around him he is almost omniscient at a local level. But when you reach down into the "why" he is that way, you begin to realize not only is he flawed, but he's pretty seriously f***ed up. He's dysfunctional, paranoid, driven by a strange combination of patriotic loyalty and counterculture angst letting him rationalize it's okay to break the rules for the greater good. He's quite a bit more broken than even current readers know, relying on his incredible gifts to manufacture a "human" mask while he is driven forward to destroy his foe...and honestly, he hasn't even stopped to ask himself why he's doing it. I find him to be the perfect representation of each of us, presenting as much false perfection to world as we can, while blindly doing what we feel is right even if we never stop to ask why.
Q: What is your best advice for author self-promotion?
A: Social media cross networking. Love other authors and promote them. Review their work and post it ad nauseam. Remember, you may have seen it posted ten times in one month, but your new followers haven't. The better you are to other authors, the better they will be to you.
Q: How do you deal with negative reviews?
A: After the initial freakout? Kidding. I usually read them objectively to see if the criticism was justified or if it was just a nasty review by someone who didn't take to the story. Constructive criticism can result in changes to the manuscript. The rest get ignored...not every book is for every person. If you happen to be unlucky enough to get a rare angry reviewer, just realize a few bad reviews lend credibility to the good ones. If you have more bad reviews than good reviews, then it might be time to revise the story.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: The control I have over the process.
Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: The control I have over the process.
Q: What is your current writing project?
A: Predator's Game is the sixth novel in the series. The energy for the series has been building to the conclusion (it's a seven part series) and the tension in this one is the highest yet. Collisions of story lines occur with violent and brutal consequences.
Q: What are three of your favorite novels?
A: Dune by Frank Herbert. 2001: a Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke. Iceberg by Clive Cussler.
Q: If you could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be? What would you talk to them about?
A: That's a tough one. Most of my favorite authors I know to be real a-holes in real life. That would just ruin much of it for me. I guess I'd go way back and try to enjoy a meal with Jules Verne. Being a non-French speaker myself, I'd have to rely on the natural pauses created in clumsy communication with a non-native English speaker to defuse his contrarian nature. If I were to discover he was fluent in English, I would spend the entire conversation pretending not to understand him through his accent...yes, just so I could honestly write tension into the description of my meeting with Jules Verne.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for budding authors?
A: Don't worry about a selling books. Assume you won't sell any and write for the joy of telling the story. Listen to your beta readers and don't get defensive about criticism...you are creating entertainment. If it doesn't entertain, you either have to adjust or you have to not care.
Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
A: "Everything you want to change about your life is outside of your comfort zone" or some variation. I don't know who the original quote belonged to, but the message is clear. Be satisfied with what you have or don't. But if you want to change, you can't do it while stuck in the rut of your current life.
No witches, warlocks or vampires...
just a sexy tale about trying to live the Hollywood dream...
Luigi's Chinese Delicatessen by Jim Vines