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Interviews

SMASHWORDS

 

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

Birdsong, sunrise, a kiss from my beloved, the urge to have another go at the problem I was having with a scene or whatnot the previous day, or simply the urge to continue the creative journey within the current story draft.

 

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

I spend some companionable time with my wife. I ruminate, take walks, hikes in the mountains where I live. I think about a host of subjects, like life itself, my wife, my love for her, my work, especially the book I’m working on. I play the guitar and fumble through tunes on the keyboard. See friends, take road trips, watch movies and documentaries and the crazy TV news.

 

What are you working on next?

I am revising the first novel I sold, a science fiction story set in the not-too-distant future with Los Angeles under the sea and the driving mystery being why it sank. I have long wanted to improve it and bring it up to date. Other books in various stages of development wait for completion.

 

How do you discover the eBooks you read?

I’m subscribed to BookBub. I google specific titles, check Goodreads and Amazon, the local library, etc.

 

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

No. I do remember writing short stories in junior high and high school and a western novel when I was in my senior year, none of which was ever published

 

What is your writing process?

I usually start work after breakfast (about 7:00 a.m.), take a lunch break, and resume an hour or so later, depending on what I’m working on and how it’s going. If I’m stymied or just plain tired, I take a short early-afternoon nap. A good walk will often get me over the post-prandial slump.

 

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?

I read a lot of stories and books through my school years and many more afterwards. I can’t say what was the first story or book I read but I clearly remember enjoying immensely Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn, the Hardy Boys mysteries, etc. In high school, books like Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe; Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, Leon Uris’s Battle Cry and James Jones’s From Here to Eternity impacted me greatly.

 

How do you approach cover design?

I think about the story and play around with some cover ideas, consult with the designer, and together we come up with a cover designed to encapsulate the story in a dynamic and intriguing way that will attract readers.

 

What do you read for pleasure?

On the literary side, novels by Barbara Kingsolver, John le Carre, Geraldine Brooks, and other writers skilled in style and depth. On the less literary, adventure-thriller types like the tales of: James Rollins, Lincoln Child, Douglas Preston, etc. I also like to read history, science, metaphysics, and the best works on the occult. With the latter genre, the English writer Colin Wilson comes to mind.

 

What is your e-reading device of choice?

The iPad.

 

What are your five favorite books and why?

This is a tough one. I can think of so many that I have liked very much. Giving the question due thought, I fall back on those I have read more than once: More than five but the five that come readily to mind are 1) William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury for its mystery and the fascinating experimentation done with viewpoint and story structure; 2) John Fowles’s The Magus for its mystery, character development, theme, depth, and puzzling and challenging conclusion; 3) Nelson DeMille’s Word of Honor for the way the beleaguered main character’s secret and story unfold bit by dreadful yet intriguing bit; 4) John Champlin Gardner’s Mickelsson’s Ghosts for the writing style, irony, humor, depth, story development, character complexity and handling of viewpoint; and 5) Tom Robbins’s Another Roadside Attraction for its humor, iconoclastic craziness, and narrative voice.

 

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

I grew up in a small East Texas town; a kind of borderline region where in historical and environmental ways the Old South met the West. While I enjoyed some friendships with fellow adventurous boys, roaming the woods and hills and playing sports and so on, my longing for a larger world increased the older I got and I left as soon as I was out of high school. I don’t see that my birthplace influenced my writing much.

 

When did you first start writing?

I began writing short stories (themes, they were called by my English teachers) in junior high, wrote my first novel during my last year in high school. None of these amateurish creations stories was published, of course, and ended up in the merciful trashcan.

 

What’s the story behind your latest book?

I was watching a documentary series on TV, maybe on the National Geographic channel, about some deep-ocean explorers who had found lost shipwrecks, some that held significant treasure. I found Odyssey Marine Exploration’s work, the technology involved, the risks taken above and under the sea, their fight in court for the troves they’ve found, fascinating. All of that worked on me. I have always loved stories about the sea, especially the adventure or treasure-hunting kind. As a certified scuba diver, I’ve had my own experiences in the underwater world. Verne, Melville, Stevenson, and Conrad were early influences.

 

What motivated you to become an indie author?

The freedom to write a book and publish it the way I wanted without having to deal with a traditional house. But a caveat for the writer who wants to try the self-publishing route. You’d best have a substantial savings account and prepare to see it temporarily dwindle, if not disappear.

 

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?

The imaginative journey, the quest, the adventure, I take with my characters; the surprises that occur along the way, the way I grow as a writer with each new book; and the things I learn through researching what I need to know for the story to be interesting and realistic.

 

What do your fans mean to you?

A book’s success, of course, but personal gratification in learning that a reader enjoyed, was transported, uplifted, enlightened or entertained by the story I wrote.

 

 

GOODREADS

 

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I have been at this craft long enough for “writer’s block” rarely to pay me a visit   If anything, I suffer now from Writer’s Mania, or Writer’s Obsession, or, with a nod to you rare Latin lovers, Furor Scribendi. By all that, I mean I have trouble leaving a project alone, putting it aside for some sensible enjoyment, conjugal bliss, conviviality, or just plain rest.

I do have times when things aren’t moving in a book the way I want. Sometimes I can break through that barrier pretty easily in one way or another, sometimes it’s harder, and sometimes I realize I’m trying to move things the wrong way, that something’s wrong somewhere, with plot, subplot or character. Then I have to cut, erase, trash, take a walk, do a chore, get away from it for a while, and start over with a new and fresh angle.

 

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Sharing with readers the imaginative journey, the adventure of going where I’ve not been, doing things through my characters I haven’t done and likely never will do. Feeling and virtually living the lure of mystery and adventure, the thrill of love and lovemaking, the clash of conflict, violence and hate and its lamentable consequences; any and all the emotions and trials, downfalls and rewards human beings face and experience.

I suspect that most writers of fiction, if not all, like going in their minds where they can’t go in reality. This often requires as much or more research than imagination to make it real to them and to the reader. But bottom line, it’s a journey, an adventure, an exploration into places and people and matters that would be otherwise inaccessible. Of course, in addition to the imaginary adventure’s dependence on research, it also depends on real journeys and places one has taken, on people one has known and challenges, mistakes, losses, and triumphs lived through, to make a story come to life.

 

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

For you texters, tweeters and acronymic cryptographers — OTIRDW. Observe. Think. Imagine. Read. Discuss. Write. I’m primarily a fiction writer; therefore, much of what I say applies more to fiction than nonfiction; but a lot of nonfiction makes good use of the imagination. So let your imagination take wing. You’ll likely have to pull it back down to ground sooner or later but it needs at first to fly. Let it do so. Get its aerial calligraphy down in a notebook, on an iPad, PC, a piece of toilet paper or tree bark. When an idea strikes, let it burn and launch; when it’s run its flighty course, seize, hold and work it.

We now have a wonderful little gadget that’s so small and light it can easily be misplaced or lost; called a digital pocket recorder. Acquire one and yak into it at will. Don’t let thoughts and ideas get away. Preserve them as they come. Some may later seem awful, others potential or workable gems. But most importantly, write them down so you can see them as words, phrases, sentences. No matter how crappy they may look to you in the so-called light of day, the important thing is to get them down so you can work them.

Ideas are often born like stars, big and overblown and messy. If, once cooled and crystalized, they’ve lost their luster, don’t be disheartened. In giving them necessary scrutiny, you will need to exercise that crucial skill known as editing. A great deal of editing is cutting. That’s why the old analogy that writing is like opening a vein is so apt. But you have to get something down before the bloodletting can begin, before you have anything to edit or cut toward a glorious rebirth.

 

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently revising the first novel I sold, to Bantam Books. I flatter myself that I’ve greatly improved my craft since and Under the City of Angels has always had some weaknesses I’ve longed to strengthen or eradicate. UCA is an SF story with a dystopian theme: Los Angeles has mysteriously sunk. The understandably crackbrained protagonist, formerly a marine biologist who lost his family in the catastrophe, maintains a dubious and halfhearted existence by diving for plunder in the undersea ruins while still trying to convince himself he’s looking for the catastrophe’s cause. Into his submerged and sinking life comes a beautiful but enigmatic woman who has her own ghosts and one goal that is undisclosed even to her until story’s end. She seduces Mad Jack Kelso into becoming a helpmate in her quest. What he learns from it and from her is like nothing he’s ever encountered or endured on this earth.

 

How do you get inspired to write?

Inspiration can crawl, seep, or slam in on varied avenues. I can feel that crucial spark of an idea — a moment when elements come together to arouse sufficient interest or fascination to generate the Sisyphean labor demanded of a finished novel — taking a mountain hike or a walk in the woods, watching a rushing stream, reading a book, seeing a movie or documentary, talking to a friend, , taking a shower, or waking in the middle of the night with a tangle of things remembered or floundering up from my subconscious that will make me reach for recorder or notepad. Come daylight or a day or so later, the spark might fizzle or it might flare into something better than the original. But in short I can find inspiration in a host of things but most often experience it in nature.

 

Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?

I was watching a documentary series on TV, maybe on the National Geographic channel, about some deep-ocean explorers who had found lost shipwrecks, some that held significant treasure. I found Odyssey Marine Exploration’s work, the technology involved, the risks taken above and under the sea, their fight in court for the troves they’ve found, fascinating. All of that worked on me. I have always loved stories about the sea, especially the adventure or treasure-hunting kind. As a certified scuba diver, I’ve had my own experiences in the underwater world. Verne, Melville, Stevenson, and Conrad were early influences.

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