Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
As a twelve year old I would write these awful Dean Koontz ripoff stories that went nowhere. When I got to high school I got semi-serious and had my first short story published in a zine (Google it, young people) but wasted many years until my forties, when I got serious again and decided to do this for a living.
What makes writing your passion?
Even when I went through many years of not writing for market, I was always writing. I cannot stop writing or thinking up story ideas. I can sit and daydream for hours about different scenes and stories.
How long have you been writing?
Eight years ago I went full-time as a writer and hope to never look back. I focused on not only the actual writing but the promoting, the brand building and the business side of this. Before that I was writing but just spinning my wheels.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
An amazing feeling. Heck, anytime I see my next book in print or an anthology I was lucky enough to be involved with, I get that same feeling. I think, even if I hit a thousand releases in my life, that last one will still be as special as the first.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
I am a people-watcher. As much as i hate leaving the house, my wife drags me to Walmart or out to dinner, and then I remember why I need this: to hear and see real, actual people interacting. I try to remember as much about them as possible, and also pull from me memory friends and family, too. Sometimes they even like it!
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Personally, it's the amount of time I waste each day not writing. Wit so many other things like promoting, mentoring other writers and not only running two podcasts but owning the network they're on... too many days I feel like I don't write enough words to be happy.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
I don't get writer's block because I work on multiple projects at once. Right now I have eleven open projects on my board, all in various states of completion. Depending on deadlines, I'll put them in order of importance but usually write in two or three each day.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
I tell people the honest truth: I hated retail management, which I did for many years. Absolutely hated every second of it. I write out of fear I'll have to go back to that... I tell new authors to remember the things you don't want to do, like a dead end job, and get as far away from it due to your writing skills. Oh, and read a lot.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Please, for the love of all that is holy, do NOT grow out that mullet! Also, slow down on the M&M's. And don't waste your twenties and thirties not embracing your fledgling skills as a writer. Keep going. Learn the craft. be proud of what you'll become... but with a better hairstyle.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
Nope. Never. Nothing good can come from it. Book reviews are made by the readers for other readers. I used to read them and I'd be gutted, even if the review was good. I learned to not dwell, get a hard skin, and stop looking. They're not for my eyes.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
ANY review means the reader felt strongly enough (good or bad) to stop what they're doing in their busy lives and let other readers know about the work. That in itself is an amazing and humble thing for me. Obviously, I'd love for all of them to be gushing and five stars, too...
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Yes. Constantly. My wife will sometimes beta read a story before anyone else, and she'll make a note about remembering this scene in real life, or a conversation we've had I've pilfered for characters. There is a piece of me in each story, something that has happened to me, big or small.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
James Gaffney from the Dirty Deeds crime thriller series. Everyone says the main character is definitely me. I used to fight it but after talking to readers who know me personally... yeah, it is me. Now I just write him and wonder what I would do, which is why he screws up far too much, I guess.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
People judge a book by it's cover. It might be a cliche but that doesn't mean it isn't true. At book signings I will purposely move the stronger covers to the optimal spots on the table, and I enjoy watching the passersby as they look at them. it is the initial hook, but the story still has to sell it long-term.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I love being out at conventions and book signings and having a chat with readers and fans who I've known for years. Online I really enjoy the chatting, too, especially on Twitter. I've given out my phone number to certain newer authors and we have monthly chats, too. I might hate to leave the house but I love talking to people who want to talk about writing and reading.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
It's humbling and great for my ego. My wife laughs about it because I get so excited, even after all these years. Someone values you enough to want to stop and tell you something about your work... that's awesome. I know I do it as well.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
Dean Koontz. Because of his paperbacks in the 1980's, when I was just a kid, I wanted to become an author. Here was someone amazing who was doing it for a living, and I've never stopped reading his work as it comes out.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
I'd like to be smaller... like a hundred pounds smaller. My goal was always to do this for a living. I'm not pulling in Koontz money or a lot of my peers, but I value the fact I can pay my bills and travel extensively because of readers buying my books. I am truly living the dream.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
No. While I might cringe at some of my older work, I think it had a time and place. It was written at a certain time of my life, and I could never recapture that moment. My latest work is the best, and with good reason: I'm always learning the craft, always improving. You can read my first book and then my fiftieth and hopefully see how much I've gotten better at this.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
Neil Gaiman. He just looks like he's always having fun and thinking of a joke. His career has been nothing short of creative and amazing, and he still has his hair, so there's also that key factor.
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
I ignore them. You have to. People are always going to feel inferior and want to take control of their lives, and some do it in negative ways to make themselves feel better. It's nothing personal... they're just trolls.
What would you say to your readers?
I am honored you buy my books, review my books, tell others about my books, and take time out of your busy day to send me messages and stop at my table at a signing to chat. Without you I'm still a retail manager, hating every second of my existence... so thank you!
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I grew up in New Jersey but have called Jacksonville Florida home since 2001. I'm married to the greatest woman ever, who supports me fully and keeps me focused on the important things in life. Three kids, youngest is 19.
What is your day job if you have one?
Full-time author. Damn proud of it, too!
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I read. A lot. I'm also a big baseball fan (go Red Sox!) and my wife and I collect Funko Pops and a bunch of other stuff we fill the house with.
Did you have a happy childhood?
I had an amazing childhood. Grew up middle class in a small fishing village in New Jersey. My parents were and are still very supportive, and I always say I got my love of reading from my mother and my story-telling ability from my father.
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
That first few Dean Koontz books got me on the right (write... get it?) path. I told my mother I was going to be an author when i grew up. I should've said a rich and famous author. That would've been better.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
I have several trunked novels but they'll never see the light of day. With good reason. I've cannibalized some of the plots and characters over the years. Nothing is ever wasted. I've been very fortunate in the fact most everything I've written in the last few years eventually gets published.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
I think teachers are underpaid and have to follow such a tight schedule for teaching. My high school creative writing teacher, Miss Stansky, was so positive about my work and really helped me to grow as a writer. We need more people like that for the youngsters.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
1. I could eat anything I wanted to eat and never gain weight.
2. I could write ten times the number of words each day, all of them brilliant.
3. Every picture of me with a mullet would disappear.
What is your favorite music?
Heavy metal. thrash metal, death metal, and 80's metal. I'm also a big fan of hardcore, pop punk and random songs. I listen to music every day while writing.
Share a secret with us 🙂
If you go three steps past the old oak tree, and turn left at the second headstone, the body is buried...