Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I have written many short stories over the years but hadn't really focused on anything professional until I wrote Crop Burner.
What makes writing your passion?
I read a lot, and by a lot I mean I am obsessive about it. However, over the past few years I have found fewer and fewer things that felt unique and creative. I have found a passion in writing to fill the niche I believe is missing in fantasy. I also love interacting with the characters as I write; the voices in my head finally have a purpose!
How long have you been writing?
I have only been writing passionately for about four years now.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
Disbelief. After spending so much time laboring over my book, then putting it out to test readers and getting amazing feedback, I was unable to find any traction with agents which left me feeling defeated. It wasn't until a chance encounter with my publisher that finally propelled Crop Burner into the hands of my readers.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
I feel too often many characters are two dimensional in books: the heroes aren't accountable for their deeds and the villains aren't given the proper motivational background to do what they are doing. I often see heroes slaying and killing to meet an end goal without having to deal with the emotional impact those decisions/actions would have on their psyche, nor held accountable for destruction (regardless of what the greater good was accomplished). I prefer to create characters that are more down to earth and, instead of being placed solely in the good or bad brackets, live in the grey areas.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Trying to find an agent or publisher who will read or examine a book to see if it is an excellent story and well-written. Instead, they seem too busy trying to push out what seems "hot" at the moment.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
As a writer, I find I sometimes tend to want a character to do something or react in a specific way to give the story more pizzazz; however, the character refuses to do it or the story feels clunky. I'll grab a sheet of blank paper and talk to my character. I will ask them what they want, what is frustrating them and, most importantly, why they refuse to move forward in my story. Once I let them tell me what they want to do and I let them react in the way they want in the moment, it usually leads to something far more interesting than I originally planned. If that doesn't work, I find a good night's rest helps. I tend to have very vivid dreams while writing my stories and they play out like movies, giving me the needed fuel to continue on the next 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 think the most important thing is writing about something you are passionate about or find a story that isn't out there for which you are eager to find the conclusion. Don't force the writing. If you truly hit a wall that you can't move past or are burning yourself out struggling to find an agent, take the time to leave it and do something else for a few weeks or a month. Let the passion of writing build up again. If you let it become a job, then all of the fun will drain out of it.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Start writing, you fool. Oh, and buy lots of stock in Amazon and Apple.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
Yes. When it comes to bad reviews or critiques during beta readings, I try to see it from the reader's point of view. Sometimes, this has led to a rewrite which made the story better. Other times, I might scratch my head and not truly understand why someone hates my story so passionately. I tell myself it is a writer's job to pull out emotions in a reader and, if that happens to be utter hatred, I have still done my job. After all, I will not make everyone happy with any story I write.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
Curiosity. I love to see what someone has taken from the story. How did they interpret the themes I tried to bring across? What characters did they attach themselves to? I love discovering that readers found ideas or things they believe I intentionally wrote into the story that I never intended or realized.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Yes. I think we all do as authors. There is the famous saying that you write what you know. For example, while writing my novel "Crop Burner", my oldest son, who was still quite young at the time, asked my wife and I why people kissing on TV didn't make a baby. That was an idea I gave to my protagonist, Fearn.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
I don't think there are any characters I have written that would be a mirror image of me. I think I have sprinkled some of who I am into each of my characters. I mean - they all reside in my head so that has to say something about me.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
I have grown up reading so many fantasy novels where the cover was clearly drawn by someone who was given a vague idea of the story and the cover art seems to have nothing to do with the text inside. Subsequently, I give little credence to the idea that the cover will give me any idea what the story is really about. I feel like the publisher doesn't trust the story enough to tell you what the story is really about and tries to give you something they think will draw you in. Regardless, I always read the story with the cover in mind and love when it truly fits the story. I was really grateful to have a lot of say on how the cover of Crop Burner was portrayed.
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 connecting with my readers. Some of my greatest experiences have been running into authors I admire and ending up having a conversation where I can tell they are really grateful for their readers and want to connect with them in some way. So feel free to reach out and say hi.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
It doesn't happen often but when it does, it makes me happy that I have written something well enough to impact someone else.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
Wow, this is a question I don't think I can answer. It really depends on where I am in my life. If I need a good laugh, I may pick up a novel by Terry Pratchett. If I need an escape into a world that seems to exist in the shadows of ours, I will grab a novel by Neil Gaiman. Of course, I also have to mention Tolkien or any of the other Inklings who helped lay the groundwork for the realms of fantasy as we know them.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
A call from Neil Gaiman asking if I want to co-write a book with him. The gold standard would be to be as big as Tolkien but I would settle for the following Patrick Rothfuss enjoys (though I promise to finish my books ;) ).
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
No, I treat my story like kids. They are born with a thought, grow up in the many drafts of the story and head out of the house when they are published. Once that story is out in the world, the readers determine its fate. I don't feel the need to meddle in that.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
Neil Gaiman. I didn't realize how much of an influence he has had until I realized now how much I have brought him up in this interview. I would love to be able to be the wordsmith he is.
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.
Trolls are those who are envious of the talents of others. Instead of working toward something themselves, they bring others down for accomplishments they wish they could accomplish. To them I say, "bring it on."
What would you say to your readers?
Thank you so much for trusting that I had a story worth telling.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I live in Reno, Nevada. I am married to my wife, Ann, whom I met at WorldCon. I have two boys.
What is your day job if you have one?
I work in IT, while I dream of the day I can write for a living.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I love to read and watch movies & tv shows in many fandoms. We have over 400 boardgames, so it has eclipsed from a hobby into a madman's passion. I love to DM D&D games as well. My wife and I enjoy attending cons, where we always do cosplay.
Did you have a happy childhood?
I did! I was lucky to have a father who introduced me to fantasy/science fiction books and fed my passion for them. I had a mother who was nice enough to forgive my stupid mistakes and allowed me to live into adulthood. I was also lucky enough to have a grandfather who let me play with dynamite - literally.
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
I attended a WorldCon and couldn't find a book that I could dive headlong into. I can't recall if it was an author I spoke to or another attendee, but at some point I made the comment that I couldn't find something that grabbed me. They told me that if I couldn't find what I wanted, then write what I wanted. So when I got back home, I sat down and started writing.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
I have a lot of partial books that I am starting or stopping. I have two in particular that I am trying to decide which will be my next novel. One is about a girl during the Victorian era - the story follows her as she is forced into child labor. The other is about my grandfathers who were crazy and unique individuals. I combined the two of them into one character who takes me on one bizarre, magical journey before he passes away.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
We are too focused on getting them to past a test instead of finding the passions they have and allowing our teachers to help them down the path that is needed to get them there. I wouldn't be where I am without teachers who were able to do that for me. We lack a society that gives the proper worth to our teachers. They are sorely underpaid for their role in creating the most important asset we have as a society: our future.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
1. To be the ultimate wordsmith.
2. A government that put its citizens first
3. A trillion dollars that I could then use to help my community, whether that be helping put music into the classrooms or providing shelter and giving the homeless a new set of skills to get them back on their feet.
What is your favorite music?
Well, my favorite band is the Beatles, but I listen to a wide range of music depending on my mood. R.E.M, Pink Floyd, Flogging Molly, or The Smiths come to mind.
Share a secret with us 🙂
When I was a kid (6-7), our apartments were next door to a 7-11. I would go over on a regular basis and steal a candy bar. (Sorry Mom!)