When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I found early on - in my childhood - that expressing myself via the written word held a seductive quality for me. Even now, the medium allows me to give careful thought to what I want to say and allows me the time to edit and perfect the prose so that what I commit to writing is accurate and correct. Of course, the idea that the written word is committed to posterity is a huge factor for me.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I wrote my most recent book, a sales training book, in less than 3 months. My latest fiction novel, the third in my new crime thriller series, has been on my laptop for more than 6 months now. My plan is to publish a fiction work every 6 months. Life and contributing to my author platform takes a lot of my time. 2 blog sites and 3 podcasts require a lot of keystrokes and time on the microphone.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
The most striking was the publishing and distribution process. It took me nearly 3 years of educating myself and getting my nose bloodied to get my work on book shelves in brick and mortar stores. I spend more time on the business side of the author business than I do on the creative side. The other surprising part was how important Amazon is in the marketplace. Although Amazon is the largest book store in the world, it is also the most difficult in which to market your book and get it read.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Since I started my reader email list about 3 months ago, I receive some feedback. I find that most readers are reluctant to reach out to authors. I believe it has something to do with the internet climate of click bait and appearing on unwanted mailing lists. My in-person networking efforts have resulted in a lot of feedback. Overall, the comments I receive are positive - most are surprised that someone they know personally could produce a product as industry professional as my novels seem to be.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing definitely does not exhaust me any more than eating when you are hungry might exhaust you. Writing nourishes my soul. There is a steady stream of thoughts and ideas that spin in my head from the time I wake until I sleep. I have learned that to direct those precious bits of creativity and imagination is a source of immense pleasure. When I get rolling, the keystrokes are forgotten and only the stream of consciousness remains. It is similar to dreaming while wide awake.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Plot block. I rarely get writer's block. I do, however, paint myself into a corner quite frequently. I outline and plan my novels, but I tend to drift some as better ideas and more interesting directions occur to me. My latest novel, Reasonable Sin, which is well along on the publishing road, lost me for nearly 2 weeks. I had to stop and really process where I was with my main character, Carson Brand, and where I wanted to take him. When you write a series, everything elongates from character arc to subplot to how you end the book and segway to the next. In Dark Motive (2nd novel in the series) I had to rewrite early, and I changed the subplot to the main plot and moved the main to the subplot because I found that I needed more time for the main plot to mature; to appear more organic and believable. I lost a month on that little change.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I believe there is a compromise that an author must make between creativity and suspension of disbelief. I also equally hold that creativity without discipline is chaos and will not resonate with most readers. There is a winning formula in the arts, from the Save the Cat methodology in screenwriting, to Story Engineering's 6 core competencies. Humans are geared at the DNA level to want their hero's to win and the antagonist to lose. Romance writers know that the boy has to get the girl in the end. These and many other rules are inviolate if you want to be read and reread.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
Hemingway annoyed me at first with his spare prose and inadequate descriptions. I learned to appreciate his work as I developed as a writer. Simplicity is elegance. I am easily put off by writing style. I tend to put a book down if the writing makes me uncomfortable or befuddles me. The one exception to this was All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. The man does not use punctuation. I fought through and enjoyed the story. My trouble with his writing style has nothing to do with a misplaced English Teacher dismay. I found it hard to read.
At what point do you think someone should call themselves a writer?
It's funny you ask that. James J Kilpatrick in the Writer's Art says that an author is the writer of one book. A writer is prolific. I think in the age of content creators the definition has morphed - not evolved by the way. Banging out 10,000 words at a time for a blog site, or writing cyber memoirs, is writing in the present day. It is rarely literature, or even good, for that matter. Being an author means the work one produces is art. It is groomed. It is cared for. It is beautiful. The manner of writing it is art in itself.
What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?
Writer's block means the author is not reading enough and his or her mind is starved for new ideas. Great writers are voracious readers. Read a book sometimes. Remember that everything we know was learned from someone else. I don't have an original thought in my head. Fill the void and ideas will funnel to the creative mind.
Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?
All of my characters are modeled after people I know, some not so well disguised. I am not a clinical psychologist and thus I have know insight on how personality and character traits are formed nor specifically how they present. By borrowing from people with whom I interact, I can use those observations and knowledge to flesh out a character genuinely.
What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
I would say characters, to this point. I think that what makes a plot attractive is the "what if" aspects of characters. What if an IT expert was stranded on a desert island with a 1200 pound gorilla and the only thing to eat are bananas?
How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?
My demographic is primarily late 20's to early 50's males. Interestingly, my Carson Brand series has a large female readership. I know this because most of the comments on Amazon are from females. I believe they like my portrayal of the women in my books and how they process the events they are experiencing.
How much research did you need to do for your book?
I am a researcher at heart. I enjoy researching the minutiae of the world in which my characters live. Most of the research never appears in the books. The research, however, does help to color the personalities and the life surroundings for my characters. I believe it lends more depth and legitimacy to my stories. In my novel, Stolen Valor, I did extensive research on cartels, drug trade, human trafficking and how law enforcement deals with it. In Dark Motive, I researched intel organizations, political campaign kinetic methods, and hand to hand combat training for those organizations. In Massacre at Agua Caliente, I researched Indian tribes, pioneer routes and old towns whose names had changed since the time frame of my book.
Tell us more about your book/s?
My first novel was Massacre at Agua Caliente, A Western Tragedy. It is based upon an award winning screenplay I wrote during my acting days. It is a wester set on the Texas Mexico border. Three of my novels, including the one I am finishing as of this interview, are a crime thriller series called the Carson Brand series. My other book is a non-fiction sales training book geared towards direct salespeople's success.