I am the author of two young adult novels: Spike: A Rock and Roll Redemption Story and A Season in Absurdica: A Rock and Roll Underground Story. I am also writing a novella about a high school football coach who is afraid he might be possessed, along with his spunky, goth teenage daughter who has been finding strange things in the woods near their house. As a lifelong fan of music, particularly rock and roll, I almost always end up including music as a strong supporting character in my writing projects. Some of my favorite musical acts, in no particular order: Bruce Springsteen, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, R.E.M., The Replacements, Husker Du, Pavement, the Smithereens, Uncle Tupelo, Wilco. . . the list goes on. And for more mellow moods: Sarah McLachlan and Mazzie Starr. When I am not writing, I teach high school and college English, with the goal of getting my students to appreciate the splendor of good writing.
What inspires you to write?
I have loved language from a very early age. I love reading great writing, and I am thrilled when I can produce it. It gives me a feeling of intellectual accomplishment, and I also believe it makes me a deeper person. Some people like to talk a lot about life, I like to latch onto something interesting and see how I can enrich the topic with the written word.
Tell us about your writing process.
I usually start with an interesting character that emerges in my head. This character is probably some aspect of myself, and the problems he or she experiences are problems I deal with. In order to generate scenes, I imagine situations the character might find himself in, and then just go with it. After writing six or eight scenes like this, I can start then start to imagine a narrative emerging around these scenes. In this early phase of the writing process, I don’t worry much about censoring myself, nor do I get discouraged if the writing is “stale” in spots. This process shows that I am very much a “get in the flow” type writer, and not as methodical as others.
The more involved I get with the project, the more I can make decisions about what I what to accomplish with the story, and how the narrative will go. For a novel, it might take me a year or more to produce a strong rough draft, and then another year of tough-minded revision to take total command of my purpose.
I do not have a special place or special conditions for my writing. Sometimes I write during my planning period at school if I am all caught up with work. Most frequently, I camp out on the couch like I am doing now and just let myself be drawn into a certain level of concentration. There is no mystery to writing and creativity–it’s all about hard work and making it a frequent habit.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
For some reason, when I go for walks, I start imagining scenes my characters might live out. Chances are, they are living out in my head some predicament that I have recently or not so recently experienced. As they navigate the scene, I can imagine what they might be saying about it.
What advice would you give other writers?
I’ve always been a competent writer, but I had to write many years, without reward or recognition, to really develop an individual voice. A singer will tell you the same thing: They may make it sound effortless, but they have been practicing singing for hundreds of hours to get to that point. I do not put myself in the category of prodigiously talented writer–perhaps it all comes much easier to them–I don’t know. I threw away my first novel, even though I spent a lot of time on it, because, having learned a lot from the process, I was thus sharp enough to see just how bad the bad spots were. But as you continue to write frequently and with discipline, your judgment improves, and you get sharper.
Do not expect to improve your writing style much, either, if you are not a voracious, ambitious reader. Get off the mobile devices and read long, difficult stuff frequently.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I tried the traditional publishing route and got a few nibbles, but it didn’t work out. I decided to self publish not just because I did all that work, but because I really think my stories are pretty good, and worthy of at least some readers. Feel free to try traditional publishing or finding an agent first, but is it a mystifying process, fraught with chance and lucky breaks. No one quite knows where digital publishing is going, but at least you can get your stuff out there. If you are marketing a social media savvy, your chances for people finding your work is that much better.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
People who have the knack for knowing how to write what is presently popular, genre and style wise, have a good chance of success, provided they have honed their craft. People who a truly gifted writers will also eventually succeed if they are persistent.
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
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