I’ve lived most of my life in Montreal, the city where I found the two great loves of my life: my wife and the Montreal Canadiens hockey team. I need both to get me through our long Canadian winters. I spent 24 years as a defense attorney, although i had an educational background in journalism and creative writing before that. I’ve written, on and off, for many years, moving up from occasional, self-indulgent doodler, to getting a couple of short stories published and then finally to putting out my first novel, The Guilty. Now I spend more time trying to publicize it than I do working on my new book.
What inspires you to write?
I’ve always loved to tell stories, even as a child. Maybe it was my way of getting attention. I still enjoy it, although I don’t write nearly as much as I should. Life is full of too many distractions and I don’t have the discipline needed to sit and write all the time. Some of my stories come from things I’ve seen or overheard in my work; some just seem to pop in my head. Neither is a guarantee of quality.
Tell us about your writing process.
This is my process: I don’t write. Then I don’t write. And I start feeling bad about it. But I still don’t write. And I start feeling worse. So, finally, I may start to write. Then I write and write and write, until I either finish what I’m working on, or get distracted by the world outside my little office’s door (Usually my wife, or my two very active sons.) Then I don’t write again.
When I do actually write, how I go about writing a short story is very different from a full length book. The short stories are very much whatever pops into my head and finds its way onto the page. I may have an idea to begin with, maybe just a phrase or and image. I start with that and have no idea where the story is going to go, or how it’s going to end. It’s a bit of a hit and miss process, and resulted in several stories either never completed or trashed. As for The Guilty, so far the only full-length novel that I’ve completed, this was planned out with in great detail, including the specific characters I wanted, and particular scenes that I needed to advance the narrative. Quite often though, the characters decided to take the story in directions that I didn’t anticipate. (See my next answer.)
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
My characters can be very talkative. In The Guilty I had specific character traits in mind, and I wanted them to do very particular things to move the story in the direction I liked. Unfortunately, they occasionally had their own ideas, and these ideas were usually better than what I had thought of. In case of a conflict, I usually let my characters lead me where they wanted, and inevitably the story was the better for it. I think that’s because once you establish a character there are just certain things he will or will not do, and if a writer makes him behave “out of character” just because there’s something he wants to happen in the story, the story inevitably suffers for it. I hate it when I read a book and somebody says or does something that you know he would never do, except that it’s what the writer wants.
What advice would you give other writers?
Read…a lot! I know this advice has been given by many writers who are much more successful than I am, but there’s no point for me to try and reinvent the wheel here. It is excellent advice, and should be followed by writers old and new. A writer doesn’t read in order to copy another’s voice or style, but simply to see how a good writer does certain things well, or a bad writer does them badly. What works, or doesn’t work, and why? To be inspired to do better, and to be humbled by how well others do things. Musicians enjoy listening to other musicians. Writers should read other writers.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I had put together an early draft and tried going the traditional publisher route before the book was ready. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t work out too well. I was referred to a vanity publisher who sold me the proverbial bill of goods, taking a load of my money and then going out of business. I let my manuscript languish on my hard drive for a few years before deciding it to give it the serious revision and rewrite it needed. Still, I knew that an unsolicited manuscript sent to a major publisher would probably end up at the bottom of a pile of others, and maybe never see the light of day. So, well-aware that it wasn’t the most likely road to fame and fortune, I decided to self-publish with CreateSpace. This allowed me to control the entire process, including the book cover, where and how I wanted to distribute it, and the amount and kind of marketing I wanted to do. And I didn’t quit my day job.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
There has to be a better system than publishers controlling which books get onto the market, and paying paltry amounts to the writers in royalties. Perhaps self-publishing and print on demand are the new way. It is still very early in the game to determine that though.
What do you use?
What genres do you write?
The Guilty is a Courtroom drama. My short stories run the gamut from slice of life, to hard-boiled crime fiction to fantasy.
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print