I live in a suburb of Houston, Texas with my partner of 11 years and our son. I have spent the last 25 years as a university professor and scholar in the area of comparative religion. I left academia a few years ago and now work as a freelance scholar, speaker and writer in my areas of speciality. I also work as a freelance journalist for the Houston Chronicle, and am beginning to branch out into fiction writing. Quail Fried Rice is my first novel.
What inspires you to write?
Mostly I’m inspired by people, situations, locations, etc. that I would like to meet or encounter in my life. What I enjoy about fiction writing is that I get to live in the world of the novel for as long as it take me to write it. So, I tend to pack my stories full of people that I would like to know or encounter, or situations that I find interesting or engaging, in locations that I find beautiful, moving or challenging in some way.
Tell us about your writing process.
For fiction, I begin with an outline of the general story line, a few main characters, and a setting. I collect photographs or images of people who look like my main characters, and I keep these images in a file. I map out the setting (the town grid, the house layout, whatever). Then I just sit down to write–I have only about 20% of it scripted out beforehand. The rest emerges during the writing itself. I’d always heard fiction writers say that their characters “take over” the story, and I never believed them until I wrote my first novel–and that’s exactly what happened. The characters took over and I ended up scenes, events, etc. that never occurred to me prior to the actual moment in which I saw and felt myself typing them onto my laptop screen.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I don’t talk to them, but I am intuitively connected to them the more the story goes on so that if I dream up a plot narrative, I can “sense” the characters saying “yes” or “no” to me for that particular plot turn. I try to be true to the characters as they emerge so that I don’t end up having them do things or act in certain ways that aren’t really consistent with who they’ve turned out to be as the story unfolds.
What advice would you give other writers?
Stop putting it off or waiting for “the right time” to write. Today is a good day to start. There’s never been a time when it’s been so easy and so inexpensive to get you work published–for just yourself, your family or for a broader audience. Just do it. Stop stalling and do it.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I have published with traditional publishers before, and I did a few books with Publish On Demand back in the late 90s when that process first began. There are pros and cons to all methods; however, after doing traditional publishing, making very little money on 10s of thousands of copies sold (in 14 languages), doing 40+ cities in the US and another dozen or two internationally, I decided that it was too much work and that I could sell as many or more books on my own with a fraction of the mileage, and keep more of the profits. So, I decided to self-publish my novel as well as another little non-fiction, self-help book I published a few years ago. I hired professionals to format the interior, design the covers and to edit the manuscript. I’m glad I made that choice. The novel paid for itself within one week. In 8 months I’ve made several thousand dollars on it, which is a huge success in my view since I’m a totally new, unknown author in the fiction genre.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think it’s wide open and will continue to be the wild, wild west for a while. Which means it changes often, month to month even, and it means that as writers we have to make it our business (literally) to keep up with it. It’s an exciting time to be a writer or a creative person. There is so much opportunity to express yourself, put your creative expression out there, and even make a little money in the process. For those who are disciplined, work on their craft and published regularly, it’s entirely possible to make a living.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
literary, womens fiction, lesbian fiction, lesbian romance
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print