Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
In Rochester New York. I lived in bad neighborhoods, drugs and violence were everyday things. For two years, between fourteen and sixteen, before I went into the service, I lived on the streets. It taught me a great deal about how life really is and how we very often keep ourselves oppressed and poor.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing at about thirteen. When I was eighteen I wrote my first novel length manuscript. It became something like an addiction after that. I can normally write a 75 k novel in about ten days. Not perfect, of course, but complete. I currently have more than 30 novels that are unpublished, as well as short stories, lyrics and plays. I took my first creative writing class in 1982. I published my first novel in 1985.
What's the story behind your latest book?
When I was nineteen I was offered the opportunity to go to another country and homestead. I could not do it at the time and I have always regretted it. It made me wonder about that kind of life. I sometimes think I am writing that sort of life, the end of civilization, into existence and then building it the way I want it. My favorite part of the series I am writing is the survivors settled into their valley. Living off the land, going back to the beginnings. So, the story behind my writing is that need to be in that place where you depend upon your hands and your wits.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
In 1985 I bought a domain, built a writers site, and myself and about ten other fledgling authors published our first works there. That happened after I submitted a book to a traditional publisher and had it accepted on the condition that I do some massive rewrites, plot changes and more. I was insulted, shocked! Me? My work? It's funny now, looking back, but I could not see my own mistakes, or imagine anyone touching one word of what I had written. Now it happens all the time. But it made me take that first step and that is the step that led me to where I am right now.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
It has made me a better writer, made me more aware of how I format so that I can produce consistent results. Over and above that it is a place to present my work. That can lead to all sorts of opportunities.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Learning the story as I write it. I have author friends who sit down, plot their manuscripts out, decide what this character or that one will do. I do sit down to write with a basic idea, but that is all. I sit, begin to type, and the magic happens. In the third book of the Zombie Plagues, I had no idea what Molly would do when her lover was killed. I was shocked at what she did. It was one of those times that very often happens to me when I get so caught up in the story that I am only along for the ride. The plot unfolds on its own. I am as thrilled, shocked, elated as everyone else who reads it later.
What do your fans mean to you?
I was amazed to realize that I had fans who not only liked my work but waited on the books. It is humbling. They mean a great deal to me because it is those fans that take the word to their friends to try this book or that book.
What are you working on next?
I am working on a series of fast paced graphic novels in a gritty action packed style. Think Pulp Fiction. There are six novels that tell stories of their own, but, connected through the six novels, you learn the story of a young woman as she fights her way up the ladder in the T.V News industry.
Who are your favorite authors?
Stephen King, Patrick O'Brian, Jean Auel, Louis L'Amour
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The characters in my books. Who will write their lives? The entire work of the series I am writing encompasses well over twenty five books. Every day I add a little more to that, and it makes me feel good to do it.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I work with my hands, build guitars, research self sufficient life styles, write music or record it.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I discover them here, or at other publishing venues I deal with. I look at the new writers at i and what they are writing. It seems to go in flurries, a bunch of authors will get together and work on stuff. I jump into that too on occasion. I have little time to read, so I am somewhat choosey, but I like new writers as well as my old favorites. Jacket design, the story plurb, those things draw me in, but the story has to be able to take me the rest of the way or I'll put it down after a dozen or so pages.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. It was a very poorly done story about a cave man wandering through an endless valley looking for something to eat and shelter. He finds shelter eventually, but when he does it is clear to the reader that something is wrong. There are steel doors set into the rock of a cave wall. Cameras mounted on the rock walls too, old lights. I could never get past that part. I don't know what became of that story.
What is your writing process?
If I have an idea I let it settle in my head for a few days. I do that because I often get great ideas, but they are great ideas for books that someone else will have to write, because they will not come to me. So, if I let the idea set a few days, it becomes clearer to me, or it falls away. If it falls away, I wasn't meant to write it, but if it becomes clearer, it will begin to write itself in my head. That is the process. Once I sit down and open up my word processing software the story is pretty much writing itself.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Swiss Family Robinson. Wow. It blew me away. It was so cool to me. I read it, read it again, had to take it back to the library; checked it out and read it again. It told me other people not only long for the same things I do, but enough of them do to make a book like that popular.
How do you approach cover design?
I get a concept of it as I write. With individual novels I usual have a clear idea in my head by the time the novel is finished. I want to convey the gist of what I am trying to say. Not an easy thing to do shapes and concepts, but I usual get what I want. With Eight Days in November, a book about someone very close to me dying, I wanted to portray the cold of that month, then tie it in with the cold of death. I wanted that to also be tied into the journey that death begins, but I also wanted to show the journey of the living too. My final design was snow covered trees on a gray day with a highway stretching away. With the series I design similar covers, just different shades of color or numbers in the upper corners. I do that so that they become familiar to people. That is what I want them to be.
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