Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Not the first story, but I do remember one from grade school that taught me an important lesson. It was a story about a man who came into a village and offered to pay someone a bag of money if they'd let him hit them three times. Someone accepted the offer and braced himself for the blows. One, two - and that was all. "Where's my money?" cried the recipient of the blows. "You don't get any. I didn't hit you three times." "Boy, you sure fooled me!" chuckled the victim good naturedly. I thought this man was very clever and decided to try this scheme out on my sister. I offered her a dollar if she'd let me hit her three times and, after eyeing me suspiciously, she accepted, insisting I give her the money first. So I put a dollar in her hand and gave her two soft blows. Then I asked for my money back. "No way," she said. "But I didn't hit you three times!" I cried. She was impervious to the argument. A wrestling match ensued, but she was older and at least a match for me. She finally conceded that I should get 33 cents back, though by that time I was more than ready to deliver the third blow. I settled for the cash and it the burning awareness it was me who got outsmarted. Yes, it was on that day I learned the oh so important lesson that life does not always imitate art.
How do you approach cover design?
I look for an image that communicates the essence of the story. The cover makes a promise that the book should keep. If I can't capture the essence of the whole book, I look for an image that conveys a key aspect of the story. Above all, it should appeal to me - if it doesn't catch my attention, I doubt it would catch anyone else's.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Lord of the Rings - it completely captured my fancy when I was a teenager and I have revisited it lovingly many times since. The story does more than entertain me. It has a healing power.
Dreamgates by Robert Moss. He ties dreams, the spirit world and afterlife all together and supports the interconnections with testimonial evidence gathered over many years from many different people. Moss' dream geography is rich, and he shows people ways to open the gates.
I reckon I have to include the Potter books, though I didn't read them until after I saw all the films. I enjoyed the films too much and didn't want to ruin them for myself. As it turns out the books and films weren't very far off from each other. Great job of adaptation and casting. However, it created the reverse problem of the film influencing my perceptions of the book. For the most part this was no problem - except in the matter of Hermione Granger. A different Hermione from the one in the film took root in my imagination: plainer, nerdier, her hair pretty much beyond control. As much as I love Emma Watson, I think she's wrong for the part: she's too pretty. That's the only casting I would change (though I could see Emma as Ginny). Adaptation issues aside, what makes it a favorite is the concept of the horcrux and how it is layered into the books - not unlike the coils of a snake.
The fourth one that comes to mind isn't a single book but a series: the Matt Helm books by Donald Hamilton. Matt was tough and detached. Those were qualities I needed at a certain time in my life, and he became my role model. It was when my parents were going through a divorce. I recall coming home one day to find my mother staring blankly into space, muttering softly, "I quit. I quit." This was scary for a twelve year old. I didn't know what she was quitting - making dinner? her marriage? being my mother? I went downstairs and stood there on the verge of crying. Then I thought of Matt Helm and I resolved to handle it the way he would. It got me through that tough spot and later ones down the road - though it proved an obstacle to forming close relationships, so the point eventually came where Mr. Helm and I parted ways, but I still have to acknowledge him as a timely mentor. I wouldn't consider him among my five favorite today, but he was important at the time.
Last, I have to list the John Carter of Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Wouldn't make the top five list today, but immensely important in my childhood and early youth. John Carter ended up on Mars as a result of yielding to his heart's desires just after his death on Earth. John was a fighting man, so his "paradise" was a war-torn planet where he could fight his way across the globe in the service of the woman he loved. Not quite my prescription, but if nothing else it planted the idea that each person has an individualized paradise awaiting them. I did resonate with the idea that love was not easily won and that there would be many obstacles to the finding and forming of that perfect relationship. While my obstacles have not necessarily carried swords and ridden on the back of eight legged beasts, they have been plentiful. I guess what I connected with is the idea that love (or the hope of it) is what makes you willing to face those obstacles.
Stay tuned. This list of favorites is subject to change.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. I was in third grade, not long after JFK was assassinated. I found myself writing a narrative from the perspective of a hero-worshipping man who finds himself compelled to stalk and kill the very man he worships. The ending hook was: "I killed him. Me, Oswald." I guess always had a keen sense of irony. I think when you perceive something ironic, you have something worth writing a story about. I think I was also starting to grasp that everyone's the hero of their own story - even the nut jobs.
What is your writing process?
The best stories come directly from dreams. I keep a dream journal. "The Mountain that Slept Around" is one such story. The entry in my dream journal isn't very long: all I really remembered was the appearance of the mountain in this community, the reaction of the citizens to it, and the shock they felt when the mountain went away again. The rest was fleshed out once I made the commitment to complete the story.
I keep a file of ideas: character names, puns, humorous thoughts, and images that might someday grow a story around them.
Ultimately, writing is an act of surrender - you yield to the inner voices. Then edit for clarity.
When did you first start writing?
Second grade. Felt the compulsion to write stories - original stories. Influenced by an older sister who did the same. By fifth grade everything I wrote started out "Chapter One." It was always going to grow up to be a book some day.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Took this awesome workshop from a community college Multimedia instructor, who showed me just how easy it was to do.
What do your fans mean to you?
That someone's resonating with what I've written and I should keep doing it.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
There's two answers to this question. The first is the joy in the act of writing itself: those times when the inspiration hits and you are in the flow; those times when you forget where you are, what day it is, when your last meal was or when the next one is coming; those times when there's nothing there but you and the story, when something is emerging and you are privileged to witness it coming forth; those spurts when you're doing your real life's work and all else stands aside for it.
The second is the joy of recognition that something is good. This comes when reading something back later, when your role has shifted to that of the reader and you are surprised by the quality of what you wrote. "Damn, that's good!" you say, and it's almost like someone else has written it.
The last (okay, there's a third) joy is learning that someone has been touched by what you've written.
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