The first story I ever wrote was back in college when I took my first Creative Writing class. I was sixteen at the time and terrified to talk in front of groups but the assignment was to write a short fiction or nonfiction story and read it to the group. I didn't want to make anything up, I was too shy to let anyone see my creative side... so I decided I'd walk by the river and write a nature story. My nature story turned into a strange encounter with a good looking stranger. I wrote about what happened, catching each other's eye from across the riverbanks and meeting at the bridge that connected our sides of the river together, giving us a chance to actually "meet". My classmates found the story enthralling and had so many questions as to how the couple in the story turned out. I loved writing the story and found that because it grew from truth, it was more fun to tell to others. Now all my books, fiction included, hold secret bits of true events that make the experiences, emotions and reactions authentic.
What is your writing process?
I play a game that I created to determine my genre, sub-genre, setting and main problem to be addressed. I usually get some pretty awesome combinations. I then dig through my many notebooks where I keep lists of names, ideas about characters, settings and issues between characters. I write everything down, strange little conversations I have in my head, images of pretty places I see in my dreams... literally everything I find interesting. Once I have my main genre, plot ideas, setting and protagonist chosen, I lay down. I just daydream about the information I've collected and packaged together and let the story come to me. I don't try to strain myself, I just let my imagination take over. These daydreams turn into dreams, full conversations with friends, and more notes for my notebooks. Once I feel I have a strong idea of my character's personalities, my setting and what's happening in it and a starting point from which I begin telling my story, I sit down and start typing. I stop when I have nothing else to say and I start again when something new comes to me. I want my stories to tell themselves, pace themselves and resolve themselves. In the end, they always do.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Of course! It's not the first story I even read though, I mean, come on... that would be silly. The first story I ever read was in kindergarten. That'd be like saying "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" or "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie", was life-shattering and burst open the box of creativity in my head allowing me to be an artist! No, not the first book, but the most influential in terms of helping me become the writer I am. The book was called, "Tuck Everlasting". If you read it, you will see some similar themes between it and "The Garden" which is my first full-length novel and an homage to my childhood inspiration. Both are about eternal life being available to mere mortals and determining if the cost is worth the gain. Though "Tuck Everlasting" is a children's book and "The Garden" has a lot of violence and adult content, the struggle is still the same... would you take eternity and everything that comes with it if you had the chance? Anyway, the book opened my mind to having a profound existence even if you are just a child or quiet kid from the country. It instilled a strong belief in me that anyone, anywhere can be exceptional. You never know who will amaze you so never judge someone from the outside appearance. You don't know what you might miss out on. .
How do you approach cover design?
I create my own covers based on something pivotal in the story. "The Garden" for instance, describes angelic wings made from glittering golden dust that sticks upon itself until large sweeping wings form. I, in my greatest attempt at Photoshop, created as close as I could to what would be large golden wings made from golden dust and light. I've never been great with image software but I absolutely refuse to have a generic background or stock photo with basic text on top of it. The cover represents part of the story and I believe should symbolize the essence of the story.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Well, that is a difficult question because I have so many. I think that the first would be "Seize the Night" by Dean Koontz. The novel is a superior thriller but just about anything Koontz writes is superb. My second would be the "Frankenstein" series by Koontz for the same reason as the first. Third would be "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck because it taught me about the true depth of human deprivation and struggle which I think all must understand in order to know their limits. The fourth is a much more upbeat book, "Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging" by Louise Rennison. I read this book when I was in junior high. I think that any book that gets you in trouble during silent reading time because you are laughing hysterically out loud regardless of being told to be quite, is definitely a top 5 read. My fifth favorite book is also a series, "The Lords of the Underworld" by Gena Showalter because... who doesn't like a little sexy supernatural adventure?
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