Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in rural Georgia. You had to take a dirt road to get to the dirt road that I lived on. Our idea of neighbors was people who lived across the field, through the woods, and over the creek. Most all of the families out there were farmers and had been for generations. It's so different now because small farmers have really been squeezed out by the huge farming corporations. But I am so glad that I was raised when and where that I was, because when we weren't in school, kids like me would get up early in the morning and go cut watermelons or pick peas and beans. Our community was bound together by the baptist church. We really loved each other and supported one another. When someone was in need, everyone came to help. The nearest post office was seven miles away with one store and a stop sign. The town I went to school in was thirteen miles away. So we were bound to the land in many ways, and it did give me a sense of the hard work and independence that is necessary, but also the love and compassion that we all needed at one time or another.
When did you first start writing?
The first time that I remember writing a story was in the fourth grade. My school teacher was my sister's best friend growing up. I loved being in her class because of that fact, but also because she read great books to us throughout the year. Judy Blume books and Robb White, who lived in nearby Thomasville, GA at one time. She chose books to ignited my imagination and inspired me to start creating characters and think of things for them to do or to happen to them. I can't say that I remember what that story was about. I think it was a mystery about a treasure chest.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Well, I kind of worked on two projects at once. I wrote a follow up to my first ebook, "Memoirs of a Motel Wrestler," with another ebook with similar stories about private wrestling matches with my travel experiences added in. Like the first one, I based my characters on guys that I met that I really liked and had some sort of impact on me or my wrestling. At the same time, I began a fictional short story series about motel wrestling. I wanted to create something that I could make for free to introduce my style of writing. Thanks to Smashwords, I was able to do that with the first installment, "Omaha Stakes." The rest of the series will be 99 cent short stories of about 3000-4000 words. Eventually, I may start bundling the stories for a bigger book. But, my main project remains my books about me and my experiences. I have at least one more planned for later in the year, and then I will combine those three books to create a print book.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Thanks to Smashwords, BookBub, Amazon, etc. there are so many opportunities to read indie authors for free. They are so aggressive with their marketing that they are willing to put their work out there for free just so you will read them. There are hits and misses. But I have found some authors with some truly great stories. These people are the ones that I think Mark had in mind when he started Smashwords. Ordinary people with a great life story or a creative imagination that just needs to be published. I am sure that I will have some misses too. My stories will not be for everyone. But, so far, I've had positive and encouraging feedback.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I am so glad that I discovered Smashwords because I like the idea of being able to distribute my work out to a lot of people. When I started selling "Memoirs," I quickly found out that not everyone uses a Kindle or wants the Kindle app. Also, some live in countries where they were not able to purchase it. I, myself, am a Kindle guy and I have enjoyed Amazon as both a customer and a writer. But it just makes sense to serve your Apple customers, Barnes & Noble customers, etc. too. No one makes that easier than Smashwords.
What do your fans mean to you?
I would like to reach a wide audience. Partially because I have some things to say about certain issues. Like calling to people's attention what LGBT kids go through. When some of these people are supporting the "love the sinner, hate the sin" mantra, they do not realize that they are still contributing to the unnecessary treatment of people in our community. Also, wrestling is important to me. It makes no sense that in our country adults are not supposed to wrestle. Who decided that? I reject that, as do thousands of others. So I would like to speak to these issues to people who may not have thought them through. But I really enjoy hearing from someone who can relate to these problems. People who have struggled with these issues, or who just simply enjoy their own private wrestling matches wherever they do it.
What are you working on next?
I am going to continue working on my short story series. The truth is, I am not sure how I want my third ebook on my own experiences to go. I have to decide what I want to reveal. Some things are better left private. But I also feel like I need to finish what I started. So, short stories for now while i formulate the third ebook in my mind.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love a lot of mainstream authors like James Patterson, Randy Wayne White, Clive Cussler, and Stephen King. I enjoy reading mysteries, horror, true crime, etc. But I also enjoy reading biographies of important figures. I have read a lot of political biographies of men and women who have shaped and influenced our country for the last fifty years. Some figures that I admire and some that I don't. Everyone has a story and there are reasons for why we do what we do. But, in the last twenty years or so, Bailey White has been my favorite author. Many people will recognize her as an NPR host and commentator. But I fell in love with her folksy style stories in her first book, "Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living." They are the kind of stories where you go, "Is this a true story or just a creative and entertaining tall tale?" That's the hallmark of a good southern writer in my opinion.
What is your writing process?
Most of my life, I have needed to be moved to write. Now I am learning to write each day. Even if it isn't worth reading and never again sees the light of day. It is a necessary part of gathering my thoughts and helping me to decide what I want to say. But there is nothing like a burst of inspiration where it doesn't even seem like you are having to try. It just comes forth and out onto the computer screen. But generally, I try to spend a few days writing. Maybe come back to it a few days later and edit and do rewrites. Then it usually takes me one to two days to create a cover and format the ebook.
How will you define success in terms of being an author?
Success for me will be to share and to learn from others. I enjoy readers to contact me and ask me questions and to share their stories with me. It helps me to remember that I am not alone in my experiences nor in how I feel about them. I think back to the sense of community that I grew up with, and I want that today. It's a different kind of community to be sure. But it is one that I desire to have at this point in my life. I may not be buying my groceries with the money I'm earning from writing. However, I am building that sense of community. And maybe one day I can do both!
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.