Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Philadelphia. My grandfather owned a paper recycling company and he would bring us comics in all states of quality. We read everything and I mean everything. Star Wars, X-Men, Archie, anything we could get our hands on. It's such a great experience now to see all of these things so mainstream. "Geek" was a negative label when we were growing up, and now it's such a badge of pride for folks of every generation.
Growing up in the city was an influence, too. My writing tends to gravitate toward more urban areas (real or fiction) because I am so accustomed to being around so many people. I think it's a big part of my personality.
When did you first start writing?
I grew up on comics. I was more of an artist than a writer when I was growing up, but we did a lot of writing as part of our role-playing games and even on bulletin boards online. I think I dabbled for decades but it wasn't until I met with a writing group, a professional editor, and co-author, that I really considered myself a professional.
Anyone can write, and everyone with the passion for it should write. Don't worry about professionalism or how much you can churn out, just take those people, places, things and stories that are yours to tell and get them written. Write! Whenever the mood hits you, just write!
What's the story behind your latest book?
My most recent book is "Catwalk: Mercy Killing." It's the third novel in the cyberpunk noir series that follows Leon "Catwalk" Caliber. It's set in 2035 in what used to be Los Angeles, now dubbed Nitro City. Catwalk is one of the members of society who has embraced cybernetic enhancement (though his story is a little different). In this installment in the series, someone has created a piece of malware, a computer virus essentially, that can hijack cybernetics and make people into remote control slaves. Cat's obviously got skin in the game in this, so he uses his unique set of skills (and network) to help track and combat the mysterious author of the malicious code.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I was and am an indie musician. I've been writing music for almost my entire life. Growing up on comics, I started down that path also. In 2001, my first comic story was released. "Catwalk: Making an Entrance" was a short story in the comic book, "Independent Voices 3" from Peregrine Entertainment. It launched on September 11, 2001 and didn't do well. Nobody wanted to think or read about violent entertainment after that day. So, Cat got shelved and I waited over 5 years to even re-visit him. That's when I decided to go the novel route. I had success as an indie musician and knew I could do the same as an author. It's just too much fun to have these characters and stories. I'd consider it criminal to keep them to myself.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I only recently learned about Smashwords and all the things that can be leveraged as an author. My far better half (and co-author), Stacia Kelly, has used it for some time and she finally convinced me to take a look. I think I got derailed by a few other sites and offerings in the past few years. Smashwords seems to be the most legit and easy route to reach entire audiences I hadn't met with before. Let me add that networking and meeting with fellow geeks, fans, friends, readers, authors...I just love it all. We're such a community and it's a joy to be around the folks and fandom who are in harmony.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
My greatest joy is sharing the original stories, songs, characters, thoughts, perspectives, all of that. I don't need a million people to love my work. It's incredibly rewarding to be able to share those things with friends and strangers alike. I love the relationships that I have made because I read or listened to an indie artist. Sometimes it's just a twitter exchange and that's fun. Other times, it grows into a personal relationship, and that's fantastic.
It's the vibe for me. It's being in harmony with other people. Whether that's on a stage, or at a Con, or just sharing a conversation or an exchange with someone. Any time that moves two parties together in a positive way, I love that. That's what I try to do with my writing.
What do your fans mean to you?
In the current environment, where we are all uber-connected and we can speak with anyone ON EARTH in a second, I don't know that there are really fans. Everyone is on much more level ground. Having lived in the indie community through music for over 20 years, I think everyone is more peers than just fans. I am thankful and respectful for every single person who has ever read or listened to my work. The fact that they took the time is a reward in itself. I don't expect everyone to love what I do. Hell, I take pride when certain people tell me they can't even finish a book.
I try to treat my fans the way that I want to be treated when I meet someone whose work I enjoy. I express what I enjoy about their work, and thank them and generally try to be supportive. I wish everyone was like that. (They're not. I know. If you encounter the folks who aren't that way, don't feed the trolls.)
What are you working on next?
My blushing bride, Stacia Kelly, and I are releasing "Ni", the 2nd book in the Urban Samurai series, in June. The series follows a 1,000 year old samurai who hunts demons and all things that go bump in the night. Her latest investigation takes her right into the path of a homicide detective who loves classic rock and his undercover car. Stacia writes Shia, the samurai. I write Ryan, the detective. It's a blast writing together. This 2nd novel features a really unique evil force that helped push our writing and made us think differently. It'll be available on June 17th.
I'm also editing "Catwalk: Mercy Killing", the third novel in the Leon "Catwalk" Caliber cyberpunk noir series. This is set in the near future in a dystopian Los Angeles. In this story, an unidentified source has created a virus that can turn anyone with cybernetics into a remote controlled killer. Cat has to use his unique set of skills to confront the force behind the malicious code, or all enhanced humans may be enslaved. That's due out on Halloween.
Who are your favorite authors?
Depends on the time period and the genre. For noir stuff, I'm a sucker for Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe stories. I think no one does a better job with setting up future events and overall continuity (and comedy) than Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. There's a guy named Harold Schechter who writes profiles of true crime psycopaths. His research is top notch. J.A. Konrath's Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels series is brilliant.
Comic guys like Brian Michael Bendis and J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Claremont are flawless. I really enjoy the work of Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine also. They have a great series called the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. Writing reviews for a horror site for a long time, I got to read a lot from really talented authors. I would ask anyone with the stomach for it to read "Draculas" - it's Konrath, Blake Crouch ("Wayward Pines"), Jeff Strand ("Grave Robbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary)"), and F. Paul Wilson ("The Tomb"), and it is absolutely disgusting. If you like gore and comedy, it's the best thing you'll ever read.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I perform in a band, and I do a fair amount of gaming. I also love to read other indie authors, and I recently got into podcasts. A few favorites are The Shared Desk, Geektitude, The Average Geek Show, Wekk Podcast, and more. I am a huge fan of comic book shows and movies, and I work out regularly. I also do a lot of traveling, so I try to find something fun and inspirational when I'm on the road. If you're in New York City any time soon, I recommend the Star Wars costume exhibit at Discovery Times Square.
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