The "first" first? I was in grade school. It was a sci-fi short story about whales; I got a passing grade, even with my awful penmanship. The bulk of my writing was technical specs in my days as an architectural draftsman for the construction industry; then as a continuity writer in broadcasting, that is, composing copy for commercials and radio shows. I've also done a bit of writing as a music journalist for localized music rags. The creative side of my writing exploded when I discovered screenwriting, which transported me into the world of fiction and non-fiction writing.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I was in middle school. For short stories; The Rollerball Murders by William Harrison, which was adapted and directed brilliantly by Norman Jewison. For novels, it was 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. I wrote book reports on each. Clarke is right up there with Stephen King. He just takes your breath away, with you wishing this "world" really did exist.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla, Stanislaw Lem's Fiasco, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, Dracula Unbound by Brian Aldiss, and Jim Morrison's Adventures in the Afterlife by Mick Farren. Can I have six? Gothe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. For me, those are the ones that illicit repeated readings.
Le Fanu is responsible for my favorite film of all time, 1932s Vampyr by Carl Theodor Dreyer, which is based on Carmilla. Le Fanu's writing sends shivers; he should be as exalted as Mary Shelley and Stroker. Sadly, Le Fanu is becoming forgotten, like Goethe.
Goethe is amazing. He writes novels, becomes a "star," then writes scientific books about plants (Metamorphosis of Plants) and the science of color and light (Theory of Colours), then writes the two part play, Faust. Goethe overwhelms me with his brilliance.
Farren? Jim Morrison, Adolf Hitler and Aimee Semple McPherson all in the same room? Nuff said. It ranks right up there with Clockwork Orange in terms of crazed uniqueness. Same goes for Aldiss with Dracula Unbound (and Frankenstein Unbound). Both compose unpredictable books that travel and twist to unexpected places.
Oh, I forget about Lem. Without his vision, you would not have 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is, in my opinion, an A-List major studio remake/homage to the wonderful Eastern European/Russian Sci-Fi films of the late 60s that I adore. Lem’s The Astronaut became 1960s The Silent Star, aka Der Schweignde Stern. Don’t watch the Americanized chop-job, First Spaceship on Venus. Watch the original German version. His other book, The Magellanic Cloud, became the American chop-job, Voyage to the End of the Universe—watch the original 1963 Czech version, Ikarie XB 1. Both are awesome books and great movies. Of course, everyone knows Lem is responsible for Solaris. And for the record: I absolutely love George Clooney’s film version of Solaris as much as Tarkovskiy’s.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The "I did it" factor. To sit there and look at this finished book as I work on its ebook formatting. It's amazing. I faced my giant and conquered it. The writing must fulfill you on an emotional, spiritual, and intellectual level--that is your "pay," because it may be the only "paycheck" you'll ever get. This book has that "factor," so does screenwriting. Why else would I have dedicated my time to screenwriting for the last six years, while still working on my book? It’s extremely fulfilling. It's fun.
What is your writing process?
Lots of research. I can compose a screenplay in six months. It works out to about three months of research and three months of writing. It is all about the research and about knowing your subject matter; the planning, the outline, the battle plan. For me, it's paramount to be absolutely accurate, truthful, and authentic in the writing. I write what I would want to read; I write from the heart. If I come from that place, I know others will respond to my thoughts on the page with kindness.
Describe your desk
Clean and organized. I had a PC that finally gave up on me. I now write on a laptop, which really cuts down on the bulk and keeps things cleaner. I like to keep personal items with sentimental meaning in my writing space; such as this amber paperweight with a flower inside that belonged to my grandfather, along with this little blue Matchbox car of a Rolls Royce he gave me when I was a boy. Then there is the forever-by-my-side dictionary on an ankle-high shelf under the desktop. If I could actually lift that "cinder block" over my head, I could kill a man with it!
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
It seems all I ever do these days is write. After a lengthy career in radio, I segued into an acting career. As an acting exercise, I began composing 10 to 13 page short films, because, if you can build a screenplay from the ground up, as an actor, you will be more effective at analyzing the page; breaking down character. Next thing I know, I'm writing full length screenplays. However, to get to the answer . . . cutting audio in a radio production studio, rollerblading, biking, softball, going to a lot of concerts, and I You Tube way too many movies, concerts, and music obscurities. And I never pass up a used record or book store.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
My introduction to ebooks, and the discovery of them, is all courtesy of Smashwords. The thanks go to Catherine Ryan Howard. I discovered her website on my quest to learn about ebook formatting; from there, I learned about Smashwords.
How do you approach cover design?
As result of my years in broadcasting and acting, I've worked with a wide array of software suites to cut spots, along with acting reels and trailers for short films. Then there is the endless stream of community and vocational night classes I take for computers; I most recently finished courses for QuickBooks. And I have past experiences with HTML and graphic arts. Thus, I am very confident and proud of the cover I just finished designing on my own. The trick is to keep it simple; while at the same time conveying what is inside the book. Not just its subject matter, but its "feel" and "vibe."
What's the story behind your latest book?
It is a rock n' roll tome that has its roots in a quote from Goethe: "What is the heart of a man? It is a tragic organ that, in seeking fulfillment, destroys itself." It's a book about the Fates of Rock n' Roll, during the burgeoning progressive rock and heavy metal era of the late '60s and early '70s. There are so many incredible bands and talented musicians that should have made it and did not; some literally destroyed themselves. This book is a tribute to them. It’s my hope the book will be well received and preserve their memory.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Refer to the previous question. Those stories needed to be told and it's been the proverbial 900 pound monkey on my back for several years. Years of research and writing. It’s my obsessive mission in life for them to be remembered. It was just a matter of technology catching up with me, as I began writing it before ebooks and self-publishing were entered into the equation. Discovering Smashwords is a blessing to me. This book (now ebook) is really going to happen, thanks to Smashwords.
What advice do you have for new Smashwords writers?
Don't fear the Style Guide. Don't fear formatting. The Style Guide is a very easy read; read it twice. I suggest watching all of Mark’s videos before you dive into the Style Guide. That helped a lot. Then, take MS Word for a spin and play with the formatting tools and get acquainted. The formatting actually turns out to be fun. Having your TOC (Table of Contents) work properly the first time and see the text “flow” is a real rush.
Certainly read and watch some web-based supplementary materials from others. I certainly did before I signed up for my Smashwords account, to get acquainted. However, don't use those materials as a substitute for the Style Guide. No shortcuts. From what I have read from others, you’ll lose your mind if you try to cheat it. Don't worry, you'll do great and have fun doing it.
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