When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Lots of things. I lead a very busy life. Cats and cars are what I'm known for. I rescue feral cats and a build art cars. I the moment I have 13 cats and several strange cars. I also collect comic books, many, many, many thousands of them, I have 7,000 just of Uncle Scrooge (which is my favorite). Plus I collect antique kimono (and wear them too - I dress in full kimono every day, it's my daily wear.) I also sew dolls, crazy quilts, dog cloths, cat beds, catnip toys, and I do lots of embroidery and tapestry work as well, plus I grew lots of flowers, I love roses. And I'm also a painter, I work in watercolor, pastel, and acrylics.
How do you approach cover design?
Oh wow. That's a good question! LOL! OMG! How do I approach cover art? I'm all over the place. I make most of my own covers, only ever had about 15 or 20 of my covers done professionally, hardly any at all. Usually I will see something I like, take a picture of it and use that as a cover - yeah, I snap my own photos much of the time. Sometimes I use stock images. And you can tell I go wild with the fonts. Oh boy do I ever love the freaky fonts! LOL! Got 3,480 fonts loaded into my computer. I just kind of randomly throw fonts at an image until something screams "That's it!" There's no real method to the madness I use to create my covers. Not at all!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I was 3 years old. The book Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss. How did it impact me? It amazed me. I remember seeing adults read and write and I would sit and pretend to read giant books - dictionaries and stuff - I would sit for hours staring into the picture-less books trying to figure out how to unlock the stories inside. I knew they contained stories because my parents would open them up and read the magical places to me and I wanted to know the secret of how to know what the stories were.
Green Eggs and Ham was my favorite book and my parents would read it and re-read it every day and night. One day I realized that they were reading the black dots on the page, and I picked up on the fact that certain ones showed up with certain things my parents said. Because I had the story memorized I was able to sit and "read" it by myself, but I would pay attention to things showing up and I figured out which words were what. I read the entire Dr. Seuss Library (I had all his books) and all the Bernstein Bear books BEFORE I learned the alphabet.
I was reading chapter books at age 5, and I was an utter nightmare for the teacher in Kindergarten, because she didn't know what to do with me. She was trying to teach the other 5 year olds 1-2-3s and A-B-Cs and I was bored out of my mind with that "baby stuff" so she would sit me in the corner and make me read Charlotte's Web and Rats of Nimb over and over again because they were the only two "non-baby" books she had in the classroom. I was taken out of school at age 8 because I was too far ahead of everyone else, but they didn't know what to do with me because they couldn't send an 8 year old to high school so from age 9 I was home-schooled with high school textbooks. I started my first business that same year. I was 12 when I opened the publishing house that I still run today.
I took up writing because of Green Eggs and Ham and Treasure Island (the first novel I read - read that at 8) and Jane Eyre (the first romance I read - read that at 9). I remember just being so full of amazement at the fact that entire worlds exited inside of these tiny stacks of paper, and I wanted to be a God and create worlds and stuff them in books (that's what I used to tell everyone - from the time I was 3).
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Of course. Friends Are Forever (the original 1978 edition) about a silver dog and a gold cat from outer space, who got together in a car with a mind of it's own that took them for a ride around town.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born and raised on the ocean, by people who likewise were born and raised on it, for many, many generations. The ocean is in my blood. What does it give me? Shells to collect, peace of mind at the end of the day, serenity, beauty, a sense of place. The ocean waves crashing ‘round my body are like hugs from an old friend. Why is it so great? The sights, the feels, the sounds, the smells. The glistening blue, the cloudy green, the deadly grey, sand in my toes, sand in my hair, the cleansing salty grit contrasting with the frigid cold wetness, the cry of the gulls, the screams of the loons, the shrill call of the killdeer, the salty, misty, musty fog, drenched is hints of seaweed and crab. I love my ocean in all it’s glory.
The ocean inspires some of my best writing. Inspiration, that is what the ocean gives me. It can inspire me to write soft beautiful romance, with its hot summer days and lovers in the sand; or it can inspire me to write simple stories of the simple joys of children building sandcastles while puppies chase frisbees in the gentle surf. I could write those things, most people do, it’s not very hard, I have done it before, but more often than not, I don’t.
Dark brooding stories of blood and death. Drowning victims, bodies washing up along the shore, mermen strangling young women with seaweed, monsters from the deep surfacing to swallow you whole, tourists trapped at hide tide, dashed to death on the rocks, falling from the slippery cliffs to lay shattered on in a shell lined grave bones picked clean by gulls and crabs. That’s what I write.
I could write about seaside carnivals, I often do. But what side of the carnival to I choose? Happy. Joyful. Couples laughing on the ferris wheel overlooking the Pier? Children their faces sticky with cotton candy, waiting in line to ride the Shooting Stars? Or their demise, as darkness falls, and moon rises over the cool black waters, revealing the ride operators for what they truly are: brain sucking zombies, the carnival a trap to lure in tourists for food, like sheep to the slaughter.
Why do I write, the dark things I write? Why does the ocean inspire such terror?
Darkness, sci-fi, gore and horror; once in awhile the occasional romance gone very horribly wrong. I could have done none of this without my ocean.
Most folks look at the ocean and see warm summer days, children, laughter, lovers, family vacations, and fun in the sun. I look at the ocean and write pages dripping with blood.
My mental, spiritual, and emotional connection with this beach is unfathomable. Here is where I meditate, pray, commune with the spirits. I know the tides, the snails, the sandpipers, the gulls, the tourists. The French Canadians in Speedos, the elderly Floridians in straw hats, the fast talking New Yorkers. The deafening sound of the fireworks, every Thursday night mingled with the crashing waves. The pitch black of night and the thick choking fog rolling in and blotting out every sight, soaking your clothes wetter than a pouring rain, and filling your nostrils with the pungent smell of uprooted seaweed and dead crab. Once in awhile we get the excitement of watching the Coast Guard dredging for dead bodies washed down from the Saco River.
Dead bodies wash up on the beach more often than town officials would like to admit, 5 a year, not uncommon, never less than 3, as many as 10 some years. Not just bodies washing down from the river. People drown in the gully. Parents turn their back on toddlers, letting them swim alone in the gully. Locals don’t go near the gully. They know better. Tourists don’t care. The tourists don’t think about it, I wonder if they even know the danger they are in, should be in the gully, when tide come roaring back in? Do the read the warning signs? Clearly posted, in bright red letters. Swim at your own risk. Dangerous riptide. No swimming after dark. No one thinks about it. Not even when the bodies wash ashore. Neighboring towns don’t care. The papers never say where the body was found, only where it fell in, in some little town no one ever heard of deep in the forests of Northern Maine.
No one knows the dark side of Old Orchard Beach, Maine. They see the signs, but no one cares. Danger. Warning. Beware. Riptides. Stay behind the fence. No swimming after dark. Tourists ramble past, not giving the signs a second glance. Why should they bother read a sign? They are here for fun in the sun on their great big family vacation. We don’t want to think about the dangers. Who cares that we’ll be flying one of our own back home in a coffin. It’s the beach, I’m here to swim. They come. They swim. They die. It’s the same thing every year. They have no respect for the ocean and the dangers it brings. The only people who really know the dark side of our beach, are those of us, fewer than 2,000 residents who live here year round......And as I have run out of room for this answer, you can read the rest of it here: http://www.eelkat.com/Ocean.html
What is your e-reading device of choice?
What do your fans mean to you?
I absolutely love my fans. It is for that reason that I am so accessible to them. I chat with them on FaceBook and Twitter and LinkedIn and Tumblr and all those other online places, I'm always answering loads of questions from would-be/newbie/future writers (that's how my advice column for writers got started), and of course there's all the face-to-face in person meetings, which are a daily part of my life. I never turn away a fan seeking autographs, and well, me, being me, I'm easy to spot in a crowd, I stick out like a sore thumb, what with me driving a Liberace tribute car decked out in 2.5million rhinestones and me being a life actor who lives 24/7 dressed in full blown Medieval garb (I don't own a stitch of "normal" cloths) so yeah, when people see me they either go "What the hell?" or "OMG! It's you, can I have your autograph!"
I'm one of those people who will happily spend time with anyone who wants to spend time with me, so I've been known to head out to a local restaurant or cafe or pizza with random fans. I've never hidden my home address from anyone either, which I don't recommend, because some weirdos have shown up at my place, including the nut-job that burned down my house with a grease-fryer bomb in 2006, so I seriously do not recommend you being as open about where you live as I was; live and learn! For the most part fans a great people, and don't cause trouble, so it's not the fans you have to worry about, it's predators you have to worry about. But that's besides the point.
Yeah, I just love to hang out with my fans, especially the CosPlayers and uber geeks and Dungeon Masters and their game groups, they are just the best fans out there because they really get into it with my characters and I love that. I love that everyone is always asking to take pictures with me, or asking if they can get pictures of my car. I really do love the attention. My fans are just so much fun to be around, it great and I love them all.
Who are your favorite authors?
Edgar Alan Poe, who created the best anti-hero ever of all time: Roderic Usher
Rumiko Takahashi and her InuYasha series
Don Rosa and his Uncle Scrooge series
Keith Laumer's Retief series
Paul Galdone's Tailypo
Dr. Seuss, yes, as in Green Eggs and Ham and How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Douglas Addams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
James Blish's Star Trek novels (and all Star Trek novels by other authors too)
Gaston Lurox's Phantom of the Opera
Bram Stoker's Dracula
James Flora's Grandpa's Ghost Stories
The Brother's Grimm, unabridged and unedited
Alfred Hitchcock's Three Investigators series (which had multiple authors)
J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter series
James Howe's Bunnicula series
Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island
Bruce Coville's Alien Teacher series
Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland
Roald Dahl and his Chocolate Factory books and the BFG
Robert C. O'Brien's Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
The Bronte sisters with Jane Eyre and Withering Heights
Each of these authors and their books have been huge inspirations to me and you can often find "tributes" to them hidden within my stories.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Living the lives of my characters. Getting to know my characters. I unfortunately have closer friendships with the characters in my books than I do actual people. Oh well. That's what comes from sitting at home alone writing all day and all night, I suppose.
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