Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story I remember reading was The Babe Ruth story. I was around eight years old. At that age I was already in love with the game of baseball, playing my first game when I was six. I can still remember bursting at the heart seams when I was put in right field, on a misty, spring afternoon. The Babe Ruth Story gave me a similar feeling of excitement, and to read about the home run king, the legend that was larger than life, showed me just how powerful a book can be.
When did you first start writing?
In 2004, right after my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I came up with an idea to write a book about a man who goes back in time after the death of his mother, back to his youth. I was essentially writing about my family and where I grew up, and it was as though a switch flipped inside my heart and mind that made me realize I am suppose to write for the rest of my life.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I am an extremely picky reader. Since I spend most of my time writing my own books, I don't get to read other writer's works that often. I am a huge fan of Cormac McCarthy, and I truly consider his writing the greatest of the last hundred years. And so, my favorite books begin with him. Blood Meridian, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain are my top three. Book four would most likely be The Rainmaker by John Grisham, and coming in at number five is Tears in the Darkness by Michael Norman, a book about Ben Steele's ordeal in surviving the Bataan Death March and three years in a POW camp. The reason I had such a connection to that book is because my uncle was part of the same infantry, who, unfortunately, died one month before the end of the war. He was killed by friendly fire from British warships. The book I'm working on now Jakob's Well, is being written in part to honor my uncle.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Columbia, SC, and the neighborhood where I grew up was the actual setting for my first book, A Passage Back (although it will be the fifth book released by the publishers). It was a great place to grow up and we had our own Little League ball field, which was the center of my young world. And when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I wanted to write something to tell her how much she meant to me. And so I came up with an idea to write a story about a man who goes back in time after the death of his mother, waking up on the baseball field in the neighborhood where he grew up. And with so many emotional connections, from my family, my friends, and the baseball field, everything that had shaped my youth was right there to influence my first book and venture into writing.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I believe the most effective technique for me has been social media, primarily Facebook. Having lived in South Carolina for a lifetime, I've got many family, friends, and acquaintances. And to be able to promote book releases and book signings has created a grass roots of readers that seems to grow and spread with each book release. Book signings have been very effective too as it gives me a chance to meet, and more importantly, thank, readers who purchase my books.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book, a murder suspense entitled Backwoods Justice, is the sequel to Shadows on Iron Mountain. The setting is Iron Mountain in East Tennessee where my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were born and raised. In this book Rubin Sawyer, a former inhabitant of Iron Mountain who'd fled when he was eighteen, vowing never to return after his father was executed in the dirt streets by the self imposed ruler of the mountain, is on the hunt for his granddaughter, who was abducted along the banks of Doe Creek. Sawyer, now considered a traitor, helped find the one who'd been abducting, raping, and killing women from cabins and hiking trails in Shadows on Iron Mountain. And so backwoods justice is administered for what he's done. Hikers are also being killed on the Appalachian Trail when they cross Iron Mountain, clues left on their bodies in notes of blood. And so a cat and mouse game ensues to find Sawyer's granddaughter. Detective Thomas Jordan, a big city detective, is brought back again to help find who's killing the hikers and to find Sawyer's grand child along the way.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy is bringing to life characters who are heroes; who are flawed; who are real. By the end of my books I want the reader to feel like they know the characters intimately. And then to place them in setting such as the beautiful mountains of East Tennessee, to the flatlands of the Carolinas, allows the readers to feel like they are right there on that mountain, sitting underneath that slender pine, standing in the batter's box on a dusty ball field, is so satisfying. I love to write deep in prose and storyline.
What is your writing process?
When I create a book, it simply begins with an idea. And with that idea comes an excitement and from there a strong desire to write it. I've heard some writers say they don't always enjoy writing their books, but with me it is very exciting - very soothing, even if the subject matter isn't easy. But I never know how the book will end until I get there. I dream and scheme one scene, one chapter, at a time. And then I shape and mold, shape and mold, so that it almost becomes a separate entity that I just facilitate in its growth.
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