There are very few genres I can't get into, but the books I've most enjoyed reading have been World War II historical accounts (particularly the ones written by Stephen Ambrose), fantasy and science-fiction, cyberpunk, and lately, urban fantasy. Recently, I've read some of Nigel Findley's Shadowrun novels, I've started the Dresden Files series, and Monster Hunters International.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I think the Kindle is pretty awesome. So awesome, I actually have three of them. I have a Kindle Keyboard (the 3rd generation e-ink Kindle), but I do most of my reading now on a Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" as well as on the Kindle App on my iPhone. I also have a first generation Kindle Fire for which I'm looking for a new home, since there's little need to have two tablets.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Whiteland, Indiana and lived there until I was five, then moved to Greenwood, Indiana (both suburbs of Indianapolis, though Whiteland is further removed) until I was eleven. From there, I lived in Germany for five years, then Petersburg, Virginia for five years before returning to Indianapolis in 1995. I've been in Indy ever since.
Basically, I was an Army brat. It exposed me to a wider variety of cultures and ethnicity than I would otherwise have been exposed to. Whiteland lived up to its name, as far as ethnic diversity goes, and Greenwood in the early 80s wasn't any better. It was quite a shock to me when I moved to Germany. I attended a Department of Defense Dependants (DoDDs) school there, and the other army brats were probably more diverse than most other schools in the country. I try to incorporate themes of diversity an acceptance in my stories. I've not been perfect my whole life, but I have learned that diversity is really a great thing and all of us different people are stronger together than apart.
Describe your desk
I have a dual-monitor set up. When I'm writing, the screen immediate to the front of me has the window in which I'm writing. Ahead and to my left is the monitor on which I have my browser window open to whatever web resource I'm using for research or my social networking. I have speaker on either side of my main monitor, though if I'm listening to music and trying to be in the groove of writing, I'll put on headphones. Since my keyboard & mouse are on a tray, the desktop itself is cluttered with printouts, snacks, and whatever I'm drinking (usually tea or coffee). On the walls around and above my desk, I have various sci-fi pictures for inspiration. The entire room is a shrine to sci-fi. Immediately behind my desk is a work table I use for painting miniatures and behind that is a shelf on which I keep my lightsabers, my Portal gun, and my die-cast Star Trek models. I may also have a Companion Cube plush, some Portal Turrets, a Vault Boy Bobble Head and a Jakobs Claptrap there, too. I also have my sci-fi/fantasy bookshelves in the room. I also have a bookshelf with writing reference books.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first one I ever read is fuzzy. I was introduced to C.S. Lewis's "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe", Roald Dahl's "James & The Giant Peach" and "Charlie & The Chocolate Factory", and Judy Blume's "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" all around the same time. They instilled in me a life-long love of fantasy, fantastic places, and quirky characters. The timelessness and beloved nature of these stories have also helped me realize that not every fantasy or science fiction novel has to be a door stopper.
When did you first start writing?
I started in my senior year of High School. I wrote a derivative piece of fantasy fiction set in a world for which many popular novels are written. I got about 60 hand-written pages finished before life took me down another path. I dabbled a bit here and there throughout my college years until I decided to take the NaNoWriMo challenge in 2007. Since my overachieving success that year (I wrote over 95,000 words that month instead of just 50,000), I have kept at it. My fifth novel is due out within a month of this interview and I'm working on several short stories for publication, as well.
What is your writing process?
The first thing I do when I get an idea is I jot down what the idea is. Sometimes it's a paragraph, sometimes it's a couple of pages. Then I'll start taking notes on the main characters as I see them at that time. Most of the time, I just start writing. It's unusual for me to outline until I get stuck on the story, or until I'm doing revisions and I see that I have to rearrange part of the story. I try to buckle down and get the first draft done as quickly as possible. Once the first draft is done, my first-pass editor goes through the manuscript 2-3 times before I send it off to Beta Readers. While the manuscript is with my Beta Readers, I engage a cover artist and paid editor/proofreader. I usually try to schedule my editing out far enough that I can make revisions based on Beta Reader feedback, at least a month or so past when I want my feedback returned. I usually need all of that time.
How do you approach cover design?
I used to do it myself. I am proficient with Photoshop and InDesign, but I am not a graphic designer by trade, so I hire it out nowadays. I usually have a good idea of what I want the art to be like, so I am my own Art Director, but I pretty much give the graphic designers free reign on the actual cover design.
What are you working on next?
I'm finishing up the third Zack Jackson novel (editing and layout) and my short story for the next volume of Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction. Since those have already been written, I am currently writing a steampunk/horror/western called Clockwork Cowboy and I am also working on another short story for the Baen Fantasy Adventure Awards.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Apart from regular household chores, I spend my free time playing video games (lately Skyrim, Borderlands 2, Shadowrun Returns, and Star Wars: The Old Republic have been taking up my time) and role-playing games with my friends.
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