Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born and raised in North Florida, predominately in Tallahassee where I attended high school and college/grad school at Florida State. As for how that impacted my writing, I'd have credit my time at the latter (FSU) for that. I had (and still have) some wonderful friends from that time of my life, and in a lot of ways our relationships over the years have very much mirrored those of Lee Summerston and his friends. Thus, from a character building standpoint, that gave me a lot to work with.
When did you first start writing?
I started dabbling in short stories when I was a kid in middle school, but that eventually gave way to sports-writing later on when I elected to pursue a career in broadcasting. Years and years later when the economy tanked, I found myself unemployed like a lot of people and it was then when, teetering on insanity, I returned to fiction. I was desperately in need of a project at that time (something aside from resume writing that I could blast into creatively), and that was really how "Mako" was born. From there, I fell in love with writing all over again and I've been moonlighting as a novelist ever since.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yep, it was a short story about a ghost kid on a BMX bike. I was 12.
Regarding your current book, "Mako": If you were pitching it as a movie, what would be the tagline?
“Five old friends from the bar reunite to drink beer and save a planet!” LOL I say that partially in jest, of course. Though in all seriousness, while “Mako” is very much a science fiction piece, the heart and soul of the story lies squarely with the protagonist and his friends which makes it accessible to anyone, not just genre fans. These are five people that everyone knows, because at some point you shared a class with them in school, or a pint at Happy Hour, or a shoulder in a life crisis. They’re real people, with real struggles who just so happen to find their lives turned completely upside down on account of a video game.
Speaking of, what drew you to video gaming as part of this story?
I grew up on films like “Tron” and “The Last Starfighter,” and while I always thought the whole “video game to reality” thing was a neat plot device, that really began to hit me as I got older and gaming evolved from titles like “Contra” and “After Burner” into what it is now with “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft.” I mean, it's practically VR now. Then, one day I watched a story on CNN about how various branches of the military were using sims as training tools for real-life soldiers, and that’s when I decided to put pen to paper (or, fingers to keys, as it were).
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Pure, unbridled, unadulterated, GLORIOUS, escapism -- plain and simple. My favorite mornings are the ones that involve me getting up prior to dawn, pouring a cup of piping-hot coffee, then sitting down at my computer with nothing to do but write. I can literally spend hours there if given the chance, just tinkering with a conversation, or a character history, or the tech specs of some badass new starfighter that -- somewhere between cup #3 and Van Halen's "Standing on Top of the World" -- sprouted free of my brain to kick off Chapter 20. And the joy of being an indie? None of that stuff gets edited off the page unless I say so, though a quick word of advice to new authors: honest beta readers ARE YOUR FRIENDS!!!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Oh, have no illusions, in the early-going I tried like mad to garner attention from the big boys of publishing. I only started investigating indie publishing as a Plan B of sorts, but the more I read about it the more it began to intrigue me. As it turned out, "vanity publishing" as I knew it had been completely transformed by the internet, thus leading to the rise of an entire legion of authors who were not only available for sale in all of the usual hotspots (Amazon, B&N, and even Audible) but they were also retaining the vast majority of their royalties as well as sole ownership of both their stories and the creative control behind them. That, friends, was VERY tempting.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Surprisingly, I don't. I'm legally blind, and therefore consume all of my content via audio -- hence my huge advocacy for the audiobook platform. That said, I like to use sites like Smashwords, Audible, and World Lit Cafe to see what's hot, then I'll cross-reference that information with social media sites like Twitter to see what fans are actually saying about a given writer or title. Book blogs and Goodreads (both of which I highly recommend for new authors) are also extremely helpful in finding new material.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I read a lot of the Sacketts books from Louis L'Amour when I was a kid, plus a lot of the Star Trek stuff (loved TNG). Still, I was always a sporadic reader as a teen because, at that time, reading for me meant external CD players and or clunky cassette decks, neither of which was very conducive to leisurely reading outside of the house. All of that changed, though, with the advent of mp3 players and web-based services like Audible. Now I've got my entire library on my phone and I'm never, EVER, without a book.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Wow, that's a tough one. As SF goes, I really enjoy guys like Timothy Zahn and James Luceno from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, though it's hard to go wrong with someone like Orson Scott Card, Jonathan Maberry, or John Scalzi. Then, of course, there's some guy named Stephen King... because, you know, he's pretty good. Other non-SF favs include Lisa Gardner, John Sandford, David Baldacci, Timothy Keller, Dean Koontz, Dave Ramsey, etc.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has made it very easy to get my ebook out to a wide range of channels at once, while also offering me a myriad tools for author education and book promotion (LOVE the coupon generator). Unlike a lot of other groups who are hellbent on cramming over-priced services down the throats of indie authors, SW is a community "by writers, for writers," and that really shows up in the level of ease with which they help us get our names out to the masses.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are everything, though one might make the argument that nowhere is this more true than with the Sci-fi/speculative fiction genre. SF fans are EXTREMELY passionate about their favorite titles, and I know because I've been one since my Dad took me to see Star Wars as an infant. If they love you, they REALLY love you... and If they don't, expect to hear about it. Either way, passion like that has to be respected, and I'm deeply honored to know that there are those out there who count my little contribution to the genre among their personal favs. On a related note, nobody parties like SF fans (see Atlanta's Dragon Con) and that, too, should be commended. ;)
What are you working on next?
"Mako" is book one of a three-book series, so right now I'm busy on the middle installment, presently titled "Mako: Red Sky Dawning." I'm really excited about this one, too, because I'm finally getting to delve into some of the B-characters from "Mako" that didn't get much page time. Chief among them is Danny Tucker, a guy who really came into his own throughout the drafting process but always kinda played second fiddle to Lee and Mac. At the same time, however, RSD is also a far more political read than "Mako" in that it tackles a lot of the internal problems on Alystier, primarily the rift between Chancellor Zier and Commandant Masterson.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My wife and kid, for starters, both of whom are wonderfully supportive. Beyond that, family and friends are really where it's at for me, and I think that very much comes out in my writing style. I LOVE writing people. Whether it's dialogue, character backstories, or whatever, people and their relationships with one another are just a lot of fun to pen for me. Of the more superficial variety (and as my Twitter followers will attest), I'm also a huge fan of football,music, movies, beer, and a perfectly cooked steak! **insert Tim Allen man-laugh here**
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