I am a big fan of science fiction, be it space opera, or near future stuff like Distraction or The Diamond Age. I have always loved books that expose me to new ideas. I love books that are disorienting at first. I loved Anathem. I love all the works of Frank Herbert. I want a book that will show me a lot more than it tells up front. I look for that "ah - ha!" moment in writing where my perspective shifts and a new window opens in my mind. I am also a reader of philosophy, including western classics like Plato, modern structuralists and post-structuralists like Wittgenstein, DeBouvoir, Kristeva and Foucault. I love to read Buddhist works of Dharma, my favorite being Nagarjuna. Again, I look for the ah-ha moment, but in these cases, it tends to go deeper. Lately, I've been reading 19th century literature like Dostoevski alongside the TimeBomb Trilogy by Scott K. Andrews. I recently finished the Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, which I loved. Lots and lots of ah-ha in that one, as well as Scott's.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My iPhone does it well enough for me. I use ibooks and kindle, depending on what I'm reading. I also love Overdrive and Hoopla for library books.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Twitter and facebook so far. I'm a web designer, so I've created a great website for the Wakeful Wanderer's Guide series. I'm new at this, so I'll let you know if I get any more ideas and see results from them.
Describe your desk
I have a metal and particle board graphic design desk with a light green cutting mat. It's huge and can be angled up and down. I never angle it. I also have a very old and ragged drawing and layout desk with a wooden top and metal base. I like the look of it but seldom use it.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in New York City, in Manhattan, all the way east and not quite south as far as the lower east side. It had no neighborhood name, but in the 19th and early 20th century, it was called "The Gashouse District" because of the deadly and leaky gas tanks that loomed over the tenement housing there at the time. In the 40s it was all torn down for new housing. It's called Peter Cooper / Stuyvesant now. Growing up in New York City when I did was like living in a giant human hive. The buzzing was ceaseless. A bus would idle outside my window every morning and wake me up. I walked past a park full of heroin addicts on my way to school. I was in close proximity to a diverse selection of humanity constantly. I skateboarded and got mugged. It was an amazing way to grow up. I think this shows up in the writing of my first novel, because I could easily imagine a world where nobody drove, and everybody lived on top of each other and were perfectly happy with it. You get a rush living in a hive. It's a different sort of wealth and richness.
When did you first start writing?
I've been writing short stories in the form of songs since I was 13 years old. Some people will read that and say "that's not short story writing!" and I would say "yes." It is EXTREMELY short story writing that has to have a rhythm and rhyme. I didn't start writing a novel until just a few years ago. I actually found it similar to songwriting. I'm always looking for the inspiration for a chapter, the rhythm of the words and the emotional punch at the end. In songwriting, you need to convey information, but also emotion. In long prose, you need to express the same thing, but deliver it over a longer time. There is plenty of room for succinctness and poetry in both.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I was on a bus coming home from a gig with the keyboardist from my band, Josh Kantor. We stayed overnight in NYC after a show at the Living Room and got a double-decker bus home at the end of the weekend. I was on the top deck, looking down into the cars on route 87 going north, and I saw one out of every two people driving and texting. I started to wonder, what is it about sending and receiving a little bit of information that is so addictive that people are willing to risk everything for it? Where will this go from here? Suddenly an entire world centered around our location in Westchester downloaded into my brain and I sat up straight in my seat. Josh may have asked me what happened and I babbled to him about it all the way back to Boston. We decided it was too much inspiration for a song, and it had to be a short story or something longer. I started writing a chapter on my phone then and there but didn't commit to writing a novel until at least five years later. That chapter became the seed for "Skating the Merrit" which shows up in the novel "The Wakeful Wanderer's Guide to New New England & Beyond."
What motivated you to become an indie author?
This was a long and painful process for me, as I'm sure it is for most indie authors. I had finished my first novel and did the standard thing, querying agent after agent. None of them liked it. (I know, I'm turning off potential readers now, but it's true.) Finally, my manuscript got a read, and finally, the agent passed on it. The feedback I got told me that if I wanted to go traditional, I would have to completely revise the novel and make it less complex. That simply did not appeal to me. I realized that I had a book that was unlikely to hit a mass market, but I knew from my experience on Wattpad and Patreon, where I had posted the chapters, one by one, that there were readers out there who would be disappointed if I ripped the guts out from my novel and made it more normal. I had been listening to the Smashwords podcast and it all made sense to me. It was also very much in line with the subject of the novel I was writing. As soon as I got my final rejection, my path was clear.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
What I love most about writing is giving myself permission to imagine without limits. When that happens, the words flow like ... like ... a big flowy thing, I dunno. Not doing it now, clearly. I had a moment when I started writing when I thought, "wait, I can just make stuff up and write it all down?" And thankfully, another voice in my head said, "yeah!"
What do your fans mean to you?
I have had a decent number of music fans, and knowing that they have worked my music into their lives has been really gratifying, but having had just a few people read and actually finish my novel - something more abstract - straight out of my head - is so much more amazing. I still carry in my mind the cultures and situations from novels I have read and liked and knowing that these ideas and situations from my novel might inhabit the thinking of others is beyond beyond.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.
In the parlor of the Lester Sunshine Inn, up the Hudson River from the flooded remains of lower Manhattan, a young man named Marto plans a unicycle ride through scenic New New England as powerful Luddite forces plot to overthrow his interconnected community.