My writing process requires that I first spend a lot of time researching the underlying subject of the novels. For book one, I spent a long time researching about many different animals and how their interesting facts could be woven into the story. (I will never again research tarantulas - I spent way to long staring at their pictures and videos for the book.) Same thing with the Seven Ancient Wonders for book two. I've typically spent a year doing the research and outlining the plot before I actually begin writing. Then, once I begin writing, it's another year or so to completion of the first draft.
What do you read for pleasure?
This may be a surprise, but I actually don't do much, if any, reading in the genre in which I write - middle grade fantasy/adventure. I like to keep my books as free from influence from other books in my genre as possible. Much of what I read for pleasure are actually non-fiction books or articles. I think this comes from my background from when I received my undergrad degree in philosophy. I'm always looking for a good story with a well-developed character, big reveal, or interesting plot hook - so I'm not against reading any genre if it has any of those things.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the Northwest - up in a suburb of Seattle. When I was a teenager, I biked around the San Juan islands. I loved biking through Friday Harbor, Washington. This is definitely the influence for where Acea is from, and where he's trying to get back to. Otherwise, I try not to have too much of my own experiences affect Acea's story, as I don't want it to turn autobiographical.
When did you first start writing?
The first writing memory I have of when I actually wrote a story and thought "hey, I wrote something" is from eighth grade. I wrote a humorous story for a state-wide English writing competition that the entire class had to participate in. I remember that many of the students spent a lot of time meticulously calculating how to write a story that would win the competition, whereas I just wanted to write something that I found entertaining. In general, I was just hoping I'd remember to turn it in on time. I submitted the short story and never even gave it a second thought until the teacher announced that I was selected as one of the winners of the state competition. Wow. That was a complete shock. I still remember some of the looks I received from the other students who thought they had written the next masterpiece.
The plot of my story? I still remember it to this day. It was called "Dissecting Chucky." Chucky was the name I gave my piglet which I was assigned to dissect in science class. The story was about how that dissection went awry.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is "Acea and the Seven Ancient Wonders." For each book, the fictional adventure that Acea takes is interwoven with a non-fictional setting. With this book, I had an epiphany about 2/3 way through my first book (Acea and the Animal Kingdom) that it would involve the Seven Ancient Wonders. There were just so many different ways to intertwine the world that Acea is drawn into with the history of those Wonders. Their back-stories and purposes are both so mysterious and interesting. But at the heart of the novel is Acea's journey to free his parents from Vesuvius's evil grasp.
Whereas the first book focused on what Acea's parents sacrificed for him, in this second book I was really intrigued by the idea of what Acea would be wiling to sacrifice to free his parents. I don't want to say much more, as it'll give away too much, but I think many readers will be surprised by what even a 12 year old boy is willing to do for his parents. I think I took it to the limits, and I love hearing reader's feedback about the ending.
What do your fans mean to you?
I love hearing from my fans! I'm always shocked and humbled by their enthusiasm. By far, the question I've always gotten the most is "when is the next book coming out?" That's motivating. If it continues that way, then I'll probably regret making this a trilogy, ha ha. But, really, I'm motivated by their excitement and connection with Acea. I've had several 12 year olds (boys and girls) finish the first book in less than 24 hours. That's motivating.
What are you working on next?
I'm happy to finally announce the name of the last book of the trilogy: Acea and the Adventure Through Time. This book has taken even more research and planning than the first two (combined), and I know it'll live up to the expectations set by the first two. I already know the ending, and I can't wait to write it!
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm also a practicing attorney and have a wife and two kids. So, I guess the real question should be: when I'm not practicing law and spending time with my family, what do I do with my time? The answer is I write. Ha ha.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I'm sure there were many stories I read as a kid before this, but the first series I read that really stuck with me was the Myst series. This is the same series that was based on the first cd computer game of the same name. I was just so enthralled with the worlds the authors created. I re-read all three books over and over. They did a great job of mixing in the character arcs with the discovery, description, and plot behind each of the worlds.
Describe your desk
Generally, my desk is wherever I get inspiration! I bring my drafts with me on my iPad just about everywhere. My main writing desk, though, is in my house surrounded by my guitar and keyboard. I used to write music a lot, and over time my knack for writing three to four minute songs ended up on the page in chapters, I suppose. That's really the way I see writing novels: it's like writing a concept album where each chapter is a separate song leading to that final chapter.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Personal experiences aside (having kids, getting married, etc.), finishing the first draft of a novel is the most rewarding experience ever for me. It's beyond anything I can describe, but I'll give it a shot. It's personal between me and the page - an accomplishment of a goal which I set and I achieved, for which I don't need recognition from anyone else to feel its reward. That feeling is the greatest joy of writing for me.
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