Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Georgia, and grew up in Mississippi. One thing to understand about Mississippi is that it's small. I don't mean the state. I mean the places. The towns are small. The suburbs are small. The cities are small. Jackson, when I was growing up, was just a speck off the interstate, and if you blinked, you would miss it. I got to watch the suburban area I was raised in grow and change. I also got to watch, from visiting family, Atlanta grow. I came to understand the changes that take place as a city increases its influence, and the ways that it alters the communities around it. Metro Atlanta today is nothing like the Atlanta and its surrounding towns of my childhood. I try to put that into my settings, in how Atlanta bleeds into its suburbs, and how not all parts are ready for changes that may be decades old.
When did you first start writing?
I first started writing when I was a kid. My first experience in writing for other people, I guess I was about ten or eleven, was winning a US Savings Bond for a story I wrote about a school pageant. I really started writing stories, or bits of stories, in middle school and high school. I could be clever and say there wasn't much else to do in Mississippi (there wasn't), but really what I wanted to do was recreate stories that I loved and make something new. My first stories were things that my favorite movies, shows, or books inspired.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Two things. One, getting to see my story on a page and finished. It's a little scary too, I mean once I publish it, that's it. I don't get to change it. I have to be sure about every scene, every interaction, every characterization. Two, seeing a new cover. I've hired Catherine Nodet from Deviant Art for both of my novels, and she's an incredible artist. She pays careful attention to the ideas and concepts that I provide her, and returns something unique and beautiful. I love having my first look at a sketch or the finished cover. I feel giddy, dizzy, and excited all at the same time.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
So, I would have to say my five favorite books, in no particular order, are: Pet Sematary (Stephen King), Erasure (Percival Everett), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis), The Celery Stalks at Midnight (James Howe), and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams). I have to say that this is a fluid list. Any of those may be replaced by something else, depending on my mood or what's on my mind, with a few exceptions. Erasure is always on the list, and so is Celery Stalks at Midnight. Usually, HHGttG too. So, going down the list: King has this wonderful way of building terror and suspense in Pet Semetary that is unmatched in anything else I've read (of his or anyone else). The book made me afraid. Not of the cat, or anything else. I was afraid of a draft the main character feels on the stairs when he first moves into the house. That scared the crap out of me. Erasure is a must-read for any writer. The book is very meta. It's about an African American author who struggles with his on-the-page and in-the-store identities. He writes mostly academic work, and finds it difficult to built the connections that he wants. He finds that categorizing his writing is alienating, for himself in the audiences he'd like to reach. Early in the book, he is aggravated that he's lumped into African American literature, because his work is largely academic and his target audience ignores his work in that section. His fellow African Americans also ignore the work because, well, academic work is not what they're looking for there. He reacts badly to an obviously trumped up "authentic African American experience" story and decides to try his own hand at fabrication - with very unintended, fame-inducing consequences. While the book does speak to things I personally will likely never experience, it also speaks to me about the risk and danger of over-simplification, glamour, and categorization. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was one of the first "big books" I remember really appreciating. A teacher read it to us, and I fell in love. It was my first taste of a fantasy setting, and I think it really shaped some of my own ideas about the genre and how and why to use allegory. The Celery Stalks at Midnight was one of my favorite books to read as a child. I read it several times. I found it amusing, from page to page, and I still do. The plot of the book twists, turns, gets balled, up, and rolls out of control. I loved the pace of the story and how it felt reading as the crazy plot was resolved. You'll note, by the way, this is my only Vampire-related book on this list. HHGttG is just - it's great. It's imaginative. It's funny. It is endlessly quotable for any situation you find yourself in. Seriously. No matter what is happening, there is a quote to help you through. Getting into trouble and feeling like sassing your way out of it? Beeblebrox. Feeling overwhelmed and like the world is going to crush you? Dent. Feeling overwhelmed but lucky enough to pull something out of somewhere south? Ford. Aggravated by your significant other? Trillian. The sequels have great moments too, like Fenchurch, but they wouldn't exist without the first.
Why is there no love for other Vampire novels, if vampires figure so prominently in your own?
So, they're not off my top-five list because I don't love them. I love vampire stuff, be it books, movies, or games. Interview with the Vampire is one of my favorite books, though I don't always put it in my top 5. Top 10, definitely. Lost Boys is one of my favorite movies. I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer - both the campy movie and the much more serious series. I did not like the Buffy/Angel story line much. It was okay at first, but it got old quickly. I get that Buffy comes out of it wiser and a little stronger, but it felt like it just took too long to get there. Buffy/Spike, though... that I absolutely adored. Vampire: the Masquerade - I love it. Broke my gaming teeth on that game. I still have my favorite characters. I would also be lying if I said it did not influence me in a lot of ways. I also have a love-hate relationship with vampire stories. Dracula - love it, but it is so heavy-laden with metaphors that you can drown in the story. It makes it good, but it can also make following it difficult, especially if you aren't wanting to make vampires a sexual metaphor. I mentioned Interview, and I will state again that I love the book. The romanticism of the vampire in her books gets misinterpreted, however. I don't think that people are meant to fall in love with Lestat and Luis the way that people do, and that becomes a problem later when those people write their own vampire novels. There is as big a difference between sensuality and sex as there is between sex and love. I think those differences are what get missed. Even something like Vampire: the Masquerade makes writing about vampires tough. So many concepts in that game are vampires done right, in part because it draws on the best things in the works that precede it (like Dracula and Interview). On the other hand, if you want to draw on those ideas yourself, you have to be careful, lest you find yourself unexpectedly locked into a cliche. So vampire fiction is important to me, but I have to step away from it as my top 5. For those, I draw to other types of stories that influenced me - for love of reading and writing - in other ways.
What lead you to start writing knowing that your background was in finance?
So, I actually stumbled into the financial industry by accident many-a-many ago. I kinda flitted from one job to the other and found myself working as a retail supervisor. I was also very unhappy doing that. Several of my friends worked in IT and that's what I decided I wanted to do. It sounded fun and lucrative and I could join them in making fun of people calling in for tech support over drinks after work, rather than just laughing at the stories and being otherwise left out.
I quit the retail job and went in with a temp agency, telling them I wanted entry-level IT work. They did not find it for me. instead, they found me a gig at a brokerage firm that was supposed to be a one day job. Now because apparently I am a nice and responsible person, when people came by the desk I was sitting at that day, asking for help with things like mailings, I said "Sure. I can do that." And the admin manager asked me to come in the next day. And the next day. And on Friday, I was offered a job. A decade, degree (in creative writing), and 3 different financial companies later I decided enough of that. I was done.
So, I'm back to focusing my attention on my writing, getting my second novel done, and promoting the first.
And I didn't even answer the question, did I? So I've always loved writing. I started writing when I was about eleven or twelve and never stopped. I just never thought, for a long time, I would have the power to publish the stories myself.
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