Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in mid-Michigan. First, in the city of Belleville, less than a block from the roar of I-94, though the better part of my childhood was spent in the rural village of Norvell. It had a dismal population and left me to entertaining myself in the woods or doing a lot - and I mean a lot - of reading for my amusement. There was occasionally television, but this was the days before *gasp* cable was available in my area. The lack of people and visual media had a direct influence on me, leaving me to find my influences in print. This forced my imagination to do most of the work that others - and most people today - rely on other creative people to do for them. I built whole universes, saved and destroyed galaxies, fought monsters - or became them. Daily. I find that when I am writing, I still tap into that now. I take something very basic, something we are all used to being very normal and let my imagination run wild on it.
When did you first start writing?
I have been telling and writing stories since childhood. I wanted to be like the writers I was reading. Even as a child, I was thrilled by the idea of scaring people - of having that much control over someone as to enforce a fear through the power of written word.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Maybe not the first story I ever read, but one of the earliest books that impacted me very solidly was the novella Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King, with art by Bernie Wrightson. I remember how vividly the stories appeared in my head, how terrifying the scenes were established and executed in such small chapters. That he honed in on a single event once a month to tell a chapter - an encapsulated short story in itself, yet a chapter of a much larger story. King suckered me with the fact that he was telling a story where the main character was absent for a majority of each chapter, completely anonymous for most of the story, and killed off most of the supporting cast as quickly as they were introduced... and yet, it was a compelling page turning that I could polish off in an afternoon and turn right back around and start back into.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Purely selfish and completely accidental reasons. Empty Hallways was a manuscript written in the whirlwind of NaNoWriMo. When I finished, I got a bunch of rewards for completing my 50000 words inside of the allotted 30 days. One of those rewards was 5 free physical copies of my book. All I was required to do was edit, format and upload to the site. It took some time but I got it finished and after I had uploaded and ordered them, I received and email that said "Congratulations! Your book has been published to Amazon.com!" I didn't understand. I had to look into things, but it turned out that I had completely accidentally published an independent novel on Amazon. From there, it seemed like easy logic: I could submit my manuscripts to publishing houses, waste money on postage and printing and more than a lot of time and energy hunting down names and addresses and writing letters... Or, I could write, and then edit, and then produce. I could have complete creative control over every step in the process and I could skip the middle man and submit books to online publishers, making them available around the world. Yes, it is still a little difficult to get physical copies into real bookstores, but I'm working on that, too.
Who are your favorite authors?
It's an exceptionally long list, but let me throw out a couple of names that I truly enjoy with enough confidence that I regularly buy their books on reputation alone: Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, James Patterson, JK Rowling, Daniel Waters, Mark Z. Danielewski, Chuck Palahniuk, Dr. Suess, Shel Silverstein, Terry Brooks, and Terry Pratchett.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Thus far, I have actually found that my many live interactions at author events have been very meaningful and very effective. I had a brief stint with success after a Reddit AMA, and while it did not last, it did succeed in granting me coveted "international author" status. Thank you, New Zealand.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Honestly, if I don't get out of bed, that's all the excitement I'm going to get out of the day... that just doesn't sound like much fun.
Describe your desk
Before me, front and center is my iMac, keyboard and mouse. To my left is a steaming cup of tea or coffee (yes, constantly - it'd be on my rider if I were a rockstar) and to my right is a Sharpie pen and a blank journal. Ok, not "blank", but it was once. I tend to hand write my ideas and notes - science says that hand written notes helps retain them in your memory, and I try to embed the facts of the story into my brain before I actually settle to write it out.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy, honestly, is watching my characters come to life and - this may sound insane - watching them blossom into their own personalities. When I create a character, I build a framework, essentially. I tell them who they are supposed to be, but like children, they insist on discovering their own identities. Characters change, stories evolve and everything is a surprise along the way. I have seen love stories happen where I hadn't ever planned one to exist. I have seen terrible things happen for perfectly good reasons, and I have seen awful things happen at the hands of reasonably good people. The fact that I can sit at a keyboard, writing out this story, and still manage to surprise myself as I am writing is spectacular. Having characters that you think are pretty cool evolve into complex and beautiful personalities that you couldn't have consciously planned is a true pleasure.
What is your writing process?
I am what is known as a "pantser". My process is that, generally, I have no process. I sit down and start writing out an idea, usually a paragraph or two that establishes a character - usually one of the main ones - and an element of what will grow into the major plot. Once I have written all I can in a sitting, I start thinking and brewing the possibilities of where that scenario can branch out to, where it came from, where it's going, what else can happen in relation to it. After all that is figured out and I have an idea of who I am working with, I do a little bit of research, some basic Google searches, to add some nuance and reality to the characters involved, then I'm off and running with the story in my head.
How do you approach cover design?
I have a longtime friend who is my cover artist. For the most part, I have some idea of what I would like to see on a cover by the time I have finished the first draft of a story and sketch out an idea. I turn it over to Brian and give him an idea of the premise and let him work his magic. After I have seen his first attempt, we get together and discuss the details and ways to sharpen it up, but for the most part, what Brian and I both envision are not too far apart from each other. It's usually a very easy and delightful experience working with him, I look forward to it.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I enjoy reading quite a bit. I also like hiking and camping, just getting out into nature. I am pretty handy around a kitchen and enjoy cooking. And I am a notorious movie addict.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Randomly, actually. Usually, I follow the recommendations. I start with the "People who read ____ also read ____." suggestions and fan out from there. If it's got an attractive cover (yes, I judge books by their covers) and a decent premise, I'll give it a shot.
What do you read for pleasure?
A little bit of everything. I love reading horror and, strangely, lots of YA authors. Really, I will read any genre as long as it appeals to my interests.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I love my Kindle. Visually speaking, it's not nearly as satisfying as an actual library of book, but it is a lot easier to carry with me.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest work, House of Thirteen (which will be available sometime in 2015), is my attempt to step away from trope horror. It's about a historical society that is far more than it seems: a small society of women who have found, through accident, that they cannot die. Each of them have been through some harrowing accident intent on taking their life, and they have come through it no worse for wear. What it really boils down to is that I love to research strange and fascinating things. I enjoy learning new facts about all the points in history and this was a perfect opportunity for me to play with a bit of research and clash eras against eachother to see what happens. Many of the characters come from different points in American history, allowing me to throw early American aristocracy in a room with the Flower Power movement, just to see what happens when these two people can't meet eye to eye. The story boils down a bit simpler than such things - it's a story about women and family, about being strong beyond what your limits tell you that you are capable of - but I like to have something to tap into to keep things refreshing and interesting as I write.
What are you working on next?
I have two manuscripts in the process of editing right now - House of Thirteen and Threshold, both of which I hope to have published within 2015. I am currently researching ancient gods and the nature of time (let's talk about things I have no idea about), for a new story about - if you haven't guessed - the ancient deities that keep the sands of time churning in the modern world... and what happens when they start getting killed one by one. I am planning on a serial release in 12 parts across the months of 2016. So, hopefully come January 2016, you'll be seeing the first installment of the series right here.
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