I read genre fiction almost exclusively -- mostly fantasy with some science fiction and the occasional mystery. These days I've been reading a lot of MG/YA titles but also try to keep up with the latest adult titles, too.
When did you first start writing?
My first writing gigs were in entertainment -- these days that means working on cartoons (I've written for most of the big networks/studios and a lot of the smaller ones). I've written two picture books that were published by Penguin in the early-mid 2000s. I self-published my first novel in 2011 and I'm hoping to publish its sequel in early 2014. I also contributed to a fantasy anthology, "Wonderstorms," in 2013.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1)The Lord of the Rings: Such depth in terms of story, characters, and world that these books blow my mind every time I reread them. The only book series that genuinely makes me wish I could live in its world. (sigh) 2)The Hobbit: Although the stakes aren't as high as in LOTR, the Hobbit is still a lot of fun. This book got me thinking that I'd like to try my hand at writing middle-grade fantasy/adventure. 3)Harry Potter Series: Masterful storytelling. Brilliant characters throughout the entire series. A main character that I found myself caring about and pulling for. "How's Harry going to get out of this mess?!" 4)Percy Jackson Series: These books are pure escapist fun--exciting stories and everyman characters with extraordinary abilities. I'm something of a "mythology enthusiast" so these books ticked all the boxes for me. 5)Sea of Trolls Series: This last series (written by Nancy Farmer) is a hidden masterwork that I heartily recommend to anyone interested in top-level storytelling. Set in the days of Viking exploration, it's the story of an apprentice bard (wizard) who bravely faces one challenging adventure after another.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I've got an old (2nd gen.) Kindle that still works great. I've used it to read my own books at library and festival appearances. It's a lot easier than trying to keep your place in a paperback!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Primarily social media and personal appearances. I know for certain that people have picked up my books because of a blog post I did, a FB author page update, or a tweet. By far, events like school book fairs, library appearances, and Reading Festivals have been the most effective in terms of book sales. One area that's been a spectacular bust for me has been paid ads (Facebook/Goodreads). Sales from those were negligible.
Describe your desk
I bought one of those big honkin' desk setups from Staples -- three heavy pieces with a thick faux wood finish. On it I have: drifts of scrap paper, a 22" monitor w/speakers, notepads, phone, weather station (temp, etc.), an iPad for my writing tunes (can't seem to figure out what else to use it for - it was a gift), Chinese cat coin bank, a pipe rack, a cool-looking desk lamp from Ikea (yes, I said Ikea, don't judge), and my Warner Brothers clock.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri -- a great town full of good people. I'm not sure if the locale influenced my writing as much as the schools and the local library system did. I was (and am) a voracious reader so being able to access a wide variety of authors at the library and being taught by some really top-notch teachers at my schools no doubt greatly influenced my writing.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
To be honest I had a story that I just had to tell and I didn't have the patience to push my way through the weedy labyrinth that is traditional publishing (querying, agents, etc.).I did that with the picture books and didn't feel like doing it again. I like the control that indie publishing offers and really like that it's up to me and the readers as to whether or not the book is a success.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I think I'm not alone when I say that the actual writing (especially the first draft) can be something of a grind. Writing's hard! The part I like best is when I'm finished with the editing and can start to put the book together - from the cover to designing the interior, that the easy/fun part.
What's the story behind your latest book?
As I mentioned, I'm working on the sequel to "Dragonfriend" (a twist on the Arthurian legend). It's called "Giantkiller" and it continues the adventures of the main character, Leonard, as he sets out to free his beloved from the clutches of an evil giant.
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything! The fans are why I write. My goal is to entertain my readers with a fast-paced and exciting story with a satisfying ending.
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