I love a fun story that takes me away to a new world. Recent reads include READY PLAYER ONE and HOUSE OF BLADES, both amazing stories by very talented authors. Both stories that were not afraid to develop the character, yet still have engaging plots. When I open a book, I know in the first couple of pages whether it will work for me or not, and it often has to do with the author's voice first, and the presentation of character second.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book, coming out soon through Zharmae, is titled MOHIRA and is based on my wife's life story, loosely. It is the story of a woman from Central Asia who comes to America through marriage, but her husband soon leaves her. She is stuck in a country where she knows nobody and understands very little, but can't go home and explain to her family that she is divorced, because divorce is unacceptable in her culture. So she tries to survive in America, but her growing sense of belonging and security is thrown on its head when ethnic violence breaks out against her people back home and her family is put in danger.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love the process of creating a new world and exploring characters, their wants and desires. But most of all I love hearing the feedback from my readers - when they are touched by my writing and leave feedback or reach out to me directly. It is very rewarding.
What are you working on next?
I am in the process of adapting one of my screenplays into a novel - it is titled "Found on Fuji," and is about a veteran who goes to Japan in search of himself when the love of his life rejects him. She shows up, revealing that she only rejected him because she's sick and doesn't want to see him hurt. It is a fun story with lots of Japan exploration and heart - one that multiple readers have told me brought tears to their eyes.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love the books by George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, C.S. Lewis, and of course J.R.R. Tolkien. They introduce us to new worlds without getting carried away and full of themselves.
More recent authors to follow are Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, and Will Wight.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I wrote started because I was in pain from a military related injury, and I started to realize I couldn't be as physical as I once was (I was a martial arts instructor in the Marines). I had always thought I would write a novel by the time I turned 50, so I decided that I may as well get started. Three months later I had 100,000 words - and five years later I published this book (Falls of Redemption). It has some issues, which goes along with our first books, but I am proud of it regardless.
What is your writing process?
I like to wake up at 5:00 am while my children are sleeping and get to writing. I put on some music, usually from a movie soundtrack such as Pirates of the Caribbean, and bust through as much as I can until the kids get out of bed. In the evening I am usually too exhausted to write, so I make that my editing or brainstorming time.
How do you approach cover design?
We should produce professional cover design so that our books can compete with those that are traditionally published - that is, if we call ourselves professionals (which I do). I have tried working with artists I find online with sites like 99 designs and Fiver - My favorite is to find other books with cover designs I admire, and then reach out to the author to find out who did it and hire that artist if I can afford their rate.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I love the advice in Write. Publish. Repeat, which means I find writing more books to be effective, but what I think is best is to put my books into Audiobook format. Amazon's ACX is wonderful for this, and I find sales of Audiobooks come much more naturally than ebooks.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing, I'm spending time with my wife and children. Anyone pursuing their passions who ignores their family does not deserve success - your family should ALWAYS come first. However, you need to make time to write, naturally, so make it work. Spend time playing with your kids, then write when they take a nap. Wake up an extra hour or two early to get your writing in - but get it in. I love to take my children to the park, or for walks along the waterfront - anything to get them fresh air and see them smile.
Describe your desk
My desk is set up to inspire me - it has maps from Game of Thrones and a Khaleesi action figure. I have some other toys from Japan, and a little lego bagpiper - book ends from Game of Thrones, and some books on writing such as "On Writing" by Stephen King. My family inspires me to be a better writer, so I have pictures of my wife and children, and some of my children's art work (such as a paper computer my daughter drew in daycare for father's day). Keep your desk clean, but remember that you may be sitting there writing for 2 to 8 hours a day, so keep it fun.
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