Wednesday, September 30, 2009

[Interview] Jason Blacker

South African author, Jason Blacker was born in Cape Town but grew up in Johannesburg. He moved to Vancouver, Canada when he was 18 years old and currently lives in Calgary.

He spent some time at art college before getting a degree in English Literature. He has worked, among other things, as a police officer, a privacy analyst, a school bus driver and a Starbucks Store Manager.

His first novel, Black Dog Bleeding (Lulu, 2008) explores South Africa's apartheid era and the personal cost paid by individuals who found the policy abhorrent and resisted it.

In this interview, Jason Blacker talks about his writing:

When did you start writing?

I started writing as soon as I could pick up a crayon. In the early days, kindergarten, I started off drawing and exploring colours before learning to write letters and and words.

I think, for me, writing was a natural evolution from drawing. I love drawing and took a couple of years at art college. But to write words that are transformed into images in the reader's mind is a great thrill. Especially if you get that poetic turn-of-phrase.

In grade 7 or 8 I wrote a poem about a man looking into a mirror and the poem was written as a mirror-image of itself. My teacher loved it, gave me an "A" and wrote some really generous comments. It was that experience that really turned on the light bulb for me. My A-ha moment where I thought: "Wow, people can really enjoy this thing I do with words just for fun." And that was the beginning of my journey to being a published and financially successful author. Prior to that, I had just messed around scribbling my own comics -- in the vein of spiderman and star wars. Huge fan of both. I'd do the drawings and writing and just dunk myself deeply into those imaginary worlds. Still today, there is nothing I like better than getting immersed in the story of my characters.

In university I took an undergrad in English Literature to explore some of my favourite authors. One class was on mystery fiction and we had the option of writing our own story. I did this and the professor loved it. She gave me another "A" and encouraged me to publish [the story]. It was at this time that I decided to write my first novel. Up to this point I had written poems and short stories.

My first novel, Black Dog Bleeding, was born during these days. It has been self published and is available at It was important for me to write it. It deals with the life of someone like Stephen Biko who I greatly admire. Although fictitious, I needed to come to understand the sacrifice and courage of the heroes -- both men and women, black and white of the apartheid resistance. And I wanted to share that with the world.

How would you describe your writing?

My writing is informed by my poetic experience. And what I mean by that is that because I started out writing poetry in its various forms, poetry infuses my prose. I'm very interested in imagery and metaphors. And I love finding that phrase that captures an image in a poetic and original way. Some of my influences would be the poets -- Dylan Thomas, e. e. cummings, [Charles] Bukowski and Walt Whitman to name a few.

Some of the writer's I've enjoyed would be [John] Steinbeck, [Ernest] Hemmingway, [Chuck] Palahniuk and Dashiell Hammett. I think all of these folks have influenced my writing to degrees.

Who is your target audience?

This is an interesting question, as I have two answers to it. I started out writing literary fiction and wrote stories that I wanted to tell. I had no real audience in mind. These stories were character-driven. Based on characters that came to me and wrestled with me like a monkey on my back. I had to tell their tales without much thought to who would read them. But if I was pressed I'd say my stories focus on the theme of the triumph of the human spirit under duress. I write about the hopeful and optimistic potential of humanity. Although my stories are infused with suffering. I guess my audience would be those seeking more understanding of the human condition, and what it means to live this human existence.

On the other hand, I have started to write hard boiled detective novels too. My audience there is certainly for detective fiction fans. Especially those who are more interested in character than tricky story development.

You mentioned a number of authors who influenced you most. In what ways did they influence you?

The poets, as mentioned above, influenced me not only in their wonderfully fresh and innovative imagery but also in their understanding and compassionate take on life. I think, that is, the most influencing flavour is the writer's understanding and ability to relate, through his characters, the struggles of what it means to be human.

I love to be entertained too. And for me being entertained is enjoying the writing and the characters. The style the author has. These, too me are more important than tricky plots or clever red herrings.

With Hammett, he infused in me an abiding love of the hard boiled detective genre, escalating to the level of literary fiction, in my opinion. Also, I have yet to find many others who can write dialogue as forcefully and ironically as he does.

A couple of others I should mention are Nadine Gordimer, J. M. Coetzee and Alan Paton. All three being South African writers and their styles and empathy and my affinity for them as a fellow South African expat draw me into their works. A fourth South African writer deserves separate mention. K. Sello Duiker, a bright flame extinguished too soon showed great promise and is a sad loss to the global literary scene.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concerns as a writer are what I would hope concern any caring and compassionate creative person. I am deeply concerned with the human condition. Especially the inequities and inequalities rampant even to this day within society. These affect me deeply and are what flavour most of my writing.

My goal in writing is one of uplifting the human spirit to greater heights, if that is possible, through writing -- which I hope and believe it is. I deal with my concerns through my artistic endeavours. Be they art, poetry or prose.

The concerns for my fellow man drive me in the pursuit of more generosity, more compassion and more equality as themes in my novels.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

Well, as a first generation, white South African I have been affronted by the glaring disparities forced upon my countrymen. And both white South Africans as well as black South Africans were, I believe fractured by this disjoining. And to this day it creates difficulties that South Africa is confronted with and struggling to fix.

For me, even now living in Canada, I rage daily against these unacceptable disparities and they continue. I find solace in this sad state through the struggles my characters go through in their day-to-day lives.

Perhaps writers are mirrors to which society can see its faults and hopefully remove them.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

On a professional level, the biggest challenges faced are trying to find publishers and agents. The road at times is long and the incline terribly steep. This is likely the biggest challenge to most emerging writers.

On the personal level, it is finding the time and energy to continually stay focused on a daily basis. Especially when there are multiple distractions and expectations attached to me. My family and employment income are challenges that continually need to be juggled in order to find the motivation and time to write.

Do you write everyday?

When I have a book on the go I do write every day except for weekends. But if I'm in the groove I'll write then too. I just sit down with my laptop to write and I review the previous day's writing and make very brief edits. I'm just looking for spelling and grammar mostly. Doing this review gets me into the character and it is easy to start up again.

Once I've done that I just start writing away on my laptop with the goal of 1,000 words. I use words rather than time as I occasionally will drift off. So some days it may take me an hour and others it might take two. I will write at least 1,000 words and I find I like to stop when I'm really into the story and things are going along smoothly. It is then easier the next day to pick up again if I've left off when I would have liked to continue on.

How many books have you written so far?

I have written three so far. The first Black Dog Bleeding is self-published through I published it in 2008.

As mentioned above, Black Dog Bleeding is a fictitious account of what I imagined the life of Stephen Biko might have been like. It follows my protagonist (Steven Bankulu), same initials on purpose, as he deals with immense personal loss but yet even in the midst of all of this finds a way to fight for the justice of all South Africans. Even though he ends up in jail on trumped up charges of treason. The novel is set in the 70's and 80's in South Africa.

Livid Blue is my second novel. It is not yet published though I continue to seek publishers and representations. It is a novel that follows two protagonists. The first is Janko who is dying from complications related to AIDS. The second is Michael, the psychiatrist who spends many sessions with Janko in order for him to come to terms with his difficult childhood in order to prepare for a peaceful death.

Janko carries a lot of anger and resentment having been abandoned by his mother and not knowing who his father is.

The novel explores different types of relationships and the validity of them. Why are blood relations seen as so strong when in fact they are often the weakest and most antagonistic? These are the kind of questions the novel deals with.

First Feature is a hard-boiled detective novel and has also not been published. Anthony Carrick is the main protagonist who is an ex-LAPD homicide detective now working on his own. He has been hired to find out who killed a high-powered Holllywood producer.

All is not as it seems in pristine Beverly Hills. And Anthony's employer (the production company) are eager to find out any skeletons before the mass media have a chance to feed on them. This novel follows Anthony through drug-adled Echo Park, a hippie vegetarian restaurant with the coroner and a fashionable gay bar all for the sake of solving a murder.

An interesting tidbit about this novel is that Anthony is named after my father and Carrick in Ireland where my ancestry is from.

What is your latest book about?

I'll talk about my fourth book, Red Reign, which I am in the process of writing. It will likely take me about a year for the first draft. Six months, if I could focus on it full time. And perhaps another six months to do all the edits where I feel it is well-dressed and presentable to the public. And the public in this case being agents and publishers.

I would likely choose a publisher based on a number of factors. Most often how well I get along with their representative I am dealing with. Oftentimes money will also be a factor as well as some of the other authors they publish too.

Which are the most difficult aspects of the work you put into your books?

The most difficult aspects of my books for me is the researching. I usually start a novel with a character and they will present their story to me and I head off under the bunker and start writing.

I research as I find it necessary to do so. But the major drawback of this is the break of continuity and rhythm that occurs when this happens. I deal with this by stubbornly sticking to only the research I need to do and ignoring any drifting or extraneous research that might catch my eye.

What do you enjoy most?

I enjoy really getting into the story of my characters. I enjoy the times when the writing flows and time stand still. It is at times like this when the character's really take on a life of their own and it is as if I am getting to know real people. When this happens it is magic. And I'm at the top of my game.

What sets Red Reign apart from other things you've written?

I'm getting better at writing all the time. My writing feels more fluid and the character more palpable.

What sets this book apart is also the fact that it takes place under more current political conditions. It deals with terrorism and corporate greed.

It [is similar to the others in that it] deals with the similar themes that infuse all my writing. That is human suffering and indifference and lack of compassion. But also the overcoming of these things to a spiritual salvation if you will.

After Red Reign, what will you work on next?

I will return to my hard boiled detective novel. It will be called Second Fiddle and will have intrigue, death, perhaps some romance and, of course, greed and fear.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Just to be able to keep going under difficult circumstances. To keep it up after hundreds of rejections and many personal difficulties and changes in personal environments. To keep going at it while so many things rail against me. To not go gently into that good night as Dylan Thomas would say. And in the end... frankly, I'm just a stubborn bugger.

Possibly Related Books:


Related Interview:
[Interview] Jennifer Armstrong, author of 'Minus the Morning', Conversations with Writers, September 27, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

[Interview] Jennifer Armstrong

Zimbabwean author, Jennifer Armstrong has worked as a martial arts journalist.

Her memoir, Minus the Morning (Lulu, 2009) explores what it was like to grow up in a white, Christian, Rhodesian family.

She is also the author of three e-books: Dambudzo Marechera (Lulu, 2009), which explores the link between Zimbabwean writer, Dambudzo Marechera, and shamanism; father, son, holy ghost (Lulu, 2009), which has been described as "a story of Oedipal knowledge and realisation, in Africa"; and, Skydive on Zimbabwe (Lulu, 2009), a poem in freeform verse. All three e-books are available to download free from Lulu.

Currently, Jennifer Armstrong lives in Perth, Australia.

In this interview, she talks about her writing:

When did you start writing?

The medium I had the most natural affinity for, at school, was art. When I begun to grow up, I had no idea what I wanted to be, so I gravitated towards the visual arts, only to find that I got much more of a thrill when explaining the concept of my art to others, as compared to actually making the art. That pointed me in the direction of philosophy and theory. It was my natural arena for questioning and developing ideas.

I began writing as an undergraduate in the humanities. Then I sprang into martial arts journalism.

I was still finding my feet as a writer and as a migrant from the Third World to the First World when my own, personal world came crashing down. I was bullied at work because of who I was, because of where I was from (Zimbabwe). That was when I first began to write as if I really meant it, as if something was at stake.

I wrote in order to figure out what was true and what wasn’t. To understand the world around me accurately was my greatest imperative. I wanted to know things accurately and not merely impressionistically, like before. So I began writing my memoir, but it was full of gaps that indicated that my knowledge of the world was still incomplete. I couldn’t make sufficient sense of my own narrative to write in a way that would have led to a swift completion of the memoir, because I had been brought up in a bubble of innocence -- innocent of politics and what that meant for me and the people around me (white and black), innocent of the ideologies and psychological torment that had been afflicting my father, I have very little conception of the world around me as a child growing up in Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe).

It seems that my culture had conspired to raise me as a Victorian child-woman, who would marry my rightful master, probably in all innocence about the biological intricacies of sex and gender roles.

Upon migration to the more sophisticated -- but more cynical and often mean-spirited First World -- I was totally at a loss as to what to make of almost everything around me. Nothing rang a bell. Everything was cold and life was seemingly driven by forces I couldn’t reckon with.

After enduring the workplace bullying incident (which had been driven by xenophobia, but also by a misplaced notion of political correctness -- that it was perfectly moral to bring a “white African” down a peg or two), I had to try to restore my physical health. It meant a lot of waiting around, and trying to build up the strength of my digestive system again. I had difficulty eating solids without my belly swelling up with air. (Even today, my digestive system has not fully recovered from that trauma.)

I had to wait twelve years for the bits and pieces of knowledge and the ability to conceptualise my experiences came together. The last pieces of the puzzle arrived in my consciousness late last year, and I was able to drop them into place.

After that, I was keen to publish the manuscript immediately, to get it out there, and out of my system.

How would you describe your writing?

I would say it is very difficult to describe the writing I am doing. It overlaps somewhat with my PhD interests, which is to study the psychology of one Dambudzo Marechera in the light of contemporary knowledge about shamanistic consciousness.

So, I am very interested in how people think, and why, and what enlightened thinking looks like.

What interests me a lot is to think about how we make unconscious assumptions about people, and act upon them. Where do these assumptions come from that are unconscious? They can be very racist or sexist assumptions, but somehow we often do not know we have them. So, I am thinking very much about identity, and how our views of our own or others’ identities do not seem to relate to rational processes very much, if at all.

Who is your target audience?

Ultimately, I've had so much negativity from some right wing trolls on the Internet -- (those who try to correct my thinking because it is not in tune with a narrow and obnoxious ideology of social conformity) -- that I decided to direct my writing to a non-populist level, to intellectuals and fellow artists.

In other words, I don’t want to direct my ideas to an audience who will only half swallow my thinking, to vomit up that which they have understood incompletely. I’m directing my writing towards intellectuals and academics of all sorts -- those who have a background of sufficient rigour to give my writing the consideration it deserves.

At the same time, I think there is a lot that can be readily ingested in my recently published memoir. There are some more difficult sections in it, but for the most part, anyone who has an appreciation for good literature should be able to read -- (and hopefully enjoy!!) -- my humble (but not-so-conformist) memoir.

Which authors influenced you most?

Of course Dambudzo Marechera would have to come to the top of my list.

I’m interested in other experimental writers like James Joyce. I really love philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche and Georges Bataille.

There is a lot of quasi-Freudian influence in my memoir, but I do not love [Sigmund] Freud or his later adherents and interpreters as much because they are prone to produce theories that are only narrowly psychological, rather than more complex and taking into account other dimensions of life like social and cultural conditioning, history and politics.

There is a strong feeling of an affinity with ‘Nature’ as a powerful force of inspiration in my life. I am beholden to [William] Wordsworth and Percy Shelley.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

As one whose identity was uprooted (after my family’s emigration from Zimbabwe in 1984), I have been exceedingly intrigued with the idea of identity, how identity is created, and how it can be undermined or destroyed at an emotional level.

I think identity is really a political formulation, but what is not so well known is that it can come under attack at any moment in a way that really is akin to the underhand way that spies and other ‘dark forces’ go about their business.

There are all sorts of indirect forms of coercion that work on our emotions at an unconscious level. Why are some identities considered more desirable than others? Why is it more difficult, in general, for someone who is female or who has black skin to get ahead in the world than for a white male to do so? What are the unconscious psychological forces that get us to treat these kinds of people differently, without necessarily even realising that we are doing it?

Dambudzo could not have a black, Rhodesian identity that had any self-determining qualities to it, since “black Rhodesian” and “self-determining” were contradictory qualities during the era of Ian Smith -- thus his anguish. Similarly, there are those who attribute rationality as being a quality pertaining to males, and not by any means to females. So there are members of my own family that are unable to consider me rational, despite the fact that I am doing a PhD and conduct myself with a level of bearing that is appropriate to my greater degree of knowledge and educational levels. In fact, my father is unable to recall what degree I’m doing, despite the fact that I have now been at if for several years. He wills himself not to know, because it contradicts his idea of womanhood that a female could be doing anything important.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I’m concerned with understanding the real influences on human behaviour -- not what people claim to be influenced by, but what is really driving them to do what they do, and more importantly, what is also driving them not to do whatever it is they do not do.

I think there are broad as well as narrow political and historical currents that shape the characteristics of any people, in terms of their time and place in the global discourse. The degree to which we are not shaped by our conscious choices, but by the choices made for us by historical and social chance -- this largely goes unrecognised.

I think most people assume that we give ourselves our personal characteristics by the conscious, moral and political choices that we make. However, I couldn’t disagree with that notion more strenuously. I don’t think that’s the way it works at all!

My challenge as a writer is to try to convey that there are whole different mechanisms at work influencing our outlooks and behaviour, other than those that we would take to be rational. I take a look at the ‘pre-oedipal” or unconscious emotional dynamics that govern the way we relate politically to others in our social spheres. I use more than one authorial voice to get across this idea.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

My biggest challenge is that I am not speaking to an audience that is a ready-made demographic. My writing has yet to seek out and discover an audience for itself.

I eschew identity politics, and writing for a ready-made demographic, because I have been so damaged by it.

I cannot speak precisely for the “ex-Rhodies”, many of whom might have been quite normal conservatives in the past, but have since turned to the extreme right, in my view. I could try to speak for black Zimbabweans perhaps… but I am white! Yet, much of my way of thinking was influenced by black Zimbabwean culture, as I have belatedly discovered. Perhaps those irreverent cultural aspects to my character were what brought on the workplace abuse? They are certainly not typically ‘feminine’!

I spent the first sixteen years of my life in Zimbabwe, and the last four years we were assimilated, blacks and whites, at my high school, Oriel Girls.

My thinking is also somewhat off-kilter in relation to that of Australian, middle-class whites. I don’t relate to their materialist middle-class aspirations at all. I don’t relate to their submissiveness and laissez-faire attitude to social ethics. They are not involved enough in their own lives, and seem to allow others to direct their views of what it right or wrong too much.

It is all very perplexing!

I try to deal with this situation I find myself in by writing in a way that can reach different people at different levels -- although, unlike the one who ended up carrying a donkey on his back, because he wanted to please all his critics, I’ve decided to draw a line (at least in my mind) against trying to please all.

Do you write everyday?

I write every day. It really depends on how much I’ve been reading, and whether I’ve allowed enough time for ideas (that I’ve been exposed to) to percolate in the subconscious mind. Suddenly, the subconscious ideas will be ready, and I will begin to experience a mood of general agitation, which doesn’t stop until I’ve written everything that was in me down.

It must be like the biological process of giving birth -- something I never hope to replicate in a concrete sense.

Sometimes I write huge amounts, sometimes only little. But I write every day.

How many books have you written so far?

Just one book so far, I’m afraid! It’s Minus the Morning, published by Lulu (Amazon is selling an earlier version, due to my mistake). It was released in early 2009. It’s kind of an “out of Africa” memoir, concerning the first three decades of my life.

Of course, it has to do with the issue of identity, from an experiential and philosophical point of view.

How did you choose a publisher for the book?

I decided to go the self-publishing route, via Lulu, just since, as I explained before, I don’t have a ready-made demographic of readers -- which might be necessary to lure a commercial publisher into accepting me.

Also, there are things I want to say which are not for everybody’s ears. I am critical of institutionalised abusiveness, for instance. This is not something everybody wants to hear, and it has the potential to make some people -- those who are prone to untoward behaviour and ideological sniping -- very uncomfortable.

Furthermore, I’m not trying to seduce my reader with my lyrical prose, like the excellent Alexandra Fuller. I’m not writing in a traditional feminine way at all -- I’m trying to speak directly to two parts of the readers’ minds: their own innate sense of what it means to belong or not to belong on an emotional level, and their intellect!

Lulu is a very efficient and exciting publisher, from my point of view. I can get any number of my books ready at hand, just by ordering them and paying for them on the basis of need. Of course, marketing is a problem when you have to do it by yourself, but I’m simply happy to make the book available online. It’s great technology that is available to writers at last -- in the 21st Century.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work that you put into Minus the Morning?

The hardest part, for me, was writing about the hidden psychological dynamics that operate behind the dysfunctional relationship I have had (and probably still do) with my father. It was very hard because I didn’t know enough about his background, until much later, to be able to make sense of some of it.

There were a few family skeletons in the closet, which I have chosen not to reveal very much about, because my writing of this book has not been to cause people shame, but to elucidate my own responses to the situation of being brought up in a white, Rhodesian family, with a Christian ideology.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

I’ve enjoyed finishing it the most -- and seeing it in paperback. The whole thing took me more than a decade to write! It was a great relief to see it not as ether (something still in my mind) or as converted bits and bytes on a computer screen, but in a solid form -- in ink and paper!

Truly, it has been painful to finish in some ways, too. When I began writing it, I thought that if I made an exposé of some of the injustices in the world, that people would at least sit up and take notice. Nowadays, I thoroughly doubt that this is true or that it will happen.

Looking deeply into Dambudzo’s work, you can see that it is all about the injustice of having to accept an arbitrary social and political identity -- but people these days are still struggling to find that sort of meaning in his work. It is a difficult message to put across.

What sets Minus the Morning apart from other things you've written?

Merely that the other books do not exist as yet.

I do want to write a book that analyses the perversity of right wing consciousness, however.

I want to look into the psychology of bigotry and why bigots can be so efficacious at convincing others to get on their side and walk in lockstep with them. There is never a bully in this world except that he has those who take his side.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Not resorting to compromising with the truth, or giving in to my impatience to get the work done. I waited and checked everything, until after more than twelve years, I knew that what I had was really psychologically accurate.

In Minus the Morning, I tell the truth about what it is like to grow up as a white Rhodesian (and later Zimbabwean) in a family that later turned to the right.

Possibly related books:


Related Interview:

[Interview] Esther David, author of 'Shalom India Housing Society', Conversations with Writers, August 25, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

[Interview] J. R. Reardon

Novelist J. R. Reardon is a Boston native; Suffolk University Law School alum, and former partner of Saltzman & McNaught LLP.

She has practiced law in many areas including civil and criminal litigation. She is active in several legal associations in both Massachusetts and the District of Columbia and is admitted to practice in the federal and state courts of Massachusetts, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

In addition, she has also taught insurance law and is published in the Suffolk University Law Review.

Her first novel, Confidential Communications (Xlibris, 2008) has been described as "...a compelling read that will keep you turning page after page, hoping that justice will prevail."

In this interview, J. R. Reardon talks about her writing:

When did you start writing? And, how did you decide you wanted to get published?

My mother encouraged my siblings and I to read early on, and we took regular trips to the library as children. I suppose that is one of the reasons why I have always had such an active imagination.

I began writing in grammar school -- a short story here, a short story there… and then when I was old enough to babysit I would tell stories to the children I was sitting at night.

My latest novel, Confidential Communications was written well over a decade ago. I was fresh out of law school, new to court appearances and had some down time. One night, the idea popped into my head and I found myself typing away feverishly at the computer. I printed out an 80-page draft for a very select group of people, had it copy-written, and then put it away in an old file cabinet. The story was well received, but life took over, my cases increased, and I became extremely busy.

In the fall of 2003, I married my husband David and moved from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. In January, we learned that we were expecting our daughter. Instead of taking on a job in the District, Dave suggested that I sit back and enjoy my pregnancy. I had been a partner in my own law firm for quite some time and it was the perfect time to relax, sit back and smell the proverbial roses. During that time, Dave also suggested that I revisit the book (he was one of the few to have received a copy and he truly enjoyed it -- having seen first-hand for years what a critical eye he has with books he has read, I trusted his instincts).

After reading Confidential Communications for the first time in years, I decided “why not?” The original program was so old however, that I was unable to convert it to Word. So, I re-typed it and began the process of expanding it. With another decade of life under my belt, I was able to add some depth to the characters, as well as a few more scenarios. Some of the areas Dave and I had actually visited, and a few we thought would be fun to visit, so I did some research online and included those as well.

Once we were happy with the final version, off it went to print. New to the industry, I had circulated some query letters around, but stumbled upon Xlibris upon the recommendation of a college in Pennsylvania while I was writing my law review articles. At that point, I decided, “It’s done -- why wait?” The positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads [make me] sure glad I didn’t, and am excited for the upcoming release of the sequel.

How would you describe your writing?

That is a great question. I have always lived life with an open mind, curious about everything that is going on around me. One of the best things and most difficult things I had to deal with when practicing law was my uncanny ability to put myself into other people’s shoes. Doing so, I could better understand other people’s perspectives. I could argue cases easier in court, settle cases easier out of court, and truly empathize with the feelings of others, no matter what side they were on.

I try to do the same with my writing. I put myself into the character’s shoes and try to see what they see, feel what they feel, hear what they hear, think what they think and react how they may react. That way, I can make the reader feel, see, and hear what they need to in order to fully enjoy the story.

Who is your target audience?

When I first wrote Confidential Communications, I honestly didn’t have a target audience. In fact, I still don’t “target an audience.” I write my story, release it into the world and let the audience find it.

I enjoy telling stories and sharing them with others. It is a means of escape -- whether it be to another state, another country, another setting, another life. In a crazy world if I can help someone to escape for at least a little while, I have done my job.

Which authors influenced you most?

I can’t really say that I have been influenced by other authors in my writing. I have enjoyed many an author’s writing in the course of my life, and now that I have more time to read, I am enjoying more and more. The books I choose to read depend on my mood.

If I want something that is for me, a quick, easy read… perhaps someone who has chapters I can breeze through at breakfast or lunch, I may pick up a Robert Parker book. If I want more detail but still escape to Boston, I may read something by Dennis Lehane. And if I’m cleaning out the old Tupperware tubs, I may pick up an old Beverly Gray mystery book that I had never read before just to see how people saw the world in the ‘50s. Lately I have read a lot of extremely talented indie authors.

I will say that my husband, my parents, teachers I had in grammar school, high school, college or law school, as well as judges and insurance adjusters -- were those who influenced my writing the most. I am forever thankful to them for that. Those people actually have read my writing and either commented, graded, or simply understood my position. They made me explain myself fully -- again, I put myself in their shoes so that they may understand what I am saying, even if it is as difficult as explaining someone else’s position -- i.e. my client.

Have your personal experiences influenced your writing in any way?

The story and the characters of Confidential Communications are all fictional, although I will admit that by the end, the character, Joshua, has a little of my husband David (who is also an attorney) in him. Also, Justice McNaught is based in part on my late grandfather who sat on the Federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts. He was the person who originally inspired me as a child to pursue a degree in law and took ethics extremely seriously. I figured, heck, why not “tip my hat” as a little thank you to him and make him a Justice of the United States Supreme Court?

The character Rebecca Lawson also is extremely ethical. As an attorney, I have always strived to be such an ethical person as my grandfather, and other members of the bar who I have met, that still do. There should be more. I hate the fact that I get such mixed reactions when people find out my profession, and hate more the number of legal insults that are out there due to the inappropriate actions of a select few. It is my hope that someday people will see the legal profession as it was made to be: a group of ethical leaders who we can look up to, to make a positive difference in our community.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I think I have always been concerned with the quality of my writing: is there anything I missed in the editing process? Have the editors missed anything? Have I described something enough or too much? I don’t want to read anything boring or that is riddled with mistakes, and certainly wouldn’t want to subject anyone else to that either.

I am also sometimes concerned with people reading too much into my work. It is after all, a work of fiction. Many family/friends naturally thought that the character Rebecca Lawson was based on me, and my personal experiences. Not so, although I did fall under a firetruck in law school. There were also other characters who family and friends were convinced were based on people I hadn’t even thought of in years. Part of the fun in reading a book is picturing a character, and it has been extremely fun for me to hear how others see one of my characters, whether it be based on an actor/actress or someone I perhaps knew as a child.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

There is not enough time in the day to do everything that I want to do.

Becoming a published author seemed to fall into place at the right time. I have met incredible people along the way and learned an incredible amount about the publishing process, marketing and promotion. Not long after Confidential Communications was published, I found myself typing away at the computer again with the sequel, and I’d love to share it with the world right now. But Confidential Communications hasn’t even been out a year yet and it has picked up so much steam that I’m doing a lot of promoting and answering fan mail from all over the world. Many fans are looking for the sequel already and I’m excited!

Do you write everyday?

I do write a little every day in addition to my daily emails, tweets, facebook, forums, blogs, etc.

Some days I write more than others.

Perhaps I only have time to jot a few notes on some stickies as I clean the house or take my daughter out somewhere, or it may be handwriting a 20-page chapter out on a legal pad during the course of a week to be typed into the computer later on a weekend.

My family always comes first. Writing is just a way to keep my mind fresh. But it is addictive. I am grateful that I type quickly.

How many books have you written so far?

I have written Confidential Communications, published by Xlibris in June of 2008, available through Xlibris, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and a number of other retailers. It is available in hardcover, softcover and now ebook versions.

The sequel to Confidential Communications is called Dishonored. It is expected to be released later this year.

While I was in the process of editing Confidential Communications, I was busy editing my first law review article with the Suffolk University Law Review. The title for that article is “Selecting Supreme Court Justices: Preserving the System, Protecting with Professionalism” and can be found in Volume 40, Book 4.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into Confidential Communications?

I think writing scenes which shock the reader are difficult, and there are a few in Confidential Communications. There were times that I worried my family and friends would over-analyze it, thinking they were true stories, or perhaps some reader would read it and not enjoy, but I just thought about all the other books out there with shocking twists and turns and just let it go.

It was also hard for me to take the original 80 pages of the book and re-type it, only to expand it and add things when I hadn’t done that type of project before. There is something to be said for finishing a piece of work. When you hit “save” and “print”, you want it to be perfect and done. After a while with the editing I had to take a break -- I was able to recite the first chapter and unable to find anything to change after a while. Taking breaks is highly recommended!

Then there was the difficulty of editing with my daughter at my side. She wanted my attention when I was working and I, of course, made time for her. There were many times I had to collect stickies at the end of the day where I’d jot down ideas or lines so that I wouldn’t forget to add them later.

What did you enjoy most?

I think I enjoyed shocking my husband when he took his first round of editing it once I took a break. He had read the original version and it was fun to have him tell me “I didn’t see that coming!”

I also love hearing the wonderful comments from my readers.

It was also fun seeing my daughter coloring at the table with me, pretending to “do her work” or “write a book like Mommy.”

Publishing a book was always on my “to do list”, although it is surreal to actually hold it and see people buying it… Here’s my philosophy in life: I don’t want to turn around at age 80 and say “I wish I had done that…” David and I want our daughter to live her life to the fullest in the same way. The world is a great place as long as you see it that way. If you hit any bumps in the road, maybe it’s a sign for you to slow down, open your eyes and your mind, and look at life in yet one more creative way.

What sets Confidential Communications apart from other things you've written

Well, writing a book is certainly different from filing a motion in court. A motion is based on facts and how the law applies to those facts, while this book is fiction.

My law review article also is based on law, public policy, civil procedure and legal history. Definitely a more serious type of work.

Are there any similarities?

Writing Confidential Communications, I was able to use a legal concept, and craft a realistic story around it, which ended up being scarily similar to stories on the news today. Like other legal thrillers, it involves ethical choices but I am told by many that it has a different perspective of the behind-the-scenes action that goes on in the legal world.

What will your next book be about?

As I stated above, my newest novel is called Dishonored, and is expected to be released later this year.

The synopsis is as follows: Federal Court Judge Rebecca Tameron seemed to have it all… a loving family, a prestigious career and the respect of her community -- that is, until her world falls apart.

Implicated in the disappearance of a Supreme Court Justice, and the shooting of a Federal agent, Tameron scrambles to uncover the truth. The problem is, each investigative avenue she pursues only leads to more questions, and every investigative avenue leads back to her. How can she clear her name?

While exploring the reaches, limits and dangers of our increasingly security-conscious and interconnected world, Dishonored questions the faith we place in both strangers and friends, and reminds us just how perilous our techno-savvy life can be.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

That is a tough question. Being published, being recognized, receiving fan mail and emails from all over the world, having the book sell well… the list goes on and on. And it hasn’t even been released a year yet.

I’ve received requests for signed copies and held book signings in the Mall. There is something new every day that I seem to be blessed with.

I will say that I loved seeing my daughter’s face when the first completed copy arrived at my house and she said “Mommy! That’s you on the back of that book!”

Related resources:

Author's website
Author's page, Xlibris

Possibly related books:


Thursday, September 10, 2009

[Interview: Part 5 of 5] John Miller, author of '2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah'

Speculative fiction author John Miller has talked about how he started writing and the people and experiences that have influenced him. He also discussed some of his concerns as a writer and shed some light on the circumstances surrounding the publication of his novella, 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah (Sonar4 Publications, 2009).

In the final part of this interview, John Miller talks about his achievements as a writer:

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work that you put into 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah?

The most difficult aspect of this book was tying in the main bad guy (the evil Mayan priest) with the worldwide calamities. Why did he need Cal’s psychic employees? For what ends did he need them? And what type of spirit did he employ in his evil and priestly powers?

For me the answers came after a couple days of writer’s block. It wasn’t a creativity problem; it was a problem with the plot—making it as realistic and viable as possible for the readers as well as myself. If I didn’t believe in it, then I knew the reader wouldn’t, either. And I had to create motivation with the evil Mayan priest, and give him the power to destroy the world in a believable manner. To do this, I had to create a new type of spirit called Dark Alux. An Alux is similar to a nature spirit known to Mayans; a Dark Alux is something I created. This made the transitions between scenes easier, brought motivation to the evil priest and a sense of realism. The destruction of the world was already going to happen; the evil priest figured out a way to make time slip, like seismic plates in the earth’s crust, and bring what awaited the world in 2012 to manifest in 2010.

So the most difficult aspect was the evil Mayan priest’s abilities to do this in a manner allowing readers to suspend their belief, and nail the priest’s motivation down: why would he wish to do this? I couldn’t figure it out on my own, and it took some false starts and rewriting until inspiration’s wow! moment came. And it was such a relief when it came, because I knew that I knew that it was right. After I wrote it into the story, I felt a sense of satisfaction and I knew the reader would feel it, too.

Which aspects did you enjoy most?

Two parts:
  1. the relationship between the two main characters, Calvin Thomas and Linda Orteganaldo, as they work side-by-side and grow, not only as characters, but into each other; and
  2. the ending in which both Calvin and Linda, at the conclusion of the story, climb hand-in-hand up an ancient pyramid in Mexico, and the secret carved in stone waiting for them at the top. The ending is triumphant, echoing the resiliency of humankind as well as supporting the mysticism behind the Mayan calendar.

What sets 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah apart from other things you've written?

This is the largest thing I’ve written that has been published. I have written other novellas, and there is a lot of potential in those works, but this is the longest published work I’ve written.

Apart from that, 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah touched on so many more emotions and affects the reader more powerfully than the other stories I’ve published in various anthologies and publications. The main character loses his friend and employee of longstanding, Psychic Gladys St.Clare, and the angst of that, coupled with the terror of worldwide calamities and being chased by blue zombies, creates a creepy sense of dread and grief. But the way it ends, on such a triumphant high-note, gives readers something I’ve never done in any other story: a dark fantasy of terror and epic proportions ends (hopefully) delivering a smile to the dear reader.

In what way is the novella similar to other things you've written?

It’s similar in that it takes dark fantasy threads and runs with them, pulling the reader along a (hopefully) fantastic ride and leaving them breathless.

It starts fast like all my stories, and it ends decisively with all questions answered. There is no ambiguity in 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah. The reader isn’t left to figure things out on their own. While I enjoy reading books like that, because of the complicated mythos of the Mayan People, I grab the reader by the hand and shout, “Go!” Then we jump in together for a crazy ride.

What will your next book be about?

I have two novellas I’m working on.

One is about the factions of the Frankenstein Family and the monstrosities they create. The other is about an environmental group in Alaska that becomes a pack of werewolves. Both center on human relationships and depth of character, detailing the evolutionary process of change as the characters muddle through fast-hitting plots.

I haven’t decided upon titles.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Liquid Imagination is my baby. I love it. Editor Kevin Wallis and Poetry Editor Chrissy Davis have really helped me shape it into something special, in my opinion. And it led my buddy and friend, Karl Rademacher, to start up Silver Blade. This led to my work as General Manager of 2M Magazine. These are significant accomplishments, I will admit. And watching young writers bud and grow, and knowing I have something to do with directing them, is tremendously satisfying. I love helping new writers.

Apart from that, I must say I am most proud of 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah. I tried to convey the growth and depth of Calvin Thomas as he frantically tries to save the world, to show his growing relationship with Linda Orteganaldo at his side, but it is the ending I am most proud. I feel when I ask the reader to walk with me into the darkest night, I should at least have the courtesy to lead them into the light at the journey’s end. I believe I have done this with 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah.

Related resources:

Author’s page, Edit Red Writing Community
Author’s page, Sonar4 Publication

Possibly related books:


Monday, September 7, 2009

[Interview: Part 4 of 5] John Miller, author of '2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah'

Author John Miller has talked about how he started writing. He has also identified some of the people and experiences that have influenced his writing and commented on his concerns as a writer.

In this part of the interview, John Miller talks about his novella, 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah (Sonar4 Publications, 2009).

How many books have you written so far?

I have one E-Book that was released by Sonar4 Publications in April 2009. That is it.

While I have written and finished novels, I have not allowed them to go public. The reason for this is because I have read novels by small press and the big boy publishers, and I find typos and/or problems that bother me as a reader. I have a responsibility to put forth the best possible work I can, and I will only put forth my very best work. 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah is the best story I have written.

And while I have other novellas and novels saved on my computer, I also have used the “ladder rung” theory to test my writing ability and what I’m ready for. Each publishing credit (to me) is a rung on the ladder. Each short story accepted and published at ezines and various print anthologies has been my way to gauge my growth as a writer.

I have chosen to climb the ladder slowly, learning about each phase of writing and attempting to master it, before moving onto the next rung or level. I did not wish to write and publish a novel two years ago, only to slip off the ladder. Everything must be successful in this slow journey upwards. This is where I’m at now and I’m happy to be climbing faster and stronger than two years ago.

I am also at the stage to finish one of my other works and begin another. This will bring the most satisfaction to myself as well as my readers; to bring both of us my very best work.

What would you say 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah is about?

A psychic crumbles in the middle of a séance as “something” attacks her. Belonging to a traveling group of mediums called the Psychic Circus, the psychic dies and her skin turns blue. This happens in the middle of a customer-packed auditorium. The Psychic Circus has appeared on Good Morning, America! as well as other television programs, and its fame has drawn a huge crowd as well as Linda Orteganaldo, a reporter from Time Magazine who comes from Mayan descent. While interviewing Calvin Thomas, owner and business manager of the Psychic Circus, they stumble into the psychic’s tent. “Sacrifices were painted blue,” Linda tells Cal. When Psychic Gladys St.Clare, now a corpse, stands with blue skin shouting, “Kin bin tin nah,” Linda knows exactly what it means: it’s the end of the world.

Calamity strikes. Earthquakes rock San Francisco. Volcanic eruptions. Giant locusts. But the year is 2010 and not 2012. Something is wrong. What?

The Psychic Circus, led by Cal and Linda, not only has to survive the calamities befalling the entire world, they have to dodge the attacks thrown at them by an evil Mayan priest and Cal’s former psychic employees, now blue-skinned zombies.

2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah is an epic fantasy with threads of horror based on Mayan beliefs and the Mayan calendar. While disaster strikes the world itself, the ending will surprise everyone, not with a sudden twist, but with a satisfying conclusion. Of all the things I’ve written, I am most satisfied with the ending of this story.

How long did it take you to write the book?

2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah took me three months to write. It flowed quickly from my wow! moments to the page. Sonar4 Publications published it in April 2009.

I’d originally sent it to a literary agent working for the big publishers. He’d been promoted in Writer’s Digest, and I contacted him immediately. By then—because of the article—he said, “It sounds very interesting, but unfortunately I have accepted too many clients because of the article.”

I continued working on 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah while looking for markets for it, because at that time Sonar4 didn’t publish novels/novellas. When they announced they would be publishing novels and novellas, I jumped at the chance to submit 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah to them.

Owned by Shells Walter, Sonar4 Publications has an ezine, quarterly print publication, and has begun publishing E-Books. Sonar4 has emerged so fast and so strong it reminded me of my own Liquid Imagination. I had already sent a short story to Sonar4 and within an hour and fifteen minutes it was accepted, so I was familiar with the publishing company when I sent them 2010: Kin Bin Tin Nah.

I develop a “connection” with certain publications, such as Fantasy and Science Fiction. I had developed a connection with Sonar4, and when Shells Walter accepted my manuscript I danced in joy. Sonar 4 was the perfect publisher to accept my story, and this was proven while editing it with Shells Walter, a professional in the extreme.

What advantages or disadvantages has this presented?

The advantages of having Sonar4 Publications accept my story has been the manner in which it was edited: via AIM. Both Shells and I had my manuscript ready, and she would give a page number or blocked portion of text. I found the text and marked the changes right then and there, or I saved the entire Instant Message in a document file. Editing in this manner superseded the methods I’d used in the past with editors, greatly enhancing and speeding up the work. What I assumed would take months of correspondence happened in a very quick and concise manner, no small thanks to Shells.

Disadvantages? None that I can see, other than the fact that Sonar4 Publications isn’t throwing millions of dollars into promoting my story because its not a major publisher. But the virtual tours, the cross-blogging, the trailers for my book, and the promotional work that Sonar4 Publications puts behind each accepted and published novel is mind-boggling.

Shells Waters puts such an incredible amount of work and effort into everything she does. I know for a fact other editors who publish books put in only a fraction of the amount of work Shells puts into her projects; she gets behind the products, and you can tell she believes in it. She’s out to make money and entertain readers, and she’s doing it in the most gracious and professional manner imaginable.

Related resources:

Author’s page, Edit Red Writing Community
Author’s page, Sonar4 Publication

Possibly related books:


Friday, September 4, 2009

[Interview: Part 3 of 5] John Miller, author of '2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah'

Speculative fiction author, John Miller spoke about how he started writing and identified some of the people and experiences that have influenced his writing.

In this part of the interview, he talks about his concerns as a writer:

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My major concern is realism. In order for the speculative fiction that I write to be successful, I must do it in such a manner that the reader will suspend disbelief.

While writing about epics that change the world, it becomes more difficult to be realistic because we’re talking about changing not just the character’s world… we’re talking about changing the reader’s world. But if I can write it in such a way that the reader suspends his belief and accepts my explanations of natural disasters, calamity or scenarios, then my story may influence the reader more than another writer’s story. Because my story is about the world the reader actually lives in; it affects the reader’s life.

My short stories influence only characters or locations, but my longer works affect large areas, cultures and/or the world at large. To me, suspending disbelief about what goes on inside a haunted house is easier than suspending belief about what happens to the entire world the reader lives in. The challenge is exhilarating!

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Balancing the time spent writing and publishing the short stories of other writers. But I love being busy, and stress is something I seek out, vying to put more on my plate to test myself and promote the fiction of others through publication.

Balancing my own publishing endeavors with my writing is tricky. Many times my writing falls to the wayside as my time must be spent working on 2M Magazine put out by Dark Myth Productions. My own online publication Liquid Imagination pulls at me, as does promoting Liquid Imagination’s sister publication Silver Blade. Time management is the biggest challenge I have, but I think I do a good job.

To deal with this I have to create a daily agenda and a weekly agenda. Like goals, these “agendas” allow me to concentrate solely on the task at hand. When completed, I follow up on those “agendas” if that is what is needed and move on to the next project.

Writing is a world of its own in which writers and publishers are sucked into it, and sometimes there isn’t much time left for anything else. Writers tend to group together as do editors and publishers. Personally, I find myself associating with all three groups. This increases the challenge of time-management, but it is a necessary evil.

Do you write everyday?

I cannot help writing something each and every single day of my life. Short stories, novellas, novels and flashes. Sometimes I think my blood flows from my heart and transforms into the font of the written page; my heart bleeds into each story. If no one ever read anything of mine again, of course I would write. But I’m at the point in my life in which I have things I want the world to read. I’ve heard others tell me (insist, really) that I need to publish certain stories and tales.

I start each session before my computer and begin writing. It doesn’t matter what it is. Then, after two or three paragraphs (perhaps two or three pages), I pause and take a break. I stand on the front porch or take a walk, letting the story roil in the back of my mind without consciously going over the plot or idea or characters. Inspiration comes unexpectedly, but it flows rather quickly, and soon I am back at the computer, fingers typing furiously. Inspiration is wonderful! I don’t wish to type endless descriptions of a room or ten pages concerning the description of a house or street; I wish to convey what I felt when inspiration struck. I know what it feels like when the muse speaks to my heart, and that is the only idea I wish to convey with clarity upon returning to write at my desk. I will not fill the reader with what I believe to be powerful prose, nor will I use intellectual ideas or philosophies to entice the reader; I write only that which inspiration whispered to me. This is the what is most exciting to the readers, and this is what will satisfy them completely throughout the work.

Readers are not stupid. They recognize the wow moments a writer experiences while writing the story. If a writer is struggling for a hundred pages, the reader struggles, too. When the writer captures what I call the wow moment with clarity, the reader experiences the wow moment in detail. Personally, I believe inspiration should guide the beginning and ending of each chapter. Whatever the writer feels is what the reader will experience. It is a transference of emotions from one person to another, and if the writer isn’t experiencing high emotion in his wow moment… then I feel sorry for the reader.

I end my writing each day with satisfaction. I must conclude something of note and substance; I have to feel I have conveyed with clarity that day’s “wow” moment, and if I haven’t then I will not sleep well. When I have that feeling of satisfaction that I have conveyed with the utmost of my writing ability the “wow” moments, the ideas and subterfuges of the story, then it’s time for bed. This may be at two or three o’clock in the morning, but I’ve learned to not even attempt sleep until this sense of satisfaction and accomplishment is felt. Otherwise the story will keep looping in my mind, and I’ll dream it all night long in fitful sleep.

Related resources:

Author’s page, Edit Red Writing Community
Author’s page, Sonar4 Publication

Possibly related books:


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

[Interview: Part 2 of 5] John Miller, author of '2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah'

In the first part of this interview, John Miller, author of 2012: Kin Bin Tin Nah (Sonar4 Publications, 2009), talked about some of the factors that made him start writing.

In this, the second segment of the interview, he identifies the audience he writes for as well as some of the influences that have had an impact on his writing:

Who is your target audience?

I write for myself first and foremost, so I guess one could ask who I am. I’m a divorced father with three small children (as I’ve mentioned). And I’ve mentioned my different job experiences, but I think I’m a cross-section cut right out of America; the average individual living in America is a little bit of everything these days. We belong to multiple organizations, have various hobbies and pursuits, but we are knowledgeable about many different things. In today’s world, Americans may read a little horror and some literary as well as Time and Newsweek and People. As a member of a society well versed in various genres and styles, I have to consider what interests me first.

Regardless whether the writing is horror, fantasy or literary, the story must convey certain things in order for me to get into it. I am part of the video generation, and my time is short. I want it hard and fast (pardon the expression), and I want it now! The stories I read and write must begin close to the action. I want emotional relationships, characters with depth and relationships. You see, I’m busy. I’m involved in three publications, running two of them. I’m also involved in an organization just forming that is intended to help aspiring ezines and small press markets. Besides helping my three children with their homework, I have all these things going on. But I am not unique; I am representative of America. We’re busy. We’re tired. We don’t have time to wade slowly through a hundred pages intended to set the story; we want it and we want it now.

My target audience is America Itself. We’re busy raising kids. We want to something to help us get through another hectic workday. We love fantasy with elements of horror. We’re young-minded with big responsibilities. We have families and children and we work harder than we should to put food on the table. Long work weeks and callused hands or stressed-out nerves from arduous business meetings. We think about 2012 and its implications, neither believing nor disbelieving, until we have the facts (and we may not get them because we’re late for the next doctor’s appointment). We’re open, but hit us fast because we don’t have time to talk. Communication is delegated to text messages, instant messages, emails and blogs with profile pics.

This is who we are. I’m writing to younger adults who need it downloaded as quickly as possible. E-Books and burnt CDs and text messages. Stephen King fans and John Grisham readers. We want it all.

Which authors influenced you most?

You may laugh, but these are the authors who have influenced me the most. Authors I simply love like Sidney Sheldon. His work on the television program I Dream of Jeannie is astounding, but his novels show dramatic changes in characters over long periods time as in The Other Side of Midnight. I love authors who can deliver the goods, but who show characters changing through the course of the story. One of my favorite short stories of all time is Joe Hill’s "Best New Horror" in which the main character, Eddie Carrol, undergoes an inner metamorphosis that slams home by the end of the story while he’s running for his life, laughing in the exhilaration of the horror sweeping over him—fantastic story!

But the one work that has influenced my writing above all is John Myers Myers’ Silverlock. In no story I’ve read has the main character undergone such realistic changes from beginning to end. And that is most important to me in a story: how the characters evolve in realistic but life-changing circumstances. A character like Conan the Barbarian never changes; he is invincible and unstoppable from beginning of the story to the end. But I want characters that pulse with human frailty, but somehow end up saving the world (or the day). In Silverlock the world is changed as the main character changes, reflecting my mentality that the world perceived changes as we change. The world is viewed as a dark and lonely place by a dark and lonely person, but if that character changes, then the world brightens. Add fantasy or horror elements, and I am in heaven.

I believe everybody in the world should have a copy of Silverlock in their library.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

They say write what you know. Nothing could be truer for a writer. A young sixteen year old boy writing about being married for twenty years will not know the subtle intricacies a man who has been married experiences. Stephen King was seriously injured when an out-of-control van struck him while on one of his daily walks, and he became fascinated with such topics, writing about characters undergoing similar things. That is what we as writers do; we assimilate our lives and reprocess them with clarity for the readers. Some authors disagree, but a portion of our personalities go into the characters we create; we breathe into them and bring them to life. These characters may be based on our imagination or people we have known, but these images are still filtered through the writer’s mind, and thus it is the writer who imparts his own imprint upon each character, upon each word and sentence—the entire story is filtered through the keystrokes and thoughts of the writer.

Because of this, I see every character in every story reflective of some portion of the writer. Darth Vader in Star Wars reminds me of some untouchable movie mongrel, invincible, and I wonder what person or “type of person” George Lucas based Vader on. John Grisham’s criminal characters are believable, but don’t you think he understands in some measure how such characters think?

For me, no human is a saint and no person is entirely evil; we are shades and hues of varying grays, and while vibrant with intense colors, we all have flaws and shortcomings. Writers who delve into their own shortcomings to create characters in their stories are those authors who will instill within their characters very real attributes and demeanors. These characters will be three-dimensional, lifelike and live on in the readers’ minds. Even Superman had a flaw: kryptonite. Instilling those “kryptonite-flaws” based on the writer does nothing but create a more believable story, in my humble opinion. The more powerful the character, the more the writer has breathed life into that character based on real life experiences. Those experiences may be greatly exaggerated, as with Hannibal the Cannibal (I’m quite sure author Thomas Harris hasn’t dined on human flesh), but the author has somehow siphoned the darkness and light out of himself to bring the characters to life.

Related resources:

Author's page, Edit Red Writing Community
Author's page, Sonar4 Publication

Interviews Possibly related books: