I am so excited to share this author with you!
1. Are the names of the characters in your novels important? How and why?
Absolutely the names are important. Are the names to your children important? I named my female lead Kate. That’s sort of a popular name for leading l
adies in movies and books and there’s a reason. Kate is a strong name, wholesome, all-American (and Irish, of course). Clean, has that long ‘a’ sound. Crisp, clear. Beautiful.
As opposed to, say, Bobbie. Bobbie happens to be one of my favorite names for a girl. I had an aunt named Bobbie and she was my favorite aunt when I was a kid. She was young and pretty and infinitely cool. But she also happened to be born in the country. I had no problem with that growing up, but I probably wouldn’t give my main character that name. Unless, of course, I wanted her to be a country girl. See?
My main antagonist, Cheslov – for that, I just needed a Russian name. I wanted to avoid the obvious names you see all the times – like Borlov or Boris or Vlad or Vasily. So I Googled and Googled and finally ran across Cheslov. As soon as I saw that name, I thought it was perfect.
For my protagonist – Mitch – I wanted a simple, single syllable, manly name.
Woody had to be sort of goofy. Molly had to be care free. Paxton had to be a little geekly. The Mayor is really just the Mayor. His name didn’t matter as much.
I write for adults because I want to also be entertained by what’s going on. I want to create a scene and I’m not sure how it’s going to play out, how the good guy is going to escape. Then I try to think the way I would think in a similar situation. That includes panic, frustration, exhaustion, and how that all comes out, how your feelings express themselves when you feel that way. It’s a process I go through that wouldn’t lend itself as well to children’s stories.
3. Who would play you in a film of your life?
I’m not sure I’ve lead a life that’s interesting enough for someone to play or be entertained by. I can tell you I’ve done some crazy things that might be entertaining. Some pretty stupid things when I was younger and thought I was invincible.
It would be the action that would be entertaining, it would be the great things I’ve done for other people. I can think of a few, but not enough, I’m afraid. Maybe a few times in my life where, if you had the right set up, the right director, just the right lighting and had some very handsome playing me, with the proper brooding disposition… ;).
I’ve known people in my life who were saints put on this world who probably viewed people like me through puzzled lenses. Those are the ones who deserve to have movies made about their lives. Not me, I’m afraid.
4. What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
Confidence is key. Just know that if you get in front of the keyboard at the right time of day for you, then you’ll write. Think about your characters, where the story is going to go. You don’t have to have it all planned out. It doesn’t have to be the next Da Vinci Code in terms of plot development. It just has to flow, to take on a life of it’s own.
Don’t start off thinking about how the hell you’re going to write a 300 page novel. Just start off and let the journey occur. Think about it and make your characters come alive and write their thoughts and lives and then let the interactions occur and you’ll be amazed and surprised and hopefully delighted by the results.
5. What do you find to be the biggest challenge when writing?
Creating the initial draft is the hardest. The initial overall idea of what your book is going to be about. Who are the characters, what’s the high concept, where will the conflict come from.
Once you get past that and start writing, then the rest is easy.
And once you get that initial draft completed – then it’s fun. Truly. From that point forward, you only need to polish. Just pick you’re your gem every few days and polish for a few minutes. Here someone say something funny at the mall, consider a tree limb in a park and how you might describe it, smell a familiar smell and let your mind run – all of these ‘experiences’ … feel them and bring them back into your novel as you polish and make it shine and breathe life into it. That’s the best part. Oh, it’s so hard to get that gem established at first. But once you do, it’s your gem. And it may never sell, it may never make millions of dollars – but it’s your gem and you can publish it and you can get it in print and you can show your friends and one day your children and one day, many years from now, you’ll read that work as a different person, as an old person. You’ll wonder who wrote that? You’ll be amazed all over again.
6. Do you enjoy giving interviews?
Not really. I enjoy having conversations with real people who are really interested in what I have to say. Hey, who wouldn’t?
I should say like minded people. I would love nothing more than sitting in a bar, having drinks with folks and talking about writing and publishing and novels all night long.
But interviews? Not as much fun.
7. How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?
I think your life has more impact from teenager on. I left home at 17, joined the Navy. The experiences I’ve had since leaving the Navy have influenced my novel much more than any childhood experience.
8. What inspired you to write your first book?
I listened to Rudy Giuliani speak a year after 9/11. This was in August of 2002, just under a year since 9/11. Rudy spoke to a crowd of about 5,000 folks. He described the events of that day and it was very emotional, everyone loved the guy, he was held in such admiration.
He told the crowd that every great leader will possess spirituality. And when you have millions of people that you’re serving, there’s a natural temptation to believe that God put you there, there must be a divine intervention. Then the tendency is to think that any gut feeling you have, gut decision, must be God’s decision.
So Rudy talked about how you have to avoid falling into that trap, you have to remain objective and realize you’re only human and they are your decisions.
I found that fascinating because I had never heard a politician talk like that.
I think there are a number of politicians in the US and abroad, recently and not, where pragmatism was nowhere to be found. I wanted to explore that in a novel. Come on, there’s all kinds of room for conflict.
As for publishing, I self published on Amazon. The only way to go these days ;). Really pretty simple. Of course, the average book that self publishes on Amazon sells 100 copies to, you guessed it, friends and business associates and the like. So the trick is – how do you market the book further, drive sales.
At the end of the day, it’s all about word of mouth. So you have to get your book out there and it has to be good and then you need for word of mouth to help.
So – be sure it’s ready for prime time before you decide to self publish. I waited 3 years after my 1st draft because I wanted my novel to be as good as it could possibly be. Along the way I had some serious people read it and provide candid feedback. Enough good feedback to know I was onto something, enough bad feedback to keep me busy writing and rewriting and (yes) deleting!
9. Do you have a specific writing style?
Real. Direct. I spent many, many hours searching and deleting ‘had’. I rewrote to put as much as I could into present tense. I read through sentences and deleted words that were unnecessary. I read all the dialogue aloud to ensure I had contractions and cuss words but not too much of either because I wanted it to be real.
10. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I had a close friend in high school who influenced my reading. We both read a lot of sci-fi back then. Isaac Asimov was huge. Some Robert Heinlein. Stranger in a Strange Land – who could forget that?
Then somebody turned me onto Stephen King. He had a new novel out called The Stand. Wow – that book rocked my world. I was in my late teens and a friend of my mothers handed me the book and said it was interesting. I remember thinking – this book is about 800 pages and some woman in her forties thinks it’s interesting. I don’t think so.
But I started reading it because I had nothing else to do one night. No TV, no ipods, no internet. This was the dark ages of the late 70’s. Well, we had TV but not in my room.
I finished the novel in maybe 3 days.
So Stephen King has been very influential to my writing. And Thomas Harris. I think Cheslov is a cross between Randall Flag in The Stand and Hannibal.