Firstly, I noticed a set of The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote in your author photo. Does history influence your writing? Have you ever written anything related to the Civil War?
I've only read maybe 25% of Foote's trilogy. I do like history, and I'm especially interested by my own country's history, but reading about it is just a hobby. Those books are beasts, but more and more I keep thinking that finishing them will just have to be one of those things I put off until retirement.
I don't read or write much historical fiction and I'm not sure why. I guess it's just not really my thing…although The Killer Angels is a notable exception. That one's definitely among my favorites.
Take us through your bibliography. You have several releases on Amazon. Where did your writing begin? What did you think when your first novel was released? How have things changed?
The first thing I self-published online was a novel called The Weather Man. It's presented as the main character's blog transcript, complete with reader comments and the occasional flamewar. I've been scribbling down stupid little stories and things for as long as I can remember, but this was the first time that I spent so much time and so much energy on a piece of my writing. Publishing it on Amazon gave me a pretty overwhelming rush. It's exhilarating to create something that only existed as jumbled ideas in your head, solidify it into a purposeful shape, and then throw it out into the universe like it belongs there. I got that same kind of rush from my second novel, Tiem Mechine, too, although I have a feeling that the first time will probably remain the most memorable for a good long while.
I also released a pair of short stories called A Vampire's Proposal and The Kill Room between the two novels, but that was mostly because I felt weird going more than a year without a second release on my Amazon resume. So I threw in a couple of shorts to break the silence.
Starting this year, I'm releasing a series of novellas that are adapted from my fantasy web serial entitled The New Devil. I have the first three volumes up so far, with at least five more to come.
As I publish more, I'm learning a lot about how to do it. I've been writing and revising and writing more since I was a little kid, so I was used to learning how to write better. But when it came to self-publishing, how to format ebooks, where to release them and how to market them, I was completely clueless. I still feel pretty clueless, but the more I do it, the more I'm forced to learn to do it better.
Explain the title of your sci-fi novel "Tiem Mechine" for those of us who still might think its a typo. Where did you get the inspiration for that novel?
Yeah…that title was kind of a gamble for an indie author!
In the opening pages of the novel, the protagonist buys a time travel device from an alien. The alien was a marketing consultant for a corporation from space that had been attempting to sell advanced technology to humans. Thinking that humans would freak out if they realized little green men were peddling space-age tech, they intentionally misspelled "Tiem Mechine" on the box so that everybody would just assume it was a bad translation for a Japanese product or something.
The main inspiration for that book was the Back to the Future movies. Those blend kind of a soft science fiction with comedy and adventure so well, and I personally get a huge kick out of how confusing it all is, especially in the second film, when there are two Marty McFlys running around at his parents' prom. So I decided I wanted to write a time travel story that was so ridiculously complicated that even most of the characters struggled to figure out what was going on. It took a lot of planning, and a lot of headaches, but I think I managed to create a really messy series of timelines so that all the events play out with a crazy, circuitous kind of logic. My hope is that the plot is confusing enough to be funny but just comprehensible enough for my readers to follow it without tearing their hair out.
Have you read the classics of sci-fi or fantasy? Do any authors in particular stand out as "must-reads" for fans of the genres?
I greatly prefer sci-fi to fantasy, personally. I mean, I've read the Lord of the Rings, and it's wonderful story, but after that I don't have much appetite for high fantasy. I've read some of the Narnia books, I really enjoyed the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, and I used to love those Redwall series when I was a kid.
Sci-fi has a lot more appeal to me. The Foundation books by Isaac Asimov are a must-read, as far as I'm concerned. Fantastic Voyage and I, Robot by Asimov are up there too. For something a little more recent, I love me some Crichton, especially Jurassic Park, Prey, and Timeline.
My favorite sci-fi writer, however, was a young adult author whose books I stumbled across in a Scholastic catalogue when I was maybe twelve or thirteen. His name was William Sleator, and the book I ordered was called The Boy Who Reversed Himself. It was about a kid who could travel into to a fourth spatial dimension. It was a complicated concept to explain in a young adult book, but he did it and he blew my mind…all while telling a pretty great story.
When you write, are you more of a planner and note taker or a write-as-I-go author?
It depends on what I'm writing. I usually start off with a premise and a general ending in mind, and if the subject matter isn't too complicated, I like to fly by the seat of my pants. If I'd tried that with something like Tiem Mechine, though, I never would have been able to finish a first draft. I feel like my stuff is trending a little bit more toward plot complexity lately, and I'm starting to take my planning a lot more seriously.
If your work could be favorably compared to any current main stream author, who would you choose? What about their works makes them a literary icon?
Oh, man, that's a tough question.
Gun to my head, I'd probably have to say Dean Koontz, which seems weird. I don't think we're particularly similar, but I have a lot of respect for his work. He can craft some creepy, messed-up stories, but he manages to accurately portray a wide spectrum of human emotion in them, and he knows how to keep them light and funny to balance out the less pleasant stuff. I shed a few tears over Lightning and Odd Thomas, and I laughed my way through them, too. That's a delicate balance that I'd like to get the hang of someday. I don't know if he's a literary icon, but Dean Koontz is probably my favorite living novelist.
Have you read any other indie authors? Any that you would recommend?
I've read a few. My favorite indie authors to enter the non-traditional arena of self-publishing mostly started off in the even-less-traditional world of serial web fiction. There's The Zombie Knight by George M. Frost, which is action-packed and insanely intricate, Hidden, an urban fantasy series by Colleen Vanderlinden, and Hobson & Choi, a quirky detective story by Nick Bryan.
Isaac Asimov once published an article where he outlined the three types of science fiction. He defined them as gadget, adventure, and social. Do you buy into his theory? Which type does your sci-fi fit into?
I hate to disagree with Asimov, because I have tons of respect for the guy…and, let's face it, he has approximately 342 times the education that I have. But I don't think things always break down so cleanly. I mean, Tiem Mechine probably fits pretty safely inside the adventure sci-fi category, but I'm sure there are plenty of stories that qualify for more than one. But from where I'm sitting, I think it's safe to say that probably all science fiction can fit into any one or any combination of Asimov's three classifications.
What direction do you see for your writing in the future? When is your next anticipated release? Any big changes on the horizon?
Hopefully my third novel, tentatively titled Their Works Shall Be in the Dark, will be out in March or April. The next few months should also be peppered with subsequent volumes of The New Devil. The only big change I'm hoping for is putting out better material at a faster rate!