What were you like at school?
I was a geek in school, but a popular geek. And I was decent at sports. Everyone knew who I was and most liked me…at least that’s what I tell myself…whatever gets me through the night.
Which writers inspire you?
H.P. Lovecraft’s old fashioned voice thrills me, and I admire Orson Scott Card’s direct, lean prose. I love Robert A. Heinlein’s creativity and ideas. Early Stephen King (Salem’s Lot, Pet Cemetary) was amazing.
So, what have you written?
I’ve written the first 3 books of a sci-fi/horror/techno-thriller series for Severed Press: I Am Automaton (winner of a Readers’ Favorite International Book Award), I Am Automaton 2: Kafka Rising (winner of a Readers’ Favorite International Book Award), and Shadow of the Automaton. They are about using the undead as infantry drones to smoke terrorists out of caves; action, suspense, horror, and romance. I’ve also written The Odd Tales of an Old Man (J Ellington Ashton Press), a story about an old curmudgeon wasting away in a nursing home from cancer who tries to relate to his two wayward grandsons through tall tales. The tales are morality plays with twist endings, like Tales From The Crypt and the Twilight Zone. The Devil Is in the Details and the Vampires of Exeter are short stories that will be appearing in an anthology being released by J Ellington Ashton Press in the near future.
Where can we buy or see them?
I love to bend and blend genres. I enjoy writing science fiction, horror, suspense, and military.
What draws you to this genre?
Well, I love to scare the crap out of people, so that’s what attracts me to horror. When a reader/reviewer gets a nightmare, a horror author gets his horns. Science fiction is a great means to social commentary. As a clinical psychologist, I have lots of ideas on human nature. Plus, technology can be frightening, hence I can blend sci-fi with horror. Good horror utilizes suspense, which keeps the reader turning pages. I tend to include military in almost all of my writing. The amount of sacrifice involved in service astounds me; some of my most interesting patients have been military, particularly the World War II vets. I have such admiration and respect for our soldiers.
How much research do you do?
I am a meticulous researcher. I start out with an idea for the plot, and then I jot down ideas for characters. Then I sit on it a while and allow my brain to both consciously and subconsciously layer in details while I research technology, weaponry, history/politics, etc. I have very detailed dreams, and some of my most frightening imagery comes from my nightmares. I also sometime dream I’m conversing with my characters about who they are and the direction of the plot. When I have some serious details, I begin to storyboard. Then I write. I don’t stick to the outline religiously. I change things as they feel right.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I have a very convoluted path that’s lead me to where I am. I started writing horror/suspense short stories for the purpose of seeking publication in genre magazines. Someone who used to work in publishing told me that I should shoot for publishing a novel, so I developed a backstory tying the short stories together, and The Odd Tales of an Old Man was born. Then began a mostly fruitless hunt for an agent. At the advice of a literary agent, I self=published the novel to see if I could garner some positive reviews, and I submitted to critics and bloggers.
Encouraged by excellent reviews, I continued to write while I hunted for an agent/publisher. One night I was watching CNN when the US was still looking for Osama Bin Laden, and I was listening to the reporter lament about how impenetrable the Tora Bora cave system was (that was when he was believed to be hiding in caves). Well, the way my twisted mind works, I imagined the military using zombie infantry drones to smoke the terrorists out, just pouring hundreds of them into the caves. Think about it…they never tire, they never quit, they just walk and eat.
Upon the advice of the same agent who told me to self-publish, I entered “Automaton” into the Readers’ Favorite International Book Contest…and I won an award, finishing with NY Times Best Seller Daniel Silva. At the awards ceremony, a published author told me to bypass agents and submit to open submission calls. After a month or so, armed with an international book award, I landed a contract for the I Am Automaton series with Severed Press. My Facebook promotion landed me in touch with Catt Dahman and TL Decay during a massive online zombie event, right as JEA was being created. They offered me a contract for The Odd Tales of an Old Man, and the rest is history. I wrote books 2 and 3 of the I Am Automaton series and picked up a second international book award.
Why do you write?
I write because I have to. I’ve always had artistic leanings, and I believe that artistic expression is good for the soul. I used to write when I was very young; when I was three I wrote a creation myth centering around how the cheetah got its spots. My psychology practice (my day job that pays my jumbo mortgage) was established and going well, so the timing was right.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I write part-time around my psychology practice and spending time with my wife and five-year-old son. Finding time can be challenging…I write when I should be sleeping and on weekends, but only when my muse is cooperating. If She’s being elusive, I don’t force it. If I do, it comes out subpar. I keep it freeform. Sometimes I’ll write 500 words in one sitting, and other times 2000 words in a little over an hour.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It takes me an average of 5-7 months to write a complete novel of 80,00 to 90,000 words writing on the occasional evening and weekends.
Do you ever get writer’s Block?
I don’t push it. If I’m having trouble writing, it’s usually because there’s a significant plot hole or character inconsistency that’s subconsciously or consciously impeding my process. Sometimes, with a day or two to think, I come up with a solution and the writing flows again. Other times, depending on how much I have going on in my life/day job, I’m distracted and it takes longer.
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I enjoyed writing my I Am Automaton series thus far. You really get to expand the plot, universe, and character arcs beyond what a stand-alone will allow. The characters become more familiar, more real, to the point where I actually become really attached to them. Sequels also allow me to introduce new characters and plot twists to experiment.
How do you relax?
I enjoy playing with my son, hanging out with my wife, writing, reading, and shooting pool (I have a few trophies) for enjoyment. I love being a father; I think it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done with my life. I’m a big family man. I enjoy those quiet Saturdays or Sundays when we just pitter patter around the house, watch a movie, play board games, or not do much of anything.
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