Why/when/how do you write?
“Why” is actually the hardest of those three questions…or, at least, the answer is a bit more ethereal. I write because it’s who I am and I can’t imagine not being a storyteller.
“When?” At night, mostly. I’m not a morning person, for one. Plus, being a stay-at-home Dad means there’s never a shortage of stuff to get done around the house (and I never get it done!) Thankfully, my wife is kind enough to kick me out of the house when she gets home from work so I can get an hour or two of writing in.
“How?” For fiction, I write on my precious MacBook Pro named “Lola,” usually sitting in one coffee shop or another. Poetry is usually more a process of my writing things out in a notebook and then rewriting and revising as I go. A finished page of poetry often looks pretty messy until I type it up.
You said before that the free story would be a horror story for Halloween. Now it seems like it's a fantasy story. What gives?
The plan was for a short horror story but The Witches of Greyfolk grew into a novella tightly connected to some other things I’ve written. I then wrote the prelude to Witches (A Promise Kept) as a short story and made it the free giveaway. Is it horror? Perhaps not in the usual Halloween-y sense, but it does lead into the Greyfolk story, which does indeed contain some horror elements beneath its fantasy skin.
It seems like forever since we heard anything about Orchard Circle. What is it and is it something you're still working on?
Orchard Circle is very much alive. If you are friends with me on Facebook, you’ve likely seen a bit of progress. The great thing about Orchard Circle is that it is a really big story about a small little street with an enormous cast of characters. Doing it justice means a lot of conferring with my co-author/co-plotter Jason Webb. We’ve finished 3 chapters and have, in our estimation, 7-9 more chapters to go. Jason was kind enough to let me take a breather from the density of that story to write and edit Witches of Greyfolk and, then, A Promise Kept. But it’s still coming…and I’m very excited to get it into your hands.
Haven't I heard you talk about other fantasy stories you've written? Are those available?
Nes? Yo? Yes and No? Most likely you’ve heard me talk about Forest of Night and Worlds Apart, two manuscripts that I finished some time ago. For various reasons, neither is available yet. I hope to correct that soon. I’ve also written a couple of fantasy short stories that connect to these two new tales.
Poetry, horror, and now fantasy. Any other genres you'd like to tackle?
The cool thing about the world I’m building is that it contains characters that can pop up in different genres and incarnations. I don’t have any poetry work on the horizon, but fiction-wise I’m itching to write a western or something sci-fi…though I should be clear that I have a lot more fantasy tales to unwind.
We know you like to write, but what do you read? And what have you enjoyed enough to read more than once?
Oh, boy. Let me think. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz springs to mind…as does The Alphabet of Grace by Frederick Buechner. Loads of poetry books that I come back to now and then, but nothing that my memory is getting a grip of at the moment. Oh, and Lewis’ Narnia books. I’ve read a few of those more than once.
Did you model any of the characters (from A Promise Kept/The Witches of Greyfolk) off any literary characters, or people that you know?
No. Isn’t that a boring answer? I imagine that parts of every character align to some bit of me…if you went digging deep enough. But, no. I have to get to know my characters before I can write them well. Sometimes I just write some dialogue and keep writing and changing it until I find a voice for them.
Do you start at the beginning of a story, or do you decide the outcome and write what needs to happen to get there?
It depends on the story. Witches of Greyfolk started with the idea of (spoiler) in chains. In my mind, it would end at a certain event…but I got to that moment and kept writing. The characters had more to do and I had to follow them even though it changed my plans.
A Promise Kept, however, came ending first. There was a moment in Witches…something said as part of a farewell…that just kept tugging at me. And I found myself with that “what if” thought that writers love to get.
How much do your characters dictate what they do when you write?
See the previous question. I’ve often had plans for the plot only to have my characters turn a different way. That or I wrote it my way only to realize that the character would never do or say the thing required to get to that ending. But it’s painful to scrap stuff you poured energy into, so I try to be sensitive to how the characters are moving and growing in the story so I don’t end up steering them as much as I might like to.
Were there events in this story that you edited out?
Great question! Nothing of importance, no. A line or two here or there to tighten the dialogue, but nothing plot-wise that I can recall.
Now that Witches is out, what are you working on next?
You’re getting a bit ahead of me. A Promise Kept is out this Friday (Oct. 16) and its story leads directly into The Witches of Greyfolk novella which will be out November 20, 2015. After that, I’ll be jumping back into Orchard Circle. You’ll have to be patient for that one. It’s a massive story with so many characters that I’m taking my time. It could easily become a confusing mass of nonsense…but Jason Webb and I are working hard to craft something excellent.
How much time do you spend writing daily?
I try to spend at least 2 hours a night. It doesn’t always happen, but that’s what I shoot for.
What's more important: characters or plot?
Yes. Both. I’m plot guy when a story first comes to me. I have that “what if” thought that starts building a world in my mind. Once I have the “what,” I focus on “who.” Sometimes the “who” changes the plot a bit and that’s okay. If the plot is weak, good characters can keep you invested. A great story with bad characters? Not so much. But both are important in crafting something worthwhile.
Where do you draw your inspiration for your stories?
Pinterest? Stephen King’s dream diary? I don’t really know. I believe it’s a God-given talent, so you’d have to ask the giver of such a good gift.
What was the most difficult piece you ever wrote?
Underneath, the horror short…or novelette…whatever it ended up being. It was the darkest thing I’ve ever written and I’d very much like to never write anything like it again. I dislike harsh language. It’s in there. I dislike violence leveled at the innocent. It’s in there. It’s an ugly, ugly story filled with rape, death, child abuse…all stuff that no one really likes to think about. I needed to tell the story, but I was so glad to be done with it. I like hope to be an element that shines in my fiction. There was none to be found in Underneath. Available now at Amazon.com. 😉
Tell me about the process of creating characters.
Step one: steal from only the best writers. Step two: never admit it in public. No, wait… Forget what I just said. Seriously, though, I typically write out a scene or two of mostly dialogue…I get a voice and then start to build an image to go with it. Eventually, I have a character. One of the challenges of working with a co-author on Orchard Circle is that I didn’t create all the characters, so I had to take the bios that Jason Webb wrote for me…fully established families in some instance…and peer down past the surface to find their unique quirks and personalities. He dreamed up folks I would never have thought to write about…and it’s stretching me…pushing me. I love it!
What's the 1st step to writing a book?
Turn on Lola. Don’t look at me like that. She’s a Macbook Pro!