Here are some of the questions I’ve been asked over the years
If you’d like to set up an interview, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Where are you from and can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m from the US Deep South, between the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. I was born and raised in South Carolina, and have never lived anywhere else, although I travel a lot. I’m a curmudgeon who spends most of the day sitting in front of a desk in my own little world. When I’m not writing – which is rare, as I nearly always have something to write with (and on) near to hand – I love anything to do with nature, especially photography.
Tell us your latest news.
The anthology is out on the shelves at this point. Down the Owlhoot Trail is a collection of thirteen tales about Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid (aka Kye Devon and Chance Knight) – everything from the traditional gun battle, to a fight with hostile Indians, to an antique treasure map that actually leads to a chest of gold. The lads even go on a cattle drive. Down the Owlhoot Trail is available in both print editions and e-book format, and can be ordered either through your favorite online bookstore or directly from JMS Books.
I’ve signed on with an agent for the first book. It’s a full-length adventure starring Kye and Chance (aka Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid) as adults. They’re blackmailed into going straight by the government, and end up solving cases that can’t be solved by strictly legal means. I’m alternating chapters by Chance with chapters by the (slightly eccentric) Miss Emily Sharp, who is looking for something exciting to do with her life.
Right now I’m working on Book 2 while I wait for a publishing house to sign me on. The second adventure involves stolen artifacts and the King of Hawai’i – and the gang ends up traveling clear across the country to New York.
Why do you call yourself a gender-non-specific cyberbeing?
I love the anonymity of the internet. I like that nobody has to know if you are a man or a woman, how old you are, where you live — they just have to take you as you are, as a mind or a soul. None of that physical stuff ought to matter anyway. We’re all just people, all the same species living in the same place. We don’t have time to hate each other or fight — there’s not enough time to enjoy the life you have as it is, and wasting it by hating just makes no sense. Being anonymous means there are less chances for someone to make up some silly reason to fight.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
That’s not a lot of time – I almost always have writing tools near to hand! My other hobbies include photography, travel, and supervising the Creative Writing and Learning Tips categories at WikiAnswers.com. I like teaching people who actually want to learn, so WikiAnswers is a great way to have fun with that. I also like most anything to do with water, especially sailing and SCUBA diving.
Do you have a day job as well?
Yes, my writing doesn’t make enough money for me to do it full-time. I have a very intense job, with long hours and a variable schedule, so I have some weeks where I only have a couple of days off, but others where I have three or four days to write.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been telling stories all my life. When I was about four, I discovered that it was a great way to become the center of attention. My first written work is a very short story entitled “Silly Mouse.” Stories just fascinate me. I don’t just tell them — I love listening to family stories and memories of how things were. I’ve always wanted to pass these things along to the next generation. I love having an audience, whether in person or through a book or short story. I guess I mostly just enjoy being the center of attention. I like provoking emotion in people: laughter, tears, wonder.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I don’t choose a genre. I write what seems to need writing, and then try to figure out what genre it might fit into. I have a lot of trouble doing that sometimes. I’ve always loved several things in a story: adventure, humor, and a sense of mystery. I try to include those things in my own writing as much as possible, so I suppose my genre is more the adventure story than anything else.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I published my first piece in our local newspaper in high school. I entered a local poetry contest, supposedly for adults, and actually won third place. I’d considered myself a writer until then, because I wrote all the time, but at that point I thought of myself as a published author.
Because I was a science nerd, though, I put the writing on the back burner and considered it “just a hobby” for many years while I pursued my love of nature and science.
What is your writing space like?
I write wherever I happen to be, so my writing space looks like everywhere. I carry either a paper journal or my iPad with me everywhere I go, so I’m always ready to work. I have an entire shelf of journals, each one fitting a different mood and each one partly filled with scribbled handwriting – notes and outlines, scraps of chapters, nonfiction pieces, even some crude drawings.
My desk at home is quite cluttered. I have two corkboards, covered with anything and everything pertaining to whatever I’m writing at the moment. You’re likely to find old maps, photos of places the lads might have been, questions to answer, a pertinent cartoon or two, diagrams of the lads’ house, and whatever information I might need for the website (ftp information, passwords, ISBN numbers of the books, etc). I have artwork done by a friend, depicting several of my characters, above the desk. The bookshelf part of the desk has an assortment of informational books that I mostly use for WikiAnswers — the books I’m using for my most current research usually take up a whole shelf on one of the three bookcases in the office. As I am a slob, the workspace is usually cluttered with whatever books or magazines I’m consulting at the moment, my ever-present caffeine source (either a Coke or a latte), often a stack of mail that needs dealing with, and whatever won’t fit on the bookcases.
What inspired you to write your first stories?
I was reading mostly science fiction at that time, and I’d invented this race of aliens, some of which get stranded here on Earth. I wanted to write about how different they are and what we humans look like through their eyes. I’ve published a few of those tales, in some very small anthologies and magazines, and I’d like to get back to writing those at some point.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always been drawn to the Old West, and I’d been writing short stories about a pair of young outlaws during the late 1800’s. One of my best friends challenged me to actually get those stories out to a publisher, and to write a novel about the lads. I accepted the challenge and started out with NaNoWriMo’s Summer Camp so I could get 50,000 words down immediately.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I like to think that I have a humorous style, with enough emotion and action to tell an interesting tale. I’ve tried to write serious pieces, and once in a while, I do manage to carry it off. But usually, my sense of humor comes through. My favorite characters mostly seem to be fun-loving tricksters who get into one mess after another. I’d like to hope that my writing is a cross between Louis L’Amour and Robert B. Parker.
Where do you get your ideas?
From Ideas.com. People always ask this question. They think writers have some mystical Source of Ideas that average people are not privy to.
Writers get ideas from the same place everyone else gets them — inside their head. Writers just ask a lot more nosy questions than average people — what if that person suddenly did this thing? What would happen if this occurred? What if this person said that thing to that other person? Why did that person do that thing? — that’s why they get ideas that need to be put into books.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
I experience days where I am willing to do almost anything to avoid having to write. I don’t call that writer’s block — I call it procrastination! I’ve always got some idea somewhere in the back of my mind that I can turn into some sort of story if I want to plant my butt in a chair and get to work. So, no, I don’t get writer’s block, but I do get writer’s laziness.
Do you work with an outline or just write?
I like at least a rough outline. I tend to throw lots of things into the book when I’m working — new characters, settings, trivia — and I like to try to keep track of them on an outline or “Series Bible.” This way, hopefully, Cousin Charles won’t suddenly become Cousin Charlene in Book Three.
Would you say your writing is character- or plot-driven?
My writing is definitely character-driven. I come up with intriguing characters first, and then decide which plot is going to suit that character.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t set out to send a definite message, but if there’s one thread that runs through everything I write, it’s that hatred and bigotry are stupid. People waste far too much time thinking of excuses to fight when they could be enjoying their own lives instead. All of my main characters are very open-minded, very tolerant of other cultures and other ideas.
Are the characters or experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Yes and no. Writers incorporate their lives into their writing. Every experience, every emotion, works its way into your books. I don’t have any one character based on a real person, but everyone I know or have encountered has had some impact on the way my characters act and interact. Everything that’s ever happened to me, or that I’ve heard about or read about — every part of my life colors what you read in my books.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
There are always things you want to change – a word choice here, a line of dialogue that could be improved. I always think I could have written better — done something in a more exciting fashion, used more vivid images. I don’t think I’d really change anything however, because that would result in a different book. I’ve seen cases where authors had a chance to go back, do something differently, and it’s always turned out to be totally changed instead of just improved.
How did you come up with the title Outlaw Security?
I did basically what Kye and Chance do in the book – that scene was pretty much my own inner dialogue. I was thinking, what would a couple of outlaws do if they tried to go straight? You hear lots of stories of people doing this, but you almost never hear about what they do afterward. There are a couple of cases where an outlaw became a lawman, but what about the rest of the fellows? I figured, why wouldn’t they just keep doing what they’ve always done, only on the other side of the law? Instead of robbing the bank, they would figure out a scheme to keep the bank from getting robbed. They’ve actually invented the security agency in my world, so calling it Outlaw Security makes sense. It’s security from outlaws, but also by outlaws. And security is something the lads desire, even if they haven’t fully realized that fact.
How did you come up with the title Down the Owlhoot Trail?
This title was a natural choice. The owlhoot trail was what people in the Old West called the outlaw life, because many outlaws rode after dark to pull off their illegal activities. Outlaws were sometimes called owl-hoots, too. Once Kye and Chance decide to take that pathway to their goals, they head off down the owlhoot trail.
What was your favorite chapter of Outlaw Security to write and why?
I always enjoy the chapters that tell how they committed a crime. I like figuring out how they’re going to get away with these grand schemes. The first chapter, the robbery of the Pacific Express, literally came to me in a dream. I woke up around 3am one morning with the idea full-blown in my head. I’ve tweaked the plot of it around a bit, but it’s still pretty much the same as my dream.
What was your favorite story from Down the Owlhoot Trail to write and why?
I think my favorite was the first one, the one where you meet them and they meet each other. I like Chance a lot, especially as a young teen. He’s so cocky and sure of himself, thinking he’s so grown up and prepared for anything. I like how he pretends he’s such a man of the world to Kye, who’s actually the older of the two, though Chance will never admit this.
Your main characters are robbers– how did you come up with this idea and how much research did you have to do?
I watch and read way too much Western fiction! I’ve always loved the wise-cracking rogue, and putting a trickster into the Old West just has to mean robbing banks and trains. The outlaws of that time were the rock stars of their culture — Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — people loved reading about their exploits. I think it’s natural that I would invent a couple of robbers for my protagonists. I’ve done a good bit of research to make certain that their shenanigans come across as realistic. I’ve looked at train routes of the period, researched the sort of security you’d be likely to encounter at the time, checked out safe companies to see what existed then, found out what sorts of guns they’d have used, and even traveled to San Francisco to get the full flavor of the city.
How much of the book and stories are realistic?
I like to think most of my books are realistic. The science and history are researched, are solid. Both Outlaw Security and Owlhoot Trail are set in the Old West, and I’ve done a lot of work learning the facts about that period, and about San Francisco in particular.
You never actually give a date for your stories. Is there a reason for this?
Yes. I don’t want the stories to have a specific date, because then you could date the lads and calculate how much time has passed. I want the stories to be timeless, as though they could have happened most any time in the latter half of the century. There are hints and clues in the stories, if you pay attention, but I’m not going to give any firm dates. I don’t want one of my readers thinking, “There’s no way they could have had this adventure because X months have gone by since the last one and it’s still Autumn!”
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I have a hard time buckling down to work sometimes. I get distracted very easily, and it’s easy for me to get bored going over the same material day after day. I have to force myself to sit down and get it done sometimes. I have days where everything seems trite and boring, and I have to just slog my way through.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I can’t narrow that down to one favorite — it’s like picking your favorite child. I like Andre Norton’s originality. I like Robert Parker’s and Craig Johnson’s characterization. I like Louis L’Amour’s descriptions. I like Tony Hillerman’s and Dana Stabenow’s inside looks at Native Americans.
I read a lot, and my favorite author depends on what month and year it is.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
So far, I have not needed to travel to publicize anything. I’m hoping that in the future, I’ll be asked to do some signings and maybe speak to some groups in different places. I do love to travel, and I’ve made several trips out to San Francisco to get the feel of the city and the area, and to do some research that wasn’t via the internet. It’s a great city and I’ll probably be back someday soon.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found that work best for your genre?
You’re starting on the ground floor here with me. I’ve relied mostly on social media so far, advertising on my Facebook author page and Twitter account, plus this website and a couple of other ones I hang out on. Once I get a print book, I plan to start selling those at various events such as gun shows and Old West reenactments.
What was the hardest part of writing your books?
The hardest part was hanging in there and finishing it. I knew where I wanted to go with the book, but actually sitting down and grinding away at it day after day was tough. I get bored and distracted easily, so making myself work at the same thing over and over is hard for me.
I also had some problems ramping up the tension. I tend to look at the lighter side of things. Some of the people who looked at the manuscript said that the lads seemed to find things too easy, without a lot of challenge. I have to work harder to think of plot complications and conflict. I’m hoping that will improve once I get more writing under my belt and learn more about the mechanics of the craft.
What are some challenges you faced writing and publishing your work?
The biggest challenge is my day job! I work very long hours, and it’s hard to get any writing done on top of that. Sometimes I come home and crawl straight into bed, but I usually try to get at least a page or two written either at night or in the morning before I leave for work.
The second biggest challenge is getting the book to the point where I’m satisfied with it. I’ve revised it once, and now I’m thinking up new angles and new ways of making it better, and am headed for at least one more major rewrite before I send it to a professional for editing.
The short stories are easier for me, maybe because of my limited attention span. I had about half of what I wanted already written, and just had to edit them into shape for the anthology. The rest, I did in a few months. I suppose a third challenge is making myself read as an editor instead of just falling back into the story. It’s hard for me to look for repeated words and phrases, punctuation and grammar, and continuity.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned a lot. I learned that if you hang in there and do a little bit at a time, you can accomplish anything you set out to do. I learned that your first draft isn’t supposed to be your finished work, and that you’ll need to edit at least twice, maybe more. I learned that you can always find something new that you didn’t know before, especially about the craft of writing. I learned an awful lot about the Old West, even considering the fact that I’m a Western buff and thought I knew a lot already.
Are there any characters you would like to go back to, or a theme or idea you’d like to work with?
I love Chance and Kye. I’d like to do a series of books about their schemes, tell more about their past lives. Miss Emily is another favorite, with her spunk and modern attitudes. I don’t especially like Kirkham as a person, but he’s got a lot of possibility as a character, a lot of things he can do to make the stories more interesting.
I’d also like to get back to writing about my aliens, the velyr. They’re a lot of fun to write about, and they can get into an awful lot of trouble, which makes for a good story.
Which of your characters speaks the loudest to you?
Chance from Outlaw Security and Tell from the velyr. Both of them are brash, cocky, witty characters that always have something to say about whatever is going on.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My friends have been my biggest support team. I have a very small family, and never really discussed my writing with any of them. My friends are the ones who have to read my rough drafts, listen to my ideas, talk me into writing instead of putzing around.
Do you see writing as a career?
I think of writing as my second career. I’d love to write as a career instead of as a hobby, but at this point, I don’t see it supporting me in the style to which I’d like to become accustomed. Perhaps in the future, I can make enough on the books to be able to cut back some of my hours at my day job.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Plant that butt in a chair and get to it! Don’t let anything distract you until you’ve told the story inside your head.
Study other writers and learn how they do what it is they do. Look for the craft beneath the story. Analyze instead of just reading, and you’ll learn how to write.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thanks for supporting me! I hope you enjoy reading my adventures as much as I enjoy thinking them up and writing them down.
Some interesting questions I’ve come across in other interviews:
Do you prefer e-books, paperbacks, or hardbacks?
It depends on the author. I have favorite authors, like Robert B. Parker, Louis L’Amour, Dana Stabenow, and Laurie R. King whose books I always like to buy in hardback. I like e-books if I’m not certain I’ll like the book, as they’re less expensive than print books and don’t take up any space in my already crowded house. Everything else, with the exception of some of my research books, is in paperback.
Where do you like to buy your books?
We have a Barnes and Noble bookstore in town. I like holding a book in my hand, maybe flipping through it over a latte while I decide if I want to buy it or not. I also like the convenience of Amazon, and order quite a number of used books from them. We also have a good independent bookstore that I like, and a used bookstore where I trade out the masses of books I’ve already read for more masses.
Do you write under a pen name?
I do. I want to keep my “real” life separate from my writing. I’m pretty much a hermit when I’m not at work, and I like my privacy and solitude. I also can’t have people showing up at my job because it’s a very busy one without the time for socializing with my readers.
Do you have any pets?
At the moment, I am pet-less, although I tend to prefer cats to dogs simply because I’m away from home so many hours a day and dogs just can’t cope well with that sort of life.
White wine or red?
White, though I much prefer a good, dark rum.
Coffee or tea?
I like coffee as a hot drink and tea as a cold one. I like my coffee in the espresso variety and my tea unsweetened (though I did grow up on the typical Southern sweet tea). I’m also addicted to Mexican Coca-Colas (the kind made with actual cane sugar instead of corn syrup).
Do you like to cook and do you have a favorite food?
I can cook fairly well, I think, though I usually don’t take the time. I have several favorite foods. I make a really mean pot of chili. My favorite Mexican food is a nice, spicy plate of nachos, the ones with actual shredded cheese on top instead of a prepared sauce. My favorite Italian food is fettuccine alfredo. My favorite pizza is pepperoni, and my favorite seafood is shrimp. I also make one of the best pina coladas you’ll probably ever taste (IMHO).
Vanilla or chocolate ice cream?
Coffee, though of those two I’ll take chocolate.
Sleep in or get up early?
It depends on my work schedule. I have to get up at the crack of dawn for my job, so sometimes on my writing days I sleep in until 8 or 9.
Laptop or desktop for writing?
I write anywhere, but I like to do the main work at the desk. Often, I’ll do the initial work longhand in a journal and transcribe it at the desk, doing a first edit as I do. I take my laptop nearly everywhere if there’s going to be anywhere I can set it up.