Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am a book fanatic with eclectic tastes, and I am focused on the masterworks. Yes, I have an appreciation for the vulgar, and for the unexpected gut-punch, but in fact I have very high ideals. Metarules of the S•M•F, a novel of gang warfare, is my debut, but my next novel is complete and edited, and I expect a release soon. To Fail With Flying Colors is the whopping wadoodoo. It’s a chunkster, it’s deep and complex, and it tackles the stories of incurable psychiatric patients. It’s a sort of Canterbury Tales of Mental Illness.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Metarules of the S•M•F is a tale of heroes of a golden age of gang-banging and the culture they forged. For a long time I simply had the notion that I would write a novel to lionize an outlaw leader. It took time to find where this idea would lead me, but after putting some work into developing characters and situations, I started to really believe in my book and it came alive for me. It is not directly influenced by any precursor, but in retrospect I’d say it has a fair amount in common with the 14th-century Chinese classic Outlaws of the Marsh, by Shi Nai’an–which just goes to show that struggle is a universal that transcends cultural and temporal bounds.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
If there is such a thing as “usual” writing habits, I don’t know what they are. My writing is idea driven, and rather free-form in its way, but I put a hell of a lot of time, effort, and critical thought in the appraisal, revision, and editing of material until I’ve reached my goals. Then I’m done. No concessions are given to convention or to what is “proper” from a mainstream perspective.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Besides Shi Nai’an, mentioned above, and the Japanese Samurai-author Yamamoto, there are simply countless authors and works that have influenced me, even though I would never expect a reader to perceive the influence. Among black authors, there are Ishmael Reed, Jean Toomer, Richard Wright, and Amos Tutuola. Then there’s the godfather of urban lit, Iceberg Slim. But really, my literary loves go back through the millennia, from Homer, Apuleius, and Seneca, through Chretien de Troyes, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Rabelais, Fernando de Rojas, and Cervantes, to Melville, Kafka, Beckett, and Calvino. You know, the good stuff!
What are you working on now?
I don’t discuss works in progress, but I have two novels in early development.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I have little knowledge or skill when it comes to promoting. However, I am a regular on Goodreads because I’m an avid reader and I love discussing books, and I’ve made use of their giveaways to get copies of my book into readers’ hands.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
My advice to new authors would be to be a demon and a fanatic, utterly dedicated to your creative ideal, and don’t cut yourself too much slack when it comes to viewing your own work critically in the revision and editing phases. Don’t be formulaic, and generally it’s better to ignore almost all conventional advice. Write the book you would most want to read, because if you don’t, no one else will.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Most of my understanding of writing does not come from advice. It comes from reading great works and learning from their example. The best books for a writer to read are the ones that destroy your notions of what a book can and should be, and show you yet another way. They point to the infinite potential of literature.
What are you reading now?
I’ve just finished reading The Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett, and I’ve just taken up Flowers in the Mirror by Li Ruzhen.
What’s next for you as a writer?
As a writer, my intention for future works is to continue to challenge myself to go against my own inclinations and to push in new directions. I’ve got a few projects developing. I’ve been inclined lately to write more from the perspective of female protagonists, as my debut Metarules is an extremely masculine work.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
A desert-island reading list would have to include books I could enjoy multiple times and get the most out of. I’d have to take the Canterbury Tales in original Middle English, Don Quixote, and perhaps… let’s say Vollmann’s Dying Grass.