Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
My first venture in writing came as a high school student. Two specific occasions come to mind.
First, my Freshman English teacher assigned the class to write a short story. I based my three page submission on themes from an old television program – The Twilight Zone. After completing the story, I asked my mom for help with a title. She suggested The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff. I asked, what is an epitaph? For all my efforts, the teacher gave me a D and accused me of plagiarism, though she never sighted exactly whom or what I plagiarized. I often wondered, if I was guilty of plagiarism, why a D? Why not an F? My mom came to the school and spoke with the teacher, assuring her the story was indeed my own, except the title. To no avail. The D remained on the books. I hope that teacher stumbles upon The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff someday, which I turned into a three-hundred page novel as an adult. It’s available on Amazon.
Secondly, as a high school student, I worked at my small town radio station as a disc jockey. Station management also afforded me the opportunity to write commercial announcements for local businesses wishing to advertise over the stations airwaves. One “spot” received an award for the best radio ad in the state of Mississippi – for a cement company. Cement? Why not? I created a gangster atmosphere where a rival had his feet planted into a bucket of cement and dumped into the sea. Of course, the gangsters wanted to make sure they used the best cement possible. I guess any subject can be turned into interesting entertainment. Even cement.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book, A Door Unlocked, is inspired only by my fascination with the afterlife. Of course, no one knows exactly what happens upon death. Even religious scholars offer differing opinions. Let me say, this book does not attempt to flush out these varying religious arguments. Instead, its a fictional account of what happens to the soul only in novels. If you never read A Door Unlocked, but I hope you do, at least get your hands on chapter 55 and consider the possibilities.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Nothing unusual. However, I am trying to establish good writing habits. I am currently working on my third novel, and as you might expect, my habits have changed simply because I’m learning as I go. For example, my first book involved writing eleven drafts over a five year period of time. That’s because my characters kept evolving. I’d have to go back and amend earlier chapters to match these changing character traits. I guess I learned the hard way to carefully consider each character and record his or her traits in my outline.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Reading my books, I think you’ll see the influence of several authors – Arthur Conan Doyle, Dean Koontz and Robert McCammon. One in particular influenced how I deal with profanity. Let me explain. I consider myself a Christian, and therefore, I have a hard time using inappropriate language. Yes, I know, I know – it’s not me saying those bad words, it’s my characters. Well, not really. I have a hard time separating myself from the things my characters say. Ted Dekker has a great solution to this dilemma. Instead of writing curse words, tell the reader that character X “spewed a list of offensive words from his tongue that left character Y speechless” – or something along those lines. It works.
What are you working on now?
My current work in progress is a ghost story: a bachelor buys a home in the country and learns the house must be exorcized of ghosts. The working title, “Ghosts in the Sycamores”, is my first venture into romance and humor. I think readers will find it unique, compelling and very entertaining.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’m still searching. Anyone have any advice?
Do you have any advice for new authors?
My advice is to read, or course, but also to write. Write short stories, essays, whatever it takes to help you find your voice. I’ve heard others say it takes three novels for an author to find his or her voice. I’m finding that there is a lot of truth in that statement. I’d like to think I found my voice in my first novel, after writing eleven drafts. But my voice improved during my second novel, A Door Unlocked. And now, as I write my third novel, I think my voice is even more polished. I feel as though I’ve created a style that is all mine – and I’m happy with that.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
I am a father and a “trophy” husband. (It’s a joke, okay.) The best advice I’ve ever received came from my brother-in-law, and it has nothing to do with being an author, and everything to do with rearing children. When my daughter was born, he told me “don’t fight the small battles.” Now that my children are teens, that advice is harder and harder to follow, but his words ring true, keep me grounded, and help prevent me from going insane.
What are you reading now?
I just started “The Ghost Files” by Apryl Baker. This novel is being turned into a movie, so I thought I would read it first and then see the movie – see which one I like best. I suspect the book will win.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I am not pretentious enough to know what comes next. Even my current work in progress has no solid timetable for completion, though I hope to finish the first draft by spring break in 2015. I’m just having fun living my life, helping with my son’s theater productions (I help paint the set), umpiring baseball games (I umpired four Dizzy Dean World Series games last summer), working out at the gym (I spend one hour at the gym six days a week) and doing whatever comes along. Live is good.
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?
In no particular order: The Count of Monte Cristo, Speaks the Nightbird (both books), Queen of Bedlam and the Bible. I named these because they’re long books and will require quite a bit of my time, which, if stranded on a desert island, I’ll have plenty of. But I’d also take my favorite novel, A Tale of Two Cities.