Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am an engineer and a patent attorney, but I am a passionate and lifelong writer. I’ve had two books published and I’m working on my third. My first book–“Pieces Like Pottery”–reached Amazon bestseller status multiple times. It was a book exploring loss, heartbreak, and ultimately redemption. My second book–“40 Tips on Creative Writing”–was one that I sat down and wrote last fall after reader after reader of my indie writing blog (www.nothinganygood.com) requested me to put the book together.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is “40 Tips on Creative Writing.” I put this book together because of reader persistence to be honest. In 2016, I wrote a different version of these tips on my website Nothing Any Good. I received more positive feedback then I expected to receive. A lot of readers asked me to put them all together in a book so they could have a nice handy manual. I didn’t have the time or energy to focus on it for a while.
Finally, an author from Scotland reached out and explained that she puts out a writer’s calendar every year to help authors plan their schedules and for writing inspiration. She asked if she could use a shortened version of 10 of my tips for her 2018 calendar. When she sent me the proof of the ten tips, I was really impressed by them. I honestly read them not as the author of them, but as a reader, and I found them tremendously helpful. Once I read them through the new lens of a reader and with her encouragement, I realized I needed to write the book. So, I did the hard work of reordering and revising all of them to be published. And believe me, it took a lot of hard work!
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Oh boy. This is a tough question. I’m sure my wife would say I have some odd tick that I do when I write, like blinking a lot or clicking under my breath. Something odd like that, but I don’t find that entirely interesting. I guess I would say the fact that I pull parts of my writing from old unpublished pieces I have previously written.
I keep a journal of notes and ideas that strike me throughout the day. I’ve been doing this for over twenty years now. An old teacher of mine used to talk about pristine moments of coherence—those moments when an idea strikes us so profoundly and clearly that it seems to be a fundamental truth of the world. I don’t want to lose those thoughts when I have them, so I try to write them down. As I am writing, I will pull concepts from my journals and notebooks. In one of the stories in Pieces Like Pottery, I pulled a couple paragraphs I had written in high school and updated them. High School!
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I feel like this is the question that readers and writers always ask in a judgmental way. It’s as if your readers are going to judge me by the authors I enjoy. “Oh no, I don’t agree with that at all. John Grisham? This guy clearly isn’t serious about his writing.” I think people tend to have the same judgmental approach about their music preferences too.
Some of my favorite authors, in no particular order: Gertrude Warner, Shell Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Charles Dickens, John Grisham, Malcolm Gladwell, John Buri, Cormac McCarthy, Bill Bryson and Mark Twain…to name a few.
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on two different books. The first is a novel about a young man trying to follow his dreams while facing the demons left behind by his deceased, alcoholic father and his dying high school teacher that changed his life. The second book is a non-fiction work. It’s still in development, but the book will explore our infatuation (as a society) with happiness while consistency many other forms of fulfillment that life has to offer.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I have tried to crack the book marketing code many times over the years. I have yet to find a tried and true method. Maybe there actually isn’t one, or maybe I’m just not smart enough to find it. The best advice I’ve received is to be genuine and to be kind. That and ask. Ask people if they would consider your book. Ask people if they would be willing to read your book. I struggle with it, but it’s where I’ve found the most success. When you do, be genuine and be kind.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Write. Write. Write.
If you want to be a writer, write. It’s one of the only professions you can become simply by the act of doing it. Start writing. You only need thirty minutes a day. Life’s too short to not write if that’s what you love to do. That first step is simple: Sit down and write.
I vividly remember when I first started to consider writing as more than a hobby fifteen years ago. Before then, I had an unfortunate mantra: “I’ll write when…” As in, “I’ll write that story when I have a long uninterrupted weekend.” Or, “I’ll write that book when my job isn’t so busy.” It was a mantra that was crushing any hope of taking my dreams of being a writer and actually becoming serious about writing. I realized there was never going to be a perfect time to write, so I threw that mantra out the window for good.
If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have found myself writing for a number of print and online publications. I would have never started four different blogs over the last fifteen years, something that has been critical for me in learning how to hone my skills as a writer. I would have never become a published non-fiction writ-er and the author of an Amazon bestselling book of literary fic-tion. Now I have a new mantra: “I’ll write now.”
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Over the years, I’ve been offered an abundance of feedback from mentors and teachers I trust. I have heard excellent com-mentary from a few creative people who I admire greatly. There are two ideas that have stuck with me throughout all my writing endeavors. These sentiments helped to get me over the hump and—as Brené Brown would say (or Theodore Roosevelt before her)—Dare Greatly in my writing endeavors.
1. When asked about the fears and doubts that she had with her writing, Elizabeth Gilbert—best-selling au-thor of Eat, Pray, Love—said she finally had an epiph-any that her “writing muse” was telling her that this isn’t her story. If she doesn’t tell it, she bemoaned, then the muse would move on to someone else who will. Ms. Gilbert discussed how freeing this was for her. She was no longer declaring to the reader: “Listen to me. I have something to say.” Instead, she was writ-ing through her muse, her inspiration. It was almost as if she had no other choice but to write. This opened her up to write every day without fear of the result.
2. Ira Glass is an American public radio personality and the host and producer of the radio and television show This American Life. He has a great quote for young creatives. In short, he encourages that your work is not going to be good when you’re first starting out. You may have an excitement for your craft and a killer taste for what’s good, but your execution is poor. The only way to improve your work, the only way to close the gap so that your work is as good as your ambitions, is to keep writing. Every day. Every week put yourself on a deadline to write something new. It’s going to take a while, but that’s normal. Good writing doesn’t come the first time you sit down.
1. Don’t worry about whether you have anything im-portant to say. If you are inspired, say it.
2. Write often. You won’t become a good writer unless you’re regularly finding time to write.
What are you reading now?
I typically like to have a couple of books I’m reading at any given time. My nightstand currently has the following sitting on it (in either print or ebook format):
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Principles, by Ray Dalio
Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson
The 4-Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferriss
The Light Between the Oceans, by M.L. Stedman
What’s next for you as a writer?
I’m working on the two books above and about to launch the Independent Writers Guild, which is a worldwide organization of writers and publishing professionals dedicated to promoting the interest of indie writers by encouraging public interest in, and fostering an appreciation of, quality indie literature. We will be launching the group shortly.
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?
So, let me get this straight. I’m *stranded* but I’m also *allowed* to take 3 or 4 books with me? This doesn’t sound like I’m stranded at all! This sounds like I’m being imprisoned like Napolean on Elba. What are plotting?!?
If you were kidnapping me for the rest of my life and leaving me on a desert island with only 3 or 4 books to read, I’d have to take these four:
1. The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. (My favorite book.)
2. The Bible. (Cliche, but true. I’d bring it.)
3. Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. (I’d have a lot of time to fully and completely study and digest these poems.)
4. Either Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace or War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. (I’ve never read either, but I’d finally have not only the time to read them from cover to cover, but in the case of Infinite Jest, I’d also have the luxury of reading it in private without judging eyes thinking I’m some hipster poser.)