Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Like a lot of folks, I’ve been many things in my life, but one of the most prominent is that I’m a former sergeant with the Army National Guard. I also hold a Bachelor of Science in Professional/Technical Communication and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Nowadays, however; I’m a full-time author, which is really my true love, going way back to childhood when my mind was enchanted by the adventures of Tintin and his pals. I have also had experience with editing, journalism, desktop publishing, and videography.
Being an avid explorer, I’ve spent time in all but two states in America and am always on the lookout for someplace new. Internationally speaking, I never thought Iraq and Kuwait would be my first travel destinations, but they did provide plenty of writing material. In my spare time, I love to cook, read, backpack, and mountain bike.
I’ve just self-published my second memoir, titled Playing Soldier. My first, Lines in the Sand: An American Soldier’s Personal Journey in Iraq, won a Readers’ Favorite Five-Star Award and is a transcription of the handwritten journals I kept during my tour of duty.
I live in New England with my cat, Jerome, who is always purring for another snack.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My new memoir is titled Playing Soldier. The inspiration for it was two-fold. The late author, Da Chen (who published his own memoir about growing up in Communist China titled, Colors of the Mountain), loved my first book and we became close friends. His advice to me was that it’s important for an author to create a niche, a corner, so to speak, in the book world that’s all your own. For me, at that time, writing about the Iraq War seemed to work really well. Lines in the Sand was different from a lot of other memoirs about the Iraq War because it was epistolary and focused on how I evolved emotionally throughout the experience. But with Playing Soldier I wanted to broaden the scope. I wanted to write what could be considered a more conventional memoir. So while the Iraq War is a part of the story, an element of what transpires, it’s not entirely the focus. Essentially, it’s a self-realization story, how I found my way back to a true, original self after struggling with the influence of what society is always telling us we should be doing in order to be happy, to be comfortable, and to find meaning within ourselves.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
For me, it’s hard to say what’s unusual or usual with authors. Everyone has their own path through the creative forest. But I guess I would say that I tend to write in a circular way. I often begin with an idea, a chapter, a scene, whatever it might be, in the beginning of the narrative and come back to it in the end of the narrative.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
There are way too many to even begin to list here and each has provided me with valuable insight, often in ways I never imagined before. Off the top of my head, as far as authors go, I would say William Styron, Maya Angelou, Malcolm Braly, Margaret Laurence, Michael Herr, Flannery O’Connor, and Baron Wormser.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on my third memoir… while tinkering with a horror story idea.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Oh gosh. Every author I know isn’t fond of the marketing end of the business. I’m no exception. It’s often a daily struggle not to get lost at sea with all the other books out there. But I do my best with promotion on places such as Facebook or Goodreads, or any other avenue I can find. I’ve found that word-of-mouth can work well for me. Sometimes. You never know.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Keep writing. And no matter where your book lands, no matter how successful it might be, never lose sight of the fact that you did it. It’s your work. You finished it. You put it out there. Be proud of that, own it, and keep it safe in your heart. Then keep going. Book sales come and go, but the fact that you’re doing what you love can never be taken away.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
I’ve gotten a lot of advice over the years, but one of the best was a friend (and fellow author) lecturing me on what he calls, economy of language. Poetry uses this idea with imagery and feeling. It can be a very potent aspect to make your writing shine.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I want to finish my third memoir. Beyond that, I’m not sure. I might branch out and have some fun with horror.
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?
False Starts, Wild, Tom o’Vietnam, and The Magus. Are you sure I can’t bring more?