Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
During the past four years, I have published one novel entitled THE RELUCTANT GENERAL. I have also written two novels in the detective/mystery genre and have three other novels “in the works.” I started writing at the young age of 65 after a lengthy career as a college professor at three colleges in the southeast. My fields of study include the theatrical arts, speech communication, and Christian theology. I hold graduate degrees in all of those areas. In addition to the novels, I’ve written two academic oriented books on theater history and religious drama. While studying at LSU, I had the privilege of being under the tutelage of Professor Euba, an amazing dramatic writer and teacher. He is the one who inspired me to write the plays, screenplays, and novels that I have worked on during the past fifteen years.
I grew up in the South Norfolk area of the City of Chesapeake, Virginia, across the river from Norfolk. I received my undergraduate education at McNeese State and then graduated from Arkansas State University. That’s when I spent a year in Vietnam as an infantry second lieutenant. Then I used the GI bill to study at Memphis State University where I completed the M.A. I have a tough yet wonderful life as a teacher, professor, and as a chaplain in the army reserves. Perhaps I have had two lifetimes worth of experiences, or maybe I’m just a Type A personality and have accomplished a great deal. Either way, I love my life and look forward to the many years left ahead.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
January, 2014, Westbow Press released my first novel, a fictionalized version of the story of Deborah and Barak from the biblical book of the Judges. That book has been one of my favorites for many years, so it seemed natural that when my wife suggested that I should use my theological training (I hold the M.Div. and D.Min. degrees from two seminaries) for story ideas, that I should turn to that book for my stories. THE RELUCTANT GENERAL was so much fun to write that I have already started another story from that same biblical source.
I have pictured Barak as a man who had all the abilities and background to lead an army against the oppressive Canaanites of that day. But, he also had his doubts about both his abilities and the abilities of his fellow Israelites. The story is written from his point of view, as opposed to other books based on this same story. I also picture Deborah as a woman totally freed from the traditions and expectations for women of that day. I visualize her as being a strong and highly skilled warrior capable of leading the army herself. But, I also see her as smart enough to know that the men of that day would never have followed the leadership of a woman. So, she uses Barak as her front-man. However, I have him develop as a man (and as a fictional character) into a strong leader who eventually takes the Israelite army to a total victory over their enemy in such a way as to end their very existence as a people.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don’t know what usual writing habits are. So it’s hard to answer this question. I’ve read several books on writing, including my favorite, The Successful Novelist by David Morrell. I can’t say I follow his suggestions much at all. But, I do know myself well enough that I have been able to carve out time in a very busy schedule to write the several hundred thousands of words I’ve written since 2010. I start with a rough outline so that I know where I am going. Then I start down that path and work in a few detours along the way. The I do a lot of rewriting. I don’t think that’s so unusual, so I guess I don’t really have any “unusual writing habits.”
What authors, or books have influenced you?
In 2010, I attended a writers conference in Boca Raton, Florida where David Morrell was one of the featured writers and speakers. I sat in on all his sessions and even had a chance to dialogue with him on his writing. I bought his book The Successful Writer which he signed for me. I treasure that experience and recognize that he gave me some inspiration to write. But, my professor at LSU also encouraged me to write more. He recognized a talent within me and pushed me to write. I remember the lessons I learned under him and have used those to help in the formation of my stories.
Although I have never met him, I believe that James Patterson has also had an influence on my writing. I’ve read many of his books–some I loved; some I hated. But, from him I learned to simply write what I want to write, let it go, and then start another. He helped me to understand the principle of living in the now while planning for the future and learning from the past. So I don’t regret anything I’ve done, said, or written. I’ve simply learned the lessons I needed to and moved on. I believe that understanding about life is a major theme in my books.
Finally, I must say that my wife and daughter have also been major influences in my writing. They both are avid readers and master editors. No book gets out of the house without their okay: I guess that’s influence.
What are you working on now?
At present, I am in the editing phase of two murder mysteries set in the city of Key West, Florida. These will be the first two in a series of at least five novels written around the same retired NYPD detective. I am also writing a second novel based on a story from the biblical book of the Judges. Plus, at the insistence of my screenwriting students over the past several years, I am also working on a non-fiction “how to” book on writing the dramatic story for stage, screen, and novel. I have no clue where that will end up, but it’s been fun developing the ideas. Sometimes I think the project has been more about me developing and working through my own thoughts on how I should develop and write my own stories. I understand that above all else, I am a teacher. So, perhaps the book may be an encouragement and inspiration for writers in the future.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
This question pin-points the bane of all self-published and independent authors. I have no “best method” right now. I’m still experimenting with my first book. I’m also devouring everything I can on the topic of marketing and promotion. Sales are not big (whatever that means) at present. But people are buying, reading, and commenting on it. So I cannot complain.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Advice for new authors. Wait a minute, I am a new author! I need advice–ASAP. Well, actually, I think anyone who wants to be a writer must first of all write. If something worth publishing results, then deal with the issue of getting the book out then. While I was writing THE RELUCTANT GENERAL I had no clue what should happen next. I knew I had something that other people should read–and that’s all. This is not an easy business to be in. I’m just happy that I have a day job (right now until I retire in 2015) so that I do not need the income from book sales to survive. Perhaps that’s a key to getting started.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
If you are not writing, then you are not a writer. So don’t worry about how to sell your books. If you believe that you are a writer, it’s probably because you are already writing a great deal and probably have a book ready to be read by others.
What are you reading now?
I keep reading and re-reading The Bible. I also continue to re-read Morrell’s book on writing. Here is a list of books I’m currently reading for the first time:
K. M. Weiland, Outlining Your Novel
Martin R. Philips, Ancient Greece
Roger Colby, Come Apart
Karl Wiggins, Calico Jack: In Your Garden
James D. Shipman, Constantinopolis
What’s next for you as a writer?
I’ll be retiring from teaching the middle of 2015. So, my plan is to change from teaching full time to writing full time. Oh, my wife wants to do some traveling. So, I figure I can have fun with her and write at the same time. WooHoo!!!
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?
The Complete Works of Shakespeare
The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection