Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to Los Angeles for graduate school. I’ve been a house painter, wrote, produced, and/or directed low budget horror films, taught high school for many years, and have also been a life-long volunteer in areas that benefit young people, especially marginalized youth. I have nine books in print and have written five more that remain, as yet, unpublished.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Children of the Knight (and the rest of The Lance Chronicles series) was inspired by my years of work with gang-involved youth and incarcerated youth. Sadly, America continues to advance a one-size-must-fit-all agenda for children, and when the youth don’t fit into those pre-conceived molds they are kicked to the curb, thrown out of school, locked up in prison, or otherwise discarded. It’s this throwaway mentality and rigid thinking that is at the heart of the book. I’ve spent most of my life around youth that society disdains, and these kids have been among the most amazing, talented, insightful, and loving people on the planet. I hope readers will come to understand that these kids they read about in the media are misrepresented by preset agendas and that the media never presents the full story. I want readers to know these kids as I know them.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I listen to film score music while I’m conceiving and writing my books. Depending on the story and characters, I find film music in my vast collection that might be appropriate. But often, the film I choose would seem to have nothing in common with my story, but the music and the emotional weight that music carries fits perfectly with certain scenes or characters.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Stephen King would be one. I’ve read most of his books. He’s more nihilistic than I’ll ever be, but he has created some great stories over the years. I loved Mark Twain and William Shakespeare, even in high school, and I still do. Susan Cooper writes great books for kids that I’ve always loved. I also admire the world-building of J.K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series. Thomas Tryon’s The Other is one of those books that inspired me to become a writer because I found it so engrossing and cleverly written.
What are you working on now?
I’m revising two middle-grade books that I’ve completed. One is science fiction and the other an off-beat action adventure. I’m also writing a new horror thriller for the teen market.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Finish the book. That’s number one. Revise as many times as you can and don’t be afraid to cut scenes that slow down the pace or “tell” more than they “show.” Make sure to work with a professional editor to get the book into the best possible shape. Then find beta readers to give you feedback. After all that, it’s time to send out queries. I recommend #PitMad Twitter events. They are a quick way to put your story out to a number of agents and publishers.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
I’ve heard lots of good advice over the years, so it’s hard to pinpoint anything in particular, but I’ve always tried to live by this one: the best way to learn is by keeping your eyes, ears, and mind open and your mouth closed.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading a few manga series as new installments are released. My son and I are listening to Spaced Out, by Stuart Gibbs. It’s a middle-grade science fiction mystery.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I’m hoping to find a publisher for one or more of my new books. If not, I might self-publish.
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 Bible. A book on world history. The Neverending Story (by Michael Ende), The Other (by Thomas Tryon)