Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Currently, I work in the marketing department for a furniture company. Thank God, marketing is my ticket out of a long run of customer service and manual labor. I am a father, a husband, a bicyclist. I’ve always been a writer. I write mostly short stories of nonfiction humor. Though, depending on how depressed I get, also work on rhyme and meter poetry and a novel I’m kicking around. So far, I’ve written this book, Luck Favors The Prepared. But I also have two books of poetry in the hopper that I’ll publish, some day. I’m currently working on my second, larger collection of short stories. These will be both nonfiction and fiction stories.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is titled Luck Favors The Prepared. It was inspired by life, really. Which makes sense for a collection of nonfiction. All these stories I’ve either told numerous times, in various forms around dinner tables or at work. I was often criticized for talking too much at work. I guess that’s fair. I knew we weren’t supposed to talk but when you work some of the jobs as awful as the jobs I’ve worked you tend to disregard a no-talking policy and talk anyway. When I finally committed to getting these stories down on paper, naturally, they all took a drastically different form. Which is okay. I’m just glad I got them out and onto paper. They are hilarious and heartbreaking stories. I love them very much and am glad I can finally divorce myself from them and send them out to the world.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Being a writer is tricky business. It doesn’t mix well with being a father, or a husband activities which are daily priorities that over take any available time I may have to work on writing. There is much to do, since writing is not just about writing and editing. It’s about writing blogs to engage an audience, newsletters to further engage an audience, bloggers to contact and several social media platforms to fill with interesting material that further engages an audience. It is easy to become disheartened. Especially when the response for most every effort is silence. Even getting friends and family to take a look at your book is mysteriously challenging. All this is context to some of the peculiarities I’ve developed as an author. I work strange hours, when everyone is asleep. Either terribly early in the morning or late into the evening, or catch-as-catch-can when the daughter is sleeping (she is sleeping now, after throwing an incredible fit). But also, I have my daily schedule rigidly structured between creative time in the morning. That’s time I allow myself to work on just the writing (short stories and whatnot) and any other time is for editing, promotion, engagement, newsletters, blog posts, mailings, social media etc. I think I prefer to have my creative time reserved for the morning simply because I’m so terribly tired. Fatigue is a tool. I use fatigue the same way others use alcohol or drugs to get work done, as a device to break down the barriers of ego. If that sounds strange, that is okay. Think of it like this: it’s hard to be self conscious about anything when you’re that desperately tired, or drunk or high. And so, writing comes much easier. And then I save the edits for when I’m a little more crispy, and awake.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I adore most every author I’ve read. There are very few writers I have not enjoyed. Kirt Vonnegut, David Sedaris, Joan Didion, Alice Munro and Pat Conroy. Their ability to weave a yarn, to tell a story and, in the background, construct a larger narrative, is always fascinating for me. The best example I can think of is Galapagos, by Kurt Vonnegut. Galapagos is a seeming pastiche of interconnected lives and events all tossed together pell-mell. It is not sloppy, the stories intertwine in a very focused direction and pace, but the larger narrative doesn’t become apparent until about 3/4 of the way through the book when you realize everything has been meticulously mapped out, culminating in a precise unfolding of events, tight as clockwork. By the end of the book, it is not hard to see how it was accomplished, indeed, you just read the book. It’s all right there for the study. But to understand how it was created, mapped out and then chilled out, is breathtaking. It is awesome and terribly inspiring. I don’t think I’ll ever be that good of a writer, but that’s okay. Why try to be the next Vonnegut when we already had a Vonnegut. Isn’t one enough? Indeed, I may take a swipe at his craft or process, but with the very real, practical acceptance that I can’t ever be that great. All I want to do is tell a good story. To talk about real life and hopefully, capture a universal moment that anyone can enjoy and contemplate.
What are you working on now?
Currently I’m switching back and forth between my second collection of short stories and a novel. I have no idea how I’m ever going to finish them. They are both such monumental undertakings. But then, so was my first book. So I figure, if I just keep working on them, eventually they’ll begin to take shape. Both works are a bit of a departure from Luck Favors The Prepared. The novel is fiction, and it is mostly not-funny but sad and a little horrifying. The second collection of short stories, while mostly non-fiction and humor, is also bound with many fiction stories. While Luck Favors The Prepared was an exercise in peeling apart the minutiae and the mundane, both these works examine more sweeping narratives and themes.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Twitter and instagram, hands down. The author website, while a prerequisite to promoting your book, is rarely used. It is a good place to host a blog and to provide all the information anyone who’d want to know anything about you can go and read to their hearts content. But as far as promotion, it is rarely used. The most effective methods I’ve found are those that require little or no commitment from anyone who happens to come across them. This is why both Instagram and Twitter are so effective. Neither platforms offer very much and neither platforms require very much. And so the confines of Twitter and Instagram are highly restrictive, you must be very careful and selective about what you post. It is important to stay on brand, otherwise everything turns into chaos. It can be just as detrimental to mysteriously switching your voice in the middle of a novel for no reason or discernable effect. It is lazy and clumsy to post off-brand, so you can’t just post for posting sake. Your content has to be purposeful, timely but most of all, fun and interesting. And a key element: you should never talk about yourself more than 25% of the time. The rest of social participation should be sharing and engagement, which is very time consuming and oddly, not what you’d expect to devote most of your time to as a writer. It’s like how being a musician, is 25% writing and playing music and 75% auto repair since the life of a musician is always plagued by car trouble (tour vans always breaking down etc).
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Work. Work your ass off. Through all this work keep these truths front and center: nobody cares about your writing, nobody has the time to read what you write, you have no right to write but you’re a writer so you need to write anyway. Don’t quit your day job and don’t ignore your partner (husband, wife etc). Recognize that hundreds if not thousands of books are published every day. That’s pretty grim when you’re trying to gauge the competition you’re up against. It’s not about standing out from the crowd, it’s about curating your own little niche in a sea of anonymity, so that, should anybody stumble over you and your weird little world, they should find a universe of fascinating, illuminating and thoughtful things. They should be surprised and delighted. They should feel as if they stumbled over buried treasure in a wasteland. If you are doomed to remain undiscovered, at least, for a fleeting moment, you got to create a universe. That is not in vain and it is not useless. It is a beautiful thing.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
“Look up!” This is what my sister told me on a very long, very difficult hike through Yosemite National Park. It was hiking advice, but I seem to have made it a motto that applies to everything in life. She was chiding me for always looking at my feet. Indeed, the ground was uneven and my footing was clumsy and unsure and I was desperately tired and heaving for air. She was giving me a hard time for failing to take in the scenery all around me (Yosemite is bucolic after all, it was a shame to miss even a second of it). And she was right, every time I looked up… BOOM. There was Yosemite National Park, in all its stunning glory. It was quite a vision. Over the years I’ve grown to adopt this as a charge to all things, to always look up. This gives meaning and purpose to all things, no matter how seeming futile or useless. Life is brimming with futility and uselessness and meaninglessness and everything that begs us to give up. So when I used to work as a machine operator, and I hated my work, I would every day remind myself of my sisters very sage advice. To look up. Because you never know what you may find and the chances are pretty good, you’ll find something fascinating. And if when you look up, or shoulder into uselessness and futility and you don’t find anything fascinating there, congratulations, you’re that much more acquainted with heartbreak and disappointment. Think of this interview, for example. How many people are going to find it. And of those people, how many people are going to chow through the lengthy answers I’ve provided here. Probably not many. But is it all useless? Is it all in vain? As I’ve been writing, I’ve been copy/pasting my answers into a Google doc that I can use later to write a blog post where I pretend I’ve been interviewed. This I will edit a little closer than I’ve had the ability to edit here (no toolbar) and use to promote my blog and website at a later date. So yes. While this interview is an exercise in vain futility, if you take a moment, and look closer, you’ll eventually see the value and usefulness and necessity in not just this one thing, but in everything we do.
What are you reading now?
Role Models: John Waters
The Death of Santini: Pat Conroy
Dear Life: Alice Munro
Annihilation: Jeff VanderMeer
Daredevils: Shawn Vestal
One More Thing: B. J. Novak
What’s next for you as a writer?
More work, and lots of it. Eventually I will die alone. I hope, before then, I get a lot done and I get to live a long life with my wife and daughter. As a writer, I hope to finish the first three chapters of this novel so I can begin shopping it around to agents. Meanwhile, I will continue writing and editing this second collection of short stories. Far off, in the future, maybe I’ll publish the works of poetry. It seems unlikely though. Not many people are interested in poetry. Which is fine.
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?
Golly. The desert island question. I guess Galapagos, Infinite Jest, The Bible and the complete collection of Calvin and Hobbes