Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I grew up in Buffalo, New York, and this left an indelible mark on me, both positively and negatively. I went off to college in Maine and fell in love with the place, so I never really left. I was an elementary/middle school teacher for twenty years, but I decided in 2014 that my teaching tank was empty. Since I’d been writing every morning and evening for all of the time and my laptop was brimming with finished and unfinished manuscripts, it seemed a natural progression to take my energy and tackle these full-time. I’ve been doing that ever since. Over the course of the last four years, I have published four books – three with the local independent press Maine Authors Publishing (http://maineauthorspublishing.com) and one with Black Rose Writing (http://www.blackrosewriting.com). I miss my students, but I have never been happier doing what I’m doing. I am going to keep at it as long as I can. I live on an island off the coast of Maine with my wife, our two daughters, and our dog Twilight, and I run charters and camps from my lobsterboat in the summers.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Sweating Through came out in August 2018, and it is the sequel to my first book, Hauling Through. I was very proud of the abrupt ending of that story, but friends and family were not. They did not like my ending at all. To make them stop sending me angry emails, I wrote a sequel of the story that takes place ten years after the original and with an ending that appeased these passionate readers.
Where Eagles Dare Not Perch came out in July 2018, and it is a historical fiction about the Civil War. This story took shape while volunteering in our island history museum (https://www.fifthmainemuseum.org). Inside the main hall, the portraits of the veterans of the Civil War look down at us. I began to wonder how those men went and lived through the horrors of war, yet came home to Maine to be our mayors, senators, shoe workers, farmers, and fishermen. We now have modern wars to demonstrate the damages these conflicts do to the young people fighting in them, but what do we know/believe as true about the veterans of these historic wars?
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I am a morning person. For years, I was awake at four in the morning to spend a few hours before work to write. Once I had kids, this luxury wasn’t possible, so I turned to writing on the twenty minute ferry boat ride to and from our island. I put on headphones and listen to music as I write to help me focus and drown out the background noises. Usually, the music has to be familiar so I don’t listen too closely to it. However, the types of music are equally important. Truth be told, Rage Against the Machine was the band I listened to the most during the writing of the Civil War book – it definitely sets a mood.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I like to say that, as a reader and a writer, I am stuck between Kurt and Cormac. I love the zaniness and humor of Kurt Vonnegut, but I also cannot get enough of the dark and literary Cormac McCarthy. As I’ve been putting words to paper these four years, I’ve begun to try to meld these world more and more. In other words, there is the chance to be telling a silly story that has either a hidden or invisible darkness to it or be telling a gruesome tale that is damn funny.
What are you working on now?
I have discovered that I’m not really in charge – the manuscripts call to me to work on them. I was all set to begin a new write that is supposed a serious YA book, but a far more silly story jumped up and got my attention. The tricky part of this is that I do not think this work will ever see the light of day. I’ve gotten in the habit of attempting to write books that I would love to read, but won’t ever get published. With the shackles of trying to conform the story to the somewhat narrow confines of a legitimate story removed, I find such creative freedoms and energies. I will finish it, but then turn that new sense of excitement and enthusiasm onto the YA story that is just waiting patiently for me.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Actually, there are too many options out there for this. I did not know about Awesome Gang until Black Rose Writing put me onto it. I had no idea it was out there. I think this is both the greatest and most challenging aspect to promotion – you may not be aware of the tools before you because the selection is so great it can blind you. Promotion is not easy or quick, but there seems to be a balance between the creativity of writing and using creative ways to get that writing out there. I am still working on that balance.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
No. I don’t think that I can tell anyone how or how not to do something. I can share my own pathway, but that doesn’t represent anyone but me. However, the age-old mantras are all true: just do it (If you love writing, just write, write, write!), never give up (We are our own worst critics; silence your inner negativity and let your creative voice be what it is without judgment.), and it takes a little, done a lot, to accomplish your goals (I wrote forty minutes a day as a teacher, and that was surprisingly enough time to compose entire manuscripts. I’m told that a similar strategy works for cleaning the basement, but I have yet to try this because it still seem too overwhelming). Know thyself – if you want to write, be true to yourself and your passions.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
To pat yourself on the shoulder every so often. We humans tend to not self-congratulate or self-reward ourselves nearly enough. Stop for a moment and look at whatever you’ve accomplished – be it a sentence, paragraph, chapter, or manuscript – and take the time to say, good job, to yourself. Then either keep going, start editing, or go a different direction. But take the time to acknowledge that you just did something that a multitude of people on this planet want to do, but never do.
What are you reading now?
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. It’s been on my shelf for years and friends have recommended it, but I have picked other titles to dive into. I am really enjoying it. I am a happy carnivore and I don’t want to be swayed away from meat by the horrors of the butchering process, but so far this book is about the human story of the Lithuanians immigrants, who are representative of all people who come to a new place to start a new beginning, and that is grabbing my interest.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I am going to keep on keeping on. I want to make a living writing, but I won’t be able to do that unless I keep working on my craft and getting books out there that people might want to read. I have a dream, now I just need to make it come true.
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 Road by Cormac McCarthy – perhaps not the feel-good story for such a dire situation, but the hopelessness that is generated by McCarthy’s words is unparalleled. Because it haunts me like it does, it is my favorite piece of literature.
The River Run Through It by Norman Maclean – this story is in a collection of his short stories, and it is so beautiful in its language and it honesty, I find myself thinking about it at the weirdest of times. Plus, Maclean was an English teacher with an infinite amount of writing skills, yet he only wrote two works that I am aware of. Quality over quantity, but I so wish there were more.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut – this is the type of book I would love to create one day. How this author can make me laugh and then cry between paragraphs is still a magical mystery to me. Although there are great humorous writers like Tom Robbins or Thomas Pynchon, Vonnegut continues to be so simplistic, so pure, I find reading his books a revelation each time I pull a well-loved copy off my bookshelf.