Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Well I’m a thirty year old gay man from Portland, Oregon; but I’m a transplant from Georgia. I’m a coffee addict, and believe that good beer is the nectar of the gods. I write full time, and live with my best friends and their kid, who is the most adorable baby this side of the international date line.
I’ve been writing since I was eight years old, but only started publishing at the beginning of 2015; I’ve published ten books, most of them erotica although my first novel, Rune & Claw, is LGBT urban fantasy. That one I’m expanding into a full length trade paperback after a bunch of fans browbeat me about it!
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
As of this interview, my latest book is All Grown Up. It was inspired by my own childhood; I had a cute step brother growing up that never really gave me the time of day. I took that idea and ran with it, and decided that two older brothers would have been even better than one!
I have been painfully shy and a little cynical pretty much my whole life, so most of my characters are inspired by that kind of social awkwardness. I love writing my characters as geeks, gamers, and social misfits of some kind.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don’t know how unusual it is, but my favorite puzzle game is Pokemon Puzzle League – it’s not as old school as Tetris but still really old at this point. I take breaks from writing to play a few rounds to kind of switch which side of my brain I’m utilizing. It helps keep me focused during my ten hour writing days. I’m kind of a workaholic, and have to find ways to keep myself from getting exhausted or burnt out.
Also, it’s not quite a habit, but I am an entirely ‘out’ erotica and romance author. Most of the authors in this genre that I know keep it on the ‘down low’ and make sure it’s separate from their other work. I intend to write everything I publish under Simon Strange, and I’m very transparent with my readers about myself and who I am. Mostly because building a persona for a pen name is exhausting!
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Well the first novel I read was The Hobbit, by, of course, Tolkien. After I read it, I wrote a sort of clone that was about twenty written pages long about a kid that meets a wizard at school and is taken on an adventure beyond the playground and meets dwarves, elves, and a dragon (but, a nice dragon; I was kind of disappointed that Smaug was a bad guy because I loved the idea of friendly dragons). He also found a magic bracelet that let him walk through walls. I was eight years old, and from that day forward I always wanted to be a writer. That story wasn’t nearly as dirty as my work is now! But for an eight year old it was pretty good.
What are you working on now?
Currently I’m working on a series called Sodom’s Sons, while I expand Rune & Claw into a full length novel. Sodom’s Sons takes place in the same world and is about two lovers cursed by a sorcerer at the fall of Sodom; Roland is immortal, and his love interest, Ian, is his lover from Sodom who is reborn each generation for Roland to find – but when they find one another, Ian only ever has a year to live. In this story, they get the chance to change that when the sorcerer that put the curse on them turns up in modern day Atlanta. It’s going to be a serial series in a unique format, with seasons kind of like a television show. There’s witches, vampires, oracles, and all sorts of other fun paranormal stuff. It’s launching with a platform modeled after the TV series format, called Romance Unlimited, along with series from six other really talented romance authors; I manage the website content.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I get every single book I write onto The Naughty List (www.naughtylistbooks.com) and Newotica (www.newotica.com). Of course Sodom’s Sons and any other serialized romance I write will go on Romance Unlimited (www.romanceunlimited.net) and I just found Awesomegang, so I’m super excited about that. I also manage to drive a lot of traffic to my own website, and highly recommend having a full website for any author out there.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Get Hemingway and ProWritingAid, they are the most invaluable tools for self-editing that I have ever encountered and they will drastically improve your writing; not just by helping you edit what you’ve written, but also by passively improving your writing style to be more readable, crisp, and succinct. Between those two, a regular spellcheck pass, and a final read to catch weird errors like misplaced words and homonyms, you’ll turn out some really well edited work.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
A slew of authors much older and wiser than I gave me advice when I was deciding whether to quit my day job and start writing full time. I had only published one book but it was selling pretty well and getting positive reviews. When I told them I wasn’t sure if I should commit full time and get these books written or rely on a full time day job and write in my spare time. All the authors under thirty suggested playing it safe and publishing slowly, rather than risking failure by going full time and flopping.
Every author over fifty read my book and then commanded me to follow my passion and live my dream. They reminded me that I was still young, and had time to recover if the worst should happen – but that I would regret taking the timid, safe path when I was older and trapped in a job I hated.
It boils down to this, told to me in a variety of ways: Dreams and Passions are worth following, because those are what will light up your life and give you lasting happiness and peace. Then accept that joy, be grateful, and keep living it until the end of your days. Always chase your Joy, not security, because security is never secure but Joy will always feed your soul.
I quit my job and started writing full time, and have been very successful, very quickly.
What are you reading now?
I just finished reading Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews. It was amazing! I drop everything to read their books (Ilona Andrews is a pen-name for a couple who write together). I will also drop everything to read any Dresden Files book.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Well I am of course expanding the first book of the Adam Saint Series to a full length (trade paperback length) novel, and I plan for that to be my first sort of ‘crowning achievement’. It’s an urban fantasy that features a gay hero whose character doesn’t revolve around him being gay. That’s way outside the typical mold for a hero in just about any genre and I got several hundred really inspiring emails and messages about it from readers all across the spectrum. So, I’m going to make that series the central focus of my career for the next few years. I’ll still publish lots of shorter romance and erotica, because writing that is definitely relaxing and fun, and of course I’ll be working with Romance Unlimited regularly for probably a very long time if it does as well as we all hope it will. But Urban Fantasy is my greatest love as a genre and I plan on shattering the mold of what a gay protagonist can be.
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?
I’m not super religious, but one book I would definitely bring is a copy of the Dhammapada – I can read passages from this Buddhist text over and over again forever and continue to get warm fuzzies from contemplating them.
I would take The Hobbit because even though I’ve read it hundreds of times since I was a child I can still enjoy reading it to this day.
I would take the first Adam Saint book, so that I could edit and re-edit and then edit again. By the time I left that island, or someone found my dead body, it would be a MASTERPIECE! Probably scrawled on palm leaves or something…
Finally… I would take Bear Grylls’ “Living Wild”. It’s an extreme survival guide. Seems smart.