Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’ve always been a voracious reader. In high school one of my English teachers encouraged us to enter a writing contest. Being an avid writer, I went home and started cranking out as many short stories as possible that met the word count requirement. After college, I collected twelve of these and more recent ones into a collection. My best friend from high school did the same. That was in 2009, and I have not published a traditional book since then. However, I’ve written 10 short stories since then, and I’ve been self-publishing them individually as ebooks. So the answer to that question is literally, “one and a second on the way,” but if you google me you’ll find over twenty individual titles attributed to me, many of them available on the web for free.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My most recent short story is called “The Flying Kite.” Although I have been loose with the facts and changed names and dates to avoid copyright violation, this story was inspired by actual events. Adjacent to where I work is a basement littered floor to ceiling with “antiques” (aka junk). Among the wreckage is a shelf of National Geographic magazines dating back to 1924. They’re fun to peek through. In one 1970s issue, I read the story of a man who set out to walk from the northernmost foothills of the Andes in South America to the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego. His wife joined him on part of the trip, but died in an accident. The interviewer asked if he intended to continue, and he said yes. Internet searches, trips to the library, and perusals of future issues turned up nothing for me in the way of a followup or resolution to this story. Naturally, as a fiction writer, I took it upon myself to invent the rest of his story.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don’t think so, no. I’m fairly geeky so I use some obscure tools like GitHub, Markdown, and Calibre for my writing, but these digital days, I don’t think that’s all that unusual.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
That’s easy. Atlas Shrugged. Fahrenheit 451, Music of the Spheres, Ender’s Game, Slaughterhouse Five, Lord of the Flies, The Crucible, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Jungle, The Miracle Worker, Free Culture. I’m sure there are more but I have not read them yet! I usually like “modern classics,” that is, 19th and 20th century writers like John Steinbeck and Walt Whitman who managed to lodge themselves in history books and win Pulitzers and Nobels. More recently, I’ve discovered Steven Pinker and a slew of short story authors like Nancy Huddleston Packer, Julie Orringer, and Jhumpa Lahiri.
What are you working on now?
I have one short I’m actively working on. “Poinsettias” came as an anecdote about a real person. Two more, “Courthouse Wedding” and “Shelter” are ideas related to my wedding. One is based loosely on my actual wedding, the other inspired by a dream. Those will put me at 13 new short stories. Once I get to 12, I plan on publishing them as a collection, probably in the fall of 2016. I’m also kicking around some ideas about the Civil War, so I’ve started reading up on my history and trying to become a subject matter expert so I can write some historical fiction about that.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
To be honest, I haven’t quite figured that out yet. The internet is changing far faster than it’s possible to learn. The coolest website I’ve gotten on since Amazon and Facebook is definitely Goodreads.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Find a good day job. Harsh advice, but that’s what I’ve got for you. If you aspire to be a writer, you’re probably imagining yourself in a villa in the south of France pounding away at a typewriter, with an agent begging you for a manuscript so you can tour the world giving speeches and book signings. For me, writing is a business, a very low-paying side job. I don’t do it for the fame or the money, but to create a legacy. No one will remember the products of my day job, but that’s where I get the capital to run my side business without a handout from anyone. The products of my side job (my stories) are how I hope to be remembered. Sure, I dream of that villa too, but I’m willing to take the long road to get there, so that hopefully, that will be me at 60. But as a young person, I have to focus a lot of my time on a valuable career, and throwing myself headlong into that writing dream means begging for recognition and waiting for a big break. If you want total creative control, then get your non-writing life in order, use it to fund your writing life, and learn to market and manage yourself as a small business owner.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
“Make a list of everything you want now, and then spend the next twenty-five years of your life getting it, slowly, piece by piece.” ~ de Niro’s character from “The Score.”
What are you reading now?
That’s a very quickly moving target. Right now it’s Simon Singh’s “Fermat’s Enigma.” Sunday, it was Gerald Brittle’s “The Demonologist.” By the time this interview is posted on line, it will probably Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis.”
What’s next for you as a writer?
I’m going to keep cranking out short stories, probably until the day I die. I have some story ideas relating to the Civil War, about five so far. I’ve been reading many books on the topic lately, trying to become a subject matter expert before tackling those ideas. That might come to fruition as a kind of “special issue” or themed collection, I don’t know. What’s imminent is taking my 10 newest stories, getting to 12, and releasing another collection, probably called something simple like “Gingerbread and Other Stories,” or “The Gingerbread Collection.” Not sure yet. I guess I’d better start thinking of a title!
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?
Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden,” Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” and David Deutsch’s “The Fabric of Reality.”