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How do you get your story ideas?
Story ideas are all around you. The initial idea for opening “The Militant Genome” came while I took my own Advanced Trauma Life Support credentialing course. Then, a newspaper article on militias in the Ozarks caught my attention. The two ideas came together to form the skeleton of the novel. A number of articles on the creative process have presented the idea that we are often most creative when most relaxed. I’ve personally found that to be true in that ideas seem to flow more easily while taking a warm shower, or in that near sleep period just prior to waking up. In fact, if I’m really stuck on how to proceed with a story, I usually come up with the solution while lying in bed just before getting up in the morning.
More recently, my ideas have come from news reports on issues that I see as injustices to the victims. Those victims might be young women who are trapped in the human trafficking industry, or families torn apart by the state which takes away children without giving due process to the parent(s). In the latter, most of those parents are never even charged with a crime.
Which authors do you personally like?
My wife and I read a lot of different authors, but we are partial to edge-of-the-seat thrillers and good suspense, and tend to enjoy the same authors. Among our favorites, in no particular order, are Tess Gerritsen, Brad Thor, Steve Berry, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Michael Palmer, Daniel Silva, and James Patterson (although not his apprentices so much). And of course, our year wouldn’t be complete without a dose of Janet Evanovich humor with Stephanie Plum.
What best describes your writing habits?
Habit might be the wrong word here, at least for now. My writing schedule is totally erratic. There are days where no writing gets done. Some days I’ll get a page or two written, but if I have a scene (or more) clearly “mapped out” in my head, I might crank out ten to fifteen pages in a day. In the summer, less writing gets done than in the colder months. One factor to keep in mind is that I’m not yet a full-time author and I have no publishing company harping on me to keep to a schedule, so any pressure I feel to write is self-inflicted. Still, I’d like to be able to produce a book a year and I can do that despite my erratic writing schedule.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
It sounds trite, but read a lot and start writing. Often, it’s a matter of overcoming the inertia that has kept you from writing to begin with. Writing well is hard work and requires that you have a level of passion to keep it up, which is easier if you write about things you know. Writing is also a craft and any craft takes time to learn. Go to seminars, join critique groups, and read instructional books to learn the craft.
Why did you opt to self-publish electronically, rather than go the traditional route of finding an agent and publisher?
To be honest, I spent years trying to go the “traditional route,” having felt that being accepted by a major publisher somehow validated my work. There was also a stigma attached to self-publishing that implied poor quality. (That stigma is becoming less and less as high quality writing is becoming more common in self-published works.) I diligently sent out queries, filed away the rejections, and kept hoping for ‘that break.’ With “The Militant Genome” I received numerous replies that it was “a great book … but not for us.” My editor believed in the book and bent over backwards to put me in contact with agents he knew. Same replies. As a Christian, I firmly believe God’s Word when He says He’ll bless the work of our hands. I kept wondering why it wasn’t happening. Then, our Pastor said something during a sermon that released me to take the plunge into self-publishing. To paraphrase his comments to my specific situation, who was going to get the ‘glory’ when my book succeeded, a publishing company, or God? I’d been holding Him back by waiting for a publisher to take on my work. It was time to move ahead and give Him the glory.
Okay, why the cliffhanger ending in “Looks that Deceive?”
I’ve been asked this several times, and I’ve been hesitant to answer in an open forum without some formal spoiler alert. Let me just say that the cliffhanger was never intended at the beginning of the writing process. I had an idea for a plot. My editor liked the idea and I decided to incorporate it into book 2, “Rescued and Remembered.” The only way it could happen was to have the cliffhanger ending in book 1. Some think it was a marketing ploy, but that was never really a consideration. In fact, in hindsight, it’s been a negative factor in marketing. Yet, it is what it is now.
Will we ever learn which guy Amy ends up with?
Sure, at some point. This is a series and not everything is going to resolve in the first few books. Did Castle win over Beckett in the series premiere? Did Harry Potter overcome his parents’ enemy in the first book? So, yes, the love interest will resolve, eventually. No spoilers here.