I was born in Texas. I went to the University of California at San Diego and now reside in San Francisco. Send More Idiots is my 2nd novel (Pac Heights, 2013)
1.What got you into writing / what made you sit down and actually start something? I was a journalist straight out of college, so that was a great way to learn the mechanics of writing and researching a story. It was especially good for learning how to set a scene and weave background info into a story. But—if you’re doing your job correctly—journalism really limits where you can go with a story based upon the facts. I wanted to take my stories to that next level where although you couldn’t prove the details, it seemed like a likely (and entertaining) outcome. I guess I just got sick of sticking to the facts.
2.What is a usual writing day like for you, how is it structured? I like to write 2,000 words first thing in the morning. It’s an arbitrary figure I picked up from Stephen King, but it seems like a good chunk of text to go for. When I get started, those 2,000 words take all day, but once the book gets cooking and the characters start talking on their own, I can knock out 2,000 words in a couple hours. Then it’s about staying out of trouble for the rest of the day.
3.Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? I’ve been lucky so far and haven’t hit the wall when actually writing a book. Now that doesn’t mean I haven’t spent months waffling and agonizing about how to start a book, but once I get moving, it tends to go pretty well.
4.Are you a plotter or panster when it comes to writing a story? I’m working on a new book which has a lot of characters and plotlines, and I’ve found it helpful to have scene “hits” for each character lined up on their own color-coded index cards. Once I hit the specific scene, I can take the card down from the wall. That being said, I think Annie Lamont had the best advice about writing a novel. She said it’s like driving across the country at night; you can only see the 100-yards ahead of you illuminated by your headlights, but if you know where you’re going, you will make it.
5.Are you traditionally or self-published, and what was the publishing process like for you? Any advice to aspiring authors? I self-published these first two books after several years depending upon my (former) agent to get the books sold. In the end, I was writing at a pretty good clip, so I figured there was no use in keeping these books in the drawer. The goal of writing is to be read, right? Still, my agent deserves credit for making me re-write everything 50 times so it was the best it could be. I guess that’s the advice to other writers, especially if they are going to self-publish: Take the time to make it right. There’s nothing worse than sending your book to press and then seeing that a typo slipped in or that a bit of dialogue could’ve been easily tightened up. I completely understand the excitement of wanting to get that book out there in the world, but a book is going to (hopefully) live forever; a few extra days or weeks spent making it really right are worth delaying the print.
6.What has been your highlight since becoming a published author? I just came off my first real book tour. It was pretty scary showing up to these signing with 30 books thinking that I was going to leave at the end of the night with 28 after my second cousin bought two, but we sold out at each stop. It was really a dream come true. The problem with having a dream come true is that it then becomes reality, and reality is never as exciting as the fantasy. There’s a famous baseball player named Tony Gwynn who said it the best: “As soon as you think you’re where you want to be, you’re not there anymore.” I need to work harder at appreciating the moment and not rushing off to the next goal. Easier said than done.
7.Can you share a little of your most recent book with us? And any other books of yours, if you wish. The new novel is titled Send More Idiots. My first novel,Pac Heights, came out in 2013.
8.What audience is your book targeted for, and what genre does it come under? Send More Idiots is a black comedy / mystery. Think the Coen Brothers meet Elmore Leonard on the Mexican border and you’ll have a pretty good idea what you’re in store for.
9.Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time? I work a 45-hour a week job in a completely unrelated field. Another great piece of advice from an author whose name escapes me is “A writer’s first job is to get a job.” I tried at first to have writing be my end-all, be-all, and I pretty much went bonkers. Like I said earlier, usually once I get going I can knock out 2,000 words by 11am, so that would leave me the rest of the day to get into trouble. Trust me, nothing good happens after 11am.
10.What tip would you give to new authors when trying to build a fan-base / get followers and market their books? (What to do and what not to do.) Write a good book that resonates with people. I’ve had pretty good luck building a fan base through signings, PR and social media, but I think that in the end people have to actually read the thing and like it to keep the book alive and selling.
11.How much of your books are realistic / based on true experiences/ people?Coming from that journalism background, it really helps me as the writer to have some solid details from which to build from. I like to start off with facts [about the setting, the people, their jobs, etc] to build trust with the reader, and once they figure out I know what I’m writing about, then they’ll follow me into the speculative stuff. This idea also come from Stephen King. He said that if you’re going to write a story about a spaceship, have a character on-board be a plumber. The details of the plumber’s job will anchor the story with relatable details, and then once you’ve established that, you can go off and start the laser war with the 7th Alien Calvary of the Phantom Moon and the reader will follow along.
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