I am an audio dramatist and love the medium. I enjoy all kinds of stories that are driven by dialogue, sound, and music. For about five years I produced a zombie horror serial called HG World which told the story of a diverse group of survivors and my favorite part was developing the voice of each character and how they were able to weave exposition into action and natural conversation.
While HGW was horror, I also love the pulp adventure stories, noir and hard-boiled crime tales, westerns, and character-driven genre fiction.
I spent the better part of the last three years researching social interaction and group behaviors in virtual worlds and interviewing long-term, hard-core residents of those worlds to learn why they “escape” into these worlds. The result of this is a novel series that follows in the style of Neal Stephenson and Ernest Cline echoing the hard-boiled style of Raymond Chandler and the fun of Gregory MacDonald’s Fletch series.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I really can’t remember. There’s a photograph of me in 1982 with a Smith-Corona typewriter. I remember being able to make that beast sound like a machine gun (with a cow bell signaling to change the magazine). I was 11 and translating my Dungeons & Dragons adventures into stories and writing dungeon crawls for my friends. Later, I’d write plots for Call of Cthulhu, RIFTS, and Marvel Super-Heroes. I wrote weird, little stories in different genres as I grew more confident in building a story structure and dialogue independent of role-playing games. When those stories started making people laugh or react the way I intended (especially girls) it was a great feeling. I just kept writing.
What do you consider the most influential book you've ever read?
There are several books that influenced me or changed how I write. Growing up, I was inspired by the Choose Your Own Adventure books and Encyclopedia Brown series. I read a lot of short stories and loved the usual gallery of great, dead white men like Bradbury, Poe, Bierce, Lovecraft, Ellison. I consumed every Arch Oboler, Orson Welles, Jack Webb, and Carlton Morse story I could find from radio’s golden age. Hunter Thompson’s work inspired me as a teenager as did Somerset Maugham’s “The Razor’s Edge” – both igniting a political and spiritual exploration beyond the fantasy worlds I hid inside most of the time. Harry Turtledove’s alternate histories turned me on to that subgenre as much as Shea & Wilson’s “The Illuminatus! Trilogy” blew me away in terms of sheer weirdness. Of every author I’ve ever read? Douglas Adams remains the one who inspires me most. His humor and his wordplay are like great jazz or psychedelic rock symphonies. His satire, humor, and optimism inspire me
What other authors are you friends with, and how have they helped you become a better writer?
Sheesh. I’ve been friends with Keith DeCandido for a number of years and he has taught me a lot about what it takes to dedicate yourself to a profession. There’s a lot of work involved in not only producing the word count and telling a great story, but getting it and one’s self out into the market and building relationships with readers. Podcasting and social media have brought me together with many writers, all of whom I've learned from. Without naming names, I would love to steal the talent or work ethic of at least three of them.
Dirk Maggs is an audio dramatist I’ve come to really admire as a person and a professional. His writing is what inspired me to pursue audio productions where I have the most fun. His interpretations of Superman and Batman for radio were exceptional in terms of writing and production and I cannot think of someone better suited to continue Douglas Adams’ radio adventures. He taught me different tricks how to tell a visual story with sound.
My fellow students from Seton Hill University - I learned as much (if not more) from them than the actual program. It is such a diverse, generous group of writers in various stages of a professional career. The instructors are working authors as are the administrators so this isn't just an English course taught by career academics, the people I've come to call my friends in the program have experienced every kind of challenge and failure in the industry.
What’s the best way you've found to market your books?
Even if you are represented by an agent and published by an established house, you will still need to market yourself through creative opportunities. Marketing should be part of your budget and that budget should be tied to specific expectations. Even when you buy business cards, consider how many sales it will take to offset that cost, who should get those cards, and what you will get in return for using them.
While you, the writer, are a great human person you are also a “brand” representing an ever-growing line of products. Who is your author brand? That’s a complex question unless you are the brand you present to the world.
Network. Go to conventions to learn from writers. Engage in workshops. Get your work out there. If you have a story you’re excited about but isn’t finding a publication that fits, consider sharing it with people as a sample of your work.
Have a simple but attractive web site with key information that makes it exciting and EASY for a visitor to learn about and then buy your products. Keep it up to date with your appearances, releases, and other writerly things. Provide value in the form of tips for writers, reviews, blog posts – anything to encourage repeat visitors and build your audience.
Get to know convention programming directors and try to get added to the guest lists. Even small cons can earn you a few new readers and fans. Build your public speaking skills because that’s what will help you market.
Keep writing. Even when you can’t write. Write something. Research. Imagine new ways to tell your stories. Take risks. Don’t give up when all the voices inside and outside your head are telling you to give up and herd goats in the Shetlands. Just write.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
For The Diary of Jill Woodbine, I pretty much had years of world-building and production completed in the audio drama, so I knew how the zombies (“eaters”) worked and how society was pretty much a mess. I didn’t have to do a lot of research except when it came to the heroine. Jill’s character revealed itself to me as I wove her into the mythology of HG World and since the story is told from her perspective, with insights and observations that are very personal, I came to the conclusion she was a lesbian. This wasn’t a shocking revelation because she made subtle, almost apologetic references to being inspired and interested in various women through the book and that interest went beyond the “young feminist” I originally conceived. When the character of Red Molly is introduced later on, she had become something of a hard-boiled character and Molly the femme fatale. It made sense for the two of them to fall into an awkward but passionate relationship. Being a CIS heterosexual male and in my early 40s at the time, I had limited perspective on what a millennial lesbian feminist would truly think or feel, so as I wrote the book, I had to read and talk to people who helped guide the character’s path through the story. I guess it worked because, while I never intended the story to be an LGBTQ romance, it found a small niche as such among New Adult readers.
For The Resurrection Pact, I have always been fascinated by the intersection of story and interactive gaming. After reading Janet Murray’s “Hamlet on the Holodeck” back in the 90s, I’ve been excited to see her predictions about intelligent and immersive gaming technology coming true. Talking with people designing the next generation of virtual gaming, augmented reality, simulators, and especially adaptive story line algorithms that alter the game based on the preferences and actions of the player(s) I learned that it will become very easy to get lost in the vivid “reality” of a gaming environment.
Lurking in the now-sparsely-populated realms of Second Life, I learned how people use open world technology to create a world that is emotionally as real to them as the meatverse. With the population of SL dropping since its peak in the last decade, the remaining denizens are hard-core players, many of whom have formed groups to role-play new communities. Some people use the platform as a digital model train set to distract or unwind from the stresses of reality. Others use it as a tool to explore different sides of themselves, psychologically and sexually. Interviewing players in SL and other free play environments helped me understand some of the characters playing in the open world of Aeternus.
Any last thoughts for our readers?
Be kind to one another. Relax. Do one thing every day that scares you, one thing you MUST do but keep putting off, and then one thing you love. Every day.
Also, check out my books. And audio drama shows. I have student loans to pay and would like to entertain you so I can pay them. Kthnks.
Links/promotional things (include any photos you would like)