How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first story when I was ten. When I was twenty-three, I started writing a thousand words a day on my first full length novel. There have been months where that pace has abated, but not many. (If you're doing the math, that puts me at about two decades of writing fiction) These days, during first draft, I'll write between 2000-3000 words a day.
How many books did you write before The Last Angel?
At least five complete books, along with two others that I started and never finished (About 150 pages each). And one of those books, Second Blood, I spent over six years to complete.
Did you ever think about giving up?
Yes and no. I had a literary agent when I was in my early thirties who simply walked away without telling me why. I was pretty devastated, so I spent the next year and a half writing a spiritual memoir. I wasn't sure I could go back to fiction. But I did. By then, I'd been writing for ten years and it was too late to turn back. I did learn my lesson, however. Writers write for themselves first. I love to write and I have to write. Not writing is not an option.
Where do you get the idea for The Last Angel?
Writers pull from all kinds of sources, but in the case of The Last Angel, there were two in particular. One was a book cover, and it was picture of a desert with a few homes on it. The other was a TV show called Dominion. The show used angels from the Bible and though I didn't stay with the show, it inspired me. It's difficult for artists to articulate what happens after the inspiration, but for me it was a book cover and a TV show.
Are there more books coming out soon?
Yes! WINTER is due in early March of 2017. You can follow the progress of my work on THIS PAGE.)
Are all the books part of a series?
Yes. They are all Desolate Kingdom novels, although the characters do not repeat themselves. Not immediately, anyway. In THE LAST ANGEL, Tommy and Kallie are the two main protagonists. In the sequel, the main protagonists are Naz (who the reader hasn't met) and Sendz, a minor character in the first novel.
Why did you decide to self-publish?
Wow. I could write a much longer piece about that, but the simple answer is that the publishing world has changed. If the work is good and you have talent, no one cares if it is self-published. As well, my editor advised me that this might be the right path because (a) my work is good enough and (b) I'm prolific. (You need to be prolific if you're going to self-publish)
For me, the scary thing about traditional publishing is that a writer loses all control of their work. If my first novel doesn't sell, and many first novels don't, than they can pull it off the shelf and it's gone forever. That doesn't work when you're writing a series. It takes time to find an audience. And it's something I'd have to do anyway.
What is the scariest part of this process for you?
Well, I've been writing in a cavern for two decades, so walking into the sunlight and exposing
Who is your target audience?
The Desolate Kingdom Series definitely crosses genres. It's near-dystopian. It's urban fantasy. It's partly religious. It's heavily myth oriented. It echoes the humor and sparse writing and melancholy of noir-detective work. (One of my influences is Robert B. Parker) It is also soft fantasy, which makes it highly accessible. One of my readers suggested it was for young men, but I have a number of female readers (including a few who only read women's fiction) who love it. That I'm a feminist matters in how I write my female characters, which is why women enjoy it. But ultimately, my target audience is me. I write the books that I enjoy reading.
What do you mean when you say that you're a "feminist?"
There's no need to put quotes around it. Despite some of the nonsense I see on social media, it just means that I believe in equality. That I try to see the world through the eyes of everyone who walks in it, as every novelist should be doing anyway. Look, I'm a man, and thank God I have a couple of beta readers who are incredibly smart and perceptive women who ensure that I don't forget myself or point out the spots when I unconsciously channel my "inner macho."
My experience of life is shaped by being a white, straight male who also happens to belong to the faith of majority. This is a position of extreme power. What women experience, in public, at their job, in everything, is completely different, in so much as how they are treated simply because they're female. When male writers ignore this difference, it marginalizes the experience of half the population. Also, it drives me crazy. I get why certain people don't perceive class issues -- not everyone is going to get it -- but it's unacceptable for a storyteller to miss it.
You seem pretty passionate about this.
I am. Frankly, it's destructive when we are sending message to young girls, for example, that they need to "surrender to boys" to make their dreams come true. (Twilight, Shades of Grey) That notion permeates a great deal of YA fiction and romance novels and for me, it's unacceptable. I worked in a Grade Six classroom a couple years ago helping a boy with special needs. The girls were eleven, and many of them were already planning their wedding and living their days based solely on the boys in the class. Their world was already revolving around how they were perceived by males. This is taught/ learned behavior. We, as storytellers, have to do better. We have to give girls female role models they can look up to. (Hermione in Harry Potter is a great example of this. She's smart, and she's her own person.)
How does the idea of "Social Justice" inform your work?
In every way! Like most writers, I've worked a variety of 'day jobs' to pay the bills. In my case, most that work centered around youth and those with special needs. As well, I'm a trained minister. Without questions one of the themes of my work is working to include 'the least of us' or those not well represented in mainstream culture. That includes not only strong female characters, but minorities of all types. Gay. Handicapped. Those who struggle with mental health issues. Etc.
What was the most rewarding aspect of publishing The Last Angel and City of Slaves?
Look, when I started writing fiction, Clinton was starting his second term in office, so was Jean Chretien. The Queen was a young 87. (British humor) When you've written for that many years, just seeing it in print is a big deal. But that wouldn't matter if the book hadn't been so well received. Or, as my one friend put it: "What if it sucked?" (Laughs) But I think going forward the reward will be encouraging and mentoring young writers and other people to stick with their dreams. I've already had a few people who've informed me that my perseverance has inspired them to take on new challenges. Which is amazing. Ultimately, I'd like to start a mentoring program for young writers, but that's down the road.
What has surprised you the most during this process?
That's easy. The collaborative nature of it all. There are so many people who have jumped in to help me along the way. There are so many, too many to recall here. Caitlin Galway and Shelley McNamara, two of my beta-readers. Caitlin is a better writer than I'll ever be and Shelley is a brilliant beta-reader, offering insightful tips that make my work better. Emily Thiessen designed the cover of The Last Angel, and it looks fabulous. Bengt Neathery is hosting/ creating my new website. Best-selling author Steena Holmes has walked me through the process and answered my silly questions with patience and kindness and intelligence. And a number of people who commented on the ARC's (Advanced Reader Copies) that I sent them.
So what's next?
Learning to build a new website, and about a million things that aren't connected with writing, like marketing. (Laughs) It's busy, but I love it.
Like I said, it's been a whirlwind, but I couldn't be happier. I'm excited for 2017 and all the challenges that are headed my way.