Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m kind of a boring guy. Why do you think I write fiction? To make life more exciting! I graduated early from high school and spent a year working in Switzerland and the Black Forest. There I developed a fascination with history, language, and foreign cultures, and pursued a degree in Soviet Studies when I returned to the States, so as to find employment in U.S. intelligence.
It didn’t take me long to realize that intelligence work is antithetical to the desire to travel the world, as your employer holds your passport and dictates the travel that is acceptable and unacceptable.
I have been to Europe numerous times, and was even a guest of Queen Elizabeth II on one occasion. I got drunk and made a total fool of myself, not being accustomed to the hard liquor (25-year-old Scotch) they served me at every turn.
I have been with my loving, supportive husband for 18 years, and we were married in Whistler, B.C. in 2004. We met in San Francisco, where I lived for 13 years and worked as an editor for various magazines, and we now own a little half-acre on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon.
What do you do when you are not writing? Do you have a day job as well?
I’m a communications consultant—I tell other people how to write! I’m also a freelance writer and editor.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I wrote the first scene of By A Thread, my first novel, on January 1, 2002. I completed it in August of 2010. It was a part-time endeavour; and it sat untouched for a three-year period during that time.
I didn’t; it chose me! I just told the story in my head. Others decided what the genre was. Genre is an artifice of marketing. Booksellers and promoters want to know what shelf to put a book on. But I believe the best books cross genre lines. It’s both more interesting and more realistic that way. A romance, for instance, doesn’t take place in a vacuum. It can happen while you’re involved in political intrigue, being haunted, or in a galaxy far, far away! Likewise a paranormal experience. I love books where anything can happen.
Where do you get your ideas? Do you work with an outline, or just write?
My characters and my settings come largely from my experience: people I’ve known or observed, places I’ve been. My plots come from applying a “what if” to actual events, imaging that things turned out differently at a critical juncture. It’s the “alternate universe” to the history we’re actually living.
I start without an outline, giving my characters free reign to decide where they will naturally go. I add plots twists and threads as needed to accommodate my characters’ choices. At some point I have to reign them in; that’s when I draw up an outline of where the story is headed. But I keep it loose, not knowing the final outcome until I write it. This makes the writing as exciting as the reading.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
More common than writer’s block for me is the time management problem. I get distracted easily, especially at home where pets and housework and knocks on the door add themselves to the ubiquitous distractions of email, social networks, and news updates. I haven’t yet found a single location that offers the environment I need to write consistently. I wake up with new ideas almost daily; I just fail to get them written down before they’re gone.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
If you mean published by traditional means, that still hasn’t happened. And may never happen. As for self-publishing, it was ridiculously easy. The hard part is the self-promotion that is needed afterward!
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
Not really. I would probably structure the editing and proofreading phases a bit more, but the publishing process was pretty smooth.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Networking is key. Social networks, of course, but also local and national organizations that may have an interest in my subject matter. For instance, I have gay and Mormon characters in my novel, so I have marketed to those audiences, as they tend to be under-represented in mainstream fiction. I have also marketed to local bookstores. And I began a blog, though it has taken me some time to understand the ways in which that can be helpful. It’s all more time consuming than I had anticipated.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Ah, the money question! Much of the book is based on real life. I pride myself on being accurate to the locations and history, whenever possible. Mostly because I enjoy fiction that is plausible. My mantra is “If the reader can tell where truth ends and fiction begins, the writer hasn’t done his job.” In By A Thread I have used real people, real places, and real events to a large extent. I’ve changed things up a bit to protect the innocent, but much of it is true, if in a different context.
What project are you working on now? Will you have a new book coming out soon? Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I had intended to write a second novel that is very different from my first. But popular demand from readers persuaded me to embark upon a sequel to By A Thread. It is called The Third Token, and continues to follow Kevin “Red” Davis, the protagonist from the first book. Davis is a Mormon, so the sequel plumbs the depths of Mormon secrets and history as a political plot is uncovered. One other character from By A Thread also joins in the action, but I won’t say which one, so as not to reveal anything about the first book to those who haven’t read it yet.