An Indiana Jones hat, and his characteristic cargo pants and this superhero is ready to go. Read on and find out more…
According to Wikipedia, ‘a superhero is a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and is dedicated to a moral goal or protecting the public.’ Sounds like a writer to me!
Join me as another one of these unsung superheroes invites into their personal ‘batcave’.
If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
I got into writing through gaming, specifically playing and managing tabletop roleplaying games (like Dungeons & Dragons). At one point I ran a game that our group all really enjoyed, and I thought it would make for good novel material, so I started writing it the next year when I was 18 years old. Before that, I hated writing because I hated the assignments, but now I had a reason to write. My early attempts were passable, but had more clichés (especially fantasy genre clichés). I had more difficulty with description, and dialogue was fairly new to me. I abandoned that story in favor of focusing on and finishing something more marketable, though I’m still reasonably proud of it. I may come back to it, but while that story was my gateway to the literary world, I have many other projects that are more important to me for now.
Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?
I like to spend most of my time with people who have an adventurous spirit, and those who are more accustomed to entertaining different points of view. Much of western society is so polarized right now, and I think much of that is due to talking too much about reality without experiencing it. So I suppose I might say their superpowers include seeking and integrating new experiences, maintaining healthy social boundaries, handling life head-on, and the ability to pay attention. Seriously, I believe that (due to a number of factors I won’t address here) the ability to sustain attention largely deteriorated for a couple of generations, and is greatly undervalued. One quality I greatly appreciate in friends is the ability and willingness to stay up incredibly late with me!
Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?
I grew up and live in Minneapolis, MN, USA. For now, I live in a 3-bedroom apartment with a roommate, and I enjoy the space. It looks pretty cookie-cutter apart from my own furnishings, but I’m not someone who has an aversion to conformity (or to nonconformity). I’ve got a few wall hangings, a corner that I’ve dubbed my “pirate corner” complete with treasure chest and cutlasses, a computer room where I mostly surf the web and play far too much StarCraft and Port Royale 2 and store some overflow copies of my book, and of course my apartment has enough bookshelves to collect my dusty books and RPGs. I furnished it for comfort and for entertaining small groups of friends, and of course my 18 year old cat.
What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you insure they are used only for good? · Granted, you probably don’t’ get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?
Two of my main precepts for life are: to do the bravest thing possible in each situation without edging over into foolhardiness, and to not make others pay the consequences for problems that have nothing to do with them. I practice both of those often, and I’m rewarded with more travel, more esteem from others, and less baggage (literal and figurative) than most people. I life coach on the side, so that keeps a lot of these skills sharp, along with my knack for conveying inspiration and ideas through analogy…or simply finding the right words. It seems like half of the difficulties humanity experiences are due to not having the right words to frame their experiences, so helping people find them can settle half their battles. The other half, of course, require courage along the lines I outlined above. My superhero costume would therefore, I suppose, be more like an Indiana Jones hat, and I suppose I’ve got my characteristic cargo pants.
What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?
I grew up alone and rather lonely, yet now I cultivate a very large number of friends, so it is far too easy for me to get sidetracked by socializing! Even when I was terribly shy and worried about what people thought, I always fundamentally loved people. Now that they seem to return the sentiment, it is hard to turn down an opportunity to see a friend or meet new ones. I suppose other obstacles to writing include difficulty editing due to mostly loving what I wrote the first time around, but also juggling my writing with all the other things I love to do. Between meditating, physical activity, socializing, gaming, relaxing (I’m no workaholic), travel, and the few different things I like to do for work, making time to write is something I must always be mindful of, or I suffer delays. Thankfully I don’t get writer’s block–I figured out how to get through that long ago.
What was the supervillain that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?
I’ve had dual stresses with this project. I’m working on the second book (of 3) in my Brethren of the Spanish Main series of historical pirate fiction, and all the intrigue and plots sort of cross in this volume. It requires a delicate balance of scene time for all the main characters, plot points, character development, etc. Editing it feels like performing surgery some days. On the other hand, my efforts to remain self-employed were not going well for over a year, generating a more or less constant background financial pressure to everything, and I was spread between too many such activities. Now that I’m driving for Uber, that has all been greatly simplified. As for the editing, there’s nothing for it but to just sit down and DO it. However, I have been generating what I call an “editing outline” that is helping me diagram out the parts that need the most attention before I hand everything over to beta readers, and eventually my editor.
What important lessons have you learned along the way?
It’s more a question of honing previous lessons. I took the lesson of balancing free-form work and outlining, and applied it more to editing. I took my understanding of the need to prioritize and minimize multitasking, and applied it more to my financial strategy (multiple revenue streams). And I suppose I have seen the continued benefits of trusting my instincts and plodding through with the work, even when I’m not initially in the mood for it.
What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?
I live for those moments when I have an epiphany that resolves several plot points neatly and with great effect. Steering my writing in directions I never expected it to go has been very rewarding, and just seeing what appeals to my fans (now that I have those) has helped me feel more and more like a “real author.” That’s an invaluable feeling for us indie authors, many of whom feel as though we’re just play-acting at the profession at times.
If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?
I would honestly just start earlier! For some reason, when I released my first book, I did not anticipate how quickly people would be clamoring for the next one, and here I hadn’t even outlined it yet! So much of my life affects my writing, that I can honestly say that joining Uber earlier would have improved my writing productivity and erased much debt and stress that affects the whole process. Beyond that, I feel like I’ve pretty much done what I needed to in order to keep things moving forward.
What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.
Listen to feedback. That’s not to say obey all feedback, but as an author, this is your business, and businesses that don’t pay serious attention to feedback tend not to last long. On the flipside of that, for those who find themselves paralyzed by overconsidering feedback, I’d say listen to yourself. You’re the one with the story, and you’re the writer. No one else can fully tell you how your story should be, and no amount of studying writing theory can tell you which rules to follow or ignore, or when to do so. Create what feels right, run that by others, and then bring in logic and word-surgery.
Tell us about your new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.
As book 2 won’t be out for at least a few months, I’ll tell you about book 1, The Wrath of Brotherhood. Set in 1660 in the Caribbean, this focus of this story is revenge. Two of the three main characters, as well as a few others, have grudges against Spaniards, and as they pursue this vengeance, they become involved in the military and political intrigue in the Caribbean. Through their raids, they discover a gathering of Spanish forces preparing for an invasion, and must decide whether or not to tackle this greater threat. Much of the story follows Coya, a woman from a holdover society that fled the fall of the Incas, and whose village was destroyed by invading Spaniards when she was young. As she experiences the privateer life for the first time, she becomes aware of the questionable nature of her captain’s (Roy Toppings) vendetta and is forced to revisit the truth of her own past. The Wrath of Brotherhood is a complete story full of adventure, smuggling, intrigue, scheming, boldness, and battles, but is also foreshadowing for Roy’s vendetta. Book 2 will explore that more fully, as the hidden forces behind this first conflict come to the foreground. This first book has been very well received, earning one of only 20 Editor’s Choice awards from the Historical Novel Society for 2015 out of hundreds of books.
What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?
While I finish the Brethren of the Spanish Main series, I’ll also be outlining and starting a few other non-fiction works. I’ve got a book of Uber experiences that appears to be writing itself as I drive, and I’ve got a clear concept for a book meant to be a half-humorous take on the phenomenon of narcissism in our society. I intend to revive my weekly column, “Elitism For All,” and turn it into a coffee table book. On the horizon, I’ve even got a project percolating that will combine romance, comedy, and something more… I’m keeping that one under wraps for now. Eventually I’ll get back to work on my book on intuition and common sense, and I’ll get back to fiction in the end. All that reading I did in astrophysics has to see daylight when I finally write some sci-fi, but I’ll need a refresher course!
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