- We’ll skip the “tell us about yourself” because coming up with something on the spot is, truly, the bane of an author’s existence. So, let’s start with something a little easier! Tell me what you’re working on at the moment.
I’m working on a novel called Long Waltz, a mystery with a touch of the speculative. It’s the follow-up to my new novel Fool’s Run. In that book, my hero, Si Reardon, is a cop down on his luck who finds himself wrangling with powerful people. He’s in Florida in Long Waltz, and he becomes involved in a cold case related to a film being shot on the Florida coast. He has to weave his way into the world of A-list stars and Hollywood power players and deal with what may be the ghost of the girl lost long ago. Once again he has to rely on wits and guile to navigate the situation.
I’m also always working on short stories because I love the form. I have some new ones out, some making the rounds and more on the drawing board.
- In as much detail as you would like, tell me about your book(s) that are already out/on the way.
I have quite a few. I began writing in the horror paperback era in the late 1980s. My backlist has been re-issued by Crossroad Press. In the last few years, I’ve written a dark fantasy high adventure called Disciples of the Serpent. That’s about Aileen O’Donnell, a member of Ireland’s Special Detective Unit. She’s used to pursuing potential terrorists, and she finds herself in a race through the ruins of Irish holy sites, seeking fragments of a lost language. Cultists want the language too to possibly unlock something long sleeping, something that could be devastating to the Emerald Isle and the world. It’s terrorism of a different type, and she works with the Orphic Crisis Logistical Task Force, The O.C.L.T., a group featured in a number of Crossroad novels by various authors. Aileen works with the O.C.L.T. operative Geoffrey Bulfinch, a folklorist with an adventurous spirit.
Fool’s Run was released in late fall and received a nice review in Publisher’s Weekly (https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-952979-82-8
- As far as the writing process goes—including such things as conception of idea all the way through to money in the bank—what is the least favourite bit? (Everyone has one!)
Feeling my way through the first draft. It’s a love-hate thing since I really love creating. I’m a reformed pantser, but no matter how much I plan and outline, I’m still on a journey of discovery with a work. It’s fun, but some days it’s inching my way forward in the dark. I wish it could always be a wonderful sprint, but it’s often a marathon with occasional bursts that propel me forward.
- Conversely, what is the bit of the writing process that gets your writery brain grinning?
Generating ideas, researching and learning new things. I think plotting is probably the heavy lifting to switch to a different metaphor. There’s an exhilaration in the first stages of developing a new work or generating an idea. Reading is a way of priming as well, and I love taking the time to read a great short story or novel. Reading is really a part of my process.
5. If you could steal any author’s ability to improve your own work, who would you steal from and why? (e.g. Tolkien’s language skills, Douglas Adams’ humour, etc.)
Maybe John D. MacDonald’s ease in diving into characters and their back stories. I think it fuelled Stephen King, and it is evident in some of MacDonald’s non-Travis McGee books.
6. Now for some fun! The main character of the book you’re working on (or have recently finished) has kidnapped you for ruining their life. How will you explain that what you’re doing is for the best?
Aileen O’Donnell from Disciples of the Serpent lost her police officer father to really random chance. A bullet managed to get past his Kevlar vest and took his life. She’s impetuous because of that, maybe even reckless. She’d be the most likely to precipitate something like you’re suggesting. So, I have to tell her, sorry I plunged her into the action of the story and out of her normal life for the excitement of it.
“Look, Aileen, it’s like this. I thought it’d be really cool. But, beyond that, consider this, you were in kind of a rut ferreting out terrorists or wannabe terrorists. I showed you a whole new, strange world you never knew existed. You met new people. You got to see a bit of the countryside, visit historic places and put your skills and impetuous nature to work. Sure, you had to fight monsters, but personally, you seem to have grown a lot.”
7. You, your main character(s), and the protagonist of the last book you read are playing poker. What are the stakes? Who will win and why?
Hmm, that would be Noemí Taboada from Mexican Gothic. She and Aileen are both prone to forge ahead, I guess, face difficult situations head on. Noemí is warned off a lot but keeps going. If they both had their personal fortunes in the pot, it would make for an interesting game. I don’t think Noemí would be bluffed or dissuaded, but Aileen would keep pressing. She’d play each hand to the hilt, keep a true poker face and keep raising even though Noemí’s wealth would far exceed Aileen’s.
Noemí would be worried about what her father thought, and if they had a bargain going in like a graduate degree she wanted, she’d be cautious and work to counter Aileen’s moves. She’d watch carefully for bluffs, but Aileen would be so all in with a good hand or bad, a tell would be hard to spot.
8. Let’s face it, writing is hard. What do you think are some traps to avoid in your particular area of expertise? (Whether that be your genre, your knowledge of plot, your character building, your world building, etc.)
I’d say work carefully. Don’t hesitate to put words on the page, but work to pay attention to craft as well as speed. Polish in the second draft. In plotting, you might have to take some turns you didn’t expect, but it helps if you know the destination. Get that in mind and then set off and discover the course that takes you there.
9. Anything else you’d like to add? Plots to take over the world, for example. Upcoming release dates, links and things, maybe even your favourite chocolate cake recipe.
I’m a bit laid back, kind of like Si Reardon, so I’ll keep world conquest on the back burner. I want to get good things into the stream. I want to keep striving for greatness. I re-read an old interview with Harlan Ellison the other day. He said there would always be a professional standard to his work, but now and then something exceptional like a “Jefty is Five” would crop up. I want to tell the best stories I can right now while putting forth the effort to discover greatness along the way. I tell friends I haven’t quite knocked one out of the park like I’d like to, so I keep swinging. Another metaphor, oh well.