Q: What does love mean to you?
A: Love is the most powerful and complex of human emotions. It’s transformative and magical. Both my wife and I are happy in ways we’ve never been, because we’ve found the love we’ve been looking for. It’s so difficult to describe, but it feels like we’ve given each other new life.
I think that’s one of the reasons I’m interested in fairy tales. Many of them feature the magical power of love, and I’m experiencing that for the first time in my life. In my short story, “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale”, it’s a flawed, corrupt version of love that causes the title character to fall under the sleeping curse, and it’s only the pure form that wakes her. In the Wolf Dasher series, my protagonist transforms into a different, better person, because, for the first time in his life, he knows love.
Love is amazing. It has improved my life, and that theme is working its way through my fiction, even in the books that end badly for the main characters.
Q: What social issues matter to you most?
A: I’m a pretty solid proponent of gay marriage. I believe it should be legal. The Declaration of Independence enshrines the concept of all people being created with equal rights and that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Forbidding one group from marrying while allowing another to is not a system of equal rights. Moreover, given that married couples have different tax and property rights, it’s discriminatory to prevent one group of people from benefitting from those.
Beyond that, I’m interested in justice and equality for all. If everyone were able to live with dignity and a sense of being treated fairly, I think we’d be a lot better off. I love being an American. I believe our country was founded on the highest principles. But we struggle on a day-to-day basis to live up to our own ideals.
Q: Do you find time to read?
A: It’s very hard. I am so busy that I struggle to take time to just sit down and enjoy a book. I read my local paper every morning, so I’ll be up on current events locally, and the same technology that enables me to publish independently also makes it possible for me to read. I love my Kindle and read before bed whenever I can. I’ve got the Kindle app on my phone now, and that allows me to sneak in some reading when I’m in line at the grocery store or waiting for my daughter when I’m picking her up at school.
Q: Whom do you admire?
A: My wife is at the top of my list. She had an awful divorce and had to raise two children by herself afterwards. When I met them, everyone had their problems, but those kids were pretty amazing. They were terrific young people, who were fairly resilient. I thought it was incredible my wife was able to do so well with them under the circumstances. Her will and strength and love are just unmatched. My wife is the most amazing person I know. I feel truly fortunate to not just know her but also to be her husband.
Q: What is your favorite quote and by whom?
A: “In the midst of winter, I found there was within me and indomitable summer.” – Albert Camus. That speaks volumes to me. I’ve seen it be true so many times. I remind myself of it when I’m feeling down.
Q: What genre are you most comfortable writing and why?
A: I’m primarily a fantasy author. I have always been fascinated with magic and monsters. It’s very hard for me to write a story without one or both.
I like it, because fantasy affords me a distance to talk about the things I want to in my themes. By putting my stories in magical lands or tapping a monster as my villain, I can explore ideas more cleanly.
Q: Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
A: My family inspires me to keep writing. The faith and love I get makes it all possible.
The stories themselves come partially from my mind and partially from current events. I pay a lot of attention to the news, and American culture and world events inspire me to craft the plots I do.
Q: What do you consider the most challenging part of writing a novel?
A: Finishing. Writing a book-length piece of fiction is a tremendously hard thing to do. It takes training, dedication, and perseverance. There are so many distractions every day and so many reasons not to sit down and write. My novels run 60,000 to 90,000 words, and I can write 1500 to 3000 words a day four to five days a week. It takes me two to three months to get from the opening line to “The End,” and the hardest part is just staying with it – making myself write when I’m tired, soldiering on when I don’t think it’s going well, fighting my way out of plot corners. One of the reasons I outline is so I don’t quit. If I’ve got a guide to work from, I can’t give in to writer’s block or another excuse.
Q: Did writing Beauty & the Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale teach you anything?
A: Well, I recognized that sometimes you have to adapt your plans. “Beauty” was supposed to be a short story like “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale” is. My plan was to release it this past summer, and then next year I would publish a novella entitled, The Secret Thief and collect it and the two short stories into a single volume. Unfortunately, “Beauty & the Beast” rapidly developed into a novella itself. Not only did that blow my publishing schedule, since it took longer to write, but it changed how I planned to put all the material out. I was never planning on having it available in print, but I do now, because it is long enough for it to be worth it.
I also discovered it was fun to write about my hometown. I set Beauty & the Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale at Lawrence High School. It was neat writing about places I knew and interviewing high school students to get the details of their school correct. I definitely will do that again.
Q: Have you developed a specific writing style?
A: I think I have a “voice.” If you read my books, you can see the “Phythyonic style” at play.
Q: Have you ever had writer’s block? What did you do about it?
A: I do get blocked from time to time. I think every writer does. What I’ve found works best is writing. It sounds counterintuitive, but, if I don’t know what to write, the best solution is usually to sit down and start writing. The process of writing unlocks my brain, and the ideas start to flow. Sometimes, I’ll be writing about something else entirely. I could be writing an article for the newspaper, when the solution to the plot problem in my latest novel comes to me. I think the more you write the less blocked you tend to get. Everybody goes cold periodically, but you stay warm the more you keep doing the work.
Q: When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have?
A: That I wrote good books. That the language was good, the stories were good, and they had something important to say.
I also hope to be satisfied with what I’ve done. I want to look back on my life and feel like I didn’t waste it, like I made sure to spend my time wisely.
And I hope my loved ones are proud of me – not because I was a writer, but because I wrote things they appreciate. I want them to look at me and my work and be proud to have known me.
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Genre - Fairy Tales, Contemproary Fantasy
Rating – PG-13
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