Q: Your bio says that you have been writing since you were in grade school. Was becoming an author always your goal?
A: Yes. A writer is the first thing that I remember wanting to be when I grew up. I also remember my life plan to buy a camper and live in it while I traveled the country. My budget for this life plan that I made when I was ten years old was $10,000.
Q: Your primary genre thus far has been horror. Were there authors that you admired or idolized when you were growing up that influenced you to write in this genre?
A: Yes. The author at the top of my list of influences would be Stephen King. I think that is evident in my writing style. Dean Koontz and Clive Barker are also among my major horror genre influences. But I wasn't only influenced by horror authors. Fantasy writers such as Susan Cooper and Joan Aiken are also on my list of favorites.
Q: Are all of your titles self-published?
A: Yes, I have published them all under my publishing company, Crow 99 Books.
Q: What do you find most challenging about self-publishing?
A: Well, since the only writing I have had published by a traditional publishing house was poetry back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I don't have anything to compare self-publishing to, as far as paperback prose is concerned. I have to say that eight to ten rounds of editing are quite tedious and time-consuming, and I get sick of reading the same book over and over again. But I think the most challenging part of the whole process, for me, is marketing. It is something that I simply don't want to do, after I have spent hours and hours and hours writing, formatting, and editing. When the product is complete, I want it to be complete, and I want to move on to the next project. But as an indie author, I need to put some of my time and effort into marketing. I have to find a way to develop the patience it takes to follow through "ever after". If I can have the patience to produce an entire book from start to finish, I should be able to have the patience to market, as well. It's a goal.
Q: Your publishing company is called Crow 99 Books, and in Volume II, The Shady Side, there is a story called "Wrath" that features a main character that is a crow whose name is Einstein 99. Is there a correlation between this MC and the title of your company?
A: The title of my company is based on an actual crow that bears a wing tag with the number 99. The story "Wrath" is based upon this crow, as well. While I haven't met this crow personally, I did encounter it one day, and my interest led me to research tagged crows on the internet. This, in turn, led me to an explanation/definition of crows tagged by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The color of the tag designates the year of the original tagging. My interest developed further and I did some light research on the corvid species. The story "Wrath" was born of some of what I discovered.
Q: So the behavior of the crows in "Wrath" is factually accurate?
A: I wouldn't say so. I haven't studied crows in depth or hands-on. I just thought that crows' documented intelligence and behaviors would make an interesting premise for a story. And because Cortland County has been host to its own murder of crows for as long as I can remember, it all came together in many ways as a story based on my hometown and surrounding region, whose main characters (the crows) are based in reality. As to how the crows behave, I used my research combined with imagination to create a fictional story. "Write what you know," as the saying goes. But not being an expert, I had to imagine what I didn't know. I tried to add enough information to convey the general idea.
Q: Do you always research your stories?
A: Not always. But if I want to write about something specific, like the crow, or a geographic area like an island in the Pacific ocean, or an occupation such as a taxidermist, I try to do some research on behavioral characteristics or weather patterns and native wildlife, or occupational tools and procedures. Sometimes my research is in depth; sometimes it is just enough to form a general identity or background for a character. The idea is to have appropriate information to build the scene or character to a degree to enable the reader to suspend their disbelief for the duration of the story. This makes total immersion possible, and the story accomplishes its goal.
Q: Your novella Stuffed Animals seems to have followed a different pattern than your first two books. You haven't released it as an e-book, and I haven't heard much about it since its release. Why is that?
A: Stuffed Animals was one of my more difficult projects. The process of its creation was more challenging. I really like the story, and I have not publicized it more because I am not wholly satisfied with it. I feel that I could have done better, and there are holes in it that need to be fixed. I feel that it is incomplete.
Q: What do you think hampered its completion?
A: A promised release date. I am still learning the process of publishing. And the process of publishing Stuffed Animals is a prime example. I set a release date and the book was not finished. I really don't know how publishing houses set their release dates or what their procedures are. But my first three publishing experiences have taught me to finish the book before setting a release date. I have a full life; I work at occupations other than writing for a majority of each day and I have a family complete with dog. I write slowly because I have other responsibilities. I have learned that I cannot write "to" a release date. I have to complete the project first, to my satisfaction, before promising a release date. No matter how long it takes.
Q: So do you think that there will be a more "complete" second edition of Stuffed Animals to come?
A: I am leaning toward "yes". I was going to just do a limited edition, one-time printing of Stuffed Animals, but I can't find it within myself to abandon it to nothingness. I owe it to the story and to my readers to make it right.
Q: Will you also then release it as an e-book?
A: It is a distinct possibility. I have come around to the mode of thinking that I will not allow my difficulties with this book to prevent me from creating a complete, finished project that is the best that it can be.
Q: Do you have something simmering on the burner right now?
A: Yes, I do. It is a project that, like my other books, has been a long time in the making, already.
Q: Word is that your next book deviates in a bit of a different direction than your previous work?
A: Yes. While my other books were geared more toward the young adult and adult audiences, my next project is a book for the middle-grade range.
Q: Can you elaborate?
A: I can't give too many details while the story is still in development and is in the process of evolving into something fantastic and colorful.
Q: So no release date, either?
A: Not for the public. I do have an approximate target date in mind, though.
Q: So what about Volume III of The Uneasy Series? Will we be seeing that soon?
A: While I have started started writing and story development for Volume III, my middle-grade fantasy is taking precedence at the moment. It's urgency is more immediate; it wants to be written. So that is what I need to write.
Q: I thought you had already chosen a title for Volume III?
A: You thought correctly. Volume III is a volume of occupational/work-related horror. The title is Water Cooler Weirdness: Uneasy Like Monday Morning.
Q: What advice would you give to other aspiring independent authors?
A: If you want to write, write. If you are a writer, you will write. Keep writing, no matter how long it takes to complete a project. Take the time to edit your work, or have it professionally edited. Find a volunteer or save the money to have it done. I don't mean to skim for errors once or twice. Go through your work word by word, line by line, from beginning to end, several times, putting the work away for a couple of weeks in between each edit. Let it rest between edits so that you can review with fresher eyes the next time around. Make sure your spellings are correct, and that you cut, cut, cut mercilessly anything that does not serve the story. If it doesn't have a job to do, if it is unnecessary, get rid of it. Don't skimp on your cover, either. Graphic design can be pricey; but it can mean everything to have professional artwork or design for your cover. Finding funds for pro editors and designers can be a challenge, in itself, but don't skimp. I have professional writing and editing background, but I pay for professional cover design. But the most important thing above all is that if you want to write, write. Don't let anything stop you. Don't give up.