How did you become a writer?
We had a creative writing assignment back in 3rd or 4th grade, I think. I don't really have any idea what it was about, or what I wrote, but I remember getting praise from my teacher, Mrs. McNeese. After that, I used writing as self-expression - mostly with bad poetry, but there's the starts to a few stories which WILL NEVER see the light of day (*Shivers). I've always been reading fantasy, history, mythology, supernatural-ish sort of stuff. I think it started in Elementary when we had to line up in the library before we went in for our computer classes in the next room (on green-screen Macs!). I've always been short, and so standing there in line, the only shelf I could really see and stare at while I waited held most of the fantasy books. I read while I waited. I found certain stories moved me - rang true - so, I kept reading, and chasing after them, something I'm still doing to this very day.
After that, it was really my Sophomore year of college when I started writing. My roommate Robert was spending all this time hunched over his computer typing. So one day I asked him what he was doing. Writing a historical fiction (which later became Blood For Glory), he told me. You're writing a book? I asked. Yes, he said. Well, If you're writing a book, then I'm writing a book. And so I did. And then I just kept writing from there.
What inspires you to write?
Two main things, really. One is scenes or ideas which get stuck in my head. When they don't go away, I remember them and eventually start writing. I figure if they insist on sticking around, then there's probably something to them. The second is because I have real questions about life, the universe, and everything, and I use fantasy as a means for exploring those questions. I like to see where they lead. I'm a big fan of what my favorite Victorian fantasist George MacDonald described as "Holy Imagination". Likewise, I firmly believe imagination is the backdoor to the soul.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
Honestly, I just write and see where it goes. In my writing, I've learned each story is different. Each character builds upon another, kind of like in real life. I like to imagine we're all characters in one big plot. How would someone like that feel and react in real life? - then I try to write it. As for plot, I think there's a reason certain elements reoccur over and over in stories across time. Ever since people have been telling stories, certain elements are repeated and adapted (Tolkien talks about this in his excellent On Fairy Stories). I try and pay attention to those often retold elements because I think there's something to them, some element of truth we're all grappling with.
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?
Oh gosh, let me think. Well, I know that I don't know that much about writing, the industry, editing, etc. After I joined the St Louis Writers Guild, I felt like my knowledge (and maybe even wisdom) skyrocketed (I'm still growing). Having a real flesh and blood group of professionally-oriented writers of an entire gambit of experience is a gold mine. You can read a ton of excellent books on writing, you can do all the NaNoWriMos, and you can pound out your thousand words a day all you like, but if you cant spend time and ask questions with a group of other people going through what you're going through, it's like being severely handicapped.
I guess if you don't live in a major city like I do, the sense of isolation and the lie that writing is unimportant and a waste of time can really get to you. Being reminded and immersed in writing and deadly-serious imaginative endeavors help keep me grounded and inspired.
Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?
Nameless has had a rough life. I've written and indie-published other fantasy books before this, and she is the first main character I made an effort ot push myself with. One one hand, she's painfully heartfelt, but on the other, since she's brusquely to the point, I don't know how much I'd actually enjoy being friends on an everyday basis with. I like to think she's the sort of person the world needs working for Good, but in the background and partially removed.
How does your antagonist create conflict?
Without giving away too much, since the main antagonist is more of a zeitgeist, I imagine it creates conflict by virtue of itself. Oblivion, or nothingness, is something I'm sure we've all felt with a place we've found ourselves in life. Almost like an extension of Hell, the idea that nothing you do matters, there is no changing it, you must continue to do it, and it will continue forever. The way other people and creatures are influenced by this, and in turn decide to influence others is precisely how Oblivion operates. Perhaps you've felt its malevolent presence in real life, too.
What are your current/future projects?
What I'm writing is a continuing creation and exploration of a fantasy Realm. Each story takes place in the same world, but at different places and times. The idea is, that as you read, you learn about the Arch-Plot that's slowly revealing itself while enjoying cameos from other characters all at the same time. With that being said, I'm working on two full-length fantasies, one called The Last Circle, which follows a caravan of Elven explorers plumbing the depths of the mysterious Desert of Redd, which is littered with scraps of other-worldly technology and deadly Lotus flowers; the other (working title) is called The Class of '46, which follows a group of wizards as they steal ridiculously powerful magical items in exchange for passing their final test and paying off their student loans. The catch with this one is, each mission is actually meant to be a suicide mission, but they keep succeeding through mostly dumb luck. Fun stuff!
Do you have a routine you follow when writing?
Atmosphere. A good drink (typically coffee or dark craft beer), music (I make playlists for everything on YouTube and 8Tracks), and regularity. Sometimes I'm reading a chapter or so on writing before I start, too.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
One of the reasons I go and talk writing at schools is because I wish someone would have come to me when I was younger and told me to write. Taught me how to pursue publishing - how to market myself - the works. If I could time travel and give a talk to a younger version of me (without damaging the timelines too irreparably), I would tell myself that there is an entire universe of story which only I can tell. And if I don't tell them, then they are never told. That's the hard and fast of it. It's like what Hemmingway said when we said, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." And what Niel Gaiman said, "MAKE. GOOD. ART." Do those two things.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Basically what I said previously. Of course you can 'be a writer'. Anyone can. The trick is to follow through while being you.
What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?
Hmm... probably via my author site. Although, at this point, I still love answering questions and comments via my author social media, too! Feedback is my writing fuel.