- What’s the greatest moment in your writing career?
I’ve learned that writing career graphs more often look like a mountain range than a rocket launch, so any high point in my journey is very validating. It’s still early in my career, but I’ve had the honor to win two writing awards so far and one of those came with the added bonus of meeting and spending time learning from one of my literary heroes, Tim Powers.
- Out of all of the jobs you have ever had, what is the strangest or most interesting one that you have held?
Wow. That’s a tough one. I’ve done a lot of jobs that fall into the category of strange, interesting, or both at once. I think one of the ones that falls under ‘both’ would have to be my first ambulance job. I’d just turned 18 and had left college after the first year (I graduated high school at 16) because I decided I wanted to be working in emergency medicine right then rather than wait 8 years to get an MD. In the 1970s we didn’t have paramedics where I lived, even though it was a city of about 200,000 people. The two EMT outfits in town were — let’s say — interesting back then, and I got hired at one with nothing but an advanced first aid card. I started working right away but was put into the next EMT class two nights a week while I worked. So at 18 and with my brand-spankin’ new advanced first aid card, I began working 24-hour ambulance shifts, sleeping in a dorm with the guys. And because new hires started out in the back of the ambulance with the patients and more experienced workers drove (to protect the equipment, I assume), I also jumped straight into patient care. I’d left college but I still got quite an education, and I’ll bet I saw things most 18-year-olds don’t see. A year or so later, I moved to San Diego where I became a paramedic and continued the adventure.
- What current writing projects are you working on?
My hope is that my novel “While Gods Sleep” (published 2018) will be the first in a series of stand-alone books based in different mythologies, starting with Greek mythology. The next book (working title “A Stranger Path”) is based on Maya mythology and religion and is already written. Hopefully, I’ll be getting the next book in the series underway soon, and I’m looking into Slavic paganism/myth for inspiration. I also hope at some point to get back to an idea I have for another epic fantasy, but contemporary fantasy holds a strong pull for me right now.
- Do you often use your home state of Colorado as a setting for your stories?
I did in my first novel, A Borrowed Hell, but so far that’s been the exception. As my other books have been a secondary-world fantasy (definitely no Colorado locales in that one), one that begins in 1958 Athens before descending into the underworlds, and one that takes place in Guatemala, Colorado hasn’t played a part again yet. That’s a great thing about fantasy, though, it can take you anywhere.
- How has your life changed since the release of your debut novel, A Borrowed Hell?
After many years of writing novels, three of my books came out quite close together between December 2016 and September 2018, sort of like an ice dam breaking. But that first book getting published and being well-received was very affirming. It let me know that, yes, I can write things that readers enjoy and I do have the potential to turn this from an activity I pursue in my free-time into the career I hope it will become.
- What made you start writing?
Genetics, I suspect. I grew up knowing that my maternal grandfather (a doctor and Church of England minister) won an award for a novel he wrote and that my brother wrote non-fiction. It wasn’t until I was partway through my first novel, though, that I found out my aunt had published two books, my brother secretly wrote fiction as well as non-fiction, and my mother had written stories off and on much of her life (she’s since been published as well). I am, however, the lone speculative fiction writer of the family.
- Is there any subject that is off limits for you as a writer?
I feel that the entertainment industry as a whole has the ability to influence the thoughts and actions of certain consumers, especially those young enough to still be finding their moral compass and those of any age whose moral compass is compromised for whatever reason. While A Borrowed Hell deals with neglect and emotional trauma in my protagonist’s past, I can’t see myself ever writing graphic animal or child abuse as a plot device and risking putting a specific idea in someone’s head. I know there are scads of books (and movies, of course) out there that don’t shy away from this, from literary to murder mystery to horror and everything in between, but for me, it’s a line I don’t expect to cross.
- What is your best quality as a writer?
My best personal quality as a writer? I think I’d say it’s persistence, something anyone choosing this path needs in plenty. My best quality in my writing? I’ve received nice comments on my worldbuilding in the past, but I like to think that I continually improve all the technical aspects of my storytelling from book to book.
- Which person do you most admire?
That’s another tough one to answer. There are people I admire for both their genius and for facing adversity, like Stephen Hawking and Srinivasa Ramanujan; athletes who are so far ahead of the pack that they have few equals in physical ability or courage, like Reinhold Messner and Alex Honnold; and political leaders who work for peace and change. I admire people who dedicate their lives to advocating for animals and young children. I admire pretty much anyone — including people I know personally and who’ll never be publicly recognized — who are kinder or more giving or more talented than I’ll ever be.
- If you could pick one other author to collaborate with on a novel or story, living or dead, who would it be?
I’m not a swooner or screamer, but I might do both if I were ever offered an opportunity to collaborate with Neil Gaiman, the author who has most influenced my writing and storytelling.