- Who has been your biggest influence as a writer?
Not completely sure. Some people have compared my work to Stephen King and my first finished novel Battle for the Wastelands (as yet unsold) was inspired by reading The Dark Tower series. However, I didn’t read any King until high school, although I did start reading Dean Koontz (Phantoms, Twilight Eyes, Watchers) in middle school.
One big influence on my writing is James R. Tuck, author of the Deacon Chalk urban fantasy series and a fellow member of a now-defunct writing group. He taught me how to tighten up my prose by eliminating speech tags (you can use the blocking to make it clear who’s talking), which has been a major help. He also blurbed The Thing in the Woods, my first published novel. He’s awesome.
- What’s the difference in your approach to fiction writing and the writing you do for magazines/newspapers/blogs?
Journalistic writing, whether it’s for a newspaper, magazine, or blog, is much more dependent on other people to get stuff done. You’ve got to interview people to get the necessary information and then contact them again for follow-up questions, people who might be difficult to find, have busy schedules, or not want to talk with you. There’s also more deadline pressure.
Meanwhile, creative writing is much less dependent on other people. Even if you need information, a reliable website, the almighty Wikipedia, YouTube, or the public library is a much easier go-to source than trying to interview somebody.
Consequently, although I learned how to write clean copy quickly (and lots of it) as a journalist, I can be more relaxed as a fiction writer. That has its pluses and minuses–I can take my time to get things right, but at the same time more lenient deadlines allow for dawdling.
- If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos. The book is incredibly absorbing and even though I’ve read it at least twice, it’s never boring.
- How did you get involved with the Myopia film podcast?
Podcaster-in-chief Nic is one of my oldest friends–we were both in Boy Scout Troop 1011 in Marietta, GA in middle and high school–and he’s a major film enthusiast. This is a passion project of his, and I’m always willing to help out. Plus the concept is interesting in and of itself. When I was a freshman at the University of Georgia in early 2004 (I was one of the first people back from Christmas break and there weren’t a lot of other students around), I rented the childhood classic Dragonslayer from Blockbuster (RIP) to see if it was as good as I remembered. Back in 2010-2012 I re-watched on my own a few additional movies I hadn’t seen in years to see if they were still good. Secret of the NIMH still held up, as did, dare I say it, the 1998 American Godzilla. The podcasting project put this into overdrive–I’ve seen dozens of childhood or teen classics, some of which were still good (Deep Rising), some less so (The Last Starfighter and the British werewolf movie Dog Soldiers), and some which were most definitely not (Spawn‘s incredible badness has become a podcast running joke).
- Is there an overall theme to your writing?
Not that I can think of. I reject the idea that “all art is political,” but if you conflate “political” and “reflective of the authors’ values,” there are many times where that adage is more applicable than I’d like. Both The Thing in the Woods and my upcoming novella Little People, Big Guns (Deadite Press) are critical of bigotry, are pro-guns/self-defense, and are also pro-Christian despite the violent content. You can also see this in “Coil Gun” and “Picking Up Plans in Palma,” which were written and published much earlier.
- What was your favorite movie from your childhood?
I’ve seen so many I’m not completely sure. I do remember really loving the first Matrix film when it came out and then really loving the first Lord of the Rings film when it came out not long after. When I was a little-little kid I liked the 1980s Transformers: The Movie, although I would probably consider it incredibly cheesy now.
- What type of scenes do you most enjoy writing?
Action scenes. I’ve been told I’m very good at writing them and unless the blocking gets complicated, I can write them very quickly. I also like atmosphere-building description. For example, I enjoyed writing the scene in Thing where Atlanta-transplant James drives to the “pipe farm” (a neighborhood where the foundations for the houses were laid but the houses themselves never finished–this happens when the developer runs out of money and it happened a lot during the Great Recession) for the ATV race. That scene allowed me to write a bunch of creepy similes and metaphors in order to make the reader uneasy even before James and small-town blowhard Bill encounter the Thing.
- Why did you self-ban yourself from posting in the alternate history forum?
Although it was a great place to network (I found my cover artist Alex Claw there), learn, and engage in interesting intellectual exercises and was a source of creative inspiration–my Digital Science Fiction short stories “Coil Gun” and “Picking Up Plans in Palma” both take place in a world I created and refined on the forum–it was a major time sink. Especially when controversial political topics came up. When I finally decided to ask the admin team to ban me back in 2015, I was just starting out as a high-school teacher and I didn’t have a lot of time. However valuable the site was to me in the past (and it still is–I check the public forums for cool scenarios to post on my blog), getting sucked into prolonged discussions isn’t a good use of my time. Maybe I’ll go back someday when I have more free time and the Internet isn’t so polarized and cranky, but not anytime soon.
- Is there any subject that is off limits for you as a writer?
I’m not comfortable writing graphic sex–when sexual content is required it’s typically before-and-after. I am also not interested in depicting animal abuse. If they’d included certain scenes from the book It in the film–Patrick Hockstetter suffocating animals in a refrigerator and Henry Bowers poisoning the dog–I would not have seen the movie.
- If you could invite five people to a dinner party (alive or dead, real or fictional) who would you invite?
This is not a definitive list, but given how Thing, the sequel The Atlanta Incursion I’ve submitted already, and the third book The Walking Worm I’ve just started are Lovecraftian in nature, the following could be a very interesting dinner party. Stephen King, Ramsay Campbell, and to a lesser degree Dean Koontz have taken a lot of Lovecraft’s themes and imagery and run with them. I would like to see how they’d interact with H.P. Lovecraft himself and August Derleth, who founded Arkham House Publishing to continue Lovecraft’s literary legacy.