How do you work through self-doubts and fear?
Novel-writing can be a very personal process and so from start to finish there is a lot of self-doubt and fear. It helps to have a supportive novelist wife to work through “itchy” parts of a project or to help get over brick walls. It also helps to have her be a trusted confidante on whether or not a concept will work. That said, the best thing a writer can do is detach from the book. It is personal, yes, but ultimately it isn’t for you. It’s for your readers. The objective is, then, to make it the best book you can for the readers. Detaching oneself emotionally from a project goes miles into becoming truly objective about the work, as to, whether or not it will work for your audience.
Why do you write?
I write because I always have. I don’t remember ever not writing. It’s like breathing for me. That isn’t to say it comes easy to me, it doesn’t. Writing is a lot of work and editing doubly so. However, not being in the process at some level feels very uncomfortable for me. Like exercise, I may dread it—and like exercise, it may be a major effort, but it, like exercise, fills a void and energizes me when I’m in the work. Although sometimes wearing and exhausting, it is like medicine for the mind. I don’t write to deliver a poignant message, like many rightfully do, I write to immerse readers in a cathartic journey.
What books did you love growing up?
I was introduced to Douglas Adams at a very early age and ate those books like candy. There was something Adams did with words that made you feel smart and really impact the way you think about language and storytelling. I could never hope to reach that level of wittiness in my own writing, but it always makes me think about the words I choose. I also read a great deal of fantasy and science fiction in my younger days and was influenced heavily by it. Interestingly, I read a great deal of Richard Bach, which fed my ever-present philosophical side—and no doubt, my readers will see my plots drenching with that impression.
Who is your favorite author?
Undoubtedly it is difficult for any author to choose a favorite, but recently I have been most influenced by Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin. It is unfathomable to me how these two manage to create such remarkable works consistently over-and-over. I am also jealous about how prolific they are. Gaiman is a wonderful storyteller and Martin is a wonderful plot-weaver. I am ever aspiring to their greatness.
What book genre of books do you adore?
My favorite genre to write in is interestingly different than my favorite genre to read. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good action/adventure or thriller/suspense—particularly political and historical thrillers of the Dan Brown and Michael Crichton variety. However, my favorite genre to read is high fantasy. I love me some sweeping epics of Lord of the Rings scale. Interestingly, I do have a long-term project that may materialize that fits in this genre—but even those books have a Christopher Grey-esque conspiracy theory feel. Lately have been attached to Steven Erikson, but when George R.R. Martin comes back, I’ll immediately jump over.
What book should everybody read at least once?
Great question. And I have a long list. No, I can’t answer with only one. I have ten. Here they are in no particular order:
The Stand, by Stephen King
Illusions, by Richard Bach
Skinny Legs and All, by Tom Robbins
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling
The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Odyssey, by Homer
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Will Shakespeare and the Ships of Solomon, by Christopher Grey
What do you hope your obituary will day about you?
How about my epitaph?
Here lies one Christopher Grey
Who wondered both night and day
Looking for a good villain
Until at last it killed him.
Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live?
I grew up in Denver, Colorado but spent most of my adult life in Los Angeles. I have an attachment to Colorado, much, I think, in the same way Stephen King does Maine, however my experiences are drawn more from my life in Los Angeles. I tend to write about Denver and, in fact, am in the works on a series that takes place there. However, I’ve had the fortune of a very active business life and spent a lot of years on the road. There are very few cities in the U.S. that I haven’t spent a substantial amount of time in and I draw on all of those experiences for my settings. Some of the cities that have most influenced me other than Denver and Los Angeles are San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Washington DC. Many of my books and stories take place in those cities as I am intimately connected with them and their culture. My debut novel, Will Shakespeare and the Ships of Solomon is, interestingly, an exception. Much of that book takes place in places I’ve never been (i.e. Montreal, Nova Scotia and Bermuda), so I had to do a tremendous amount of research before composing the plots there.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
While it is true authors need inspiration, for me that comes in the “story conjuring” stage. In other words, I am inspired to write a particular story/plot/character arc and that starts the novel-writing process. After that, there is little inspiration. The process is more about commitment to the idea, dedication to completing the project, and rolled-up-sleeve writing until it’s done. I know there are authors out there that must wait for inspiration to write, I’m not one of those. Writing, to me, is no different than going to the office. You need to do it, whether you feel like it or not.
What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?
I’m a marketer by trade, so I think I have it easier than some authors with regards to public relations, advertising, marketing programs, etc. However, even as a professional marketer the book business is a unique animal with tons of unwritten rules and antiquated frustrating processes. Now with the explosion of digital publishing technology it is harder than ever to get separated from the herd. Every author needs to be an expert in the publishing business–know it inside and out, from creation to production, distribution and marketing. Without knowing the whole picture it is very difficult to navigate. The author’s job doesn’t end with the manuscript–it never ends.
Do you find it hard to share your work?
It’s hard for authors to think of their novels as anything but children they have raised and brought to college…I mean publication. So, in that case, it is difficult to let the child out in the big, scary world, with big, scary people that will say mean things to it. I’ve found the best thing for me to do is to completely detach myself emotionally from the work. It is probably easier for me, because since I’m a marketer by trade I can look at anything I produce as a “product.” In that sense, it is much easier. A product can be changed, re-calibrated, pushed around and messed with much easier than a child. The sooner an author views finished manuscripts as products, the easier it will be for them.
In the fall of 1947, Will Shakespeare saw the world collapse around him. Shakespeare, a secret soldier for the Knights Templar, barely escapes the slaughter of his entire knighthood at the hands of a rogue militant arm of the Vatican in a small Montreal church. With orders to escort Templar business associate Dorothy Wilkinson back to her home in Bermuda, Will must locate and rescue the most important secret treasure in human history before it is devoured by a hurricane in the watery caves beneath her father’s property. The spiraling quest sends Will and Dorothy into uncovering dark secrets that make up the origins of the knighthood as they confront the traps and puzzles that masterfully protect the world’s most coveted treasure.
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Genre – Action, Adventure
Rating – PG
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