Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to start writing.
I’ve been telling stories for as long as I can remember. My inspiration for writing simply comes from having read great books. I wanted to capture the feeling I got when reading wonderful stories, and use my gift to share this with others.
Tell us about your books.
I just recently had my tenth book published. The first nine were part of the Burnside mystery series; the tenth is a political thriller called CURSE OF THE AFFLICTED, which details the journey of a cancer patient who is diagnosed just as he reaches the height of his career.
The first book I ever wrote (many years ago) was an unholy mess. But that book was absolutely critical in the development of my next book, Post Pattern. which turned into an award winning novel that launched the Burnside series. Through that first book, I learned the importance of plot structure, character arc and foreshadowing, as well as the danger of self-indulgence. Structure is critically important in genre fiction, and especially in the mystery/thriller category in which I write. It’s a hard lesson to learn but one which is essential in developing a great story.
How did you go about getting published?
I am self-published. I initially chose to go exclusive with Amazon in terms of promoting my first few Burnside novels. Amazon is the largest digital publisher and they also offer KDP Select. This has been a successful tool for me because of both the free days, as well as the Kindle Countdown. But over time, as I have written more books, I knew I needed to go wide and offer my books to a broader audience through Nook, iTunes, Kobo and Google Play.
In February 2018, I offered my first Boxed Set with a 99 cent promotion. This was a compilation of the first three novels in the Burnside series, and my thinking was if people liked the first three, they’d go on and buy the rest of the series. The results were stunning. I sold thousands of books that week, and the Boxed Set ended up on the USA TODAY bestseller list. I was shocked at how many sales there were, but even more pleasantly surprised by how this continued over the next 8 weeks. Sales eventually tapered off as they always do, but it was quite a thrill to see my books ranked a few slots ahead of To Kill A Mockingbird!
What is your writing process? Do you have a time, day or place you like to write?
I am an early riser, and I use that quiet time to re-write and edit the work I did the previous day. But I’ve found that, for me, the best time of day to create new content is the late afternoon. That is when my creative juices really flow, and I can write extensively and in an uninhibited way.
My process involves creating a 24 point outline before I start writing my novel. This details the 24 most important events that happen during the story. There are times when I may need to tweak these, but I am an author who needs a certain amount of structure. I don’t use a white board, my 24 point outline is done on a Word document and is normally about 5 or 6 pages long. I also don’t sketch out character descriptions, I simply think a lot about who they are and what makes them do what they do.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Full-time job, pets, hobbies?
I work part-time as a marketing research consultant. I develop surveys, moderate focus groups and analyze data. I have this left brain-right brain thing going on, so the logical portion of my brain gets a good workout by conducting research, the creative side is utilized in my writing. For me, it creates a nice balance.
As far as hobbies go, I am an avid sports fan, especially football, and during the season, I try to watch as many games as possible.
Any advice for authors about book covers?
Do what feels right. Check out other what other s authors in your genre are creating with their covers, solicit opinions from people you know who buy books, and be open to changing covers periodically. But in the end, it is your book, you created it, so the cover has to be something you feel good about.
Any marketing tips you’d like to share with other authors?
Like a lot of authors, I am better at writing than marketing. They say the best way to sell your book is to write a great first chapter — and the best way to sell your next book is to write a great last chapter. But beyond the actual writing itself, I would recommend building a mailing list, offering a free chapter at the end of each book, and occasionally making a few books available at a discounted price. But again, the best marketing tactic is to simply write compelling books that make readers want to pass on to others.
What’s your favorite book?
That is a very tough question! I’m not sure I could narrow it down to my Top 20 favorite books. Certain books have influenced me greatly, but at various points in my life. From The Alchemist to A Clockwork Orange to Huckleberry Finn to In Cold Blood to The Prince of Tides to Tattoos On The Heart, all have been important to me because they were so unique and original and showed me a part of the world I did not know existed. But if forced to choose one, I would have to go with Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I don’t think I have ever read a book that was so brilliantly written, so strikingly original, so monumentally complex, and so undeniably life changing. Joseph Heller took the experience of war and pulled back the curtain to reveal many shocking truths. And to do this in such a humorous way was a grand achievement. I’ve read and re-read Catch-22 many times and it never fails to amaze and inspire me.
What are you reading now?
I always seem to be reading three or four books at one time! I am presently reading a brilliant comic novel called The Sellout by Paul Beatty, a very interesting memoir about rural life called Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, and a compelling family saga, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. And I often have a mystery novel in the mix; I just re-read one of my favorites by the legendary Robert B. Parker, Looking For Rachel Wallace.
What’s your next book project?
I have just finished my tenth novel and I’m taking a break for a month. Eventually the creative fire will start to smolder and the ideas will emerge. For now though, I am just relaxing and enjoying the summer.