Where to begin? I’m a native Cape Codder, I grew up wanting to become a cartoonish or comic book artists, then came to the realization I wasn’t a great artist, so I switched disciplines and have been plugging away at writing ever since.
I spent 15 years as a reporter for my local newspaper before leaving to A) help out my wife’s growing business (Storied Threads, cheap plug) and B) focus on my fiction writing. I’ve also been on the writing staff for Pastimes Entertainment, a small theater company out of Revere MA; and the Connecticut Renaissance Faire, where I still perform (mostly in stage combat roles, because the director loves how I get beaten up on stage).
I currently live off-Cape with my wife Veronica, our bulldog Beatrix, and four cats.
How long have you been writing?
More or less my entire life. When I was an aspiring cartoonist, I wrote all my own comic strips, but I didn’t take writing seriously until I went to art school and learned that a career as a professional artist wasn’t going to happen. I took up writing as a serious craft 24 years ago.
What’s your story about?
It features five teenage friends who are attempting to become serious superheroes. The focus is on Carrie, a girl who gains super-powers the same day she learns her parents are getting divorced, so the story is very much about Carrie rediscovering herself as a person – and that person just happens to be a promising crime-fighter.
What genre would you consider your book?
I’d say the genre is “superhero,” which happens to encompass a wide range of other genres, from science fiction and fantasy to crime drama and action-adventure. Superhero settings are wonderfully eclectic, which means the story potential is staggering.
Give me some insight into your main character.
Despite her powers, I like to think of Carrie as a very normal young woman trying to navigate her teenage years, easily the most chaotic and uncertain time in anyone’s life. She’s trying to find herself again after a rough patch in her life, to assert her individuality and independence, and to figure out where her life is going.
She’s also trying very, very hard not to get killed by the assortment of antagonists that pop up in her secret life.
What makes your book different from others in its genre?
If you mean the superhero genre, that’s easy: there are precious few books in that category, so it’s unusual simply by existing. Everyone writing YA is doing supernatural romance or dystopian futures, so the superhero genre is wide open.
Speaking of the YA field more generally, I’m doing my best to avoid all the trappings of modern YA fiction. I’ve promised myself, and readers, that there will never be any love triangles, and that the series will never get so bogged down in drama it loses its sense of fun.
What inspired you to write your book?
Broadly speaking, a lifelong love of superhero comics. I’ve been reading them since literally before I could read. The concept has been floating around in my brain for years, but I only recently figured out how to tell the story. I decided on a whim to try writing it as a young adult novel, and it worked. I credit Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” series for giving me the incentive to give the YA approach a whack.
How did you come up with the title?
I wish I had an interesting story here, but I don’t. This falls under the “it just came to me” category, but when it did come to me, I knew I’d hit on the right title.
What’s your favorite part of it, without giving anything away of course?
In book two, there’s a little bit of dialog between Matt and Stuart, two of Carrie’s friends/teammates. One of the school bullies tries to belittle them with a homophobic slur -- something, sadly, bullies in real life tend to do -- and they turn it around on him by getting into a mock lover’s quarrel. It was a lot of fun to write, and it’s the kind of humorous rebuttal you’d love to see in real life.
Tell me about your writing process?
I sit on the couch, fire up whatever low-budget craptacular horror movies I can find on Netflix, and go. I have what I’d charitably call an organic writing process, which means I know what sort of broad story beats I want to hit, but I make up a lot of it on the fly. It’s a pain during editing because I’m always finding continuity issues that need fixing, but it always takes my stories in new directions I never could have planned out.
What do you find most difficult about writing?
Writing transition scenes, those scenes in which not much is happening to advance the plot in any exciting way, but is necessary to get me to the next significant scene. When I hit those, I tend to stall out a lot, because it feels like I’m just spinning my wheels rather than moving the story along.
Are you a full-time writer?
More or less. If I’m not helping out my wife, I’m writing.
What are your writing ambitions?
I’d like to get my career to a point where my writing is more reliable as a source of income. It’s tough when you’re self-publishing, but I suspect it’s really not all that better if my books had a major publisher. Precious few writers get that sweet six-figure book deal.
What do you do when you get writer’s block?
I step away from the laptop. I know better than to try and force myself through a mental dead zone.
Do you outline and plot your book as you’re writing or does it go where it goes?
As I said above, a little of column A, a little of column B. I don’t plan things out meticulously. It tends to kill my creative energy.
What is your favorite book?
Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend,” which has the most amazing final page of any book I’ve ever read. Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” is a very close second.
Are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest?
I think the newest authors I’ve picked up on are Cherie Priest and Naomi Novik, who write the “Clockwork Century” and “Temeraire” series, respectively. I also loved “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline, and I’m curious to see what he comes up with next.
Are you self published or traditionally published? Do you wish you had gone about the process differently?
Self-published, after giving traditional publishing more than a fair shot. I don’t lament how things played out, for the most part, but I’d have rather gone into self-publishing with more knowledge of the process. I researched things thoroughly, but I still feel like I fumbled through it. Fortunately, the second time around was smoother.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I could go on for hours here, but I’ll say that writers should understand they cannot do it all by themselves, especially if they plan to self-publish. They need people to test-read early drafts to help them find the weaknesses. They need a real editor to give the manuscript a final look. They need a real artist to handle the cover chores. Try to do it all yourself, and you’ll wind up with an inferior, amateurish product.
If you could have dinner with any person dead or alive who would it be?
Bruce Campbell. I love the guy, and “Army of Darkness” is my all-time favorite movie. I’ve met him at book signings, and I’d love to sit down over pizza and beer and let him talk my ear off.
When you aren’t writing, what do you do for fun?
I read a lot, watch movies, get together with friends for game days, and perform stage combat. I don’t get to do any of those things as much as I’d like.
If you could say anything to your readers, what would it be?
If you liked the book, leave a positive review and tell your friends about it. Seriously. Indie authors have to promote their books on tiny to non-existent budgets, and something as simple as a brief review on Amazon or chatting the book up to friends is a huge help. It’s a good rule for life: if you love something, share that love.
If you didn’t like the book? Well, think hard before you leave a poor review. If it was well-written but simply wasn’t your thing, say nothing and let people who might like it discover it on their own. If you feel you must say something, regardless of the reason, state your case thoughtfully, thoroughly, and above all, politely, because that book is still someone’s art. Their technical competence may be lacking, but cruelly trashing their creation isn’t going to help them improve. It’ll make them feel like crap and make you look like a dick. The Internet has enough trolls, so don’t join them.
What's your biggest fear?
Flying. Terrified of it. No idea why, but I’ve been scared of flying my whole life. I was on a plane once, because extenuating circumstances forced my hand, and I was miserable the whole time.
Who is the most annoying character you've ever encountered in a book, on tv or in a movie?
Any character played by Matthew Lillard – with the exception of Shaggy from the “Scooby-Doo” movies and the new cartoon. Somehow, as Shaggy, he’s amazing, but normally he drives me nuts.
If you were on death row, what would you choose for a final meal?
A bacon cheeseburger, followed by a bottle of sleeping pills, and a bottle of really good scotch, because if I’m going out, I’m going out on my terms.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
I’m an apostrophe Nazi. I see a word pluralized with an apostrophe-S and I lose it.
If you knew you could get away with anything without consequence, what would you do?
I can think of a few old high school bullies that could stand some comeuppance.
What is your biggest regret in life?
Not meeting my wife earlier, but it’s a small regret. We came into each other’s lives at just the right time for both of us.
If you had Doctor Who's TARDIS, what time would you travel to?
Britain, 1960s, and I’d spend the decade hitting concerts by all the great British Invasion bands in their formative years.
I think my answer stands on its own quite nicely.
What is the best present you ever received?
When I was a kid, my aunt made me an R2-D2 bank in ceramics class. I still have it.
What's your secret guilty pleasure movie you don't want to admit you love?
Oh, I admit to all my guilty pleasures, and I don’t feel guilty about them. I watch Z-grade horror movies and trashy daytime talk shows with reckless abandon, even though I know they’re wretched.
What is your most prized material possession?
The aforementioned R2-D2 bank. I’d be devastated if something ever happened to that silly old thing.
Where can we find you?
Blog: As above
Like it or not, Carrie’s a super-hero now, and normal is no longer an option.
BOOK ONE RELEASE DATE: September 2013.
BOOK TWO RELEASE DATE: March 2014.
But First Read Issue One: