What do you do to get into a writing mood? —Jessica
I used to listen to music, but now even instrumental music is distracting, so I open my manuscript in an environment that’s as quiet as I can get it, and read a page or two up to where I left off, to get myself caught up. Then I start typing the first thing that pops into my head after having read what came before.
Usually this comes at the end of a morning of drinking coffee and waking up, watching my daily YouTube shows, getting caught up on my email and social media stuff.
How do you avoid distractions? —Jessica
My main distraction is the internet, and I take care of that by setting my router to kick me offline every day from 1pm to 6pm. I can’t even log into the router admin to remove it until the timer is over. So basically for several hours every day I have no internet at all.
People have told me that they need the internet for research purposes so they can’t do this, but I get around this by using my Kindle to look something up if I absolutely need to. It’s an original e-ink Kindle, and the fact that the browser on it is as slow as Christmas discourages me from goofing off on it.
Chocolate or vanilla? —Lori
Chocolate, definitely. Unless it’s mint chocolate chip. That’s my favorite.
What dreams have been fulfilled as a result of your writing? —Sharon
For all the grousing I do about how hard it is to get read, I’m actually not doing horribly on the global front. There are people all over the world that have read my work and know who I am, which is more than I can say for the dumb hicks that screwed with me in high school. I have more Twitter followers than the population of my hometown. As many people have downloaded my books as the population of Atlanta. I’m not a money-counter when it comes to my writing career—writing with dollar signs in your eyes can kick your creative drive right in the gob—but it feels pretty good to know I came out on top in my own way after all.
What mythologies and cultures do you find influence your writing the most? —Lucas
I used to have a great big, ahh, affinity for Japanese culture—I had a katana, I ran around in a ninja mask, I had an austere bedroom with faux-Japanese decorations. And in some ways, I still do love Japan, as an aesthetic. But these days I’ve developed a fondness for seeking the mythological culture of modern and near-modern American society. You’d be surprised at what you can find if you dig deep enough into your own neighborhood. For example, back in 1982 two accused lovers, Dr. Charles Scudder and Joseph Odem, were accused of being Satanic and were murdered up in the mountains near here in a castle they hand-built themselves out of bricks.
If you go back a little farther than that, you’ve got the Wild West expansionist era, which is a fantastic period of time to mine for story content, theme, and characters.
There’s also the Middle East, which was a huge influence on the world of Outlaw King. The desolate stretches, friendly and sun-weathered people, grassy steppes, and Martian crags of Afghanistan told me they’d make for a great spaghetti-western setting, and I listened to them.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? —Sharon
Aw, man. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that life is what pushes you down and steals your lunch money while you’re making plans. But a man can dream, can’t he? So in five years I’d like to be financially solvent and wearing clothes purchased after 2007, making the convention circuit and doing book signings. In ten years I’d like to be able to put my mother in a better house and have my own place again. Maybe even have a vehicle and a girlfriend again.
Do you ever get "writer's block" and, if so, how do you handle it? —Sharon
I don’t get writer’s block so much anymore. These days it’s a matter of motivation and discipline. I’ve learned to find what I call “the prosaic rope” when I sit down to start working; I can recognize the end of the rope when I see it poking up out of the sand and I can start pulling it. Normally, this involves reading a page or two of what I wrote the previous day and dovetailing that into today’s work by writing down the first natural thing I think of when I come to the end. Then it’s just a matter of building and maintaining momentum.
There’s definitely days when I just absolutely do not feel like writing, though. Days I don’t feel like sitting down and looking for the rope. Those are the days I struggle with.
Have you had any formal education or training in writing, e.g., classes in Creative Writing, or is your talent all self-taught? —Sharon
Completely self-taught! I haven’t been to a single class. Well, you might consider my days playing in the online RPGs as a form of education—discipline, grammar, characterization, plot, etc. But that’s the extent of my training, I think.
Where do you get your ideas from? —Jessica
Being bored. Whether that’s going for a long walk, sitting on the toilet, taking a shower, doing physical work that leaves my mind free to roam, or lying in the bed trying to sleep, if my mind is otherwise unoccupied it means I’m going to start thinking up story ideas.
Daydreaming, basically. That’s how just about everybody gets their ideas—fantasizing, imagining things, playing a mental movie in your head. When you’re standing in line at the bank and imagine yourself fighting bank robbers with kung-fu? When you’re driving down the road and imagine yourself being chased by a shadowy government agent? That’s where we get our ideas. The difference is, writers recognize the daydreams as story material and use them.
What is something you consider a guilty pleasure? —Emily
For a writer, pretty much anything that isn’t writing is a guilty pleasure. Recently my mother bought a couple of kayaks and convinced me to buy one, so I’m pretty much all about kayaks right now. Floating on the river with a paddle in my hands is the best thing ever.
What's the book you have reread more times than any other? —Emily
Ian Baker’s The Heart of the World: a Tibetan Journey. It’s about as close as any book could get to being my personal bible.
How often do you come up with new projects that you want to start on? —Lucas
Probably once or twice a week. I have an Idea Book I’m always adding to and deleting from. There’s about nine ideas in it right now.
What book/TV show are you a little embarrassed you love as much as you do? —Emily
I’m actually not really embarrassed by any shows or books that I like. I guess the closest you could get is the TV show Sightings that used to be on FOX back when I was a teenager. The embarrassing part is that the show used to have me so freaked out that I slept with a sword next to my bed.
What made you leave your LEO job and start writing? —Jerry
Well, I was a military policeman, so I left that when my military contract ran out and I left the Army with an honorable discharge. But when I got home, I quickly discovered that nobody here hires veterans because Hollywood’s convinced them all that we’re a bunch of ticking time-bombs just waiting to go off and shoot the place up.
My first clue was the first and only day-job I’ve had since I got home, a loom-runner in a carpet factory. They fired me when someone started a rumor that I had PTSD.
I tried everything I could think of to find work. I took three different correctional-officer exams for two different prisons. Interviewed with one of them (Hayes State), and not even knowing the previous warden helped me. I did dozens of interviews with civilian companies, including the local headquarters of Pirelli Tires here in Rome doing a job very similar to what I did in Afghanistan. No dice.
So that November I started writing the first book of the Outlaw King series. I figured I didn’t have anything else going for me, so why not chase my dream? I had nothing to lose.
What is your favorite monster? —Jessica
Jason Voorhees, without a doubt. He’s cool as hell and scares the crap out of me. And part of his personality—legendary Jason-portrayer Kane Hodder can attest to this, as it’s his MO—is that Jason canonically doesn’t kill children or animals. You’d never see Jason kick a dog or stab a toddler. And his face being concealed by that mask is like the world’s nastiest Christmas present.