Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m a former teacher who resides in northern Indiana, with my wife, my son, and a batch of pets. I mostly write science fiction. I have a series out called THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES, which is a book of short stories and a full-length novel, and another near-future science fiction book called SKYLIGHTS, which I’m working on the sequel to right now. My newest book, SEARCHING FOR MALUMBA: WHY TEACHING IS TERRIBLE… AND WHY WE DO IT ANYWAY is a nonfiction memoir about my fifteen years of teaching.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
As I said, I’ve been teaching for fifteen years. SEARCHING FOR MALUMBA is a collection of short stories (blog posts, mostly) about teaching in urban schools in Indiana and Chicago. I tried to be as honest as I could– which is code for “I swear a lot”– but it’s been the most well-received of any of my books so far.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I have a wristband that I got with one of the JACKASS DVDs that I wear when I seriously need to concentrate. It generally only gets busted out during the last couple of days of working on a book.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Hmm. Dan Brown, who writes page-turners like no one else I’ve ever read. John Scalzi’s snark and dialogue. Douglas Adams’ sense of humor. STAR WARS. Tolkien. Lovecraft. And surely dozens and dozens of others in smaller ways.
What are you working on now?
The sequel to SKYLIGHTS, which is called SUNLIGHT. I’m about halfway through it as we speak and I’m hoping to release it in late April sometime. I’m also cooking up about three or four short stories for various markets and one anthology that a fellow independent author is putting together, and bits and pieces of the next BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES book, which will be another (longer) short story collection.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
People keep telling me Twitter doesn’t sell books, but I’ve had more people tell me “I just ordered your book because of XXX” on Twitter than anyplace else. My blog, infinitefreetime.com, also does a lot of the heavy lifting for marketing.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Write every single day. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It doesn’t have to be fiction, and it doesn’t have to be on your current WIP– a simple blog post counts, or an author interview, or some marketing copy– but write every single day.
And read every day, too. Those two things. Constantly.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
I think this was Neil Gaiman, but I suspect he was quoting someone else, and I’m paraphrasing anyway: “Writing is easy. Just write a word, then repeat fifty thousand times.” I think sometimes people mystify The Process too much; sometimes it’s important to remember that all we’re doing is scribbling, and sooner or later something comes out if we keep doing it.
Also: your first draft is allowed to suck. That’s what second drafts are for. Your second draft is also allowed to suck. That’s what third drafts are for. And so on.
What are you reading now?
THE SECRET PLACE, by Tana French. One of the future books rattling around in my head is a futuristic murder mystery, and she does police procedurals better than anyone I know of at the moment.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I want to try to get two books out this year– SUNLIGHT is going to be first, and I haven’t decided what my fall book will be. It might be the next BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES book, or it might be that future murder mystery I alluded to in the previous question. We’ll see. I’m also doing a couple of cons this year– I’ll be at C2E2 in March, and IndyPopCon in June, and I’m hoping to be vending at WorldCon as well but that’s not set in stone yet.
What is your favorite book of all time?
The LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and HAROUN AND THE SEA OF STORIES by Salman Rushdie.