Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I was born in Lexington, Kentucky, moved to New Jersey as a small boy, and met my wife in college in Pennsylvania. I taught English in Bristol, Virginia, and since 2003 I have taught English in Central Virginia, where I live with my wife and sons. I have published one novel, and I have just finished a first draft of a second novel. I have also published a short story, several poems, several songs, and several articles on works of literature by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, and Jorge Luis Borges.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My novel is Fire in the Bones. What inspired me to write it—that’s pretty cool, actually. My son had been doing NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—for a year or two, where you try to draft a novel of 50,000 words in a month. One November I decided to do it too. We went to a little café in a bookstore for the first “write-in,” and I had a song in my mind—I’ve always loved popular music, and I’m an auditory person, so music is often floating around in my head—anyway, I had in my mind this song about fire and how it can actually clean or purify things, make them better. And I started to picture a scene I vaguely remembered about a little boy sitting in a little country church, fanning himself with one of those rectangular picture-fans on a stick that little country churches in the South used to have (maybe they still do). And the words started to come. That turned into the first scene/chapter in the book. The next three or four chapters of the book I based on other early memories or early stories I had heard. Then as the plot and the characters started to take shape and develop, it became clearer and clearer where to go with the story.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
For me, a better question might be, Do you have any normal writing habits? Not many. I’m not a morning person, and often I’m at work during the day. So I tend to write in the evenings, though I know a lot of writers work better in the morning. I also can’t write for long blocks of time. I definitely write better in short blocks—an hour at most, at a time. I will start by writing a bit, and then go back and revise a bit of something I wrote yesterday, and then write a little more new material. It also helps me to stop writing while I still know where I’m going with the scene—that leaves me something to start with the next day, so I don’t have to start cold.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Faulkner’s books, his style, has definitely influenced me. Probably Hawthorne’s too. And some more recent literature—Welty, Borges, Beattie, McCorkle. Music influences my writing a lot too, classic rock from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s—the Beatles, for example, play a significant role in my novel Fire in the Bones.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a second novel, which is a sequel to Fire in the Bones. My working title for the second novel is We Are Not Consumed. It follows the first novel’s main character, Luke, through his high school years, age 14-18. Like the first novel, it includes a lot of popular music and other pop culture, and Luke continues his quest for meaning in life and his search for the right girl.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Good question. I’m fairly new at this, so I’m not sure what the best method is yet, but here’s what I’ve done so far: I have a Facebook author page, an author page on Amazon Author Central, a YouTube channel, a Twitter page, interviews on A Writer For Life, Bookgoodies, and Book Reader Magazine. My book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and in my local Barnes and Noble store. Working on getting it in a national chain of bookstores. And I’m doing a book signing February 13 from 10-12 at the Barnes and Noble on Liberty University campus in Lynchburg, VA.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Yes. Write about something that you deeply care about and are truly interested in—not what sells the most or what is most popular. That way, no matter what the final outcome for your book, you can still feel good about it, knowing it is honest and true to you and genuine. And that genuineness should also come across to readers, reflecting in the quality of the writing. If you don’t deeply care about what you’re writing, it’s never going to be your best.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
If you mean writing advice, it would probably be don’t give up. Don’t be discouraged by rejections. Keep trying.
What are you reading now?
I just read a story by Flannery O’Connor, “Good Country People.” I’m also reading up on postmodern literature for a class I’m going to be teaching soon.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Finding more ways to get the word out about Fire in the Bones. And revising the second novel now that I’ve completed the first draft. Revision is so important! I revise a lot. You think something is pretty good the first time, then you go back with fresh eyes and realize Hmmm. This isn’t quite as good as I thought. So you re-work it, re-see it, polish it.
What is your favorite book of all time?
The Bible. No contest.