Upon putting together the archives page containing interviews and spotlight posts, it came to my attention that the link to my interview on Mercedes’ website had become dysfunctional, as pictured below.
However, I had saved the text back from when I originally completed the interview. It has been included below, for those of you who are interested.
When did you decide to become a writer?
The time of decision was a bit twofold. Though being a writer was a pipe dream for a while, the abstract decision was made in high school and not acted upon until after college. It’s odd to pin it to those two specific times, because since I was about five I’ve been “writing,” even just silly drabbles back then, but it was around that time that I realized I loved reading stories so much that I wanted to see if I could make some of my own. During my adolescence I found myself reading stories, and becoming so emotionally invested in them that I wondered, “What if this part of the story had gone differently?” It was such an enjoyable pastime that I promised myself I’d start putting out original work after I got out of college. So really, the decision was made as early as 2010 if not acted on for another four years.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
For the majority of my middle school and high school years I would start stories en masse, write perhaps a thousand words, and abandon them because I could never take what I was seeing in my head and put it into words. It always left me with a sense of frustration because I knew that I had some (what I considered to be) pretty good scenes in my head if only I could figure out how to get them down. When I sat down and decided to start Smoke it was with that sense of previous failure in mind which acted as motivation, but also a kind of hope and excitement for the end product if I could just sit down and figure out how to write in the long-term.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
When I started writing everything was over-exaggerated in some areas and completely deadpan in others; there was no happy medium to any of it. To give you an idea, my characters would wildly yell at each other while standing completely still. I focused too much on the small details (I clearly remember writing a story about a dinner party in which every ingredient of every dish was listed) but never built any sort of world for my characters to live in. That gradually progressed to melodrama as I got the feel for writing intense situations, where the worst things in the world would constantly happen to my characters and they would react in kind. Where I am right now, I’ve gotten the need to write needless drama out of my system and can almost focus more clearly on the story itself and where it needs to go. I’ve tried writing almost every kind of scene in almost every level of intensity, and because I’ve now gotten a flavor for everything, I can go back and pick and choose which style I need for any given scene.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?
It’s a delicate mixture of both. Originally I’ll just see where the idea takes me and I’ll get about ten thousand words into a project before I start to structure it at all. Even then, outlining a plot is only used as a last ditch effort to figure out what connects plot point A to plot point B. I’ll frequently have two scenes that I know need to be in the story but for the life of me can’t figure out how they relate, and that’s about the only time I’ll make actual diagrams and identify each point in the given arc to sort it all out.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
My latest book, Risen, deals heavily with mythology and the undead which are two of my favorite things to watch or write about. The issue there was a couple of different things. First, I cared more about the demigod characters than about the humans and so I spent much more time writing about them to the point where the scenes for each group was terribly unbalanced. Second, I’ve wanted to write a book like this for years, and finally figuring out how to do it has left me terribly excited. I was so thrilled while writing the action and fight scenes and backstory lore that often times even the tone of my writing sounded like it was gushing with excitement. So overall, the two most difficult parts of writing this book were balancing out the scenes for each group of characters, and trying to maintain some kind of calm, objective voice.
Which writers inspire you?
Jonathan Maberry (my inspiration to delve into the paranormal and sci-fi genres); C.S. Lewis (the drive behind my desire to write fantasy); Ned Vizzini (my first and best introduction on how to put mental health-related topics into words); and Laurie Halse Anderson (who has piqued my interest in trying to capture the dysfunctional family dynamic).
Who is your favorite author and which of their books is your favorite?
Jonathan Maberry, hands down. He’s brilliant, able to write everything from the tender moments between two characters in love to the chilling, visceral anger of men in combat and I’d recommend him to anyone looking to get a proper introduction to the science fiction genre. So far, my favorite book of his is “Code Zero.”