1. Where do you get your ideas?
The simplest answer is that I’m always in “sponge” mode, absorbing interesting facts, legends, speculations and so forth, and filing them away for possible future use. I have a decent reference library at home, but of course, the Internet is an absolutely invaluable resource, not only for factual information, but also wild speculative stuff that obviously isn’t true but still makes for great reading.
Some of those bits of trivia are interesting enough to form the seed of a story—sort of like the grain of sand at the heart of a pearl.
As I do research into the subject, I’ll often discover new information that stimulates unexpected connections, and then it’s just a matter of letting my characters make the journey from point A to point Z.
2. Which of your books should I read first?
That depends on what you’re in the mood for, but let’s try this. If you loved the Indiana Jones movies and want a book that’s more of the same, try In the Shadow of Falcon’s Wings—the first book in the Dodge Dalton adventures.
If you like that kind of story, but want it a little more contemporary, go with The Shroud of Heaven, book one of the Nick Kismet series.
And if you want a little more science-fiction outrageousness, with monsters and the paranormal, check out Ascendant.
3. Which authors do you like to read and why?
There are a couple of active authors that are must-reads for me—Clive Cussler and James Rollins are at the top of that list for what I hope are obvious reasons. In the adventure thriller genre, there are too many to name, and I try to read as many as I can, but perhaps a better way to answer is to focus on authors outside my genre.
One author that I’m currently fascinated with is epic science-fiction storyteller, Kim Stanley Robinson. His novels explore themes—environmental, social, political—that are important to me, and should be to all concerned citizens of this planet.
4. Which authors inspire you?
I’ve told this story often, but one of the things that really inspired me to start writing adventure novels was the author bio in the back of the first Clive Cussler novel I ever read. It talked about Cussler’s real-world adventures, searching for shipwrecks and
lost mines. That—more than fame or money—was the appeal of writing adventure novels, and it still is. Another inspirational figure in my journey is Louis L’Amour. Though I’ve read only a mere fraction of his catalogue, I have always admired the professionalism with which he approached storytelling.
One book that really stands out to me is his memoir, Education of a Wandering Man, which chronicles his personal journey through an era that, despite being fairly recent history, feels more like the stuff of one of his novels.
5. How long have you been a writer?
I wrote my first adventure story in fourth grade. Does that count? How about my Robert E. Howard inspired epic fantasy from junior high? The Indiana Jones fanfic or the science fiction and horror short stories I submitted for rejection in the 1980s?
I think I have always been a writer, but I would have to say that the decision to try to write an adventure novel for publication goes back to the early 90s, when I wrote the first draft of a story that would eventually become the Nick Kismet adventure, Fortune Favors.
6. How did you get started writing?
As far back as I can remember, I loved reading, and I think my desire to write came out wanting to know what happens after the story ends. Of course, creating stories and writing aren’t the same thing. A novelist has to be able to do both, that is, put the story—the ideas—into coherent and appealing prose. I’m not certain exactly when I started doing the latter, but I’m certain the foundation was laid in high school where I took elective English, creative writing and a couple years of journalism.
7. Describe your books . . .
My goal with every story is to write an adventure, which I define as an action-packed story pitting my hero against human villains, the environment, and sometimes, things which can only be described as supernatural. Some of the stories, like the Adventures of Dodge Dalton, are a little more on the fantastic side, taking place in a sort of alternate history I call “the Golden Age of Adventure”—where it’s always 1939.
The Mira Raiden stories, which will eventually form a trilogy, also feature a lot more science fiction and fantasy elements—ranging from psychic abilities to zombies and yeti—though the setting is contemporary.
My other primary series, featuring Nick Kismet, has those same elements, but I try to use them a bit less, relying on good old fashioned physical action—lots of fights, car chases, shoot-outs, and the like. My co-authored efforts generally fall into similar categories.
My books with David Wood are more in keeping with the Nick Kismet style, while my books in Jeremy Robinson’s Jack Sigler/Chess Team universe feature a lot more monster battles and other “out there” stuff. In all the books though, the emphasis is on a human protagonist using his/her wits to solve whatever I throw at him/her.
8. Do you prefer writing by yourself or with another author(s)?
Honestly, it doesn’t make a lot of difference to me because the process is mostly the same. The authors I work with generally give me a great deal of freedom to do my part of it my way.
Working with a co-author usually means that a lot more people will read the story that would if it was just me alone, and ultimately, being read is what it’s all about. Another big advantage of co-authoring is that I usually don’t have to create the main characters from scratch, which gives me a chance to really focus on supporting characters.
That said, it’s been a while since I’ve written a solo effort, and I’m looking forward to blazing some new trails.
9. What’s the next chapter for you?
My son once suggested that there are three stages to being a writer. First, you write what you want. Second, you write what people want to read. Third, people want to read what you write. That’s simplifying of course, but it all distills down to having readers.
In the last few years, I’ve gone from dreaming of being a professional writer to writing full-time for a living. I’m still writing what I want, but I’m also writing for the audience I’ve already established.
The next stage can only be achieved by growing that audience, and that’s the next challenge. While I’m committed to continuing my solo series and collaborations with David Wood (the Jade Ihara and Myrmidons Files series) I’m currently working on a brand new original adventure novel that will incorporate some of the themes that are important to me, notably wilderness preservation and the environment.
10. In what formats are your books available?
All of my books are available as ebooks on most platforms—Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, Nook…did I leave any out? If you prefer what I call ‘dead tree’ editions, I think all of the books are available in trade paperback, but you probably won’t find them in your bookstore. Just ask and someone can probably order them for you, or of course, you can get them from Amazon. Most are also available as audiobooks from Audible.
A Question from a Reader…
“How do you keep track of complex storylines (and possible future storylines) without writing yourself into a corner? Do you have a spreadsheet, use a flowchart, advanced calculus?”
Usually (but not always), at the start of each new book, I write a fairly detailed synopsis or outline along with a summary of the backstory elements–which includes both real and fictional historical events.
Normally, the backstory is the most complex part of the plot, so I try to make sure I understand all the connections before I start writing. The next tricky part is to make sure the characters in the story, can figure things out in a somewhat plausible fashion.
I generally have a good idea of how that will work, but often I’ll come up with a better idea while I’m writing it. For series’ characters, I usually go back a reread the earlier books, both to make sure I keep the same narrative style, and to reacquaint myself with those pesky details.