Oh, definitely. It was a process. I went from writing songs to writing poetry, but everything was very obtuse. I wanted to explore concepts and themes, and really, it's just too hard to do that in the way I wanted in that short of space. So I moved to screenplays and then finally novels. Still, I hope my love for the flow of words has translated somehow, at least in a small way, into my prose style. I love poetics, so I take scantion of my narrative very seriously.
Having read some of your work, I know you are a descriptive writer. How do you filter through the descriptions in your head and transfer them to paper?
Well, as I said, I started writing (or trying to write) screenplays before I moved to novels. So, I tend to think of the scenes in my book like a scene from a movie. I try to move the "camera" and focus on what the reader "sees" or "hears," but also in what order. Of course, one of the many advantages novel writing has over screenwriting is that I can use all five senses. So, I try to add those in as much as I remember. The smell or feel of a moment can really capture the scene. I think about what would stand out to me if I was there. Is it humid? Can you smell the gasoline from the nearby highway? Is it noisy? That sort of thing.
What about that writing class in high school gave you the confidence to embrace writing a novel?
For me, the writing class was great. It was the first time anyone helped me appreciate the way poems flow (the "feet," etc.) and helped me understand the difference between good descriptions and purple prose. It was also the first time I ever tried my hand at narrative writing in any real serious way, and I found I loved it.
Why do you think writing short stories wasn't your arena?
I tend to think "big." My plot ideas would never fit into anything that short. That was the whole problem with poetry for me. In fact, I often think in a book series. I have written a single novel (or about 70% of one anyway. I'll be surprised if it ever sees the light of day), but I like big ideas. A good three-book series is a minimum, I think. I'm exaggerating, of course, but only slightly.
Your family is quite young. How are you handling it all?
It's hard. I try to find a balance. I want to keep writing, because I love it. However, I tend to not write when everyone is up, because if it's nighttime, that's family time. Having a young family is stressful on everyone, but especially my wife who is a stay at home mm and thus is Mommy 24/7 with a 12 month old. Of course, it doesn't help when she's pregnant in her 2nd trimester. She's such a hard worker (and a great encourager and helper of my writing), so I try to help out as much as I can when I'm home. I love my wife and baby so much, so they come first.
Tell the readers about your current project.
I've written a book called The Ledger Domain, which is the first in a YA fantasy series called The Dowered Three Series. The shorthand version of the premise is Harry Potter meets James Bond, but as I've said in a recent blog post, such comparisons are by definition fraught with peril. The book is about a teenage girl who trains to become a magical spy. In the first novel, a spy from the field appears at the school near death. Despite her teacher's assurances that they meant nothing, Taylor researches the spy's final words, which leads her and her friends on a daring journey that could save the magical world. There's also an elvish prince with gorgeous blue eyes who would be Taylor's perfect guy if he didn't blame her for his sister's death. Romance, intrigue, a healthy dose of cyber-punk spy stuff... and a traitor known as "The Teacher." It's a lot of fun!
I know you've been submitting and have received requests for material. From your experience now, what advice can you give to other writers out there waiting....?
The biggest thing I can say is be professional and have a good perspective on the whole thing. You have a book that you are trying to get published. You're going to find someone to help you do that. It's just a matter of getting it in publishable shape and finding the right person. A rejection just means that either the agent isn't right for you or your manuscript just isn't ready for primetime yet. Either one is ok. Be like Whitman, and work on that baby until you die. Also, remember it's not "their loss" if you get big, because they weren't the right person for you. I've learned a lot from rejections. My manuscript is TONS better than it was when I first started submitting because I learned that my book was too long and didn't flow right. My book is better now, and sooner or later I'm going to have the perfect manuscript in front of the right agent. I have faith. That's really what I'm trying to say. It's all about having faith.
Lastly, you and I met in a writing community, Inkwell. Although, we've all been busy lately and haven't been able to connect, you and I--along with three others--are critique partners. How do you think writing communities and critique groups are helpful? Recommend them?
Yes, for sure. It's great getting advice from other writers. It's different than getting advice from family or friends, because they have a different perspective. It's good to have varying types of perspectives on your manuscript. However, you also have to learn to balance your time and the amount of feedback you receive. If you spend too much time relying on others' opinions, you'll never develop a writer's instinct. At some point, you have to stop worrying about what others think is good and trust your own opinion. Really, with anything like that (blogging is another good example), your writing should come before the other stuff. I try to do both, but if you don't have time for it all, you should know which one to cut out. And I'm sorry we've been so busy and haven't been able to connect lately. We've got to do that!