Q: When and why did you start writing?
“As a kid, I had an old black typewriter, and maybe that was the catalyst. To a little kid, it seemed like a serious piece of machinery. Heavy as a bank safe. Silver-rimmed keys. A little bell that dinged at the end of each line. That sound encouraged me to just keep typing and typing. I sold my first magazine article at age 19, and I’ve never stopped writing.”
Q: What inspires you to keep writing?
“As a teenager, I met an African storyteller who traveled around the world, writing down oral stories to preserve them before they vanished forever. That fired my imagination, the idea that stories are fragile things that can change or disappear. But even more important, stories are universal. They’re inherently human. I love to write because it’s a way to talk about universal experiences that we all have: growing up, falling in love, confronting death, finding purpose, making hard choices that we have to live with. All of these experiences shape who we are.”
Q: What does your fiction writing process look like?
“I always start with the basics first: who are the good guys, what are they trying to do (and especially why), who are the bad guys, and where does this take place? Then I boil all of that down into a strong core idea. For example: a bookish crystal shop owner has to save the world from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – who drive possessed muscle cars. (It Happened One Doomsday.) The idea has to work at the core level, it has to really grab me, before I start writing it.”
Q: Can you explain the magic system in the Dru Jasper series? And where did you get the idea for it?
“I’ve always been fascinated by crystals. For example, galena is a dark silvery rock with rough mirror-like edges. Back in ancient Egypt, it was believed to protect against the ‘evil eye’ if you paint it around your eyes. It works because galena actually kills bacteria. I thought: what if I took these metaphysical beliefs in crystals and elevated them? What if a sorcerer could magnify these crystals so much that they could actually fight demons, rescue people, and save the world?”
Q: You’re a fan of muscle cars. What prompted you to incorporate them into the Dru Jasper series?
“A few years ago, we got my mean old Thunderbird out of storage, cleaned out the carburetor, and got it started. I had installed a tape deck at some point, and the moment the engine growled to life, the stereo started playing ‘I’m Evil’ by Danzig. And I wondered: what if there was a car that was actually evil, as in, possessed by a demon? That’s where I got the idea for Hellbringer.”
Q: How do authors go about building a fantasy world?
“The cardinal rule of world-building is that you never, ever want to change something about the world just for the sake of changing it. If you make something up, it needs to play directly into the story.”
Q: Do you still write on a Remington manual typewriter?
“It’s rare these days. With a jam-packed writing schedule, I have to work as fast as possible. That means writing on a computer, even if I’m not particularly fond of it. Like anyone of a certain age, I grew up pounding on the keys of a typewriter, and there’s something almost meditative about going back to that. When you type on a typewriter, you have to be deliberate about what you put down on the page. Every time you hit a key, thwack, that letter hits the paper. You can’t take it back. It’s there. You have to accept it and keep moving forward.”
Q: Can you tell us something about The Spider Thief that isn’t mentioned on the cover?
“My book The Spider Thief has an absolutely lovable dog named Moolah, with an incredible nose for cash. And I mean that literally — this dog can sniff out briefcases full of money. And it’s inspired by real-life cash sniffing dogs, who work with law enforcement to help prevent smugglers from crossing the border with large bundles of cash.”
Q: I love that Mitch in Conspiracy of Angels is an ‘everyman’ character, and it’s so easy to identify with him. Did you consciously set out to create this type of hero?
“I once had a neighbor who mowed his lawn in his bathrobe. I look for oddball moments like that, human moments I can put into my stories. Mitch loves to barbecue, he has a garage full of junk, he has a troubled relationship with his brother. He’s a next-door kind of guy. That helps the story feel ‘real’ when we start seeing car chases and gunfights. And when the hero is chasing somebody in his bathrobe, it’s also funny.”
Q: What’s your take on the importance of short stories?
“Don’t be afraid. Just go for it. Write something new. Something different. Write something true and honest and raw, and get that out into the world where people can read it and get their minds blown. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find some new readers who will want to check out your other stories.”