For the most part, I let the story take me where it wants to go.
In your biographical introduction on your Amazon page, you listed “Haunted Ends” (2019) as your most famous work, even more than your science fiction efforts. In reviewing your bibliography, it appears that Haunted Ends actually has a rather extensive history, with different “volumes” being produced for publication over the past several years. Could you tell me a bit of how the story idea started, and how the idea of “Dead Inns,” the TV show of the main character came into being? (I’m guessing that your educational background in Communications focused on Entertainment and Tourism might have something to do with this.)
“Haunted Ends” does have multiple volumes, including one that’s never been published. The series started catching on early last year (2018) after the release of “Dead in the Water.” I decided to start querying it to gain more national interest and perhaps even interest a TV network or two. I knew it would be a hard-sell considering it had been previously self-published. Thankfully, Liminal Books picked it up.
As to how “Haunted Ends” came into existence, let’s just say I’ve always had a fascination with ghosts and the paranormal, especially ghost hunting TV shows and “real hauntings” stories. I’ve also lived and worked in my fair share of haunted locations. Yes, I believe in ghosts. Also, for a long time, it had been suggested to me to write a story that took place currently. It was a writing experiment that worked out. The Sam and Rocky duo and the Juniper Hotel just seemed to click.
Yes, the concept of a TV show was greatly influenced by my educational background. I’ve also spent time both in front of and behind the camera throughout my adult life. I’m very comfortable with movie and TV production and, I’ll admit, I miss being a part of a production team from time to time. This was one of those cases of write what you know.
Sam Thomas, my little-person ghost, came from a magazine interview I read about Peter Dinklage. After reading it I thought – wow what a cool, down-to-earth guy! I built on the idea of Sam from there. The article came out around the first season of “Game of Thrones” and wasn’t extremely well-known at the time. Since then, he’s been in several big movies. Rocky, on the other hand, chalk it up to spending way too much time at Huntington Beach, California, watching surfers. – Way to go, dude!
Ghost stories always seem to carry some element of the romantic in them, but these days it seems that it’s become a more popular notion to disbelieve them. Do you presume your audience believes as well, or do you try to include skeptics in your target audience?
Ghosts are a touchy subject to many. Most people I’ve talked to have witnessed a ghost or have had something ghostly happen to them… and will tell you about it if they feel comfortable. In today’s culture, admitting you saw a ghost for some reason brands you as crazy. “Haunted Ends” is geared towards those “crazy” individuals who believe there is some truth to ghosts. I’ve had some reviews that criticize ghosts and their existence, but then I always question why they bothered reading it?
Do you prefer to follow any particular cultural traditions in telling stories that include ghosts, or do their back-stories emerge from cultures and traditions that you’ve created yourself?
The stories pretty much create themselves. For “Haunted Ends,” I researched a lot about some of the characters on how they would act and their history/background. For the most part, I let the story take me where it wants to go.
Are there a lot of obstacles to selling a self-published book to a traditional publishing house? If you don’t mind sharing, how did you succeed in landing your publisher for “Haunted Ends”?
Publishers don’t want to take on a book that’s already had shelf time. They like fresh, never seen books. And I know they would have preferred that too. For this book, it was just plain luck.
My best advice is research, research, research. I’ve heard so many horror stories about authors choosing a publisher, especially an Indy publisher, and they suddenly go out of business. You’re stuck. Your novel is in limbo until your contract has expired and they’re a good chance you’ll never get paid. Don’t just jump at the first publisher who offers to publish your work. Look closely at your contract before agreeing to anything.
Watching surfers in Huntington Beach – well, any form of people watching – seems to be a natural sort of activity for a person trying to create literary characters. Going from an article would seem to require a bit more creative license. How different was the actual character development process for the Dinklage-inspired Sam ghost from that of Rocky?
Rocky just seemed to come into being. I didn’t toil over him. Sam… Sam was a different, um, story. When dealing with someone different than the norm, I found I had to do some research to make sure not to insult anyone without meaning to.
You mean that you’ve hired a sensitivity reader for your work? I’ve always wondered how a review of that sort would be like.
What a great idea! But, no. In this case, I sought out the advice of a little person I know. Turns out, most of the time you think they might find something offensive they’ve already heard it a thousand times and ignore it. They still don’t like it and do find it offensive, but it doesn’t affect them as much as you would believe. That’s partly why I wrote Sam’s partner, Rocky, having more of an issue than Sam. He’s new to having a little person as a “friend” so he’s far touchier about the situation than Sam would be. I guess that can be said about most people who are different in some way… aren’t most of us? If others point out our difference enough times, you just learn to ignore it and get on with your life whereas the new friend or love in your life might be a little more sensitive about it at first.
In tandem with “Haunted Ends,” you also had published a science fiction series called “The Last Narkoy,” a science fiction story that pits a young girl named “Sedom” against the evil “Marisheio Empire.” It appears to have begun with a space adventure story, and then delved into the genre of young adult science fiction, and then most recently delved into Sci-Fi romance. Often writers will draw from their own personality to define the details or even the back story of their most cherished characters. Is there anything of you in Sedom? What got you into writing her story?
I would have to admit Sedom Sortec and I are, perhaps, are a little linked. Not as much as we were 20 years ago. I’ve been writing her and her family’s stories for over 25 years and I currently have 20+ additional novels I’ve written about their adventures. Sadly, I probably will never publish any more of them. Her story is that of surviving and striving, pushing against the odds, all in the hope that one day she’ll live up to her greatest potential. In many aspects, I feel/felt the same way, especially as a child.
As for what prompted me to write “The Last Narkoy,” I would have to go way back. It started as Star Trek fan fiction (in 1989) and grew a life of its own. The character of Kaylaura Rook, the “Crown” of the Mandicien, was originally the main character. A few years down the line I switched to writing about Sedom instead. For some reason, this story/universe remained with me, like a piece of my soul, and I’ve never been able to shake it off, unlike other stories I’ve written.
“Kimaal,” the science-fiction romance you mentioned, is part of “The Last Narkoy” series. It takes place 200 years before the first book of “The Last Narkoy.” The story of Kimaal is mentioned throughout “The Last Narkoy” series as a historical event. I thought it was a good idea to make the story available to anyone curious. “Kimaal” might be a romance between Kimaal and the Jaten, however, it is still based in a war and has some rather brutal scenes. In the first scene, we see Kimaal clawing her way through the forest, attempting to reach a distant village for help after her step-father hacked off her leg. It’s not what you would call a typical romance story.
So “Kimaal” was a prequel. Did you write it to be read first before the start of the series, or did you have in mind that it should be read after the others of the series – like readers of the “Silmarillion” (1977) seem more or less written for readers who have already gone through “The Hobbit” (1937) and “The Lord of the Rings”?
“Kimaal” is more of a story for those interested in the history of how the relationship between the Narkoy and the Mandicien came to be. Oddly enough, it would be better read between the first and second novels of “The Last Narkoy,” or even after the entire series. “Kimaal” is its own story, just in the same universe.
It sort of sounds like a brutal part of the universe. What prompted Kimaal’s step-father to hack off her leg?
That’s a lot of history in itself. The Narkoy journeyed to the planet of Matrador to escape religious persecution, but the planet already had another species called the Crehail inhabiting the planet. Male Narkoy outnumbered females 5-1 and later 8-1, so the men started to take Crehail women for mates. The problem though, after three generations of cross-breeding, the new “Matrad” (Narkoy + Crehail) people became mentally unstable. Kimaal’s step-father happened to be one of those unstable Matrads.
Interesting back story. So, why do you think that you’ll never publish any more of “The Last Narkoy” series? I’m sure there are other aspects of survival and living to one’s greatest potential that could yet be explored in your writing, is there not?
If there was ever a request for publishing more of the series, I would. For now, I’d rather explore new stories.
Do you have anything started that looks like it’s going to be your next project?
I just finished a novel I call “The Wheel of Fortune” that I’m currently querying. I’m also in the middle of three other novels. The first one I’ve nearly finished I’m calling “Professor Devilry.” It’s about a wacky host of a late-night TV show that investigates urban legions (think across between “Back to the Future’s” Dr. Emmett Brown and Bill Nye)– he suddenly goes missing and it’s up to his overworked cameraman and a neurotic lawyer to search for him. I also have another haunted-humor mystery in the works and an android/humanity adventure.
Fan fiction, particularly among Trekkies, sometimes results in collaborative efforts. Is this something you’ve considered with other writers, or are you pretty much a standalone sort of author?
I’ve attempted to write scripts with partners, but it never turns out well. I’m a very focused writer and others tend to go off on flights of fancy and monopolize the storyline with their ideas alone. As for partnering up with someone on a novel… I guess it depends on the partner, even then probably not.
This sort of sentiment matches to a degree that of one of my favorite public speakers on writing, the English author Will Self, who said that if you don’t have a healthy appetite for solitude, you have no business being a writer. Do you believe that introverts tend to be more creative?
I’m a rare person who happens to be an introvert/extrovert. I’m happy being alone and being around people. Too much of either though makes me very nervous. I firmly believe that not being afraid to live life helps more with creativity than solitude. I took a job at a jail to (safely) learn about criminals. I rode the train to college to have a different perspective about commuters… and so on. Get out into the world, talk to people, and don’t be afraid of starting a conversation with a stranger – just make sure they’re not too strange.
While I was in college, I remember a girl mentioning she had nothing to write about. All she did was go to school and go home. If you live a life of too much solitude, all of your characters become you over and over — how boring is that? Beginning in the second novel of “Haunted Ends,” I introduce a character named Wally Rappaport, Rocky’s grandfather. He was inspired by a group of old veterans I met in a coffee shop while I was in college. I still go have coffee with them once in a while and they still, even after 15 years, have new stories to tell me. Not one speck of Wally Rappaport has anything to do about me or my personal feelings… and that’s great! That’s what a writer should strive for, in my opinion. What it comes down to is balance. Think Hemmingway but without drinking yourself to death.