My latest book is called Blinded by the Night (ISBN 978-1453662854). I leveraged experience gained from half a dozen critically acclaimed non-fiction books to take my first stab at fiction. Judging by early reviews I must have done a halfway decent job of it.
Here’s a plot summary:
Richard Hayes is a Seattle cop. After 25 years with the PD he thinks he knows everything there is to know about predators. The dregs of society like rapists, murderers, gang bangers, and child molesters are just another day at the office. Commonplace criminals become the least of his problems when he goes hunting for a serial killer and runs into a real monster. The creature not only attacks him, but merely gets pissed off when he shoots it. In the head. Twice!
Surviving that fight is only the beginning. Richard discovers that the vampire he destroyed was the ruler of an eldritch realm he never dreamed existed. By some archaic rule, having defeated the monster’s sovereign in battle, Richard becomes their new king. Now he is responsible for a host of horrors who stalk the night, howl at the moon, and shamble through the darkness. But, why would these creatures willingly obey a human?
When it comes to human predators, Richard is a seasoned veteran, yet with paranormal ones he is but a rookie. He must navigate a web of intrigue and survive long enough to discover how a regular guy can tangle with supernatural creatures and prevail. One mistake and things surely won’t end well…
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m the author of Surviving Armed Assaults and Martial Arts Instruction, and Blinded by the Night, and co-author (with Kris Wilder) of The Way of Kata, The Way to Black Belt, How to Win a Fight, and The Little Black Book of Violence (USA Book News Best Books Award Finalist; ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award Finalist).
A paid book reviewer for ForeWord magazine and Clarion Reviews, I am also an advisory board reviewer for YMAA Publication Center and consult with other authors from time to time to help assure realism in their novels, particularly in fight scenes. I have written numerous articles on martial arts, self-defense, and related topics for prestigious publications such as International Ryukyu Karate-jutsu Research Society Journal, Jissen, Fighting Arts, and Traditional Karate magazine. My work has also been featured in Fighter’s Fact Book 2 by Loren Christensen and Wicked Wisdom by Bohdi Sanders and Shawn Kovacich.
I have been interviewed by reporters from Le Matin, Practical Taekwondo, and Traditional Karate magazine, among others. I have also done podcast and webcast interviews for shows like Ask Dr. Helen, Private Detective Live, Police Magazine, and Warrior Traditions.
Since 1970, I have studied and taught traditional Asian martial arts, medieval European combat, and modern close-quarter weapon techniques. Working stadium security part-time, I have been involved in hundreds of violent altercations, but get paid to watch football. To cover the bills, I develop sourcing strategies for an aerospace company where I get to play with billions of dollars of other people’s money and make really important decisions.
What inspired you to write this book?
I enjoy urban fantasy, but have found it challenging to find new, interesting stories that keep my attention these days. Rather than complaining about it, I decided to write something that I would enjoy, hoping that others would feel the same way. It was a nice diversion from writing non-fiction and I got a little coaching from Kat Richardson and Steve Perry, among others, who helped markedly improve the end result.
The book is sort of an anti-Twighlight, a story that strives for realism insomuch as anything in the urban fantasy genre could be considered realistic. No glowy, angst-ridden superbeings, but rather monsters that are, well, monstrous. There’s romance, that’s virtually a requirement for the genre, but also enough sex and violence to keep things interesting.
How did you choose the title?
It’s a pun, obviously, but it comes from a pivotal scene in the book where the hero discovers that the supernatural world exits and learns a bit more about it.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
I’ve had virtually no difficulties getting any of my work published, but I have had trouble with one of my publishers. It wouldn’t be prudent to explain that in greater detail at this time, but suffice it to say that I chose to go with CreateSpace for this one. Working with them was a dream.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
It all started as a misunderstanding. A year before my black belt test my karate instructor told me that I had to write a thesis and bring it to the exam. Given a year and the word “thesis,” I took his request very seriously, did a bunch of research, wrote my butt off, and showed up with a 140 page document. When I handed it to him, the conversation went sort of like this:
“Kane, what the heck is this?”
“The thesis you asked for.”
“What? I asked you to do a research paper. I was expecting ten or fifteen pages, not this.”
Okay, I didn’t really say duh’oh, but you get the idea. Needless to say, he loved paper. And thought it was good enough to publish. That’s where the idea came from. I went through my library, discovered that my favorite books all came from the same publisher, so I sent them a proposal. A couple months later I had a contract in place and a year after that Martial Arts Instruction came out.
A few months later my publisher asked what my next book was going to be about. I hadn’t actually planned doing another one, but my instructor had some ideas so we did a collaboration. And the rest, as they say, is history…
Do you have any writing rituals?
Not really. I’m insanely busy, so I tend to do a lot of outlining and then fill in details on whatever area I feel inspired to write about whenever I have time on any given day. Helps prevent writer’s block since I have several different areas to work on.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
Most of them are based on compositions of real people. It’s easy to come up with character traits that way, but naming them is a bit more challenging, at least for me. Some were renamed three or four times before I finalized everything, in part because I had to make sure that the names weren’t similar enough to confuse my readers. My son Joey was a huge help; he’s much better at names than I am and enjoyed helping me invent ‘em.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
I learn something every time I write. While I’m a pro at non-fiction, fiction presents a whole new set of challenges such as dialogue and pacing. I’ve found that it helps to read what I’ve written out loud while I’m editing to catch the little things and make if flow more smoothly. And, of course, having a small cadre of beta readers is invaluable. You need to be open to constructive feedback.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, actually, but I’m also sure that the sequels will be even better as I continuously improve my writing skills.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I’ll read just about anything, but really enjoy gritty urban fantasy if I’m not . I’m currently about halfway through This Side of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost. My favorite non-fiction authors include Iain Abernethy, Loren Christensen, Marc MacYoung, Rory Miller, and Kris Wilder. My favorite fiction authors include Patricia Briggs, Jacqueline Carey, William C. Dietz, Simon R. Green, Robin Hobb, and Steve Perry.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I just this week finished another collaboration, preliminarily titled Scaling Force, with Rory Miller. It will be published in the fall of 2012. Quick summary:
Conflict and violence cover a broad range of human behavior. The things that you may have to defend yourself against range from intimidation to murder and your appropriate defenses also must range from doing nothing skillfully to possibly taking a life. It’s a scale: (1) presence, (2) voice, (3) touch, (4) empty-hand restraint, (5) less lethal force, and (6) lethal force.
Almost any martial art you can name focuses on a narrow range of responses, typically empty-hand restraint or less lethal force. Sometimes both. It’s not just that you fight with the applications that you train, but also that you ignore the techniques you have been trained to ignore. That’s a hole. It’s not insurmountable, but it is a hole nevertheless.
The lower level force options are, for most martial artists, the biggest hole. Almost all of us have been told it is better to run than to fight or that it is better to apologize and walk away… but who actively practices that? If your training does not cover these situations you will make mistakes and revert to your social conditioning. Predators thrive on your social conditioning.
Spending a decade studying lethal force and praying that any situation you might get into will just happen to be justifiable and solvable by killing someone, on the other hand… that’s not a strategy. That’s just stupid.
It’s vital to enter this force scale at the right level. If you use too much you’re looking at prison time whereas too little and you are in for a world of hurt. While you may never need to use all six levels covered in this book, if your training does not cover the entire range of skills presented here, there are situations in which you will have no appropriate options. More often than not, that will end badly.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Get constructive feedback. It’s okay to have your friends beta read your work, but it’s far better to leverage professionals, particularly where you go outside your personal experience. For example, if you write a section with detective going over a crime scene, find a cop to take a look at it. This is common sense with non-fiction, but fiction writers seem to think it’s okay to make stuff up. Sure, you invent the verse, but when the recognizable, everyday things aren’t right it can ruin all your hard work.
Get testimonials. Some publishers will do it for you, but I honestly believe it’s better to do it yourself. Once you’ve got a contract signed, contact other folks whose work you particularly like. Not only can you gain additional credibility through the praise of others, but you can also make some new friends along the way.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
While anyone who enjoys urban fantasy might like the book, the target audience is male readers.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?