My most recent book is actually my first novel. It’s entitled Broken Gods and is a dark Urban fantasy detailing a mysterious group of “strangers” who throughout history have been known as angels, demons, and gods. These creatures use human beings as pawns in their petty struggles, granting the humans supernatural power, but at a cost: the humans need to devour souls to use their abilities. The story revolves around a group of these human pawns who become embroiled in an apocalyptic battle between the strangers, and questions whether they can take their own fates back once they’ve sold their souls…
Tell us something about yourself.
I am from Pittsburgh, PA. I’m 37 years old and just recently completed my Master’s degree in library and information science. Unfortunately, nobody seems to want to hire me! I’ve been a writer as long as I can remember, and in fact just recently found in my parents’ attic one of the first “books” I ever wrote when I was a kid. It was an illustrated work (the pages stapled together) entitled “The Adventures of Mighty Mutt,” and I really hope it never sees the light of day.
Beyond that I’ve been writing in the tabletop roleplaying game industry for twelve years or so, now, and have been an avid RPG gamer since 1979, when I was 5.
What inspired you to write this book?
Tough to say. The characters kind of sprang fully to life in my head and demanded to be written about. The story involving Jacob, Frank, and Lexie has been started and stalled many times over the years. One day I got an image in my mind about a man dressed all in black, walking down a suburban street in the fall and carrying this huge, ancient book up high on his chest, and I somehow knew that book was actually talking to him. That’s where Jack came from. For Sabrina I was inspired by the lyrics of a band called Inkubus Sukkubus, who have a song called, not surprisingly, “Sabrina,” which has the line, “Oh, Sabrina, dance for me.” That’s where her first scene in the woods came from. Then, somehow, they all just came together.
How did you choose the title?
You would not believe how many titles this book went through! At one point it was called Second Coming, then That I Was a Maiden Queen, and even, simply, The Strangers. Someone suggested Broken Gods, though I can’t remember for the life of me who it was…
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
I actually had just about given up on this book when I was approached by Reliquary. At the time, Bill Coffin, one of the editors, was a colleague of mine from our RPG writing days. He’d read the draft of BG, and approached me about submitting to Reliquary. I had nothing to lose at that point, as I’d had about five years of rejection slips from agents and publishers. So I sent it in, and they loved it.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I’ve always been a writer. I know that sounds so cliché, but it’s true. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t telling stories. My mom has always encouraged me to pursue it—she’s my biggest fan and also the first one to tell me when something sucks. She really hated the first manuscript of Broken Gods, for example, which led me to do a complete and thorough rewrite into its current form.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Music. I have to have music to write. I also sometimes need to have a pipe. I collect pipes and I only smoke custom blend tobacco, and usually only when I write. Other than that, sometimes I like to have a pint of Guinness or a Bailey’s on the Rocks to get me going.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
I pull them out of thin air. Sometimes—not often, but sometimes—I take them from the phone book.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
Writing is the easy part! I thought I’d learned to have a thick skin from working with editors and playtesters in the gaming industry. Holy cow; wait till you start racking up, “No thanks. You’re just not good enough,” letters from agents and publishers! You develop a real thick skin, real fast.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
Not a thing, really. I mean, maybe find a genie to grant me 3 wishes. One of those, then, would be to become the next Stephen King. But in the real world? I’d do things about the same.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
I read a lot of what I write: that is to say, science fantasy, urban fantasy, high fantasy, stuff like that. My favorite authors include Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Robert E. Howard, R. A. Salvatore, Kelley Armstrong, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Jack London, and Mark Twain. I admire J.K. Rowling immensely for what she pulled off, and think she’s an amazingly talented writer.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
My next book is complete and I am currently attempting to solicit agents for it. It’s entitled The First Battle: The Chronicles of Charlie Morning and Mr. Night, and is intended as the first in a six- or seven-book series. It centers around a deadly “game” played by the two titular characters, in which each chooses a champion from amongst the children of the world. If Mr. Night wins, he gets to turn children into bogies for his legions. Charlie Morning, of course, is out to protect the children. The lead character in the book is a girl named Becky Bradford, who has been diagnosed with childhood-onset schizophrenia, because she claims to see faeries and goblins. Little does her mother and the doctors know that she actually does see faeries and goblins! Becky is chosen by Charlie Morning as his champion, and the story goes from there.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Develop a very thick skin and don’t give up until you make your dream come true. Keep at it, and above all else: do your research and follow submission guidelines to the letter. You may know in your heart that you’re the next J.K.; the agent has to decide that for themselves. Arrogance isn’t going to get you read.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
Everyone! Okay, seriously, how many writers do that? You probably get that all the time. In reality, my book is perfect for people who like books such as Gaiman’s American Gods, Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series, King’s The Stand, or similar urban fantasies. I should clarify: there’s sex and violence, but very little actual romance. This isn’t Anita Blake; it’s far more horrific than most urban fantasies are. More than a couple of the main characters are Goths, so the book probably appeals to anyone in that subculture as well. I really regret not having given the musician Voltaire a copy in October when I had a chance to meet him. A plug from him, should he have enjoyed it, would’ve gone a long way for me!
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
I am on facebook—just look me up. I also maintain a blog at http://grey-elf.blogspot.com/ and am active on a lot of gaming forums under the handle “The Grey Elf.” Of course, I also have a bio on Reliquary Press’ website at http://www.reliquarypress.com/.