I love college. Each day, your future unfolds before you, possibilities limitless. Luckily, I have the privilege of going back, in a way, by being part of another amazing future writer’s thesis. Check out the latest interview I did for an amazing grad student, whose works are bound to be in the New York Times soon.
How did you get your start in writing?
Every author gets struck by lightning. Sometimes, experiences inspire them to write a novel, or a book awakens ideas for a fictional world like none have seen before. It’s a point of no return when you capture that ethereal voice living in your mind’s wilds and force it on an intramundane stage. You need courage in order to take that first step, and for me, torpidity inspired my fervor.
My parents were blue collar artists who raised my sister and me in a one-hundred-year-old house in an industrial part of Chicago. I read Halloween books and comics throughout my middle childhood, which roused my own editions of horror pamphlets and graphic novels. In my early adolescence, that muse came alive in written roleplaying adventures I shared with friends. Then, at eighteen, it all flipped upside-down when my father died.
My hero, and artistic cheerleader, left before I knew what to do with my shaken soda bottle of imagination. For five years I wandered in a gray world, choosing a practical major and stable corporate career while writing on the side as a hobby. Until I met a young actress who was all the things I remembered about myself. She was a fantastic performer with a thirst for art, story, and most importantly, the future. I was a love-sick swain for her, and with her encouragement, I dusted off my stories and took that first bold step forward. I changed my college major, learned about how the literary world operates, and unleashed a wildfire of manuscripts and short stories. Fifteen years later, and I’ve worked with over thirty publishers to create five award-winning novels, twenty novellas, short stories, and columns. Oh, and that young actress? She married me, then took the next courageous steps to follower her own new dream. She’s a board certified pediatrician now.
What was your motivation behind wanting to write?
There is an elephantine steel door hidden in the recesses of my brain. Only I know how to reach it. As I stumble through the day-to-day, experiencing fascinating people, places, and stories, I kidnap them at pencil point, forcing them into my mental depository. Then, when my mind wanders as it often does, I enter the safe place and gather them up for stories I’d like to hear. I put them on paper, hoping that the hidden treasures who influenced me will be as entertaining for readers as they were for me. And when it is; when readers claim my work was a great story, it inspires me to take the key to the steel door where I use life’s magnificence to tell more yarns.
Which authors inspire you the most when it comes to your style of writing?
The funny things about a writing style is that artists of other mediums have just as much say as authors. The pantheon of afflatus comprises classics like Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, besides contemporary writers like Andrew Smith, Erin Morgenstern, Neil Gaiman, Maggie Stiefvater, Christopher Moore, and Jim Butcher. However, there’s other artists, musicians and filmmakers, who have just as much influence over my work as my book gods. Tom Waits, Florence Welch, Andrew Bird, Tim Burton, Ava Marie DuVernay, and Jim Henson saturate my style with the fantastic art they’ve created through the decades.
What is your main goal when it comes to your stories? Do you want to solely entertain, educate, or something else?
The goal is all the above, and yet none of the above. You build plots hoping they’ll be just as entertaining for the reader as they are you, with educative facts and life lessons filled between. When I’ve typed The End, and I sent the story out to through the publishing world, I don’t tell people what I want them to get out of the pages. It’s no longer my tale. It’s the reader’s story. What a reader gets out of the work, whether it’s heartbreak or basic andragogy, is their choice, and to me, that’s one of the most beautiful things about books. What I’ve read in my past, and what stays with me, may not have been the author’s intent, but it’s very real, and very important to my life.
Who is your general target audience with your stories? Why did you choose your target audience as opposed to another one?
I’ve said it years ago, and the sentiment still endures. Book elitists and academic reviewers are a fantastic type of reader, but I inspire to write about the wonderful critical thinkers living common lives. They’re who I yearn to connect with. I daydream about an ironworker perched on their lunchbox flipping through one of my novels, a teacher reading one of my short stories during coffee break, or a mortician with a copy of A Dead End Job in their lower desk drawer. Why? Because that’s who I think am. I’m an ordinary guy, who’s also a mental escape artist, leaping from reality in order to weave curious tales from the world before me. We’re out there, everywhere, from line cook to librarian, spicing up the everyday with our thoughts.
The illusion of success is that it came overnight. It’s easy to understand why. Who doesn’t like to think that one great idea, or one focused effort, can make our dreams come true? As a culture, we glorify the rags to riches story. We celebrate athletes, businesses, and stars that seem to come out of nowhere and take the world by storm. But while these cases arise, the prevalent success story comes from grit, endurance, and a desire to develop.
One of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, once told a story on his Masterclass session about a timeworn work that still lives in his attic to this day. He described how he dusted off the manuscript one day, read it, and then shoved it back into the attic where it belonged. Gaiman implicated that the book left a lot to be desired, but reading it again gave him peace of mind. It helped him realize that his voice was there, but his craft still needed work. He gathered the tenacity and withstood, growing with each published project, which would accumulate into his vast extension of accomplishments that today makes him a world esteemed storyteller.
Writers live off of the hunger that our next work is going to be the big one. If you want to survive in the publishing market, that’s the attitude you need to have. However, like a set of ascending stairs, each project, if it gains an ameliorated quality, brings you closer to your aspirations. Set goals, expectations, and add a bit of a dream to the equation, and your next title will be a success whether it upgrades you to a larger publisher, gets you that agent you’ve been drooling over, or it turns into a New York Times Best Seller. Still don’t believe me? Just look at these stats.
According to a study by writer, Joseph Epstein, 81% of Americans feel they have a book in them and should write it. That’s 200 million aspiring authors. 97% of people who write never finish their book. So, for every thousand people, thirty complete the task. Then there’s the demanding job of being published. A report taken from Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Surveys states that of those survivors who wrote a book, only 13.4% earn a traditional publishing contract. Even after that, according to Quora Digest, the odds of being able to make a living as a writer are 1 in 10,000, but that likely means you’re also writing as a journalist, freelancer, etc., besides books. If you want to become a household name, at least in your genre, odds of that happening are 1 in 100,000.
Given these proximate numbers, it’s clear that defying the odds and transforming into a success overnight, no matter how good your work might be, is unlikely. An author might set themselves up for failure by placing all their hopes on one work. Rather, they should feel assured knowing they’re determined to push forward with a new marvelous project, inching towards the top with every improved manuscript. The more monumental projects you put out into the world, the stronger the odds grow. After all, the illusion of success is that it comes overnight, but it’s the plural form of the word “overnight” that gets a writer where they want to go in their career.
Looking for an amazing, original URB Fantasy?
Fans of Terry Pratchett and Shane Kuhn’s THE INTERN’S HANDBOOK will love this noir supernatural thriller.
Death needs a vacation. Badly. But there’s a catch: There are people who cheat the system, always falling through the cracks and not dying like they’re supposed to. Who’s going to take care of them while Death’s sipping on sangria?
The answer is simple: Death needs an intern, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that one prospect, Buck Palasinksia-a bankrupt hitman with a roleplaying addiction-might have what it takes. While scoping out his next target, Buck gets drilled in the forehead by a bullet and falls right into Death’s lap.
If they shove him back into his body, he’ll have a few weeks to prove that he has what it takes to be Death’s right-hand.
All he has to do is take out Public Enemy No. 1, John Dillinger, and quit smoking.
The Ghost of Christmas Future has his own intern, and they’re looking to give season’s beatings to anyone who tries to cheat Death. Put this award winning urban fantasy novel in your cart today!
That’s right! ManyBooks.net has given me the prestigious honor of being the Halloween “ManyBooks: Author of the Day.” Check out the link in my bio come 10.31 to read my upcoming interview, talk about A DEAD END JOB, and other literature fun!
“Lilith, my oldest work-friend since… well, friends became a thing. Unmentionables weren’t around when dinosaurs and other eat-poop-then-die creatures were on Earth. It’s only when sentience became all the rage that God cut off her finger and gave it to me as Lilith, divine retribution for anyone bold enough to manipulate the cosmic work schedule. Since then, Lilith has, and always will be, the most dangerous weapon in existence. While I used her special holy abracadabra to transform Lilith into a scythe, she adjusts to the user’s character in order to be the best possible work tool. So if you want to be my next intern, and you’re comfortable getting my dry-cleaning, let’s first see what’s in that mushy pink wetware between your ears. It’s a sorting hat sort of thing, only with irremediable, world ending consequences.”
Big WOW! Publisher’s Weekly just named “A DEAD END JOB” BEST BOOKS this week along w/ a generous review. I couldn’t be more honored. Check out the link in my bio and don’t forget to preorder your copy.
Book Reviewers: Get an early e-copy of A DEAD END JOB before it hits shelves October 6th. Just drop a message to be the first to read this hilarious urban fantasy book following Buck, the lovable Chicago Hitman, as he interns for the Grim Reaper.
Sorry for interrupting your cult meeting. I know you’re all trying to attain eternal life and all. Now, you’re going to kill me, but uh, I’m actually here to eliminate you all on behalf of the Grim Reaper. Isn’t that neat? Also, let me correct myself. You’re gonna try to kill me…and it’s going to go poorly for you.” -Buck Palasinski, Intern for Death
“A DEAD END JOB” hits pages OCTOBER 6th, 2021. Preorder today at a discounted rate on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.