How long have you been writing for and how much of that time have you spent writing fiction?
I have been writing since I was a kid. I started self-publishing in 2015 when I published my first nonfiction title. In 2018 I resumed writing the book that would become White Hat Black Heart, which I had started back in 2011.
What’s the average word count for the books you write and how long does it take you to write your average book?
My average word count varies by the book. The first novel White Hat Black Heart took the longest to write and was 59k. I had started writing it in 2011, and after several attempts to resume writing, I finally decided to get serious and finish in 2018. I published that book in 2019. War With Black Iris, the second book in the series, clocked in at 96k words and took about six months to write. My third full-length novel, Reckoning of Delta Prime, was 80k words, and I finished it in 4 months. I’ve written several novellas ranging from 20k words to over 40k.
What is your writing routine (Do you have a daily word count goal? Do you write whenever the spirit moves you?)
Every night I start writing at 10pm and I finish when I start falling asleep. I start my days at 5am, but those hours are reserved for my day job. On the weekend I have more time to devote to writing. Each day I try and write at least 1500 words, but I often exceed that.
How much do you research for a book before you start writing?
One of the recurring subjects is hacking, and since I work in the cybersecurity field, I don’t need to research as much. However, I spend at least 10 hours a week reading articles, training, and my security research. For subjects I don’t know as well, such as physics or astrobiology, I will spend as much time as needed, often several hours a week, until I get it right.
What do you find most difficult about writing a book?
One of the more challenging aspects of writing is determining which ideas get chosen. A goal of the Cyber Teen Project, my primary series, is to teach teens about cybersecurity concepts through a fictional construct. Therefore, I choose subjects that are exciting to read about and are either little known or misunderstood. Selecting a topic for this series is difficult because I have so much I want to teach.
Which of your books are you most proud of and why?
I’m proud of my first book White Hat Black Heart because it was my first novel, and I learned the craft while writing it. I have gotten notes and emails from people saying it made a positive difference in their lives, which is why I write. I’ve accomplished my goal if one of my books can create a lasting positive experience for the reader.
Which of your books was the most difficult to write and why?
Again, this would be my first novel White Hat Black Heart, because I didn’t know how to write fiction when I started it. However, my editor was patient with me and taught me a lot. My failures later turning into writing strengths.
Which self-publishing platform do you like the most and why?
KDP was the first publishing platform I had ever used. Learning it was challenging, and it took me hours to correctly format my first book using an early version of the tools Amazon provided. I’ve built an audience with Amazon, so I tend to use it the most. However, I’ve used Kobo, Google Play, and Draft 2 Digital as well.
Would you publish with a traditional publisher if they contacted you? Why?
I might for the right project, but I have no interest in writing endless query letters and waiting months for a decision. Plus, I’d rather maintain as much control over my work, so I will probably stick with self-publishing.
How many unfinished or unpublished works do you have?
Over 25 at last count. I have a scrivener graveyard I go through periodically. Some of these works are much too large for one book, so I keep them in a special place on my hard drive until the time is right.
Do you prefer creating stand-alone books or series?
I write in series because I like to see what my characters will do next. When I created Nigel Watson I had no idea that he would span 3 series and nearly nine books.
What’s one character you wish you would have created? What do you find compelling or interesting about this character?
Hari Seldon from Foundation. He is multi-dimentional and is always thinking to the future.
What book do you wish you would have written? Why?
The book I wish I’d written is iRobot because it questions one’s identity and place in the world. The robots are hamstrung at the beginning because of the three laws of robotics, which essentially states that no robot shall harm a human. But, life is more complicated than that. My fiction often has multiple layers, and Asimov’s style taught me a lot.
Do you find it challenging to write characters of a different gender, race, or culture than you? Do you do any special research for these characters?
I’ve written both male and female main characters. While switching to a female main character was challenging at times, I get into the heads of my characters as I write them. So I try to become them to a certain degree.
What does success as a writer look like for you?
Creating lasting positive experiences for people.
Writing can be a lonely job. Do you take any special steps to ensure you remain part of the world?
I schedule time to spend with my family as well as exercise regularly. It helps keep me grounded.
Constantly sitting and writing can be physically debilitating. How do you take care of yourself, physically?
I walk at least five miles a day, often longer when I have time. I also take breaks every hour.
Do you read your reviews? How do you deal with bad ones?
I do read every review. The bad ones, I try and learn all I can from them as much as possible to improve my craft.
What books have you read that were particularly inspiring?
Too many to list here, but Hemingway’s the Old Man of the Sea is one of my favorites.
Do you have a favourite author? A favourite book?
Foundation from Asimov and Frank Herbert’s Dune are my favorite books.
Do you plot your stories in great detail before starting to write, or fly by the seat of your pants?
I start with a basic outline (story beats), create my character then start writing.
Of all the characters in your stories, which is your favourite?
Nigel Watson or Alice Parsons are my favorites because both are underdogs and have to overcome a lot early in life.
Have you based any characters on real people? If they found out, how did they respond?
I don’t base any characters on real people.
What’s the best thing about being an independent author? The worst?
Freedom to write whatever I desire is the best thing. The worst is not having a marketing department to help get the word out.
Do you make a living selling your books?
What advice would you give to a new author?
Write every day and be consistent. Track everything and celebrate the wins.