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Friday, December 16, 2011

An Interview With Paranormal Book Club

Following is an interview with the Paranormal Book Club Facebook page, where I'm the spotlight author this week.

Did this book’s inspiration come from part of your life?

The book came from a lot of different places. For starters, I love the Headless Horseman and have been trying to write a story about him since the 7th Grade. Secondly, I love Halloween and wanted to write a story about its origins. Lastly, I live near Washington, D.C. At the time I wrote the first draft of this book (October 2001), we were being terrorized by a sniper, who struck without warning and killed innocents randomly. We were afraid to go outside, go to the grocery store, etc. In fact, a woman was killed at my local Home Depot. That sense of feeling stalked was the inspiration for the serial killer in my novel. The majority of the book also takes place at a small community newspaper in Loudoun County, Va. For three years, I worked for the Loudoun Times-Mirror in Leesburg, and a lot of that experience drifted into the novel.
Ultimately, I put all those elements together: the Headless Horseman, Celtic myths, a serial killer, and a small-town newspaper and made “A Soul to Steal.”

How are your characters built?

The main characters I just envision in my head as the story plays out. The side characters sometimes start out as people I know and then morph as the story goes along. In both cases, the plot usually gives me a sense of the character, instead of vice versa. I watch how they respond to what’s going on and go with what feels right. That might sound odd, since I created them, but you have moments where you realize, “Kate would never say this.” And you realize something about the character you didn’t know before. I guess I would say it’s an organic process. I create a plot and give the characters an outline and they flesh out as the story proceeds (and in subsequent rewrites).

How has your life changed since writing the series?

It’s been a unique experience. On the one hand, it’s fantastic to have a book out there that people you don’t know can read. When someone you don’t know reviews the book on Amazon – as happened today – it’s an amazing experience. I lived with this story in my head for so long, it’s wonderful to know other people are now enjoying it. On the other hand, there is a certain amount of stress that comes with this. Since the book’s publication, I’ve spent what’s left of my free time soliciting reviews from book bloggers, planning ad campaigns and generally trying to promote the novel. It’s a little exhausting.

Where are you from?

Virginia. I grew up in Great Falls, went to college in Williamsburg and – except for two years in the United Kingdom – have lived entirely in Virginia. I love it here. We have it all: hot summers, cool winters, fantastic falls and beautiful thick old forests, which is one of the reasons I set the book there. When I was a kid, I always imagined something terrifying – like the Headless Horseman – was out there in the forest.

Is there any type of music you like to listen to while you write?

I’m a big music fan, but I often turn it off when I write now. If I don’t, the song is liable to have an undue influence on what I write. That said, when I do write with music, I will turn on film scores and classical music. Some music from movies (instrumental, I mean) is just perfect for writing fiction. It’s emotionally evocative without being distracting.

If there was one author you could meet who would it be?

Stephen King. There are plenty of others I’d also like to meet – J.K. Rowling, for one – but King has always been my literary hero. I’ve read every one of his novels (except for his latest, but I plan to start it soon. I’m saving it up!). I just love his writing style. He can write about the most unpleasant thing (a man who convinces his son to help him kill his wife, for example) and I can’t stop reading even if I want to. There’s a reason his books seldom work as movies. Without his words, you lose that spell that makes you suspend disbelief. I’d love to sit and chat with him for an afternoon. I think it would be fascinating.

Which of your characters in your book do you relate to the most?

It’s been said by my friends that Quinn, the protagonist, is a lot like me, at least in terms of personality. I find him very easy to relate to. It should be noted, though, that Kate, his love interest, has a lot of my darker qualities. She’s somewhat paranoid, very black and white in her view of the world, and quick to anger. I find her rather frighteningly easy to relate to as well.

Where does the title “A Soul to Steal” come from?

I actually had trouble with the title for a long time. With my wife’s help, I finally decided it would be called “Fear’s Rider,” but I was never really satisfied with that. Then one night I had a dream. I don’t remember what happened, but I do know that in the dream the book was called, “A Soul to Steal,” after the line from the song, “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” When I woke up, I knew that was the title I wanted.

What’s your next project?

I am working on the sequel to “A Soul to Steal.” It’s slow going at the moment, but I’m hoping I’ll have more time to work on it in the New Year and release it in mid- to late- 2012. After that, I will write the third, and presumably last, in the trilogy about Quinn and Kate. I have several other book ideas after that, including a novel I started on this past summer, but I had to put it aside to focus on publishing my novel.

What authors do you enjoy?

I read pretty much anything. I’m an English major, so I’ve read a lot of classics. I’m a huge fan of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. But I also love Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, Jim Butcher, Stephenie Meyer, Milan Kundera, David Mitchell, Isabel Allende, and many others.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

a) Write something that you would want to read. In other words, don’t write something because it’s the popular genre and you think it would sell well. Write what interests you. That makes things a lot easier.
b)Don’t give up. Ever. Persistence pays off.

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