Frequently Asked Questions

Do you write full time?

Unfortunately, no! I've got a day job right now. Of course, the hope is to make my avocation my vocation. But publishing moves at a glacial pace, and once the books hit the shelves, people must like them. So, for now, I write in my "discretionary" time—translate: 5 am or late, after everyone's in bed.

What do you write? Do you have preferences?

Well, my favorite quotable quote on this belongs to Stephen King, who said, "I write what occurs to me." In my case, that shifts between fantasy, science fiction, thriller, horror, and mainstream. Did I forget any? But having said that, I understand the value of building a name in a genre. So, with the VAULT OF HEAVEN series, I hope to be very predictable in terms of book releases. But when I'm writing, I'm usually quite productive, so I anticipate publishing other books, possibly under other names. I have a few thrillers now that I've been marketing. A horror novel. And most of a mainstream manuscript. And my agent and I are kicking off a new project quite soon. Stay tuned on that …

Who do you read?

Oh, it's all over the board, really. The first fiction book I ever read outside school was WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS. I was in third grade, wanted a dog, and somehow I got the book. But I don't count that as my first, really. The first book I picked up (outside school) and said "I must read this" was THE SWORD OF SHANNARA. I went on immediately to read Brooks' other novels. Blew my mind! Then high school reading interrupted me for about five years. When I returned, it was to Stephen King's NIGHT SHIFT, which was another real touchstone—ran through the rest of King after that, too. From there I launched into all kinds of fiction. I still read Brooks and King, of course, and these days I'm pretty religious about picking up Dan Simmons. Simmons makes we want to write better. Add to that: George R.R. Martin, Richard Russo, Dennis Lehane, Orson Scott Card, Harlan Coben, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Shakespeare. Yes, really. Mostly, my list would be too long for a FAQ.

When you're done with the Vault series, will you return to the world of Aeshau Vaal?

Absolutely! It's a big damn world. I spent far too much time building it to tell one story, even if that story stretches across several volumes.

Where do you get your ideas?

The age-old question, eh? Impossible to answer, since I think the one asking the question is typically looking for a formula or secret handshake; and the real answer is for each writer to discover for himself. But I will say this; I heard Harlan Ellison talking about this one time, and he described how some of his ideas come from "mishearing" what someone else says. For example, standing in line at a concession stand, Harlan overheard someone say "Necro"-wafer. What they'd really said, was Necco-wafer—those little powdery, disc-shaped candies. But Harlan heard "Necro"-wafer. Presto: Story Idea!

What was your path to publication?

Despite the fact that there are a lot of great new ways to find yourself in print, my story is pretty traditional. I queried an agent. He liked my book. He sold it to a publisher. That approach still works.

You're also a musician. Do you think you could be more productive if you focused on just one hobby?

HAHAHA! Probably. Honestly, the one keeps me sane to do the other. I could no more stop making music or stories than I could cut off my arm. It's all just balance. I won't be doing any world arena tours any time soon, so I'm safe on that front. But to tell you the truth, there's a different cathartic effect from my two main artist pursuits. Once you've drunk from those wells, there's no going back. If you've done one or the other, you understand. I think the risk in the question is assuming that to do something well you must not do anything else. In fact, quite the opposite is true, in my opinion. Music teaches me much that improves my writing, and vice versa. Most writers I know have other artistic endeavors, and most musicians I know likewise have secondary or tertiary artistic outlets. Yeah, but if you had to choose … Depends on the day.

Who do you listen to?

I have eclectic music tastes. Truly. I love the heavy stuff to be sure: Disturbed, Sevendust. But I also LOVE jazz music—the real stuff, not light jazz. I'm quite fond of musical theater, too, but mostly just those with pathos and story: Les Miserables, Jekyll & Hyde, Phantom. And I have a real love for Mannheim Steamroller. Then, there are great vocalists like Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra—LOVE Frank! Most days, I listen to at least a little Dream Theater, Queensryche, Sinatra, Cole Porter, and production demos of my own stuff to find where I can improve. But like my reading tastes, the list would fill a website, so that'll do for a sampling.

Best show you ever did?

I don't know about that. But I can tell you the funnest one I ever sang: Athens Green on the Heir Apparent tour. There were only about 500 people, but every person in that club knew every word I was going to sing and couldn't wait for it. The energy was outright explosive. I had caught a bad cold a few days before, and I just knew I would blow it. But something almost metaphysical happened that night. I fed off the enthusiasm and energy of that crowd, and sang a great show. It ROCKED!

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