It has been said that being a writer is a lonely business. One must commit to the art of being alone. It feels like swimming or perhaps deep-sea diving. Not that I have experienced deep-sea diving.
One of my greatest fears is being pulled under the waves by a massive sea beast. Whisps of red blood undulating from where I once was. I always imagine the culprit to be an octopus, but in reality it would probably be something more along the lines of a Bull Shark.
But enough of that. Geez! I sound like I linger too long in my fears.
The routine of being alone brings forth fear and hope. In my dreams I fly. Of course, this is my favorite type of dream. When I am awake I am afraid of heights. I was in Bavaria, Germany several years ago taking pictures of Neuschwanstein Castle from a bridge which overlooked the site. Suddenly, I had to sit down and scream to my husband, Steven, “Get me off this bridge!”
Oddly enough, being a writer feels like flying and sinking. I don’t need to get off the bridge. As a writer, I am that bridge. It is the practice of focusing my attention away from the infinite number of words and plot lines, to a point in time and space within the story.
It is not the art of being alone as it is the art of finding my feet so I can walk forward. And that is just what is going on inside my mind at any given time while writing. One still has to contend with the world as it is off the page. The Last Symbiant examines the relationship between child and parent, and to the community.
Setting these themes in a sci-fi mystery landscape enables metaphor to work harder for my reader. They continue on in what we consider to be the mundane life.
On another level, I ask my reader to explore the threshold of who they really are versus who they think they are, and the person they will become. I have read numerous stories about famous authors and how they approach life as a writer. What has stood out to me is the seemingly trivial daily pursuits of writing which flower into great careers. I have decided to include wisdom about being a writer from my favorite authors, teachers, and friends.
Are you who you thought you would be as a writer? What has surprised you?
Great question. I’m very happy with who I am as a writer. My books have been fairly well received, and I’ve made a lot of great friends in the horror genre. It’s great that fans are able to connect with authors through social media so readily, I love hearing from people who enjoy my books. Having my first novel, Haven, win the Bram Stoker Award, has been the biggest surprise and certainly will be a tough accomplishment to top. Making the final ballot was incredible, but hearing my name called as the winner, surrounded by my family on the Queen Mary, was a once in a lifetime experience.
I think it was a little of both. Haven took me fifteen years (off and on) to write. When I finally finished it, and it was purchased by Cemetery Dance, I decided to take my writing more seriously. I obtained my Masters Degree in English and Creative Writing, and made writing part of my routine, making time instead of waiting for there to be time. My wife is very supportive and does whatever she can to give me more time to commit to my writing. That is a very important part of my success. As solitary as writing is, she shares my dream by supporting me.
I have read a few books and blogs on being a writer and the writing routine. What I have learned about the process is that everyone is different; the crucial element is showing up to the page. Do you have a specific author or moment who/when the process “clicked” for you. What does your routine look like?
I’m not sure if there is a specific moment I can pinpoint. It has a lot to do with gaining confidence and believing in what you write. That can be a slow process. Haven was rejected by dozens of agents before Cemetery Dance picked it up. I guess that would be the first time I REALLY believed I could be a writer. When the limited edition hardcover sold out in just a couple months, I was floored.
My routine is to write whenever I can. I don’t really have a schedule, but I generally write after the rest of the family goes to bed. I put on headphones (classic rock) and write until I’m tired or until I’m at a point where I feel like I’m forcing the words. When I begin, I try to reread the last couple of pages to get myself back into the story. I don’t outline (in fact, I usually have no idea where a character or story will take me) so I just try to pick up where I left off. Sometimes I’ll get an idea for a scene that just HAS to be written, even if it’s out of sequence from where I am in the novel. I get the scene written, and figure out where/how it fits later. Not a great process, but it works for me.
I’ll tell you what I think the worst piece of advice is: that old “write every day” rule. I think that puts way too much pressure on someone trying to get started in writing. I think of it like exercise – if you are new to it and try to work out every day, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Once you miss a day or two, it gets discouraging and easier not to do it. Write when you can, and don’t set daunting goals. If you get a page done (250 words) each writing day, and write five times a week, you’ll have a novel length work in about a year.
The only exception to this for me is NaNoWriMo (https://nanowrimo.org) – National Novel Writing Month – which is every November. The goal is to write a novel (50K words) in a single month. It’s crazy and overwhelming, but somehow it works for me. I’ve completed it three out of the past five years, and a couple of them turned into published works. I won’t come close to “winning” this year, and the event is not for everyone, but it can be fun.
I actually don’t read any sci-fi. I stick to horror, mainstream, true crime, or non-fiction. Stephen King is my favorite horror author, but there are a lot of great new voices in that genre. With writers like Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, and Joe Hill putting out such great work, it reminds me of the horror heydays when King, Koontz, McCammon and Simmons dominated the shelves. They used to have horror sections in bookstores back then!