I had a question and answer session with a Librarian from Texas, here are the results:
Q: How old were you when you knew you wanted to write a book?
A: I fell in love with reading at a very young age, and had a deep and abiding love throughout my life. However, it wasn’t until my mid-teenage years when a friendship with Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon showed me that writing a book is something that real people do, not something that “other people” do. That kindled my desire to write.
Q: What is the first creative writing you did that wasn’t an assignment for school?
A: That’s a tough one to remember. I wrote a great deal of poetry as a young adult, but I often ended up using it for school assignments at a later date – does that count? I think I wrote my first short story just for fun when I was 14. It was very short, and very bad.
Q: What do you think makes a good story?
A: One of the biggest things, for me, is believable characters. That is, characters that act in a way that is consistent and predictable with human behavior. Few things frustrate me more than seeing a character and thinking, “Yeah, right.” Beyond that, I think a good story needs to compel the reader, or listener, to want to hear what happens next.
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?
A: J. R. R. Tolkien, of course. Louise Cooper. Michael Moorcock. H.P Lovecraft. Edgar Allen Poe. Robert Heinlein. Raymond Feist. Glenn Cook. Mercedes Lackey. Susan Cooper. I could go on and on, because there are so many authors that I adore and/or admire.
Q: If you could give your younger author self one piece of advice, what would you say?
A: Just get words down on digital paper. I had a strong tendency to write and re-write the same paragraph over and over again, trying to get it perfect. I would analyze every word and try to decide if I should use a different one, and pretty soon, I’d spent a dozen hours and not written a single full page. Write the words down, then go back and agonize over them later – or, don’t agonize over them and trust your editor.
Q: Do you hide any secrets in your book or references that only people who know you might get? Why?
A: There are so many secrets, references, and jokes in the books. Some, only people who know me might get. Others, I doubt anyone will ever find/figure them out. As for why… I do it because it amuses me, and because I hope some day, people will figure them out and send me an “Ah-hah!” email.
Q: Is there a message in your book that you hope readers take away?
A: Certainly, and I don’t think many of them are exactly hidden – self reliance, hard work, personal responsibility. But there are some more subvert messages, as well. Not everyone who helps you is necessarily your friend. Not everyone who doesn’t help you is your enemy. Your friends are people who you can rely on in a pinch, and you should know who those people are.
Q: Tell us about your protagonist. Was there a real life inspiration for him?
A: I’m assuming you mean Tommy Nelson, although I have heard arguments that other characters are the protagonist. Tommy is a conglomeration of traits that I have seen in a variety of people over the years. For example, his naiveté and innocence at the start of the books is a reflection of my own similar traits as a child and young adult. His name is a tribute to two very important people who were instrumental in my formative years.