Thanks to Kender MacGowan for this interview
How long have you been writing?
I actually wrote my first poem at 17, and didn't write anything again for years. I started writing again when I got access to the internet in the late 90s. I would send out screeds with my thoughts on current events and after a few months of this one of my friends said “you should get a blog”. It's been downhill ever since.
What do you feel is a good recipe for a novel/story/poem?
Hhmmmm.... A novel is just a longer story that delves deeper into the events and people that it is about. The difference, I think, is a novel needs many more in-depth characters, whereas in a story the character development can stick to those things that relate directly to the story. Poetry tells a story in verse form, and can be quite evocative if done well. Whereas a novel or story paints an image in the mind’s eye of what is occurring and can spend paragraphs detailing the most minute detail of a scene or event, poetry must do so in a limited space, which makes it, I believe (and I am not just saying this because I am a poet), a more disciplined form of writing. Great poetry should not only paint a picture in the mind’s eye, but should evoke emotions with its words. Writing speaks to the mind, poetry speaks to the heart.
Do you have a job or do you write for a living?
I am occasionally asked what I do for a living. Technically and officially, the answer is probably “I'm disabled” or at least that's what my doctor says. I do many things, most of which pay. I do storytelling and street acting at renaissance fairs, and I have a small acting troupe called ‘The Bawdy’, which brings a vaudeville flavour to ren faires. I do a bit of public speaking now and then. I am the ringmaster for the circus at the Los Angeles County Fair; the largest county fair in the world. I occasionally work in small films, usually as a horse wrangler. And, of course, I write.
What/who inspired you to write and still inspires you?
My inspiration comes from many sources. Love is probably the most common source of inspiration for my writing; either love of a person or love of country. Even though it isn't politically correct, I am a devout American Patriot and a lot of my writing reflects that, and sometimes it seems to make people uncomfortable. I am exceedingly opinionated, but not without thought to my positions, so I sometimes come off as arrogant. As for people who inspired me to write, my grandfather is one, my dad another. He's a great writer who refuses to write and is my favorite editor to use when I need something tight, concise and grammatically correct. My biggest inspiration lately has been my friend Evan Sayet, a brilliant thinker, writer and comedian. He has been an invaluable source of knowledge and inspiration to me over the past few years, and he keeps me grounded, centred and as focused as I can get, which isn't saying much since I have ADDHD, which is Attention Deficit Disorder in High Definition.
What books have you written? Do you stick to one genre?
I have three books out currently. I have pretty much, for my books, so far anyway, stuck to poetry, although the latest book is poetry, essays and a short story. I write a lot of commentary pieces online on different websites, and was proud to be included in an anthology of flash fiction with several of my Book Junky colleagues. Book Junkies is a Facebook group of writers and readers, and is a great place for information, inspiration and to share the travails and triumphs of the indie publishing world. I honestly believe they have made me a better writer by challenging me.
How long did it take you to write your book(s)?
The first book I published, Shattered Ashen Heart, is actually the second book I wrote. The second book I published, The Hunter and the Elf Queen, was the first book I wrote. The Hunter and the Elf Queen was actually a series of poems I wrote over the span of two years to one particular girl. I won her heart with those poems. Later, we fell out of love and the story finally had its ending. Shattered Ashen Heart was the result of the demise of our relationship. I spent four months writing that one, but not with the intent of publishing. My dad accidentally caused that one morning by asking if I was going to get a job, to which I replied “I have a job, I’m a writer; in fact, I have a book coming out”. So I sat down, edited, had a cover done and a couple of weeks later had a book in my hand with my name on it. My latest book, Watering the Tree, has poems from four years ago up to when it was published, but most of that was written in the year preceding publishing.
How long did it take you to get published? Did you go the traditional route of DIY?
When I decided to publish I knew the last thing I wanted to do was deal with an actual brick and mortar, old guard publisher. I had been paying enough attention to know that self-publishing was available, efficient and cost-effective, so I did a modicum of research and went that way. As I said, I wasn’t really considering publishing until pushed into it, but I am glad I did and I am doubly glad I went DIY, especially after talking to friends who have gone the traditional route and hearing about their trials and travails (not to mention their royalty payments), and I would heartily endorse self-publishing.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers/those just starting out?
My advice is to self-publish if you're not worried about making a living or you’re really good at self-promotion/marketing. Also, write… a lot... and read even more. Learn grammar and punctuation (or get a great editor), and get a thesaurus - then use it... constantly. I say these things for two reasons. There's nothing I hate so much as buying a book and then feeling as if I am reading the first draft of a story, written by a third grader. The second reason is those are the kinds of stories that traditional publishers point at when they speak disparagingly about indie publishing. We're not going to have 100% of the writers in the indie world cranking out perfect book after perfect book, but it helps us all when we do find these writers to gently (and kindly) offer to help them, either with constructive criticism or putting them on to a great publisher. Good writing helps to pay the bills for a good writer; bad writing hurts us all.
Do you have any works in progress?
I have several stories started, one of which seems to be coalescing into a novel, and I am working on a collaborative story with a few other writers called The Omega Project. I have more than enough stuff lying around to have another poetry book out within a week if I wanted, but my attention to my writing flows like the breeze, and sometimes I just don't feel like it.
What character from your book(s) do you like most/are most like?
I am most like the heartbroken clown on the cover of Shattered Ashen Heart, I think. The creation of that book rose from a situation that changed me fundamentally, and whether that change is a good or bad thing remains to be seen. In one of the stories I am hammering out is a character named Jack Cummins. I try to be like Jack – honest, hardworking and capable. I sometimes fall short, but I never quit trying. You only fail when you quit trying... or die, of course.
Where and when do you write – do you have set times when you write or is it just when the mood takes you?
I only write when it strikes me. Sometimes this means pulling over on the side of the road to scribble something down. Sometimes it means jumping up in the middle of the night to put down a snippet of verse or a thought. I can write when I need to, or have been asked to do so, but unless I have an assignment I generally follow my heart when it comes to the words.
Marketing – the bane of self-publishers – how do you find the experience? Do you have any marketing advice for other writers? Do you use a blog, twitter, etc?
I have a blog, but rarely use if for promotion. Twitter a little more. Usually, Facebook is where I post the most marketing stuff and have just expanded to Google+. On the subject of marketing, it’s a pain. It’s tons of work, and there’s a fine line between marketing your work and pestering people by making every conversation about your work. The only advice I have for other writers is don’t become THAT guy who always works in promotions about his stuff, no matter what, and if you can afford it, get a publicist. It’s their job to pester people, get the word out about your work and it gives you more time to write, and, by ‘write’, I mean sit in front of the TV and veg until ideas pop into your head.
Some of your fave things... Animal? Food? Drink? Film? Colour? Band? Song? Place to chill out?
Let's take these one at a time:
Animal: horse. Specifically, thoroughbreds. I spent years riding and training racehorses, and I am still completely in love with the species (but not in THAT way) because they are one of the toughest yet most delicate creatures I have ever known.
Food: sammiches – any kind, but a good salami and cheese with extra mayo, lettuce and tomato is probably tops.
Drink: single malt scotch, aged at least 18 years... sweet tea and, of course, copious amounts of coffee.
Colour: blue, but a darker blue than my eyes.
Band: The Brian Travis Band, otherwise known as The BTB.
Song: Gasoline or Tidal Wave by the BTB (full disclosure, BT is a close friend of mine and has been since I first interviewed him some years back after hearing his band play Gasoline, and it spoke to me so deeply I HAD to get to know the man who could create such deep beauty).
Place to chill out: Ren Faire with my friends.
One day you're walking in the forest and you bump into an alien librarian from Mars. He wants five book recommendations from you...
First, I would ask him if men are really from Mars. Then I would say you cannot encapsulate the breadth of human experience into five books so go with anything by R.A. Salvatore, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, a dictionary and a thesaurus.
Which book do you wish you had written?
The Bible... only for the royalties...
Who is your favorite character from any book and why?
Tasslehoff Burrfoot from the Dragonlance series. He Tas – what more do I need to say? He's fearless, inventive, curious... he's everything a Kender should be...
Which three authors (living or dead) would you like to take to the pub?
Douglas Adams, Mark Twain and Thomas Jefferson.
What other hobbies/interest do you have or has writing taken over?
I like spending time with my son (he's almost 12 now), and street acting at Ren Faire for a hobby. I do quite a bit of net radio, which, since I don’t make money at it, is more of a hobby at the moment. Writing happens when it happens, usually when I am reading something that kicks my brain into gear. I also enjoy making parody songs, usually with a political message.
What would you like to achieve in the next five years?
In the next five years I would like to sell a hell of a lot of books. I would also like to help shrink the size and scope of my government. In that timeframe I would also like to get a good reputation for my stage show and do more storytelling. Barring all of that, I am also fine with world domination.
If you won the lotto, what would you do with it all?
Invest most of it, buy a big house on some land with a pool, a game room and an entertainment system to make media moguls drool, and set up a college fund for my son. I would also probably spend a large chunk getting drunk and hiring midget hookers to re-enact the Battle of Culloden in kabuki.
Now for the creative bit... please finish this story in 100 words or less...
There once was a mouse who had a big beard...
Which gave him the power of twenty
His whiskers were magic, imbued with some power
Which gave pause out of fear to too many
For he feared not a cat, nor a housewife’s quick broom
The manliest mouse in the town
So the cats and the wives conspired together
To take this old ballsy mouse down
To take this old ballsy mouse down
They set a good trap to send this brave mouse
For sure to an earlier grave
But it’s not what you think, for the mouse wasn’t killed
Cuz the barber gave him a shave.
Finally, what question do you wish I’d asked and, of course, what is the answer?
I wish you’d asked “is it true you set wild geese loose in a government building to create a diversion to avoid paying a parking ticket?”, and the answer is “I know nothing about that, I wasn’t even there, no pictures no proof”.
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