I’m a Canadian writer living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I completed a PhD in Social and Political Thought at York University in Toronto in 1997. This led to an 8-year period of teaching at universities in South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. Then in 2006 I settled in northern Thailand, and began writing fiction full-time in 2007.
What inspires you to write?
When I sit down with a book the curtain goes up in my mind and the story world rolls in. Could anything be more magical? I write to recapture that moment. Doing it well makes me feel literally more alive. What else inspires me? – nature, books, faces, voices, tastes, history … almost anything. I also find I feel a grey pall and gloom settle over everything when I don’t write.
Tell us about your writing process.
I tend to be an outliner, but it varies. For my first novel I planned and outlined it exhaustively, drawing up a stairway of steps (scenes) on a 5-foot long scroll of old-style printer paper. I did that partly to convince myself the project was do-able, but then I started to enjoy the process of seeing the story events in one majestic arc. It didn’t matter to me that I changed quite a lot of that plan, it felt great to see a blueprint for my story. Since that first novel my outlining has shrunk! Now I focus more on planning plot points: the Act 1 Inciting Incident, Act 2 Turning Points and Midpoint, and Act 3 Crisis Climax. I write up a list of each Act’s goal, the climactic problem, the hero’s decision, and the outcome of that (turning point). With this I can see the story’s arc of events. And that’s enough.
I write every day when I’m in the production phase on a project. I do it long-hand and then type up the accumulated pages about a week later, revising as I type. After I finish this first and second draft, I print it out and proofread, doing a third revision. Then I do a fourth and final revision, and format it for upload as a mobi file for the kindle.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I talk to my characters, encourage them, commiserate, but admittedly it’s more a monologue than a dialog. I spend much more time visualizing and working on scene flow. So character voice has been an area of weakness for me. Characters might ring true if the story comes to me in a series of pulses where I simply put it down on paper after seeing multiple versions of scenes as though it’s a movie. But that rarely happens.
Usually it’s a tough slog imagining the action as I’m setting it down, and then the characters are often lacking in motivation and underlying principles. In the future I would like to write Act 1 several times, each time from a different character’s point of view. After that I think each of them would be clearer for me: what they most want, fear, regret, hate, and secretly aspire to.
Who are your favorite authors?
Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring series, with ship’s surgeon, Stephen Maturin, and ship’s captain, Jack Aubrey.
Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe series.
Hugh Howey’s Silo series.
Asimov’s Foundation series.
Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstor.
Bobby Adair’s Slow Burn series.
L. T. Ryan’s Affliction Z series.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I had one finished book that I’d wanted to publish, and the eBook route seemed worth a shot. But I had no idea of what I was doing initially. I assumed there would be a vetting and editing process, that my submitted MS Word file (to an ePub platform) would be read and approved by a person, not a formatting bot. But of course the site software just converted my file, added the cover I’d included, and it went live a short time later. Maybe if I’d known what the odds were against success, and how literally nobody would read it for 2 years, I might have had second thoughts.
After a year I posted my three titles (by then) at two additional ePub retail platforms. But there was no change.
Six months later I cancelled all that, learned Kindle formatting, and submitted to Amazon. I immediately had a handful of downloads each month, which continued moderately increasing. Recently I started receiving a handful of reviews on my books, which temporarily resulted in a bump in downloads for each title. But that’s dropped off now, and I’m back where I started, with very few downloads per week. And that’s where I stand now. Promotion is clearly a work-in-progress.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
On the one hand this past year has seen ebook sales plateau and they’re now falling. I assume it’s just a period of consolidation. On the other hand ebooks are still basically a print book on a screen, so despite several years of exponential growth their true potential has yet to be realized. By analogy, Google maps weren’t popular at first. They became popular not because they mimicked static maps (as ebooks mimic print), but instead offered apps and features not available on static maps. I have no idea what such future dynamic features in ebooks might be, but once that happens the next wave of exponential ebook growth will begin.
What genres do you write?
Science Fiction, Horror, Writing skills, Metaphysical
What formats are your books in?