How did you become a writer? Truthfully, I don't remember when I wasn't writing or dreaming about doing it. Poems, songs, stories, novels, thoughts in a diary. I used to make up my own comic books as a kid. Good writing by others has always filled me with a crushing envy and a desire to try my hand at it. Writing is an itch I cannot quite scratch, a skill that remains elusive and un-mastered, a goal never completely attained. Now I realize that the relentless pursuit of becoming a decent author is actually the whole damn point. It's about the process of becoming, not the finish line.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.). My first English teacher Dennis Kelly urged me to take it seriously. I was 12 years old. Another teacher named John Ax. Novelists and short fiction writers too numerous to mention, but among the most well known Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, John D. MacDonald, James Lee Burke, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Ambrose Bierce, John Collier, Poe, Shakespeare and a host of others. I'll remember more when I've hit Send.
When and where do you write? In a man cave off my garage, whenever I can steal the time. Often very early in the morning before dawn, or on Monday's when I have time away from my counseling office. I work best with ear plugs in a few hours at a time, though I can rewrite in shorter bursts.
What are you working on now? The Hungry 4, The Hungry 5, a novella for the Limbus series. Also four different collaborative novels with Joe McKinney, the legendary Ed Gorman, The Hungry partner Steven W. Booth and an old friend, journalist Joe Donnelly.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? Sure, but I think of it as creative exhaustion or even a kind off temporary depression. I learned years ago as a songwriter to get out of that by walking away for a bit. Also just changing directions--listening to new music, trying another unrelated creative activity, taking a break to read something new, re-reading an old favorite. Sometimes the batteries need charging. The impulse always returns eventually.
What’s your advice to new writers? Write a lot. Read even more. Read widely, biographies and books out of your favorite genre. Value constructive criticism, even when it stings, and especially when it comes from an editor or a well intentioned colleague. It takes a lot of focus and effort to suggest specific changes in a work, the same kind of effort it takes to write. That dedication deserves to be taken seriously. We learn to write by writing, and no one is ever through learning. You may as well be dead.