1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
I write any time of day with equal facility. Late morning, afternoon, and during evening commute are the times I’m most likely to produce, although I often get ideas while lying in bed and have to get up to write them down. My main requirement for writing is sufficient time in which to occupy a solitary mental space. I work multiple jobs as a teacher and professor, so I tend to write in gaps between classes, or very frequently, on the subway.
2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
I write the majority of my fiction in notebooks and then type the pages up later, doing revisions as I am typing. Sometimes I write a scene twice or three times. Most of what is in the notebooks gets used, though I have been throwing out more drafts lately. Ghost in the Crystal, the novel I am currently marketing, took a long time to write, but I did not wind up making any major revisions to what was in the notebooks. My current book project, the third in the series, is my most complexly plotted work and has required a lot more exploratory drafting than any other novel I've written.
My notebooks are disorganized, with sections of multiple novels in many of them, with scenes out of sequence, and sometimes scenes begun in one notebook and continued in another. For example, I have a notebook containing pages from the first three novels of my current series, as well as various notes and outlines for them. I have found that this process allows me the greatest possible creative flow. I just write whatever is on my mind at that point and don’t hold back from writing a sequence because “I haven’t gotten to that part yet.”
3: What do you draw inspiration from?
Everything possible. I have an active intellectual life. I constantly learn and teach, consume massive amounts of nonfiction (history, culture, economics) as well as movies, interact with dozens of people daily including colleagues and students. I do use personal life and personal feelings, but they are highly filtered and transformed. I frequently get ideas and material from dreams also. I have always had intense dreams full of complex imagery and often original music. Also, I am very allusive, meaning that I like to draw upon prior literature for lots of references and small touches to reward those who recognize the reference. I recommend enjoying the studies of history and visual art. As a multicultural writer, I find that sort of material very pleasing.
4: Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?
Not at all. Since I’m not able to write full-time, and am constantly doing teaching jobs, my only goals when I write are to write as long as possible and to finish the sequence that I am working on.
5: Being a self published author how do you come up with your cover art?
I have some graphic design skills and can make my own cover with PhotoShop or Gimp, but in the case of my current book, School of the Ages: The Ghost in the Crystal, I was able to get help from a far superior graphic designer, my cousin, Mike Cohen, who works in medical publishing. Mike’s cover is clearly of professional quality. If you want to see my own cover designs, go to my website http://schooloftheages.webs.com where I have an album for them.
6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?
It’s my identity. I can’t not do it. I decided around age 12 to write, instead of being a musician like my parents, and I found that I have a facility for writing. Writing is time-consuming and stressful, but it comes naturally to me, and if I’m not writing, I feel like less than half a person.
7: Do you own an ebook reading devise?
Yes, I have a Kindle 2 that I use constantly.
8: Who are some of your favorite authors and what are you reading now?
I have many favorite authors, so I can only be representative here by picking a few. I start with J.R.R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, and Colin Wilson, and then add in the fancifulness of Neil Gaiman and the tight plotting and complex characterization of comics writer Kurt Busiek. I could certainly write page after page of names of authors and works I admire.
Right now I am reading multiple New Yorker issues, rereading Terry Brooks’ The Wishsong of Shannara after finishing my rereads of Elfstones and Sword, and awaiting a number of fantasy novels by indie authors that tempt me whenever I turn my Kindle on. I will review those on Amazon.com as I finish them. Let me commend to you an indie author named Jess C. Scott whom I just met and who has a lot of talent, savvy and intelligence. I am making more writer friends through Kindle Boards and am sure I will soon wish I could revise this to include them as well.
9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?
I believe in book trailers. I have several on my YouTube page and have been using one to promote on Facebook. The video I usually use is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOc0T5VSbfY. It was made with handmade Photoshop jpegs and Windows Movie Maker. I also have live-action videos.
I have plans to keep making book trailers and other video ads. I think there is a lot of potential in them. I constantly have ideas about how to make entertaining videos, and it doesn't take expensive technology to do it, although I wish I had better software. I can draw upon my experience as a teacher and a stage performer to come up with some cool stuff.
10: What are you working on now that you can talk about?
When I was in graduate school, I found that most of my fellow writing MFA students did not want to talk about their work. They seemed to have ambivalent feelings about it, as if the writing was too emotionally raw to be discussed while in progress. My working method is not disrupted in that way, however, so I'm glad to talk about what I'm doing.
School of the Ages is a five-book series. I have just published the first book, The Ghost in the Crystal. The second book, School of the Ages: Level Three's Dream, is done except for a few edits and fixes. I am currently working on the third book in the series, School of the Ages: The War Against Love, which is just over 400 pages of an expected 500, making it about 100 pages longer than the first two. I will then probably focus for a while on Paranormal for Teens, my blog, which I am hoping to make into a book eventually, or I may work on another fictional project before I return to book IV, School of the Ages: Simon Geeta.
Of course, I will also be doing poetry periodically for my avant-garde band, The Exploration Project.