1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
I may be weird, but I write everywhere and anywhere that's convenient for the project at hand, and for my creative juices at the time that my subconscious mind is feeding me the information (wordage); and I become the "lowly" medium, for all intents and purposes. I really should list my subconscious mind as co-writer on my next published book. I discovered its benefits years ago when writing my first novel, THE BARRIER, a novel of social commentary (soon to be available as an e-book on Amazon's Kindle e-book reader. The story line was based on my experiences as a social worker here in New Jersey. I had backed myself into a "literary" corner during the writing of the first draft, and having heard of using the subconscious mind as a writing prompt in an article in THE WRITER MAGAZINE, I said to myself, "What the hell, I'll try it." I did that night and applied the old addage, "sleep on it," and it worked. The next morning, without taking time to eat breakfast, I immediately went into my office and started to record the "feed" from my subconscious mind, which became a case of nonstop writing until I had filled nine sheets of yellow legal-sized pad paper--by hand--writing right through the previous story problem without stopping or thinking of what to write. So, I've been using my subconscious mind ever since with effective results. It's not let me down yet. I recommend it highly as a writing tool.
2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
I usually do the first draft in longhand, because I don't like anything mechanical coming between me and the creative effort. I usually write the first draft in blue or black ink. Then, after I let it "cool" down with a time lapse interval, I'll go back to the first draft with a red ink pen and revise the usually messy, sloppy, over-written fist draft of whatever it is, fiction or nonfiction, long or short format. The reason I use red ink for the revisions is to highlight and differentiate the revisions from the original wordage at a glance, when I eventually go to the computer and not just to transpose the first draft but to re-create it into a second draft. After that all my revisions and drafts are done on the computer. But I do print a copy of each page of the revised first draft, which becomes my second draft. Then I revise that with a red ink pen and with the revised text I go back to the computer to re-create yet a third draft. The process is repeated for each subsequent draft. Everything I've ever written has gone through at least five drafts before I even consider showing it to my first reader, who is my private editor. She usually finds something wrong with my text and we go over every page and talk over her suggestions and usually I cave and make the revisions. It's an exhausting process, but it's necessary in order to create publishable writing, long or short.
One note of advice: find a person, amateur or professional, who is word/language/literary knowledgeable and an annoying nitpicker detail-type person, because they make the best kind of editor. I should know, I do editing on the side myself. But everybody needs an editor; so don't fight it, get an editor.
3: What do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from life itself. When I was younger--all the way back to my growing-up days, I felt I was different than the other kids. I quess even then I marched to a different drummer, so to speak. I was more observant. I sensed it right away. I was more curious. I asked more questions, and I really listened to the answers. That's how I first learned to store information in my brain, I guess. Even in school, when the other students used to groan and moan during history and geography classes, I used to "eat" that stuff up. I loved reading about people from the past and what happened to them. And I loved studying maps and finding out about our 48 states and foreign countries and their people. It fascinated me. I'm still that curious kid. I enjoy doing the necessary research for my writing projects even now. And if we writers have lengthy careers, and do extensive research for each project, we can't help but eventually become knowledgeable in many areas and subjects. It's an occupational hazard that we turn into annoying know-it-alls. It's true. Just ask my wife, Catherine, she'll tell you how annoying I am. Whenever she's stuck for an answer, I usually offer the correct information, providing more facts and details than she cares to know. She says I'm so irritating. I get a laugh out of that, because it's one of the few social pleasures I get out of life these days--irritating my wife.
All the writers who have come before me, from Shakespeare (my favorite writer) to our modern times, have inspired me, including the dead ones as well as the living. They struggled. They persevered. They raised themselves out of obscurity, and so can I. Rejection has never stopped me or deterred me from continuing on. When a writer quits, because it's too tough to keep fighting the gatekeepers, then it's one more victory for those same gatekeepers. Writers need to develop thick hides to ward off the "slings and arrows" of constant rejection and to keep on writing and to keep on submitting. Don't let them get to you. Never quit writing. Just keep on revising and making your stuff better until it gets accepted for publication. I repeat: never give up on yourself, never give up on your writing, just keep improving it. Somebody will eventually like it enough to publish it. So what's the name of the writing game? Revise, revise, revise. As for me, being a writer is who I am. It defines me. It's my oxygen. As long as I keep writing, I keep breathing.
4: Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count?
If I'm working on a new project, I have the automatic goal written in stone hovering above my head: You must write five full pages at each sitting, and you don't stop till you reach that goal, pal, so no procrastinating, hear? (five pages is about 1250 words) It works for me. I'm born under the Virgo sign. We're the workaholics of the world and we're as self-critical as we are critical of others. We're also (at least I know I am) compulsive neurotic detail people and possibly anal retentive, which is the story of my life that I can sum up in one word: constipation. In other words, we make perfect writers.
5: Are you a published or a self published author and how do you come up with your cover art?
I'm both from a publishing standpoint. I started out having others publish me, then I decided I wanted more control over my work; so I took the self-publishing route for a while. Now, I'm back to having other people publish me--in print. But I've recently decided to revise and self-publish my previously published work, bringing my novels into the digital age through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program. Up to now I've published three of my print novels, which are still available in paper format.
SEARCHING, a novel of social commentary about a man who stopped being black, Negro or colored. THE SNAKESKIN, a lost-in-the-woods juvenile/young adult novel.
VENDETTA MOUNTAIN, a novel of suspense/adventure set in southern Italy and involves an Italian-American and his Irish-American wife and the threat to their lives because of a long-dormant feud in the husband's ancestral mountain village by people he doesn't even know, and has no clue as to why. All three books are now available on the Kindle e-book reader and can be downloaded for the ridiculously low price of $2.99. Hey, the future is digital--and it's here--right now! That's why I'm preparing two other novels for the Kindle. THE BARRIER is social commentary and is based on my experiences as a social worker and a school teacher. LITTLE OSCAR is erotic realism/social commentary, and it's based on the last case of incest that I worked on when a social worker. Both books will be available on the Kindle some time in May of 2011. Amazon also offers screenplay writers wonderful opportunities to get their work noticed through their Amazon Studios program to which I have entered eight of my screenplays into their script-writing contests over these last several months.
As for my covers, my talented wife, Catherine, is a professional artist and she helps design my covers through easily available art software that would be too difficult for yours truly, the inveterate and technically challenged computer dummy.
6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?
I've always been a word kind of guy. Words, semantics, diction, grammar, language; they all fascinate me. Each word has its own history. A day never goes by that I don't have my nose aimed at a dictionary's page looking up an esoteric word or phrase. I'm also a sucker for books on grammar, language, punctuation, writing, publishing, book promotion, and just about anything that applies to writing and publishing and writers in general. My attraction for the written word is similar to a cowboy's attraction to horses. At this stage in my life I wouldn't want to be anything else but a writer. I love what I'm doing: playing God with my characters and their worlds. In my earlier life, when I was forced to provide for my family (read: children and a dog) I had to be satisfied writing part time. Now, I can write full time, and I can't wait to get up in the mornings to write, market, promote, whatever is needed to get the creative juices flowing.
7: Do you own an ebook reading device?
At the present time I don't own an e-book reader, and that's mainly because I'm not a gadget person.
8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now?
My all-time top favorite writer is William Shakespeare. When you read his plays and poetry and see/hear a performance of his better plays, you realize his genius, and that's because he delt with universals, which are what drive our characters and make them human to our readers. So, is there any doubt that universals (greed, love, hate,
revenge, loyalty, family, companionship, friendship, fear, loneliness, etc.) are the key to writing fiction/plays/screenplays that will have your work read and appreciated hundreds of years from now, like Shakespeare's great plays: Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Romeo & Juliet, Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, Merchant of Venice, Richard the Third, Henry V, etc.?
I don't have any favorite present-day American or European fiction writers, because I really don't care for what they're producing, to be honest. Every now and then I sample a novel to see if I can get excited about the author, but I end up putting the book down and remaining disappointed with the subject matter or the writing itself.
Some past American writers I liked were John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, James Jones. They wrote the kind of realism I favored. I've always been sort of luke warm toward Hemingway. Currently I'm reading Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. I read his DaVinci Code. He tells a good story, but I don't care for his writing style. I read the Stieg Larrson's turgid novels: talk about being over written, but still he told a good story in each book and the main young female character was interesting.
9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?
They're good for promotion, if they are well done. Otherwise, they're a distraction rather than beneficial, because you're dealing with a visual medium, while promoting a completely different medium: the written word. Each medium appeals to a different part of our brains and psyches--and audience--in my opinion.
10: How did you come up with the title of your latest book?
I wrote a what-if historical fiction novel titled THE LINCOLN CAPER. It's set in 1864 and involves the kidnapping of Lincoln and his subsequent rescue in time for the 1864 election. I'm a Civil War buff. I belong to Civil War Round Table groups and have written other Civil War works such as YOUNG HEROES OF THE CIVIL WAR,
which is about kids as young as eight and nine who ran away from home to enlist as drummer boys. Some went on to win medals for bravery and courage. I'm also a big admirer of Lincoln. He was what a president should be like--in my opinion. The USA could use another Lincoln. He brought us through the worst partisan upheaval this country has ever known--to date.
11: What are you working on now that you can talk about?
I'm revising my previously published novels and formatting the text to be included in Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program for its Kindle e-book reader. I'm hoping to complete the work some time in May of this year. On occasion lately I've been doing shorter pieces: articles, essays and short stories for print and online websites. I think my next novel will be another what-if historical novel set either during the Civil War or the Revolutionary War, which was actually America's first Civil War, since the most vicious fighting was between the American rebels and the American Tories, who were loyal to the British Crown. One third of population were rebels, one third were Tories, one third were independent citizens. Translated: they couldn't care less who won the war. That's why it took eight years to settle the argument.