When did you first discover that you had a predilection for reading and writing? When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always had a love for reading since I was a little kid. I can remember sitting outside, reading under a tree, or inside curled up in front of the fireplace, oblivious to my mother calling my name for one reason or another. When I was younger, I loved to write poetry. I used to carry a notebook everywhere I went. I still love to read poetry. As I got older, my interest turned to law and wanting to become a lawyer, but my love of reading never diminished. I discovered my passion for writing in 2010. This may sound cliché, but my writing journey all stemmed from a dream I had, and that dream has turned into a story that will be my thesis novel.
What were the earliest influences on your reading/writing?
My Dad was one of the biggest influences on my reading. He was always sitting down reading a magazine, the newspaper, or a book and still does. If there was something he found interesting, he would call me down stairs, and read it to me. Then we would sit and talk about it. I try to do this with my children. I hope they get bit with the reading bug like I did. One of the first fantasy novels I still remember reading as a child was A Wrinkle in Time. The way Madeline L’Engle made the words come to life and the imagery she used to create such fantastic worlds took my breath away. After that book, I was hooked. My book bag would be filled with books; and sometimes I was reading 3 or 4 at the same time. Just depended on what I was in the mood for. I also fell in love with Ernest Hemingway. I know some say he’s too wordy, and that is true to a degree, but the way he could describe something, even the way a piece of fruit felt in your mouth, and the way it tasted, was magical. It left me wanting more. I read everything from classical literature like Shakespeare and Keats, to The Divine Comedy, and so on.
What was the impact of these early influences, and what, if anything, has changed in how they influence you today?
I still look for the fantastic when I read. I want something that is rich, whether it be bright and cheery, to dark and dangerous. I want a story to pull me in and make me forget the outside world for a few hours. If I read a book, it needs to grab me right away and immerse me in the world. I think I tend to look at the world in a different way because of what I read. The world isn’t black and white, but full of so much color, and that is true even in books. Everyone has a different story to share, and if you learn one thing, then you are all the wiser for it.
As a veteran, has your military service affected your writing and reading habits? How has it changed you?
While I was on active duty, I always had a book in my hands when I had free time. I was sent to Italy for my first duty station, and I can remember going to the piazza, grabbing a cappuccino, and sitting there reading a book while watching people walk past and listening to the water crashing against the pier. It also caused me to take every college course they offered while I was on the ship and that didn’t stop when I returned state side. I think my training has affected my writing and reading. I used to do security drills, and if I read a story that involved a gun or military tactics, I tended to analyze it to make sure the details were right, or as close to true as they could be.
Who are some of your favorite authors and how have they influenced your preferences?
Some of my favorite authors are Laurell K. Hamilton, Jacquelin Carey, J.R. Ward, and Anne Bishop. These ladies blend light and dark so well into their stories that you forget these worlds aren’t real. Their characters are believable. They have everyday struggles on top of being different. All of their characters persevere to either overcome their obstacles or find ways to deal with them. I gravitate toward books that give me someone who is unique in their own way. They don’t need to have powers per say, but something that makes them stand out.
What do you look for in a story?
I love strong characters who balance each other out. By this, I mean one character’s weakness is balanced by another’s strength. It’s like they are all pieces of a puzzle that fit together to create a larger picture in my mind. Play with tropes. I enjoy a story that puts a twist on an old familiar trope and makes it something fresh. Sometimes the best stories are simple, but the characters make it interesting.
What do you not look for in a story? Is there anything that you would consider a deal-breaker and would make you stop reading? If so, what is the number one thing in a story that turns you off the most, enough to make you stop reading?
The number one thing that will cause me to walk away is anything where children are abused, murdered, raped, in graphic detail, etc. I do not want to read a first-person wherein a child murderer is describing in graphic detail what they are doing to a child. I understand that some stories are set in motion by the murder of a child, but if it’s described in graphic detail, as it’s happening in the story, I will walk away.