Tell us a little about yourself. I am the father of six kids – which is why my hair is starting to turn gray. But it hasn’t fallen out yet! I have been in publishing 30 years now. I own a small company that provides full publishing services from writing to distribution for retailers, publishers, businesses, and ministries. I obviously love the world of books and ideas.
2. What was your childhood like?
I grew up in Dayton, Ohio. Even though I haven’t lived in the state since I was 18 years old I still love my Buckeye football – don’t hold that against me! The two big emphases growing up were church and books. I was an avid reader. I even got in trouble in elementary school for reading instead of participating in boring things like math and geography. One of the reasons I loved sick days was that I would get to read another Hardy Boys or Chip Hilton novel.
3. What is your favorite genre?
I read almost all genres of literature – from classics (just started on Volume I of The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbons) to theology to political science and fiction. But my favorite genre for reading pleasure is undoubtedly suspense-mystery-thrillers. My favorite character is Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon – but Lee Child’s Jack Reacher isn’t far behind. That said, my favorite series ever was Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy. So I’ve even added fantasy and science fiction to my reading lists.
4. Were you always a reader?
I always enjoyed reading. I didn’t necessarily like school – but I think I was able to succeed later as a student because of my voracious appetite for books.
5. You have spent thirty years in the publishing business. What was that like for you?
If you count my years writing for my college newspaper and for the local newspaper as a sports writer at age 19, I am probably getting closer to 35 years in publishing – but who is counting? Publishing is incredibly rewarding and incredibly difficult. The market is always changing – from general reading habits to technology to the selling environment. E-readers, E-tailing, print-on-demand, internet consumption – all these dynamics create new challenges and opportunities. One of the things that has helped me is that early on I locked in my mind that content is content – do that well – and then stay wide open to new media and distribution forms.
6. CUTS LIKE A KNIFE is your debut novel, yes?
As much as I’ve read in the detective-mystery genre you would think I I would have tried my hand at writing fiction a lot sooner. A few of my friends have had a good time suggesting I’m a little bit “slow”! But this has been an incredible rewarding endeavor. The reviews have been fabulous and that is good for overcoming the fear of failure. One reviewer just sent me a note to say she was shocked it was my debut novel. But I wrote the kind of story I’ve liked to read – a wonderful and flawed hero, a fun cast of supporting characters, a really evil antagonist, and I think a good sense of humor interspersed into a scary crime spree.
7. Was writing it like what you expected at first?
The writing went much faster than I anticipated. I enjoyed how my lead character developed in my mind and started driving how the story was written. The editing process took a lot longer and was a lot harder than I anticipated. Having served as a publisher for three companies I’ve watched this unfold – but it still took me by surprise.
8. Why did you decide the main character in the book to be a female?
I have three daughters and three sons. So I could have gone either way. I think I wanted to show someone maximize their physical toughness and that seemed more natural for a female lead. It’s not that women aren’t tougher than nails but I think it takes the reader by surprise to find this marvelous 30-year-old who is a workout fiend and really into mixed martial arts. She studies everything from Israeli krav maga to Brazilian jujitsu. But she can’t shoot a handgun straight – which is one of the fun and funny storylines.
9. How much of yourself did you put into Detective Kristen Conner?
She is who she is – but my daughters recognize themselves in the interplay between her and her two sisters and mom. And I think there are some definite points where she reflects my worldview – but she is her own self!
10. How long did it take you to write CUTS LIKE A KNIFE?
People are surprised when I tell them I wrote a 100 thousand word mystery in three months. But when you throw in the time I edited and reedited the book on my own – and then with a professional editor – the time span enlarges.
11. What did you find the most enjoyable in writing the book?
I love character driven msyteries. Watching detective Kristen Conner emerge as this graceful and clumsy force of nature was a blast. Her battles with anger was fun. Putting her undercover in AA meetings was interesting to me – and I think will be to readers.
12. What are your favorite pass times?
I still love sports even though I’ve been through multiple hip surgeries and am limited to riding a bike now. I am a booster for my local high school with football and track – I’m president of the latter. I love spending time with family. And my wife and I love to entertain and spend time with friends. We have been blessed to enjoy neighbors that are tight friends – and we spend time with a group of friends at lest three times a month. My wife is a flight attendant – so as you can imagine, we love free travel benefits and enjoy visiting world cities. I like to tease my wife that she wore a t-shirt when she proposed to me that said, “marry me and fly for free.” The kids love to travel as well so Amy will have to keep working until we all get tired of travel!
13. How do you start off planning a novel?
I picked a genre I love. I had some ideas and goals. But I didn’t really map out the storyline in outline form. I let the characters drive the story and about halfway through I knew the final twists and turns to a great mystery plot. The same thing is happening as I finish the second Kristen Conner novel.
14. What would you say to those who say that fiction is useless and that you can learn nothing from it?
A couple things. I’ve never seen the statistics verified but I believe what I’ve been told as conventional wisdom: 80% of novels purchased get read; only 20% of non-fiction purchased gets read. But just look at some of the most popular fiction – you learn a lot about history, politics, technology, police procedure and whatever else is thematic to the work.
15. CUTS LIKE A KNIFE is only the first book starring Detective Kristen Conner, and you are in the process of working on the second installment, EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE. What can we expect from that and from you in the future?
Kristen turns 30 in the first novel. I would love to write a book a year – and then see if she is ready to settle down at age 40! She does have a secret that is hinted at in Cuts Like a Knife – but still won’t be revealed in the next novel. It makes her ponder faith and what really matters in life. It is always on her mind. So I think there is a lot of ways for her to grow and bring her intense personality into the world of crime and justice.