My books come to me in different ways:
With Self-help for Stoners, I saw that I could fit stories of suspense into a framework of a self-help book made of fiction. When Director Kevin Smith inspired me to quit my day job and pursue my writing dreams, I realized that I could put together a fun, genre-bending bathroom book that would defy expectations. It came together quickly as a wild mix of the unexpected melded with observations, parables and exhortations (to get off the couch.) It’s a book that’s very different but somehow familiar. The feedback has been great, though I’m often surprised when people debate, is this pro-drug or anti-drug? I tell them it’s neither. It’s suspense that asks you to draw conclusions about your compulsions. It’s pro-freedom and freedom of speech. Yes, it’s important to have a label so people can find you and your book, but in this case, pigeon holes are for pigeons. It was quite a thrill for me to hand Kevin Smith his own autographed copy of the book and he was happy about it, too.
Sex, Death & Mind Control is the book that came so slowly, it’s appropriate to use the word evolution. I wrote short stories over several years before attempting longer fiction. Two award winners are included in this collection and it’s suspense that can be creepy and surprising. I don’t care for gore and it’s not at all pornographic, but sex and death are outcomes of the key factor through all the stories: various forms of mind control (magic, persuasion, mind games, coercion, trickery and self-delusion) form the book’s theme.
I’m fascinated by mind control. When powerful forces use it on us, we are in danger.
When we gain control of our minds, we will win.
The Dangerous Kind is closest to my heart. It’s a novella about escape. The place it is set (Poeticule Bay, Maine) is fictional, but the setting draws on places I lived when I was a kid and the town is almost a character in the plot. Anyone who has felt small-town claustrophobia will recognize and feel the resonance. There’s a deer hunt, intrigue and an inheritance between brothers on the line, but it’s really about complex relationships and the friction that comes from people who live too close together and only think they know each other. That certainly reflects my small-town experience.
I wrote several stories where I found myself drawn back to run over the same demon roadkill on the back roads around Poeticule Bay so one of my WIPs is all about the place. I’ll run those demons down, exorcise them or make them dance for my pleasure.
Finally, Bigger Than Jesus, my crime series, springs from my dim world-view. I commented on another fiction writer’s blog recently that the criminal world is so like the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In Joss Whedon‘s series, vampires and monsters run amok, but the normies somehow look past all the mayhem to maintain the illusion of stability in their lives. Vampires attack the school and the principal says it was druggies on PCP. Victims suffer and die by night as people go about their business in sunlight. Organized and disorganized crime is just like that. I’ve spent some time hanging out in courtrooms as a reporter and researcher and the stories that unfold there are by turns tragic, comedic and horrific. Homelessness, drugs, violence, confrontation and small, surprising acts of mercy: People would be amazed what happens in cities across the world, much of the stuff bubbling from underneath is never reported in the media. When I’m writing this stuff, I’m often reminded how the Cohen brothers and Elmore Leonard have it right. A lot of bad things can happen on the easy and wide route out of town.
I don’t know if twisted and dim world views and angry childhoods are required for all writers,
but those elements help me come up with my ideas for my books.
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