What inspired you to start writing Fantasy and Sci-Fi stories, and how has your writing evolved over the 40+ years?

I would say that the “Lord of the Rings” was a pivotal moment in my life. It shaped my interest in the fantasy genre, most certainly. I specifically remember debating his writing style with a teacher, when I was 11 years old! I look back and laugh about it now. My teacher’s head must have been spinning. I have been devouring all the fantasy books I can find since that day.

On the Sci Fi side, I started off with Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov. The Dune and the Foundation books will always live with me. I read an article somewhere that Asimov was inspired by “Decline and fall of the Roman Empire” by Edward Gibbon when he wrote the Foundation books. I thought I would try it. All I can say is, oh my! It is an incredible book, but the writing style is not what a modern reader is used to. I did not realize it was possible to write a single sentence that covers two pages. I consumed the book in very small chunks. On my tombstone, I will mention that I finished it.

Can you share a memorable moment or experience that influenced your storytelling?

I remember struggling with plot in a major way. I was constantly running into a brick wall trying to figure out what came next (ie. plot). Then I came across some advice from the great Stephen King. It was a YouTube interview or presentation I believe. At any rate, he made a major point about characters driving plot. That was a huge aha moment for me. I was approaching plot disassociated from the character arcs. I changed that day. I never struggled with plot again. Thanks Stephen!

How do you balance your passion for writing with other aspects of your life, such as your job, family, and hobbies?

I carve out time specifically for writing so that it does not interfere with my family, job, or hobbies. For me it is mornings. I get into the local coffee shop by 6 AM, work for a couple hours, then I’m off to the real world (which is not nearly as interesting.) I might do some editing at night, but not much other than that.

What is the most challenging aspect of creating fantasy worlds or sci-fi universes in your stories?

The most challenging for me, is it must have some realistic grounding behind it. I know its fantasy magic, and FTL spaceships, but it must feel real to me. If it does not then it feels like a fairy tale. Finding that balance of real and unreal is one of my greatest challenges.

How do you approach character development, and do you see any recurring themes or archetypes in your work?

That is a big question. I could write a 30-page answer. For me, I focus on the one thing a character wants. It could be a big thing or a little thing, but it must be one thing and it must be important to that character. From that one thing I build out the rest of the character. I seem to be drawn to flawed characters. I’m always fascinated with the arc a character goes through when they strive to overcome some unique flaw. Maybe someday I will create the perfect, unflawed character, then take them apart slowly. Perhaps an antagonist? I need to go jot that one down!

As a collector of books in Fantasy and Sci-Fi genres, what are some of your favorite pieces in your collection, and why?

I already mentioned LOTR, Dune, and the Foundation series. You could throw in the Shanara books, Dragonlance, Michael Moorcock, Ray Bradbury, and Piers Anthony. I dearly love the Amber books by Roger Zelazny. I have had this great idea for an urban fantasy, for about 20+ years, and I‘m going to do it in 1st person. Except for a couple of individual scenes, the entire Amber series is 1st person. Zelazny was the master! I don’t want to say much about the plot, but as soon as I finish the Shard series, I’m going to do it!

Your dog thinks he’s a cat, and your cat thinks he’s a dog. How do these unique personalities influence your daily life and creative process?

I have very needy pets. The dog starts freaking out if he does not get his 2 mile walk every day. The cats will not leave me alone and have no qualms with sitting on or walking across my keyboard. I dearly love my pets, but I get more done at the coffee shop than at home!

How do you manage to stay updated on all the Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV shows and movies, even if some are not up to par?

I am a chronic procrastinator at heart. In fact, I have been meaning to do this interview for about 2 or 3 weeks! I will watch anything I can find in those genres, even if they are terrible. I always pick up ideas about characters, even if it is “don’t ever do that.”

Can you share some of your favorite Sci-Fi or Fantasy TV shows and movies, and why they resonate with you?

The original Star Trek series is probably my all-time favorite sci-fi show. I grew up watching endless reruns of it as a kid. It will always hold a special place in my heart. The special effects are terrible, the acting is over the top (I’m looking at you Bill!) but the stories are great.

My latest, favorite show is Umbrella Academy. I was running out of stuff to watch so I turned it on. It is amazing. If you have not seen it, do it now! The writing is phenomenal, and the acting is amazing. I do not want to give too much away, but there’s a scene in season three that involves Kenny Loggins, that floored me. I can’t describe how perfect it was without giving it away.

Riding your bike seems like a significant part of your routine. How does physical activity like biking contribute to your creativity or mental well-being?

Biking is a big part of my life now. Nothing relaxes me more than winding through the trees along the river on a beautiful summer day. When it’s too cold or to wet to ride I get crabby!

Board games are another of your interests. Are there any specific board games that you find particularly inspiring or enjoyable?

I’m a massive fan of Gloomhaven and Frosthaven. They are phenomenal games and I highly recommend them. I think of them as D&D for people who want to play D&D and don’t have time to play D&D.

Dreaming wistfully about the beach when the weather doesn’t cooperate suggests a love for nature. Do real-world environments or experiences influence your world-building in any way?

I do love being outside in nature. As I mentioned earlier, I strive to make sure that all my writing has a “real-world” flavor to it. On the other hand, I think part of the attraction to Fantasy and Sci-fi, is the ability to leave the real-world for a while. In the end, I find much of the real-world to be dull and uninteresting. So for me, part of the joy of writing, is escaping from it for a little bit.

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