1. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Actually, that story is in my book, Francois. My mom told me I had a knack for it when I was in sixth grade. By sophomore year of high school, I thought I ought to take writing seriously if I wanted to have any shot at a future.

2. How long have you been writing? How many books have you written?

I took my first stabs at it in grade school but abandoned the typewriter (yes, I am that old) when it took too long for anything to come out of me. In high school, teen angst made me a bit more prolific. In college, I kept giving it the old college try. But just out of college, I absolutely threw myself into writing, made it my life and never went back on my commitment.

How many books have I written that have seen the light of day? Three. The others, time happily forgot.

3. What made you want to self-publish?

Well, I’m with Gatekeeper on this one. I didn’t want to wait for the gatekeepers to decide my fate with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

4. Would you recommend new authors self-publish, and would you recommend Gatekeeper Press?

I would definitely recommend Gatekeeper Press. Let’s get that point out of the way first. They are so committed and they actually care. As to whether I’d recommend self-publishing as a new author, it’s up to you. If your goal is to be traditionally published and you want to take the steps to finding an agent and all that, all the best to you! It’s worked for others. It might work for you. But if it doesn’t, no need for despair. Just get your manuscript in the best shape possible, which might or might not include allowing it to rest in the shadows for some time before you pick it up again and possibly decide it needs a rewrite. And if you truly believe in it and it’s still not allowed past the velvet rope, then you might consider publishing it yourself, marketing it yourself, and entering competitions. That’s worked for others too. Suddenly traditional presses take note. But even if they don’t, it’s no indictment of your work. A work of art is a work of art regardless of whether the elite recognize its merits in the artist’s lifetime.

5. What do you do marketing-wise to help announce and sell your books?

This is a “trust in the universe” kind of thing. Let your friends know about it. You might not suspect it early on but soon you’ll see that you either know somebody or you know somebody-who-knows-somebody-who-knows-somebody, etc. who will give you a spot in a reading series or will place your book in their store or will blog about you or review your book on a site that they write for. Find out what contests are out there and enter them. Trust in the unseen helping hands. It’s not something the hard-sell marketing advisors will advise, but for me at least, hard-sell tactics never helped me sell or get the word out about my books. My friends and their friends did!

6. What advice do you have for a new or fledgling author?

My best advice is to pick up a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and really make a practice of its exercises, especially the Morning Pages. Equally, deeply study and practice the advice in the books of Natalie Goldberg, especially her advice to do nothing but fill up notebooks with your own stream of consciousness for two whole years (she did this for more than thirteen when she was just starting out). These tools will help you find your voice more viscerally than anything else, I’ve found. I once read a music critic who told up-and-coming rock musicians to go off and live with your guitar until it becomes an extension of your body, like Hendrix did. Cameron and Goldberg (especially Goldberg) will show you how to do the same with writing. And like any writing teacher worth their salt, they will tell you to read voraciously, except they’ll actually give you a roadmap to good books to devour on your writer’s journey.

7. What social media platforms are you on?

I’m not a social media fiend. I do have an instagram account, which I don’t use all that often. I’m more of a words guy. I do have a Facebook account but it’s more for my actual friends and community.

8. What is the one piece of advice you wish you had known when you first started out?

Well, people did tell me that it’s okay to be a late bloomer but I didn’t believe them and I wish I had. The late bloomer might be working just as hard at their craft, if not harder, than the person who flourishes fastest. Only, life has a different timetable for them, no matter how much they might try to rush it. As the L.A. writer Jamie Varon says in a wonderful article called, “To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind in Life” (it’s online, look it up!), sometimes the reason it’s taking you longer than you’d like is because you haven’t yet had the specific experiences that you need to complete or even begin your most important work. You haven’t been brought together with the person who will be the inspiration for the main character in your next novel or who will be the lynchpin of your long-delayed memoir. Keep your skills sharp, but also be kind to yourself. As Rilke says in “Letters to a Young Poet” (and I recently quoted this in another interview), “Patience is everything.” And if you’re anything like me, it’s also the hardest thing.

9. What do you feel is the biggest challenge authors are facing going into 2024 (and beyond)?

Well, I think we have to face that it’s asking a lot of most people to sit down and read our books or stories from start to finish. Not only do they have their own lives and families and rent and mortgages to pay, but the world is in a five-alarm fire crisis and tech and social media and news outlets are pulling our attention every which way in our waking lives and even in our sleep. We might not get heard and we might not get read in these hurricanes of distraction. We still have to trust that there’s value in our having contributed our verse in the great play, to paraphrase Whitman. Who knows, maybe our words might reach just the right hearts and make a difference that we didn’t see coming, but it’s up to life to decide when or if that happens.

10. Have you won any awards or contests that you would like to mention?

Yes, prior to this new book, my novel 85A won 12 awards and was put on the recommended reads list of the American Library Association’s Over the Rainbow Roundtable that year. The committee chair found the book in a library in Kansas City. I didn’t know it was in any libraries, much less that one. And then my cross-genre book, Cockloft: Scenes from a Gay Marriage also won 12 awards, including the International Book Award in the category of LGBTQ+ nonfiction.

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