When and why did you begin writing?My very first step to becoming an author began in 2003 when I served onboard the US Navy Destroyer USS Winston S Churchill. I was responsible for maintaining data links and keeping a clean, clear radar picture. This position allowed for huge blocks of downtime, so when the data link was up and running correctly I would sneak an earbud beneath my headset to listen to some music in order to keep from falling asleep. But on one particular evening something special happened. I was listening to Erykah Badu’s “Mama’s Gun” CD (an actual CD running in a CD player). The song was “Penitentiary Philosophy.” To me, the song sounded like a piece of music you would hear in a movie trailer. As I listened I imagined two combatants dueling employing highly stylized fight mechanics similar to those found in Shaw Brothers kung fu classics and the Matrix movies. So on a piece of printer paper I began creating my protagonist and antagonist. My work shifts were usually 6 to 7 hours in length, so I used writing to help pass the time until my shift was over. Writing, I would discover, kept me awake more than listening to music and far more than just staring into a radar screen deep into the night.
What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre that they need to know?
I think the most important thing that people don’t know about science fiction that they need to know is that they don’t need to know about science in order to enjoy a good science fiction story. There’s always going to be some basic science facts that are interwoven into our science fiction, and it is the responsibility of the author to determine just how much fact and how technical those facts are that have the potential to lose the reader if the information presented to them is deemed too heady. On the other end of the spectrum, you don’t want to dumb it down to a point to which you have now insulted the reader’s intelligence. I think that with my book TIC ONLINE, I’ve managed to balance the right amount of science fact without having to actually solve for planetary orbits and difficult time distance problems that the reader probably doesn’t care about. There are also many tropes that people just accept when it comes to science fiction. We writers can simply avoid time distance problems by saying our ships are capable of FTL (faster than light) speeds. So if we say it will take several minutes or a day to reach one end of the solar system to the other we can do it and not have Neil DeGrasse Tyson rip us a new one, though I wouldn’t mind if he ripped me a new one because that would mean he has read my book and that would be fantastic because in TIC ONLINE I’ve named a research vessel after him.
Do you have a special time to write, or how is your day structured to accommodate your writing?
My special time to write is usually in the late evening when the family is settling down for the night. (Glass of wine is optional but highly recommended!) I will take whatever notes I have jotted down during the day, and I will usually re-read the previous chapter I’ve deemed complete and look for anything out of place or add additional content. This also keeps the story fresh in my head and helps me keep the pacing nice and tight. Also during my note taking I will try to come up with the basic beginning, middle and end for a chapter so I can begin adding content and character dialogue based on what I’ve created during the day.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I remember in high school you couldn’t get me to write two pages on any subject except maybe for science without a sigh and complementary eye roll thrown in for good measure. I saw writing back then as a chore and not as a challenge. It takes time and repetition and late nights and tons of rewrites and plenty of swearing and convincing yourself to keep going even when you see one of your ideas mirrored in either a movie, video game or some piece of real world technology that exist today that existed for you yesterday. “Grind it out one page at a time” is what I would tell aspiring authors. It took me a decade to complete TIC ONLINE. Juggling a navy career and writing was difficult, but when the opportunity came to crank out some pages I took it. When I approached writing as a challenge and not some homework assignment it became personal and I had to finish. I would also say that whenever you see or hear or do something that inspires you to write carry around a little note book and jot down your ideas especially if you’re away from your “writers environment,” the place where the magic happens. Some of my best ideas come during a morning commute, drinking coffee and listening to music. I don’t recommend jotting down your notes in traffic, but try to remember them and then at the first opportunity write it down. Once the seed is planted, you have to nurture the world you create like you would a fruit bearing plant or even a child. Once the idea to write a story and create a new university takes hold in the mind, it will haunt you until you see it to completion. Never quit!
Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?
TIC ONLINE: The Greis (pronounced Gray-is) Vanguard follows immediately after the events of the first book and our main characters face new challenges from alien forces that are hell bent in destroying the human race. Our use, misuse, abuse of alien technology has awakened the ancient alien race known as the Greis. Any sentient beings smart enough to utilize the technology is seen as a threat to their existence, so a massive invasion force, the Greis Vangaurd, has folded space time and has entered our solar system with the intent on destroying our world.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you cast?
TIC ONLINE has multiple characters readers can gravitate to, but I will just focus on two. If my book was made into a movie, without question the role of Captain Carey Desaro would be played by Dania Ramirez of recent Devious Maidsfame. For Operations Specialist Space First Class Von R Coleman, I believe Michael B. Jordan would be the perfect actor to play the flawed, self-righteous M.A.S.A.I. operative. Dania and Michael are both dynamic actors with range and have delivered fantastic dramatic roles and they both have experience in comic book based movies, so TIC ONLINEwouldn’t be unfamiliar to what they’re used to doing.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I wouldn’t necessarily call this author a mentor in the traditional sense. Rashad Harrison is a fellow high school alum and track and field teammate. He has written two fantastic books, and he inspires me to write during those tough times when you’ve rewritten a chapter several times and you find yourself surrounded by a mine field of balled up printer paper and not sure which direction your book is heading. I hope to join forces with him one day and collaborate on a project just like when we were teens.
If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?
If I couldn’t be an author, my ideal career would focus on video game design and programming, something I’m currently attending school for now. Call it fate, but I’m enrolled at Coleman University in San Diego, CA to learn how to program and design video games. I’ve been playing video games most of my life, so when I retired from the Navy I already had my BSBA from Trident University. I said to myself, “It’s time to do something fun and challenging,” so I chose the video game industry. There was also a time when I was inspired to become an actor, though I didn’t get very far with it. I was fortunate enough to get what I like to call my, “four seconds of fame”. I was an extra in the war movieWe Were Soldiers with Mel Gibson. If an offer to act presented itself to me today, I would take it in a heartbeat.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Readers can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads and can find my book online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For those lucky enough to be living in Philadelphia, you can grab a copy of my book at Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse. I’ve sent Ms. Ariell Johnson 10 copies of TIC ONLINE and hopefully she didn’t burn them to keep her shop warm for the winter. Just kidding but really, please don’t burn them.