When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As a kid, I wanted to open my own comic-book company. I loved to draw and tell stories, and I loved superheroes. (I still do!) So that was my dream until I was 12. Prior to that, I was learning that I could write. When I was 9, I wrote a poem that my teacher, Ms. Adams, entered into a contest without my knowledge. It won first place and was published. As a result, I started writing for the school newsletter in fourth grade and drawing the comic strips. In sixth grade, Mrs. Ferrin, who taught my Language Arts and Gifted & Talented classes, let me write a new chapter of a novel for every writing assignment in those two classes over the year, regardless of the actual assignment. As a result, by the end of the year, I wrote my first novel. From that moment on, my career goal changed to novelist.
In eighth grade, Mrs. Demond, who was my Computer Science teacher, read my handwritten manuscripts for a sci-fi trilogy I had written, and pulled strings for me to be her student aide, but my time was to be spent typing up my books, since I didn’t have a computer at home. In ninth grade, my Honors English teacher, Mrs. McKinnon, was extremely supportive, reading my stories to the class and persuaded the school to laminate a bunch of maps I had been drawing when creating the setting for that first novel I wrote when I was 12.
In tenth grade, Mrs. Sawaya, who taught my Journalism class and was the newspaper and literary-magazine advisor, really pushed me to write. She read my work, got me to take part in newspaper staff as a writer and cartoonist, until I was editor-in-chief my senior year. For the literary magazine, she selected a lot of my writing and art, and I eventually served as editor for two terms. However, when I was 15, I was actually hired to write for the first time. I was offered an editorial position for a sports publication. That made me realize that my teachers weren’t just saying great things to be nice. Funny thing, the sports publication rescinded the offer to be an editor and changed it to a reporter position when I told them I didn’t have a driver license.
What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre that they need to know?
Too many people think that science fiction and fantasy are all about escapism. The best science fiction and fantasy is very much about the human condition. The use of distortion and exaggeration makes those very human stories that much more poignant.
Do you work to an outline or plot sketch, or do you prefer to let a general idea guide your writing?
I do not outline my books. I know there are some out there who would say that I’m not a real writer because of that, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have an idea of where the stories are going. There are times when I have to sit and write; I really don’t have any choice. So I write at least a paragraph to nail down the idea, although that usually goes from one paragraph to two, then three, then often into twenty pages. I once did an experiment after I was laid off from work and treated writing as my full-time job. I hand wrote a draft of a novel in three weeks. That’s still my record.
Another reason why I don’t outline my books is this: when I’m putting in concentrated work into a novel, when I surprise myself, then I know it will surprise others. So, if I sit back and say, “Whoa, didn’t see that coming …!” I’m positive others will have the same response, and that’s my goal. I want people to be surprised, to have an emotional response.
How do you feel about indie/alternative vs. traditional publishing?
I think that a lot of mainstream publishers are looking at independent publications or self-published works for new material. Particularly if the authors do a good job promoting their own work, it makes it that much easier for the mainstream publisher to pick it up and hit the ground running. So my point is not to be afraid to do self-publish, especially with some of the options now that have really democratized the publishing industry.
How do you market or promote your books and what strategies (e.g. social media, email, blog tours, etc.) have demonstrated the most success for you?
I have used Facebook quite a bit but, surprisingly, what has had the biggest impact recently is LinkedIn. I had a LinkedIn account that I hadn’t done much with for years, then decided to try seeing what happens if I put more focus there. Through LinkedIn, I’ve made contacts for podcast interviews, blogs, and even critics. One of the bigger book critics in India gave my book five stars, and now I’ve got hundreds of connections with people in India. I never saw that coming!
Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?
My most recent novel is Order of Light, book two of the New Blood Saga. It continues the story of Natharr, who is Guardian of Maarihk, one of a long line of protectors dating back to the Firstborn Age, before the Aa Conquest. Natharr’s is an ancient role, rooted in his Firstblood, giving him Sight to see what is yet to be, adhering to his sacred duties even in the centuries since the Firstborn were forced to the brink of extinction by the Aa.
Natharr still stands guard over all men, Aa or Firstborn, Seeing what will come to pass, deciding what is unavoidable and what is not. He spends decades planning how to save the life of the newborn Crown Prince Vikari so he may one day reclaim the throne in the land where Mankind was created back in the time when the Olde Gods still walked.
In Order of Light, the role of Guardian of Maarihk has been condemned as anathema, and Natharr’s very existence has been relegated to legend. Nonetheless, he resumes his ancient responsibilities as Mankind’s protector. He joins with a mysterious Firstborn companion, Ellis the Elder, to journey into the snowy reaches of Biraald, where his Sight promises he will find those who secretly adhere to the ways of the Olde Gods.
Although Biraaldi bloodlines show their Firstborn heritage more clearly than even in Maarihk itself, the two nations have never enjoyed peace. It has been far worse since the rise of Brandt the Usurper to Maarihk’s throne. Natharr and Ellis must navigate threats not only against the Firstborn, but the Maarihkish, as they seek out the sympathizers he Saw who are brave enough to resist Maarihk’s tyranny. Only then can the damage be repaired from when Natharr chose personal happiness with Darshelle and the young crown prince (in book one, Crown Prince) over his weighty responsibilities as Guardian of Maarihk.
Tell us more about your main character. What inspired you to develop this character?
The kernel of the idea for Natharr came to me years ago. When I was an undergrad studying philosophy, I was fascinated by Socrates, who would go into a trancelike state, then emerge with new answers to questions. He called it being seized by the Daemon of Philosophy. Natharr has something similar in his makeup, when he is seized by the Daemon of Sight.
What role does research play in your writing?
Research plays a huge role in my writing.
In my fantasy writing, I do a lot of research into specific cultures, technology that was available in medieval times, even word usage. I find that it helps make the world more real, aside from giving me great material to use. As a result, I have people ask, “How did you come up with that?” My answer is something like, “I didn’t. It was still in practice in England till the 1880s.”
For my science fiction, research plays an even bigger role, researching technology, as well as the latest discoveries in space exploration. I’ve always been a space buff, so I have a pretty significant library. I never took a physics class, but I’ve read some of the most influential books at the time in quantum physics.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?
I love science fiction and fantasy. My influences include Homer, J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Piers Anthony, Robert Holdstock, Robert Adams, John Norman, Melanie Rawn, Shakespeare, Aristotle and Robert Frost. The most inspirational writers would be Homer, Tolkien, Martin and Artistotle.
Aside from the Iliad and the Odyssey just being great stories, that they were written so incredibly long ago just makes them that much more amazing. Tolkien, of course, took the genre to a new level, showing us all how the Homeric quest story can be repackaged. Martin has championed my favorite type of fantasy, which I call “realistic fantasy,” where the people have real-life issues they are dealing with, and magic is more subtle. Aristotle, again, that his work took place so long ago and is still being taught in schools is incredibly humbling.
Tell us something unique about you.
I am internationally published and award-winning writer. I have received special recognition from L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest. Crown Prince, book one of the New Blood Saga, was runner-up in OnlineBookClub.org’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book of the Year competition in 2020. I have been editor and/or publisher of nineteen news and literary publications, both online and in print, with circulations as high as 770,000. I’m a pretty good cook and have two claims that few can match: cooking nearly every type of food on a grill; and nearly being knocked flat when my grill exploded as I was walking away from it.
I received both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Westminster College of Salt Lake City. As an undergrad, I double-majored in communication and philosophy, while completing the Honors Program. As a graduate student, I earned a master of professional communication with a writing emphasis. I was also a high-performing athlete, qualifying for international competition in Greco-Roman wrestling.
I am a communications professor and a nationally recognized wrestling coach. I am happily married to my high-school sweetheart, and the father to five children, as well as helping to raise five step-children. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, where I continue to live, coach and teach.