Stephen hails from Ontario, Canada, and he and I write in the same genre- thriller. And while we’re published by the same publisher, Black Rose Writing, I’ve not had the occasion to read his work yet, though I certainly will. His interview was intriguing to me.
Stephen trained in Karate and an avid biker. He is a plumber by trade. He calls himself a true rookie, never having had formal writing experience or training. I think that applies to many authors. A story grows within and when it germinates and blooms, we write. It doesn’t matter whether we’re trained. A story is a story is a story . . . and out it comes when it’s time.
Here is his interview. See what you think!
What was it that made you decide you had a story to tell and to become an author?
Honestly, I received a severe concussion a few years ago, and it wasn’t my first one. I trained with a world champion in karate point fighting. We both had fights scheduled later that month. I zigged when I should have zagged and was hit full power in the head with his shin. About six months, and a lot of doctor appointments later, my main character, David, was formed, developed, and created in my head. I started to write ideas and thoughts I was having about him. I then pieced those ideas together to where I had my first book.
As an author or writer, what sets you apart from others?
I suppose my lack of knowledge of the writing process. I never studied writing in school. I never read books about writing until I finished the first draft of my first book. I am the pure definition of a rookie when it comes to writing a book. I always wanted to write but never knew how. So, where others have written and worked at the craft most of their lives, it just came to me. Maybe that is a good way to write: pure innocence, no agenda, no desire to be published. I just wanted to get my thoughts on paper and out of my head.
What genre do you write, and why?
Thriller, right now with the series I am writing. I have a couple of horror ideas for the future. The intrigue of international terrorism and the inner workings of the mafia have always captured my imagination.
If you were to name one or two books that you deem unforgettable and that had a major impact on you, what would they be, and why?
The Stand, Stephen King. When I read it, I was still a teen, and the description, the good vs evil, and the visions of Mother Abagail, all sucked me in. I love a good end of the world story. The second book would be the Bible, like The Stand, I love end-time stories, conspiracy, and prophecy. The Bible is full of them.
What authors do you read regularly? Why?
I don’t have one author. The easy one is Stephen King for fiction. His books are easy to read, and they pull me into those worlds easily. I have read his books, on and off, since I was a teen. I read a lot of classics, the books we had to read in high school, the ones I skipped through last minute before a test. I am now enjoying them as an adult, but maybe not Shakespeare. J
If you were to have dinner with 5 individuals living or dead, who would they be and why?
1-my dad; he passed last year after having dementia for a couple years. One last dinner, one last talk, just one last… 2-my grandfathers; one I never met and the other one died too soon. 3-Lee Harvey Oswald; he might be the only one who really knew who shot Kennedy, and I don’t think it was him! 4-Jesus; so many questions! 5-The Queen; again, so many questions. The conspiracy part of my brain would explode if she would sit down and answer truthfully.
What is your writing routine? When you write, are you a planner/outliner or are you a “pantser”?
Definitely a pantser. I have no plan when I sit down to write. The only real plan I have is to reach into the universe and let it tell me where the story will go. I sit down and put on my headphones. I have a writing play list for each book. I start every writing session with the same song. This book was Matthew Good’s Everything is Automatic. My second book is 54-40’s Casual Viewin’. (Check out both, they are great Canadian bands) Then I clear my mind and type. Sometimes I go back and read what I wrote during my session. I don’t always remember what I wrote. Maybe it is the concussion or just in the zone.
When writing, how much do you read? Do you read in or out of your genre?
When I am writing I do not read, I just don’t have time. With a full-time job, family, and all the stuff around promoting a book, it is hard to find time to read. If I do read, I do not read fiction when I write. I will read history books always with a conspiracy twist. I just finished Ratline. It explains how the Nazis escaped Europe, including Hitler, and where he lived to an old age.
Is there something you set out to do, but somehow, it didn’t work out for you? (In terms of writing, or something else you felt was important to you at the time?)
Nothing I can think of. When I set a goal, my addictive personality takes over and will stop at nothing to complete the goal, even if it almost kills me. See answer to question one! Lately cycling is my place I go to relax. I set a goal to complete a 200KM ride in under eight hours. I did it in the spring and finished 210KM in seven hours.
What tips would you give to new or even experienced writers?
Don’t give up. Believe in what you are doing. Like I was told as a kid: ‘Stiff upper lip!’ when it comes to work and believing in yourself. Focus on your goal and don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way.
How do you handle a negative critique?
Oh boy, not well. My wife must talk me off the ledge, ha-ha. Depending on who it is coming from, I handle it differently. If it is someone giving a review who loves to hand out 1-star ratings, then no big deal. If it is a fellow author or friend I trust, then I wallow in my grief for a bit, then pull my socks up and take the advice to improve my book. I think in one of my books, I will hire my main character to do a hit on a one-star, negative person, just because I can. I will write it for all the authors who have given up or drank heavily because of one bad review.
How important are the elements of character, setting, and atmosphere to a story, and why?
Setting is important. You want the reader to feel like they are in the room/setting with the character. You want the reader to see what the character is seeing, especially when it is a different time period. My book starts in 1977 and goes to 2011 (a fictional memoir). I want the reader to time travel with me. When it comes to character, you want the reader to be emotionally attached. My book has no good guys, so David, my main character, must have something to make the reader like or care about him.
Do you see yourself in any of the characters you create? How/Why?
David, my main character, a little. I took some of my life experiences and added them to his story just to make it real, especially since he was raised in my hometown. I was able to take some locations and my experiences and add them into his story. The big one is I am a master plumber. I wrote my character as a plumber; his family runs a plumbing company as a front to the businesses that makes them real money.
Is there an unforgettable or memorable character that will not leave your head, either of your own creation or from a book you’ve read?
Pennywise from It. When I am out cycling, especially in the southern states, I think of that character every time I bike past a large storm drain. I read that book when I was a young teen, and it has never left dreams.
Tell us about your most recent book. How did you come up with the concept?
Years ago, I wanted to write about a kid who moved to Canada because of his family’s ties to terrorism in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. I did nothing with it until the concussion. Then the character returned. I didn’t even tell my wife I was writing. I would get up at 4:00 a.m. on the weekends and write until she got up. One Saturday, she snuck down and caught me. I am not sure what she was thinking when she asked what I was doing. At that point, I spun my laptop over to her on the dining room table and she read the first three chapters. It blew her away. From there, I had freedom to write and talk about it with her and some friends. I would get on my bicycle, crank up the music and hit the country roads in Southern Ontario (still do). I would come back with ideas, thoughts, and characters to either develop or kill. My bike is my dream world. Once I hit 100 km (60miles) my body and mind go into autopilot. At that point, stories pop in and out. I stop and write them down before they disappear, never to return.
How did you come up with the title?
It came to me when I was on my bike completing a 175km ride. At that point, my body was exhausted, and my brain was desiring sugar. That is where the magic happens. In total physical and mental exhaustion, the title came to me. It is a strange place to be, but so many of my characters and stories have come from that physical state.
From your book, who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite character? Why?
Kenton, the main character, is a grandfather. When I developed him, I made him a British WWII hero and criminal. Once the war ended and after a stint in the British SAS, he started the business of doing things the British and American could not be associated with. David grew up in that business. I wrote Kenton as a caring grandfather, father, and leader but also a world class assassin and terrorist who teaches his grandson the trade. He always has a positive spin on things and a few words of wisdom for David. With all the death and killing he has done and seen, he has an unconditional love for his family.
I hope you enjoyed the interview and are intrigued enough to take a gander at his book. For your convenience, the links to his media, as well as his books, are below.