1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. As a means of expression, storytelling has always far surpassed any other creative outlet I’ve encountered and has allowed me to explore both myself and the world around me. I first became enamored with the idea of being an writer at ten years old and began seriously pursuing my career as an author at that time. During the intervening years I have considerably refined my craft, dedicating my focus to historical fiction and examination of the human condition—the forces that make us who and what we are, those tenants of experience that are perennial, and the merits and follies that shape our species’ journey toward self-actualization.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
Both of my parents lived through the 1960s, and I grew up listening to both the music and the stories of the era. My father was a musician as well as a soldier in the Vietnam War and his accounts of the decade and the counterculture always deeply fascinated me as a child. While researching for an earlier novel set in the same period, I read a book called The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. In addition to defining the genre we now called ‘new journalism’ Wolfe’s work recounted the escapades of Ken Kesey, a major figure in the counterculture of the 1960s. I was completely captivated by the book, both stylistically and comprehensively—and read it twice before I realized that the author had not actually been present for any of the events he recorded. The level of immersion that Wolfe provided to readers in his work inspired me to write a novel in which I could transport readers back into time and present to them an objective examination of the era with both the wisdom of hindsight and the intensity of firsthand experience.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
My intent behind 1969 was to recapture the spirit of that time half a century ago and preserve for history a record of the message, meaning, and legacy of the era, as well as to provide an entertaining, accurate, and objective perspective of the decade that could be enjoyed by those who lived through it as well as those who learned about it in school.
To a great degree, the passion and intensity with which I researched and wrote 1969 was due to the fact that I felt that there was something extremely important to be learned from that era of human history—something deep and instinctive that eludes most academic accounts and can quite possibly be swallowed by the gaping maw of time. The spiritual values that were embraced by so many during that time prompted a resurgence of raw humanity that was unprecedented in our recent history and so greatly impacted those who experienced it and the future they thus created that it is criminal to let its influence be lost. I wanted to capture and convey that to readers so that they have the opportunity to be enriched by those values and experiences that have sharped our world today in a more personal and firsthand way.
Most importantly, I wanted all readers to be able to take something away from the story that stays with them long after they’ve closed the covers. Books have shaped my perspective immensely, and some of the most influential pearls of knowledge in my life have been conveyed to me through literature. Whether it’s simply a fact about the time that they hadn’t known before, or a quote they find inspirational, I’d be greatly humbled if everyone who reads it can say that they learned something from it—either about the time or about themselves.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
I have always loved history—and as the old cliché says, truth is certainly stranger than fiction, so there is no shortage of inspiration. Many times when I tell people that I write historical fiction, I am greeted with an interesting reaction. “Boy, that’s a lot of work, why don’t you leave the historical bit to the biographers and textbook writers and just write pure fiction,” is a response that I receive quite often. However, I continue to pursue this genre because I believe there is a great deal of value inherent in it. As every history teacher always urges at the beginning of the school year, history is extremely important. Our time and every single one us living in it are the latest products of millions of years of history. Each new day is carved under the shadow of yesterday in the light of our hope for tomorrow. Our environment, society, and culture are forged and shaped by memories, some more recent than others. I feel that by understanding the struggles and triumphs that defined the lifetimes of our predecessors, we can understand more about ourselves and in turn better our own lives and the lives of future generations.
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
I really enjoyed thinking about and answering this question. As is the case with most authors, when I develop characters, their backstories are fully fleshed out—even more so than is delved into within the context of the storyline. In this way they become real. It makes their actions, their dialogue, and their expressions far more consistent. Therefore, there really isn’t really anything that I would need to ask one of my characters in terms of their past that I am not already abreast of as the author. However, because 1969 does not have a definite ‘ending’ per sae, I would be quite interested in sitting down with my narrator, Rhiannon, after the novel ends and discovering what happens. I always ask readers their take on how they think the story develops following the final page, but in all honesty, even as the author, I do not know myself. And as several years have passed since I’ve concluded writing 1969, I wonder how Rhiannon’s life decisions would have stacked up against mine and how the profundity and self-discovery that she underwent as a youth transformed her life as she continued on her journey to adulthood and beyond.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
Facebook has been by far the most instrumental in gaining traction and exposure. Due to the fact that my novel is set in the recent past and delves into Woodstock and other defining events as well as the music of the late 1960s, I was able to introduce my work to a number of groups of likeminded individuals dedicated to sharing and discussing this era. I feel it is the most accessible social media site, especially for the older generations who are the target audience for my work, and offers the most opportunities for advertising and networking.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
There are two pieces of advice that I would offer an aspiring author. The first would be never give up. The process of publication is extremely daunting. There are likely more scams and frauds aimed at authors than there are in just about any other field—so be cautious, be attentive. Do not let the excitement of future success detract from your vigilance. Secondly, stick to it. There are many disappointments in publication, and if you are looking to become an indie or self-published author, you must realize that writing the book is the easiest part of the process. During and after publication, not only will you be an author, you’ll be your own publisher, agent, marketing team, receptionist, accountant, etc. Your hobby WILL quickly become work—it will constantly lead you out of your comfort zone and at times it will be frustrating and exhausting. If you do not have the time or the energy to dedicate to marketing your work after it is published, do not self publish; instead, pursue traditional publication—it may take longer and result in more rejection, but you will not be saddled with all the procedural work that goes on behind the scenes in the life of an author. Self-publishing is a fantastic alternative that allows you a great deal of creative freedom, but it is not the best option for everyone, so choose your method wisely!
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
Due to the fact that I have been writing prolifically for over a decade but only became a published author last year, I have an imposing backlog of work that will keep me busy for several years to come. I recently created my own publishing imprint, Art Of Telling Publications, and in due time will be releasing a second edition of 1969 as well as all five of my previously written novels. More immediately, I have a book of poetry and short prose, A Collection of Words that will be published in the fall of 2020 and a new historical fiction novel that is in the works!
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