I don’t know how you managed to make a story including corporate greed and regulations, a zombie-like apocalypse, an alien invasion, and the end of the world fun, but you sure did and I enjoyed it! How did this story come together?
I’ve been reading corporate memos my entire adult life (I think most of us have) but it wasn’t until Covid that those memos started to come off as slightly dark, if only for the things that it was assumed we already knew. Like, if you took a random corporate memo from during the pandemic back in time and showed it to someone from, say, 2010, they’d have a lot of questions. (Also, and this is definitely related, more often than not I find corporate memos inadvertently hilarious.)
So I thought it would be a fun challenge to try to tell the story of the end of the world in the writing style of the interoffice memo, where the real story of what was happening only existed in the margins. I did this over a long stretch (for me) where I’d write one piece and then rewrite it five or six times before moving on to the next one, for about six weeks until I was happy with what I had.
You have an interesting career as a hybrid author. Do you have any advice for writers looking to imitate your strategy? And how does short fiction fit into the mix?
Let’s start by saying I’ve been extremely fortunate, and good fortune is difficult to imitate.
My advice would be to know ahead of time what stories you want to self-publish and what stories you want to bring to a publisher and plan accordingly. Right now, I’m self-publishing series books because it’s easier to self-promote a series and it’s harder to sell a series to a publisher. What I am selling to publishers is standalone novels, because those work precisely the opposite: it’s much more difficult to self-promote a standalone and much easier to sell one.
But this is definitely an easier-said-than-done situation. I write fast, I have plenty of ideas for both series books and standalones and know how to write both well, and I have a publisher who’s interested in working with me. (What I do not have, as of this writing, is a literary agent. I mention this only because getting an agent would be something I’d probably recommend to a newer writer attempting this same balancing act.)
A different skillset would necessarily mandate a different approach.
As for the short fiction, it wouldn’t say it fits into the overall strategy. I’ll write a short piece when an idea strikes, either as a dare—“I don’t honestly know if I can pull this off”—or just for fun, but I don’t really schedule them, not in the way I schedule the writing of my novels or the occasional screenplay. They just sort of happen. Having said that, I’ve been surprised by how well-received the short pieces have been.
What writers have influenced you? Who are you enjoying reading nowadays?
The list of influences is so long I don’t even know how to answer. I’d like to say it’s pretty eclectic, but I’m afraid when I say that it will end up being the same as when guys say “I have pretty eclectic musical tastes” and then it turns out what they mean is, they listen to identical-sounding alt-rock standards from twenty-five years ago.
Anyway. Right off the top of my head: Alan Moore, Douglas Adams, Stephen King, Piers Anthony, Christopher Moore, Neil Gaiman, Donna Tartt, Neal Stephenson. Ask me again a month from now and I’ll probably have a completely different list.
As for what I’m reading nowadays, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not reading anything other than what I’m working on. It’s been an uncommonly busy summer full of deadlines.
Can you tell us what stories you have out recently, and what you’re working on now?
The third book in my Tandemstar series is due out at the end of October, and I’m pretty excited for that. It’s called The Ocean in the Sky and it’s what I was working on for most of the first half of 2021. This book should answer a lot of the questions posed in the first two books, raise a few new ones, and cue up the storyline that’s going to carry through the back half of a planned six-book storyline. Right now, I’m in the middle of writing a new standalone novel about which I’m equally excited. The working title is Magisteria and I can’t say much except it’s going to be complicated. I’m also juggling a serial story on Amazon Vella and work on a screenplay project with some friends out in L.A. Finally, I do have a new short story idea I’m thinking of diving into sometime soon. It’s a horror story, of all things. We’ll see how that goes.
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