Q: Hello Andrew, what made you decide to start writing?
A: I spent hours as a child transforming my explorations of the woods behind my house into epic adventures. When I was a sophomore in high school my teacher kept me after class. I had no idea what I did wrong. Then he pulled out one of my essays and told me I had plagiarized it. He said nobody in his class could write something like that. (Which I guess says more about his class than anything else.)
But it was at that moment I started to wonder, is this something I could actually do? Through out college I continued to write stories. Then I began roaming the country, living in places I thought were interesting. Places entirely unlike where I grew up in New England. When I turned twenty-five I had amassed dozens of stories, but I had yet to write a book. So I drove from Wyoming down to New Mexico and said I wouldn’t leave until I’d written a novel. I ended up writing three while I lived there.
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I wrote for pleasure in school. But I never took any formal writing classes. I learned to write through trial and error. I also took inspiration from living life in wild places filled with people who lived as close to the edge as possible. Unfortunately, some of them fell over the edge. I was one of the lucky ones.
Q: How long did it take you to write this book?
A: This book has had an interesting trajectory. It began as a screenplay in 2007. A producer wanted to make a film out of some of my short stories, but the money fell through. A year later, he called to tell me he had money for a horror film did I have any ideas?
I squirrelled myself away in the Santa Fe public library for a few weeks searching for an idea. That was how I landed on the story of Los Hermanos de Penitente. I knew there was a scary story hidden in this centuries-old cult. The movie never happened. But I loved the story. So I began re-imagining it as a novel. This gave me more freedom to build in the backstory of the characters. I also drew on the love story between Benny and Diana.
Q: What do you use to write your books?
A: For many years I wrote everything longhand. But that was so labour intensive, I trained myself to write with a laptop.
Q: What problems did you encounter?
A: The worst writer’s block I ever encountered happened after I quit smoking.
Q: How do you think you’ve evolved as a writer since you’ve started?
A: Plot has always been my struggling point. It took me a long time to figure out how to plot. I began writing as a pantster. Those novels are all gathering dust in a drawer. The art of screenwriting depends on detailed outlines. That has made me a better novel writer.
Q: Is there anything you wished you’d known when you started writing Andrew?
A: I wish I had known to be patient. Keep editing. I had a few opportunities to show my work to editors when I was very young, and I rushed it. The books weren’t ready and I burned my chance. For many years I couldn’t pay someone to read the first ten pages of my books. Don’t burn your first impression by forcing an unfinished novel in front of a professional agent or editor. Do the hard work of revision first.
Q: Do you work on a set amount of words per day or does it change?
A: Now that I have kids my word count varies much more from day-to-day. I used to write religiously every morning from seven until ten. Now that I write full time on multiple projects and for multiple clients my schedule is more erratic. Meetings are very disruptive to the flow of disciplined writing.
Q: Do you do a lot of research when writing a book?
A: All together I researched Sacrifice for two years. That is the most I have ever researched anything. I don’t know if I will ever get involved in another story with that kind of intensive research.
Q: What time of the day do you find is best to write?
A: For many years I preferred writing in the morning. But for the last couple years, everything has flipped and I write better from eight until midnight.
Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A: Once I fall in love with a character I can’t drag myself away from the computer. I fall deep into the process of developing characters. Even the guy standing behind a counter in a gas station gets a deep backstory. That is my favourite part of writing—character. I love analysing dialogue.
Picking the words each person says carefully. Imagining how their life experience would influence the words they choose to speak. I love the shifting dynamics and allegiances between characters as stories develop. Tone can be as crucial in character interaction as word choice. Can I hear the tone of voice in the words they choose to say? That’s what I am searching for.
Q: What draws you to this genre, Andrew?
A: I fell into the horror genre by accident. I start out writing the kind of boring middle class, white, male books that win awards. However, I just wasn’t the best at it. David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen very deservedly dominated that market when I was starting out.
When I first wrote Sacrifice as a screenplay people responded to it very powerfully. It got me a lot of meetings, but never ended up getting made. I just kept getting asked to write more horror and thriller scripts. As a result, I developed a knack for it. That led me to write a novel in that genre. Now I don’t ever want to leave this world. I can’t get into stories anymore that don’t have very high stakes. Life has to be on the line. I find the stuff coming out of MFA programs rather tedious.
Q: Which author/book would compare yours too?
A: I like to think that my story is Breaking Bad if Stephen King wrote it. I also try to emulate Nick Cutter. He is one of my personal favourites in the horror genre right now.
Q: How many books have you written?
A: Sacrifice is my debut novel. However, I have three others and a multitude of short stories in a drawer.
Q: Have you ever written in collaboration with another author?
A: I am collaborating with a good friend right now.
Q: Who designed your front cover?
A: My wife actually designed the cover. I am very proud of it.
Q: Who was the first person you showed your novel too?
A: I show all my writing to my brother first. I don’t know why. We just always chat about our projects. He produces reality television. He has a good sense of story. So I know if he isn’t bored I’ve done something right.
Q: Have you ever dedicated a book to someone?
A: This book is dedicated to my wife. My long-suffering wife.
Q: Do you use an agent, Andrew?
A: Over the years I had two agents. Neither really did much for me. If the right person came along I would be interested. But agents are a tricky bunch. You have to be very careful. A lot of them blow smoke.
Q: How much time do you devote to marketing your books?
A: Too much. I just gave myself a talking to. I am on a deadline for a new novel so I need to shake off of social media in order to finish.
Q: How do you get your book reviews/reviewed?
A: That has been the toughest part of the promotion. I don’t have a good answer because I haven’t been very successful at getting reviews. Although the few reviews I have received have been good overall.
Q: Do you do all your own proofreading and editing?
A: No way. This book was edited by three different people. The next book will go through a developmental editor also. I felt secure in the story for Sacrifice before I wrote the book because the screenplay had been well vetted.
Q: How and where are you publishing this book?
A: My book was published by Black Rose Writing out of Castroville, Texas
Q: What are the main benefits of being an independent author?
A: I would consider myself more of a hybrid than a truly independent author. Black Rose Writing is a very small press. But when they can they definitely help. So I am not completely alone at sea.
Q: What are you reading at the moment?
A: I am reading several books right now: Stranded by Bracken MacLeod, Haven by Tom Deady, Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
Q: What was the first book you ever read?
A: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Q: Who is your favourite author/book?
A: The great short story writer Raymond Carver is hands down my favourite.
Q: What is your favourite book to film adaptation?
A: The Getaway. I love Jim Thompson. He was a brilliant crime writer from the 40s and 50s. Sam Peckinpah made the film starring Steve McQueen. It’s amazing to me that he could capture all the bleakness of a paperback writer of the 1940s.
Q: What books do you read to your children?
A: This will sound strange, but my six year old just heard a Kid’s Ted Talk about The Odyssey. At her insistence, we have been reading Homer. However, I’m ready to get back into some C. S. Lewis.
Q: When you read do you prefer a book or a Kindle/tablet?
Q: Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
A: Find a great mentor. The best thing that ever happened to me as a writer was the day I met Stephen Jimenez. He taught me more than he’ll ever know. I encourage young writers to find a mentor. It will build your confidence, and save you from so many pitfalls. However, don’t worry – there are plenty of pitfalls lying in wait for the writer. So if someone can help you dodge even a few it will be a lifesaver.
Q: What’s coming next?
A: My next novel is a crime thriller set in big sky country. It is the story of an untested deputy facing a serial killer. The killer uses a mega church’s Good Samaritan App to hunt young, pregnant girls. It’s called God’s Country.