What advice would you give budding writers? I learned from experience that just because you have a story swirling in your head, you shouldn’t jump in and start writing. First and foremost, plan out your story and research your genre. In my case, writing a fiction novel was way more complicated than I expected. The process may have been less stressful if I’d had a basic understanding of elements like protagonist, plot, foreshadowing, conflict, and which, if any, fiction sub-genre the story in my head would ultimately be — before I started typing. Writing until I was “done” wasn’t a sound strategy either. Secondly, since word count is critical…refer to number one….plan out your story. An outline would have been helpful, especially to plot out important reveals from my protagonist’s past. I would have avoided problematic repetition by doing so. Especially since I wrote the first draft in fits and starts over eleven years!
Do you have another profession besides writing? I am a retired career US Secret Service special agent. My assignments, both criminal investigations and protection, and duty stations took me not only around the country, but around the world. My experiences, the people I met and places I visited have inspired my writing. After retiring, I continued to do strategic security and risk management consulting for clients in the private sector. However, after forty years of protecting people and property, I’m eager to pursue my creative interests more. In addition to writing, I began taking acting lessons about ten years ago and have been lucky to book minor roles in TV, film, commercials, along with print work. I keep auditioning because I never know when I might get a big break, as evidenced by finally getting published after many years of querying literary agents resulted in dead ends and disappointment.
Where do you write? I have a home office with a desk and computer. I rarely use a legal pad and pen to make notes anymore, instead organizing my thoughts with computer note-taking options. I try to eliminate potential distractions and have made it a point to not keep my cell phone nearby. Although I am inspired by everyday life and social interaction, I need solitude to sort and synthesize my ideas. Sometimes to stay focused, I work in a library where the atmosphere of concentration and quiet enhances my productivity.
Do you snack while writing? Not usually. I do keep a beverage nearby. Usually hot tea which I drink pretty much year-round. If I need a snack or break for a meal, I get up and walk away to the kitchen or another room to eat and recharge. Plus, I hate getting crumbs or something sloppy on the keyboard or desk.
If you could go back in time, where would you go? I’m a baby boomer, born in the late 50s. I have this vision of a post-WWII idyllic life when America was getting back to living again after the atrocities of war. Large-scale projects such as the building of the US interstate system allowed for easier travel between states and the connection of big cities and the new suburban communities springing up as weary soldiers returned and started families. Cultural changes were afoot in music with the advent of rock n’ roll, automobile and clothing styles, movies, TV, and architecture. Good things were happening and I think it would be exciting to experience them as a young adult!
What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done? As a Secret Service agent protecting US Presidents around the world, often under challenging circumstances, I carried a lot of responsibility. It’s a unique law enforcement mission. You never want anything to happen on your watch!
What is your theme song? I’ve often been told I don’t take instruction well. It’s cliché, but I identify with Frank Sinatra’s popular song, “My Way!” I usually follow my instincts and my heart even though the path may be unconventional. At least until my wife changes my mind.