Right now I’m working on a new novel called Omegaball. It’s a YA sci-fi action thriller based around a futuristic sports league and a vision of the Internet’s future as a virtual-reality hub. Influences include A Wrinkle in Time, Snow Crash and the 1975 action movie Rollerball.
A big one. Narrative got under my skin early via the movies, so I was a movie geek first, but a love for novels came soon afterward. Part of it was a desire to read really long books. I loved the idea of these huge stories waiting for me inside. We had tons of books lying around, and I can remember seeing some long ones in my house. My mom was a huge fan of Herman Wouk and Joseph Wambaugh. Those books were too adult (and too long) for me at the time, so I grabbed all the kids’ books in the house, starting with the Chronicles of Narnia and a lot of Roald Dahl. That’s all it took.
Writing came soon after. I wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist when I was a kid, so I drew all kinds of storybooks. Typically these involved me inserting myself into Saturday morning cartoons. All of these were drawn on notebook paper with a pencil, of course. I didn’t start writing fiction until a little later, starting with a few aborted novels in junior high. (Looking back, I have to chuckle at my misguided ambition. I read The Andromeda Strain in seventh grade and immediately tried to write a viral-outbreak thriller about a journalist who discovers that his hometown is a secret government testing ground for new bugs that Uncle Sam had cooked up. Hm. That’s not a bad hook, actually.) I started writing short stories in ninth grade and began what would become my first novel during my senior year.
If all goes well, I get up at 6 a.m. and write for about 3-4 hours. I try to write at least 1,500 words every day. Sometimes I hit that mark, sometimes I don’t. If I’m really stuck, I’ll either edit or fiddle with my novel’s outline. Of course, I read every day.
I’m powering my way through the fifth Game of Thrones novel, A Dance of Dragons. (Note: the series is formally called A Song of Ice and Fire.) I got hooked on ’em, and I’m grimly determined to finish out the existing books. I’m also reading the second book in Ally Carter’s Heist Society series, as well as Sam Harris’ nonfiction book on ethics, The Moral Landscape. After that, I’ll probably move on to the new John Irving and some Carl Hiaasen. I’ve got my eye on some Elmore Leonard and Andrew Vachss, too.
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.
Blue Movie by Terry Southern.
It’s one of the filthiest books you’ll ever read, but it’s also one of the funniest. I’m talking “coffee spraying out the nose” funny. Southern was a contemporary and colleague of Stanley Kubrick. He wrote the screenplay for Dr. Strangelove, and in Blue Movie, he tells a fictionalized tale about how the world’s greatest director decides to make a dirty movie. (I imagine Southern based his book on Kubrick’s early work on adapting the novel Traumnovelle into what would eventually become Eyes Wide Shut.) The humor is dated as heck, but it’s still worth a read. In addition, Southern’s prose simply sparkles — vivid, specific, bawdy, headlong.
Strega by Andrew Vachss.
In his daily life, Vachss is a lawyer who only represents troubled and abused children. In other words, he’s a literal superhero. He’s written a slew of gritty crime novels, including a long-running (and recently ended) series about a New York-based mercenary named Burke. Stregais the second in the Burke series, but for my money, it’s the first real Vachss novel. Vachss’s writing has had its ups and downs over the years. The last few Burke novels aren’t so great, but the bulk of the series lands like a judo-chop to the sternum. Spare prose, unforgettable characters, strong morals. Righteous reading in every way.
It’s not always easy. I recently finished running a Kickstarter campaign for my novel The Odds, and it really drained away my ability to write. It took up a lot of time to shoot the book trailer, cut the book trailer, cut the Kickstarter video, build the website, promote the campaign, line up the rewards, etc etc. I finally got back to writing soon after the campaign ended. (It was successful, thank goodness.)
But in the future, I hope to spend less time promoting and more time writing. My plan now is to stick to my 3-4 hours of writing in the morning, and then try to find time to write a blog or assemble a fun piece of multimedia to promote my work later in the day.
Get up at 6 a.m., write for a few hours, go to the gym, and then come back home to do freelance web design work. I’d love to write full-time, of course, but that’s tough for even a lot of working novelists to pull off.
I’d love to have a house with a small guest house that I’d turn into a writing studio. My writing station in there wouldn’t have Internet, so if I had to Google something, I’d have to run back into the house. (As a web developer, it’s hard for me to completely ignore my email, and that often interferes with my writing.)
I once agreed to accept a critique when I wasn’t emotionally prepared to engage with the notes. I’m also not sure my beta reader was entirely prepared (or on point), but in any event, I allowed myself to deviate from my usual protocol for receiving notes, and I got really upset. I’m not proud of my reaction, but I tried to learn from it.
Leave it all on the page. Regardless of whether you’re writing semi-autobiographical drama or a fantastical speculative piece, make sure that you tap every store of pain and joy you have. Put it into the book. Let your personality splinter into shards and let your experiences — good and bad — coat those shards until they’re pearls.