With each year I spend as a writer and each new story I have published, it seems that certain questions are asked of me more and more, especially by people who don’t write. I thought I’d share some of those questions and my answers to them on today’s blog.
If you write all these books, why do you have another job?
Because most writers do! Writing, unless you’re one of the few lucky drops of water in a sea of scribes, does not pay a tremendous amount of money. Yes, I make some. I get royalty checks, sometimes a lump sum for a story, and sometime a combination of advance payment and royalties. It all depends on the project. But it’s not enough to write and do nothing else, as much as I wish it was. Besides, if I could just write and not work anywhere else, I think I’d still keep a day job of some sort. I’d become a hermit if I didn’t and being out in the world and observing and interacting with other people can be a great source of ideas.
Where do you get all these ideas from?
There really is no simple answer to this, except maybe to say that they just happen! Ideas come from life, from dreams, from memories, from combinations of different concepts, from those great moments when a question beginning with the words, “What if…” pops into my head.
I think that once the part of the mind that creates stories is activated (and why this happens to some people and not to others, I do not know), it can’t be turned off. Experiences or thoughts or wishes turn into the raw seeds of stories and they have to be made into something, pushed out into words, solidified into a form that can be read and shared and put out there for the world to see.
In some ways, writing is an addiction, but a very good one. Anything can set off an idea: a stray phrase overheard in a restaurant, a memory that hasn’t resurfaced in twenty years, a news story, or even the weather on a particular day.
Ideas just come to me (and to most writers, I suspect), and I can never predict when one will happen! But…that doesn’t mean writing is easy. An idea is only the beginning of a very long process. You can have the idea, but that’s only the start of the work.
Aren’t you embarrassed writing sex scenes and knowing that people read them?
No, not at all. Why would I be embarrassed? I’m not having sex in front of the reader, the characters are! And sex is part of life, thus it has a place in some stories.
Why did you write a vampire book? Everybody writes vampire books!
Because an idea came to me that could only be done in a vampire story. I think there’s room for as many vampire novels as people can come up with. Why not? Vampires are a concept that can be interpreted in so many ways and can be appealing in many types of stories. In fact, I’m not done with vampires. If 100,000 Midnights gets a good response, there will be a sequel. Plus, I have another semi-vampire book written, for which I’ll be looking for a publisher soon, and this one is much, much darker and nastier!
Now you’ve written a horror book? But you wrote mysteries…and that jungle story…and a western. Why can’t you stick to one thing?
Why would I want to do that? Working in different genres is too much fun! I enjoy reading books of different genres, watching movies from different categories, being in different moods on different days, so it’s natural that I would want to write about different things. And also, my mind tends to go where the work is, and I’m happy to be the type of writer who can adjust to various genres. This way, if a publisher wants a mystery, or a horror story, or a piece of science fiction, or whatever, I’m pretty sure I can deliver.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every genre comes easily to me or that I enjoy each one equally.
The Sherlock Holmes stories I wrote came quite quickly to me because I was so familiar with the characters of Holmes and Watson and their supporting cast that writing in Doyle’s world was like revisiting an old friend. After Holmes, mysteries in general come to me pretty easily, at least as far as coming up with a basic concept goes. Ironing out the details isn’t always so simple.
Horror comes pretty fast too, as fantasy also does because those genres allow a writer to create a world in which almost anything is possible (as long as he consistently sticks to his own rules once he’s established them!). Science fiction is a bit more difficult since it has to focus more, at least to some degree, on how things work rather than just the fact that they do work.
And then there are certain genres that I deal best with under pressure. A couple years ago, I was asked to write a western story for inclusion in The Masked Rider Volume 1, from Airship 27 Productions. I agreed to do the story, but wondered if I had done the right thing since westerns have never been a favorite genre of mine and I wasn’t sure if I could come up with something good enough. But it happened! The fact that I was obligated to do that story forced the mental wheels to turn and I came up with an idea and finished the story and, to my surprise, that story, “The Long Trail of Vengeance,” got one of the best reviews I’ve ever had written about one of my works. But, considering how well that turned out, I’ve tried, a few times, to write another western, but I can’t seem to get it to work! Apparently, that’s one genre where pressure is needed to provide inspiration.
But my point is that I love jumping from genre to genre and I don’t think I could ever stick to just one type of story any more than I would want to eat the same thing for dinner night after night after night.