Near the middle of August, the weather turns hot. So, I’m particularly thankful to this week’s featured author that he wants to have our interview while walking on some Colorado mountain trails. Cool air, scenery and green and rocks and maybe we’ll catch site of some wildlife…as long as it’s not a cougar. Or a bear. Or a wolf. Or a rattle snake. In fact, let’s not encounter any wildlife and just talk about his latest book. And don’t forget about the excerpt following the interview.
1.Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?
I am definitely not the most fascinating person in Los Angeles, but probably one of the weirdest and most straight up. In a city known for so much artificiality, mainly due to the entertainment business, I am the real deal. I don’t lie, I’m a passionate advocate for children and get personally involved with issues I see that demean kids, threaten them, or set out to corrupt them. I’m an activist for a better world. Unlike most adults who become jaded, I still see the world for what it can be and strive to make it so. Like Gandhi said, I strive to be the change I want to see. I’m a singularity in many of these ways, at least according to lots of people I’ve met along the way. I march to my own drumbeat and don’t let anyone sidetrack me from my goals.
2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
I haven’t cut my hair since 1992. It’s not falling out, but also hasn’t grown much past my shoulders. It should be on the floor by now. LOL Weird.
3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as deep sea diver?
Growing up I wanted to be an astronaut, a teacher, and a writer. I always wrote stories and made up stories in my mind for as far back as I can remember. The astronaut dream died a painful death when I discovered the complex math skills that were needed, and the fact that, because I was born hard of hearing, I was ineligible even if I’d been a math whiz. So I became a teacher because I loved kids and wanted to pay forward what some great teachers had given to me. The writing always remained a dream and I’m finally fulfilling it.
4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
Mary Shelley. Frankenstein is such an amazing, spot on look at the dark side of human nature and is still so relevant to us today, that I’d love to sit down and ask how an eighteen year old was so wise before her time to have written something for the ages.
5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?
My books have great characters, very real and human with qualities everyone can relate to, even while hung over. LOL The plots are complex and twisty, there’s action, humor, pathos, and unforgettable character interplay. My books are the perfect companions because a reader will feel every emotion possible within their pages.
6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.
I usually get a story idea first, like a kind of hook that might be used to pitch a movie script. “King Arthur appears in Los Angeles and recruits cast-off children for his new Round Table of knights” would be an example. Or “what if there was a boy in a wheelchair who could heal everyone but himself?” I take the “hook” and think about what characters and situations are needed to tell the story effectively. My characters, and often events or life experiences, are always based on real people because that keeps me grounded in making my story and the people who inhabit it as genuine as possible. I can’t afford to travel, so if parts of my story are set in places I haven’t been, I use Google and the Internet to learn about them and see how they look so I can accurately describe them. I usually write full time when I’m drafting a novel, and then I revise obsessively. I’m almost OCD with my tinkering. I try not to read my work after publication because I always find things I want to change. LOL
7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”
Decide how you want your story to end, or how you’d like whatever character you’re thinking of to end up. If you have an idea of the end game, getting there becomes much easier.
8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?
Because I have spent most of my adult life around children and teens, my philosophy is two-fold: live by example, and do what’s right, not what’s easy. By living these ideals, I feel I’m contributing to a better world down the line if kids do the same and pass it on.
9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?
I’m outlining two sequels to Spinner that will follow through on and conclude the overall story arc begun in the first book. I’m also working on a standalone installment of my other series and aiming it at the middle grade market.
10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
Alex felt uneasy as he lay in his bed and listened to the wind outside. It had been an okay day at school – he’d only been called “Roller Boy” twice, which was almost a world record. After school, he’d kicked it at Roy’s house and they cranked some Hawthorne Heights tunes and chilled. Even Jane hadn’t bitched at him. So why can’t I sleep? He didn’t know the answer. His eyes returned to the dancing shadows that flitted across his floor from the window. His drapes were closed, but the wind whistled through the trees, and the shadows mesmerized him. The patterns of light and dark pulled on his eyelids, dragging him slowly under. A dream loomed at the edges of his consciousness. One of those dreams. Sleep overcame him, and the dream began….
Ms. Ashley trudged down a flight of stairs from her second floor apartment to street level, carrying several overflowing bags of trash. The traffic sounds were omnipresent, but otherwise the night was calm and clear.
A slight breeze ruffled her long brown hair as she slunk quickly to the rear of the complex. Rounding the building, she passed alongside a sloping hill of ivy-covered ground toward the row of trashcans in the far corner.
Looking chilled and unsettled, Ms. Ashley lifted one lid and struggled to get all her bags in without spilling anything.
A rustling noise startled her and she whipped her head around to the left.
The ivy-covered hill ascended upward into darkness, but there was no movement. Only a creepy silence.
She quickly tossed her bags into the can and dropped the lid back in place with a hollow clang.
Suddenly, a large cat dropped onto the top of the can from somewhere above. She uttered a startled cry and leaped back a few steps.
The cat meowed and she chuckled, extending one slightly trembling hand. The animal snuggled against it, wanting to be stroked. She ran her fingers through the fur around the cat’s neck and under its chin.
More rustling leaves drew her attention to the ivy.
The darkness in this corner was deep and penetrating, making the vines and leaves snaking their way up the slope barely visible. Another cat materialized from beneath the thick cover of ivy. Then another. And another.
In seconds, the hillside crackled and seethed with cats of all shapes and sizes. Their glowing eyes shone like eerie beacons in the night. The cat beneath Ms. Ashley’s fingers hissed and swiped its claws at her, raking the top of her hand and drawing copious amounts of blood.
Startled, she cried out and yanked her hand back, gazing in shock at the dark liquid gushing forth and spilling onto the concrete at her feet.
Terror etched her face.
She cautiously backed away.
The cats crouched on the hillside, poised and threatening.
The huge one she’d been petting wailed into the night, and then they were on her, leaping and clawing at her face and hair. Hundreds of cats streamed down the hillside and flung themselves at her while the big one sat and watched like a general commanding his troops.
Ms. Ashley screamed, but loud traffic sounds drowned out her cries. Flailing wildly, she turned and stumbled along the side of the building toward the street, desperately crying out for help.
Claws dug into her back and raked across her neck.
Teeth sunk into her arm.
She shrieked in agony as they yanked out chunks of her hair and raked at her legs, shredding her sweat pants and digging viciously into her soft flesh.
Blood spilled from everywhere on her body.
The street loomed just ahead. She tossed one cat off in a frantic attempt to save herself, only to have three more replace it. She clearly didn’t have much time before she’d topple beneath a tidal wave of claws and fur.
A large truck roared along Lincoln Boulevard as Ms. Ashley staggered toward the curb. The headlights were bright and blinding. The biggest cat now flew from the retaining wall at her face and gouged a chunk of flesh out of her cheek, exposing the bone. She wailed in agony.
Her knees buckled, but Ms. Ashley managed to stay on her feet while stumbling headlong into the street at a frantic pace.
Suddenly aware that the truck was almost on her, she clutched at the nearest light post in desperation. One bloodied hand caught the post and slowed her momentum as the cats ceased their brutal attack. She gesticulated frantically with her free hand, hoping to attract the attention of the driver. With her urgent gaze fixed on the truck, she didn’t see the figure in black leap from behind the retaining wall right at her.
Strong hands pressed hard into her back and propelled her forward.
The truck mowed her down in a splatter of blood and gore, flinging her broken body to the pavement and then crushing it beneath massive tires.
As the truck screeched to an ear-piercing halt near the corner, the figure in black melted into the darkness. Several cats sniffed the dead woman’s remains before they, too, disappeared into the shadows. The first cat was the last to depart, watching as the horrified driver jumped from the truck cab and pelted toward Ms. Ashley’s broken body.
The cat seemed to grin before vanishing into the night….
Alex screamed and bolted upright in bed, sweating profusely, his young face etched with horror, hair plastered to his sweat-sheened forehead. Heart thumping with urgent terror, he scanned his darkened room. The door leading outside was closed, but the ominous shadows still crept through the window. His desk was messy as usual, and the door to his bathroom stood ajar, but he’d left it that way. Everything looked like it had before he fell asleep.
Dropping onto his pillow, Alex fought to control his breathing and calm his pounding heart. A dream. That’s all it had been. He’d known one was coming, and he’d been right. God, he hated those dreams! Poor Ms. Ashley. He lay there, sweat making his t-shirt cling uncomfortably to his chest as his heart rate slowly drew down. Could this dream be like the one about his parents? He hadn’t had one like that in years. It seemed so real!
He lay in bed worrying about the morning, and what he’d find when he got to school, even though there was nothing he could do to change anything.
Gradually, he calmed down; the tree branches outside tapping against the house lulled him to sleep. The last image to assail him before he went under was that ugly-ass cat grinning at him before running off into the dark.