Frequently Asked Questions
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To appropriately answer this question, I will need to go back in time, many moons ago, to high school. Our English teacher (whom I pray to God is not reading this), told us about writing several drafts to get to our final paper. I confess that I could never write that way. I usually wrote my final paper and then mocked up a few pretend draft versions. However, I have two great bits of advice. One was handed down to me by my favorite author (and my father), Mark Leslie. He told me to outline the characters, write up a full background for them, even if I don't end up using them to any great extent in the novel. This makes the characters in the book more well-rounded and if they take on a life of their own, I can follow them as they trek through the adventure more easily. Another great piece of advice came from Brad Meltzer, not personally - though I'd love to have a beer with him someday - but instead posted on his website. He said that he has a brief outline of a hundred pages or so. This gives him direction but allows him the creative flexibility needed to write the novel.
That was the long answer. The short answer is that I actually have hired a pack (horde? gaggle? herd?) of monkeys and let them loose on my laptop. (Just please, please don't tell my agent.)
I'd like to say that I gathered characters from my daily trips into the heart of Boston. The trouble with that, though, is if I used those characters, no one would believe such people would actually exist and my book would be written off as silly. When I first came to Boston, I talked with everyone I saw. I mean, why wouldn't I? I'm from Maine, a friendly state, where everyone is your neighbor. I quickly realized (after my friends sat me down and explained they would pretend they didn't know me if I didn't change) that I was looked at as the crazy man on the train. Since then, I've become an observer, and though I can't say I've taken any one personality trait and created a character around them, I can say that I've taken a mish-mash of daily observations, thrown in some sanity, and formed some of my characters from this.
And, of course, some characters I just make up. I mean, it is called creative writing, after all.
Many have suggested that I use some experiences and write a book out of them. I've had run-ins with witches (oddly before I moved to Salem, MA and not since I've lived here). I've had run-ins with shady characters (for which I've had to call in the FBI). And, as any parent can attest to, simply being a father gives you fodder for any stand-up comedy routine or fantastic novel.
Perhaps I've drawn on some of these experiences, but never intentionally (with the exception of The Company We Keep). I write for much the same reasons that people often read - to escape reality and become invincible for a brief moment or two.
My faith in Jesus is the foundation of my life.
I have had many moments in my life where I struggled with my walk with God, having fallen away a few times. My faith in Him never waivered, but my walk was less than stellar. My latest novel, The Company We Keep, is during a time I wasn't walking with God. Now, my faith is secure, my walk is steadfast, and I hope my actions in life will now always reflect my heart for Him.
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