I happened to pick up a children’s picture book about William Marshall, the “greatest knight who ever lived.” He was a second-born son who had to make his fortune by competing in the tourneys—the huge mock battles which were the predecessors of the slightly more civilized jousting tournaments. Despite being repeatedly banned by the popes, tourneys remained wildly popular until high mortality rates forced the sport to evolve into the more familiar (and much safer) jousting tournaments. After a long career as one of the most renowned tourneyers of the age, Marshall finally hung up his spurs and headed for the Holy Land to seek absolution.
I’ve always been drawn to the Middle Ages, and I was instantly intrigued by these gladiatorial battles and their juxtaposition with the Crusades. From there, my imagination just took off!
2. Who is your favorite character?
Oh, Marcus Annan, my main character, definitely! He dominated every page and absolutely took charge of the story. He was one of those special larger-than-life characters who are definitive to a writing career. His strength, his courage, and his haunted past… he was a blast to write. In fact, he’s easily one my favorites out of all the characters I’ve ever written. And that’s saying something, because this story, in particular, gave birth to quite a cast, including Annan’s smart aleck servant Peregrine Marek, the fugitive countess Lady Mairead, a conflicted Templar named Warin, and a triad of very scary bad guys!
3. What have you learned on your road to publication?
Probably the biggest thing is simply that publication isn’t the end all. Anne Lamont nailed it when she said, “…publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is.” Being published, having people buy your words—that’s an amazing feeling. It validates your work, all the hours you’ve put into crafting and sweating over these crazy stories that won’t let you go. But it’s not the final destination; it’s just a pit stop along the road of the artistic lifestyle. Writing, in and of itself, whether or not you’re ever published, has to be its own reward. I write because I have to tell stories. I’d keep right on writing even if I was the only one who wanted to read my words. For that matter, I would pay other people to let me keep writing, if I had to. It’s a passion, a compulsion, a gift. That those other people are actually willing to pay me to continue it—that’s just an extra blessing. It’s important to keep it all in perspective, no matter where you are in your quest for publication.
4. What’s your secret to success?
No secret. Just lots of hard work. Write every day. Guard your desk with a machete and flamethrower if you have to! Writing time is sacred, and if you don’t respect that, you’ll never get anybody else to. Read incessantly: all the good fiction you can get your hands on, as well as books on the craft. Seek knowledgeable feedback on your work. Well-read, kind-but-brutal beta readers are essential. Writing can’t be just a hobby; you have to treat it like a job. More than that, it’s a lifestyle.
I have several projects in the works. I have a completed fantasy, Dreamers Come (about a man who discovers that his dreams are really memories of another world) waiting for another round of edits. I also just started outlining my next project, a historical novel called The Deepest Breath about the passion, betrayal, and vengeance that dog two men and the woman they both love through the trenches of World War I, corruption in colonial Kenya, and the criminal underbelly of London. And I’m also working on a fun co-writing project that asks, “What if Robin Hood met Sleeping Beauty?”