SPOILERS ahead for Book 1
Please tell us about your latest book.
SPOILERS ahead for Book 1, “Everyone Leaves This Place.” If you haven’t read Savage Spells Book 1, “Everyone Leaves This Place,” then you should STOP reading this interview and read that book. Book 1 has received favorable reviews, including from about a couple of dozen readers, an award-winning author, a professional review site, and Sue Naegle, the Chief Content Officer of Annapurna Pictures, a major motion picture/entertainment company.
For those who have already read Book 1, let me tell you some about Savage Spells Book 2, entitled ‘Love’s Heavy Spell.’ The book picks up where Book 1 left off, in fall 2019, with Evee and Mark both attending college at the University of Miami.
Evee, of course, has been freed from the evil witch’s body, and she takes a breath, expecting college life in Miami to simmer down. But then tragedy strikes close to home, and a bizarre coven calls on her to help fight for their cause. I don’t want to say more about this and spoil the fun.
Evee’s new calling puts a strain on her relationship with her boyfriend, Mark, and, even worse, thrusts her into a cat-and-mouse game with a narcissistic, billionaire witch.
In this mystical story of love and loss, Evee must figure out how to stop this wicked witch from corrupting a budding AI technology with dark magic, or she could become his next victim.
What can we expect from you in the future?
This book is the second in my Upper YA/NA series, Savage Spells, in which I plan to write at least one more novel. The series will at least be a trilogy, probably ending there. The series becomes darker and more deliciously devious and mystical with each novel. In Book 3, as in all third parts, there will be even more action and mysteries revealed, again expanding the mythology surrounding Evee Salazar and the ‘Witches’ of America.
Later this year, I’ll also be starting another series, probably a trilogy, for Upper MG/YA. It’s still tightly under wraps. The only thing I’ll say is that it’s SWEEEEET!
How do we find out about you and your books?
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing? What kind of research do you do?
I’ll answer this for Book 2. The book is alternately set in the Philadelphia, PA area (Philly and fictional Dairytown, which is inspired by Doylestown, PA) and the Miami area (Coral Gables, Little Havana, South Beach, etc.). A lot of it is inspired by real places. For instance, Miley Arculano’s apartment might look a bit look my first apartment when I moved to Philly thirty years ago. The University of Miami where Evee and Mark go to school is an alt-world college (e.g., Evee lives in Hetch Residence Hall, which, in real world, is Hecht Residence), but it is similar in some ways to the real thing. There are a bunch of places and people within the Miami portions of the book that are drawn from places I’ve been to and people I’ve met. But, it’s all fictional in the end.
Also, there are a couple of scenes in the book related to business, including how Marketing creates and tests concepts, which will be important in Book 3 (again, I don’t want to give away too much). I drew upon my decades in business to write these scenes.
My daughter attends college for Computer Science (CS), and I used what I know about her program to fill in some of the blanks regarding Evee’s knowledge and other characters’ knowledge of CS and programming.
The idea that one of the smartest kids in the world (Parker Twiddle, also a character in one of my short stories) comes from Dairytown sounds fantastic. But, recently, my real-life hometown of Doylestown, PA produced one of the smartest kids in the world when it comes to puzzle solving. And, as everybody knows, Evee Salazar is a phenomenal singer; correspondingly, there are so many young people with angelic singing voices in Doylestown, it makes me wonder if there is magic at work here (FYI, the pop singer, Alecia Moore, a.k.a., Pink is from Doylestown, too). I need to stress though, my characters—their appearance, behaviors, flaws, etc.—are FICTIONAL. But some very high-level traits, such as intelligence or singing ability, have been inspired by real-life people.
Growing up in South Florida/Miami, I had friends in the Cuban American community. Given this represents an important part of Evee’s heritage, I wanted to portray the Cuban American community, including Evee’s ties to this culture, accurately and positively in the novel. I drew upon my experiences in Miami. And I also called on a good friend of mine, Teresa Garcia, mostly to check my Spanish, which is sprinkled in some of the chapters. Teresa also helped me pin down certain details (e.g., what types of shoes would Evee’s Tio Roberto—Uncle Roberto—wear?), because little things count when you’re writing (People who don’t speak Spanish, rest assured, I wrote things in a way that you’ll be able to follow what’s going on and the meaning of what people are saying in the few instances where Spanish is used). If there are mistakes here, they are my fault, though.
I also researched where the wealthiest people in Coral Gables might live and what their houses (and yachts) might look like.
Regarding my life experience, last, but not least, I was inspired to write this book by my friendship with Dr. Paul Esposito, a fraternity brother from Miami who passed recently at the age of fifty in 2017. Paul was one of these people who was, simply, a shining light, always there to encourage others. And he came into my life early in my sophomore year of college when I was feeling lost, and he (and the people
who revolved around him like planets around a sun) changed the course of my college career and probably my life. He taught me a lot about the power of positive, bold thinking. I hadn’t kept up with Paul as much as I should have, maybe once every few months by phone. I always wondered if he felt as close as a friend to me as I did to him because he, as an extrovert, had so many good friends. And, because of this, I kept quiet at his funeral and didn’t testify about what kind of person he was and what he meant to me. I still feel like I should have said something then, and this book about love and loss is my way of telling him, or his spirit, how much his friendship means to me. The book is dedicated to Paul, and there are pieces of him in it throughout the story. People who knew him will spot “Espo” references, such as how Mark’s mother tells him to walk into a nightclub with a bit of swagger (Okay, now I’m saying too much).
When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first ms?
I wrote some stuff in my early teens, but I truly began writing with a passion when I hit my mid-thirties in 2002. At this time, I felt compelled to write a novel that harkened to the nostalgia of my childhood – “Riverwood: Remembrance,” which is part of my “Seams Along the Near World” series. I wrote four books in that urban fantasy series from 2002-2018. I’m proud of “Dark Water & the Maiden,” which I wrote last, from 2013-2018; this story is a prequel. This book, set mainly in 1973, is a highly emotionally resonant work, at least for me. I submitted ‘Dark Water,’ because it had all 5-star reviews on a free site, but it didn’t get picked up.
Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
I mostly try to write in the early morning, for a few hours, at least several times a week. I sometimes need to adjust my schedule because of work.
What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there constant interruptions?
My family leaves me alone. Mostly.
What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
I work out. I walk because I have a bad knee and can’t run anymore. I listen to music. And, last but not least, I chill with my wife, Sheri, watching TV or hanging out around Doylestown.
Where do your ideas come from?
The ether. Seriously, sometimes it feels like my ideas come from another dimension.
Do you feel humor is important in books and why?
Yes. It keeps people engaged and makes characters likable. It releases tension if you’re dealing in dark or sad themes. A certain amount of humor keeps the ball rolling so to speak, moving that narrative forward.
Please tell us about yourself.
God is the most important, guiding force in my life. Without God I truly believe nothing else in my life would fall into place. Doesn’t mean God always makes things perfect for me, but because of God, my wife and I have a close, loving relationship, and I learn more every day about my purpose here on earth.
My family is important to me, including my wife, son (about to turn 21) and daughter (18). My daughter is transgender, and LGBTQ rights are important to me (they were important to me before I knew she was transgender).
I’m a writer by nature. I wrote an awful book when I was fourteen on a typewriter. I’ve worked as a market researcher, but a writer is what I am.
What are some of your favorite things to do?
If you want to know about my interests, outside of hanging with my wife—I like dancing to DJ Earworm when nobody is watching, reading all sorts of stuff (last year’s favorites were ‘We Are Okay’ by Nina LaCour and Chuck Wendig’s ‘Wanderers’), working out/walking (I was a wrestler in high school, and I coached for youth wrestling many years), and watching University of Miami Football. I do like a good streaming series. We just finished Season 2 of ‘Fleabag,’ which I really enjoyed, and we’re starting ‘The Outsider,’ which is great.
I’d like to travel abroad someday.
Who are some of your other favorite authors to read?
C.S. Lewis. Other than that, a wide array. I like the Fredrik Backman books. I love ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ by Neil Gaiman. Nina LaCour is a new favorite. I’ve read and enjoyed Solstice author David W. Thompson and, recently, Maria DeVivo.
What do you think of critique groups in general?
I still don’t know much about them.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If things proceed as I desire, writing full time. We’ll see. I do like market research contracting, but if I could make a full-time living by writing, I probably would.
How many books have you written? How many have been published?
My Seams series has four books. And there’s Savage Spells Book 2 that’s recently been published. So, I’ve written six, two of them published.
After you've written your book and it's been published, do you ever buy it and/or read it?
Sometimes, but not for this one. I bought it, but I haven’t read it. It’s too fresh in my mind still.
Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?
Evee Salazar from ‘Everyone Leaves This Place,’ is near and dear to my heart.
After this, Paul Branch from ‘Dark Water & the Maiden.’
What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
When somebody says your book touched their heart. If you write from the heart, you tap into this universal need for connection and permanence, which I believe is Divine. ‘Love’s Heavy Spell,’ Savage Spells Book 2, even more so than Book 1, taps into some deep emotional territory. I hope it resonates with people, which is most rewarding.
Also, when you write something, and you know it’s super-hot (well crafted, sharp, highly readable, engaging, etc.). That’s a GREAT feeling because it only happens, for me, about 25-30% of the time.
If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?
I honestly don’t know.
What is your greatest desire?
To see my wife and children thrive and to serve a higher purpose here on earth. I know that’s two things. I believe these two things are connected though.
Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
Sixteen years. That’s how long it took me between writing my first novel and publishing. Also, keep your mind open to advice and learning new things to improve your writing. It helped me for sure.