TGR: Where did your love of reading and writing come from?
I can’t really say I know the source, but I can say that I have always been intrigued by characters. As early as I can remember, I would create an ongoing narrative for my action figures and toys. They’d have relationships, beef between them, ranks, et cetera. I’m sure many kids did the same, but with me, that habit never really ended.
Today, in public, I’ll often speculate the inner-workings and secret lives of the strangers around me. The crazy guy on the bus or the sad old man eating alone at the deli become characters in my grandiose tales of mischief, motives, and drama. Many of those people and the lives I constructed for them become the basis for actual characters in my stories.
But when it comes to the actual act of writing, I started writing lyrics for the bands I was in. It became apparent that I always tried to tell a story, and/or all my songs had an ongoing theme to them. It wasn’t until around 2013 when I tried my hand at prose and was completely horrible at it, but loved it ever since.
TGR: What are some of the books/writers that had an impact on you and inspired you to write?
Growing up, I wasn’t really into reading fiction. I liked books on psychology and sociology (my first bout with college was for sociology), mythology, and anthropology. The only real fiction I read at that time was Poe and Spider-Man comics. However, when my stepdad got Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk from his brother for a Christmas present, I was intrigued by the synopsis on the back. So, I stole it. My stepdad wasn’t a big reader anyway.
I read it in one sitting. I was enthralled by all the taboo subjects and tongue-in-cheek themes he used in his writing. It introduced a whole new world for an angsty, sixteen-year-old punk kid to explore.
Today, I’m a big consumer of science fiction. I love the works of Heinlein, Bradbury, Scalzi, and most recently, The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey.
TGR: What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up at 6(ish) AM. Go to the day job, suffer and contemplate ending it all, then I get home and try and knock out whatever needs to be knocked out. A lot of time is taken up by Aphotic Realm—reading submissions, planning things, editing things, or brainstorming with Dustin Schyler Yoak on whatever. If Aphotic Realm doesn’t need attention, I try to write. Nonetheless, I’m always doing something.
TGR: How much research do you do before you begin writing?
Depends. Some stories don’t require more than a Google search or two. However, for SIPHON, I read a ton of articles and watched a bunch of videos. The main character, Dr Gary Phillips, is a hematopathologist and I knew absolutely nothing about that profession except that they work with blood. Thankfully I have a phlebotomist friend, Ryan, who let me pick his brain about the day-in-the-life of a blood worker.
TGR: What genres are you comfortable writing in and is there any other(s) you would like to write in?
I’m comfortable writing transgressive stuff.
I’m comfortable writing horror, too, but it leans more toward the crime side of horror—serial killers, psychopaths, things like that. I’ve tried my hand at the supernatural/monster stuff and it just doesn’t feel right. I’ll figure it out one day.
What I would really like to write is science fiction. I have a whole epic plotted out, it’s just a big hurdle to climb. I’m constantly left in a state of awe after reading some of my favourite science fiction writers that I can’t help looking at my own science fiction writing and hating it.
I’ll figure that out one day as well.
TGR: What is the most important aspect of your writing? Is it character, plot, tone, or something else?
Character. All the way. A story can have the craziest setting, the most perfect plot and tone, but if the character is stale, unrelatable, two-dimensional, or what have you, it becomes a trudge in the mud to read—and write.
With SIPHON, Dr Gary Phillips is, I believe and hope so, an interesting and relatable character. Writing him, I started with his profession and focused on hitting all my plot points, but once I really got to know him, I could change the setting, his job, the supporting characters, and it wouldn’t really matter as long as Gary did what he had to do. His character derailed my initial outline of the story, but I think it was for the better.
TGR: What writing lessons have you learnt from you first publication to your most recent?
From my first publication? Nothing is perfect and not everyone is going to like it.
My most recent? Nothing is perfect and not everyone is going to like it.
I’ve received a handful of surprisingly awesome reviews for SIPHON and it hasn’t even officially come out yet. However, given the content, I’m expecting some downright terrible reviews from people expecting something completely different from what it actually is.
Can’t sweat that kind of stuff though. It’s the creative industry and not everybody is a fan of everything. I used to be a performing musician, the same philosophy applies to my writing: Regardless, you still have to write that story/play that set. You still have to put it out there. Let the world figure out what to do with it.
TGR: I’m a big fan of ambiguity in stories. Particularly with short stories, I like to be made to think about the story and its meaning long after I have finished reading. What are your thoughts on ambiguous stories? Is ambiguity something you incorporate into your stories?
I’m a fan of ambiguity as well. I want the writer to point me down the path with little nudges here and there, I don’t want them to hold my hand the entire time.
Ambiguity is something I incorporate in my stories. When writing though, it’s hard to know if you’re in the sweet spot. Did I give away too much? Not enough? Are the readers going to get it? Or did I just talk down to them like a child?
I just released a self-published book, ITCH: A Collection of Short Stories. I think most, if not all, of these stories are ambiguous in nature. In short fiction, we want to see the peak of action/drama with minimal exposition and backstory. Short stories are super hard for me to write for whatever reason. I prefer the elbow room to get down in dirty with a character. With that said, I hope people enjoy it.
TGR: Social media is a tool for getting yourself noticed. Do you think it is easier or more difficult these days to get your work noticed? Why?
It has its pros and cons. It is easy to reach out to others, whether it be potential fans, collaborators, or peers, but at the same time, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatever, is so oversaturated with “things” that it can be hard to be seen at all.
I’m playing along, dancing to the tune, but I’m not too worried about it. If my stuff is good, people will like it and talk about it. If not, I’ll be damned to obscurity.
TGR: As a writer, what do you consider to be the do’s and don’ts of self-promotion?
DO: Promote your stuff on the platforms where it is expected. Engage with other writers and readers. Send out inquiries for reviews, don’t just send an unsolicited ARC. Basic professionalism stuff. With that said, still be yourself. I know a few who have an “author twitter” and a personal one, and the posts are worlds apart in content. Combine them. Be you. But that’s just me and I have no shame.
DON’T: Don’t be creepy and use a Bot to DM people about your book. Don’t force your stuff on people that have no desire to read it. Don’t argue with bad/mediocre reviews with the reviewer.
Overall, be nice and supportive. BUT! Stand your ground and don’t be a pushover on things that matter to you. Author, artist, whatever, you’re still a human being. Not a content creating robot.
TGR: Tell us about your work. What does your back catalogue consist of and what is your most recent release?
My back catalogue is tiny.
I have editor credits on Aphotic Realm Magazine Issues #1, #2, and upcoming in March, #3. I had a short story published in Massacre Magazine #4 in 2014. That’s about it for back catalogue. However, last year and this year, I’ve had my nose to the proverbial grindstone.
By the time this interview is put up, ITCH: A Collection of Short Stories, should be available in both digital and paperback.
SIPHON is being released by Hindered Souls Press on February 2nd.
I have another book I’m outlining at the moment. A “spiritual successor” to SIPHON, and I hope to have the first draft finished by the summer.
TGR: You’ve been invited to contribute a story to an anthology! If you could choose 5 other writers (living or deceased), who would they be and why?
That’s a tough one, but I’ll just throw out some big names I think my work would fit in with the most (but be the most inferior, as well).
Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, Cormac McCarthy, Anthony Burgess, and Aldous Huxley.
Do I really need a why? Look at those names!
TGR: Your latest book is being turned into a movie! Well done you! Who stars in it and who directs it?
Dr Gary Phillips would be played by heavily-make-up’d Joseph Gordan-Levitt. I think he has the dramatic range to bring the character to life.
It would be directed by David Fincher. He is great at conveying a brooding, yet inviting, cinematic mood. His work with movies like Fight Club, Se7en, and Alien 3 are some of my favourites.
TGR: What are you working on now (apart from these questions) and where can we stalk find you on the World Wide Web?
At this moment in time, I am working on Aphotic Realm Magazine #3: CLASSIFIED, along with other titles and things from Aphotic Realm we have not made public yet. When I’m not consumed with that, I’m writing one thing or the other.
You can follow me on twitter at @UglyByProxy or check out my new blog/site at uglyandhorrible.wordpress.com
Aphotic Realm: www.AphoticRealm.com
Hindered Souls Press: www.HinderedSoulsPress.com