Who are your writing influences?

I've always been fond of Edgar Allan Poe--"The Raven", "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The Cask of Amontillado", and the rest of his catalog. His tone coupled with his vocabulary equals enviably good stories. Certain H.P. Lovecraft stories are absolute gems, such as "The Hound" and "The Cats of Ulthar". However, the most influential novel on my writing is William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying (I read that as a teen before I knew he had spent any time in New Orleans. My geographic location is not a factor.). The most influential novel on my life is To Kill a Mockingbird, which unfairly gets pigeonholed as a junior high novel. There are few other fictional characters that I admire as much as Atticus Finch. I thoroughly enjoy J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" is also one of my favorites.
Besides the few mentioned above, I love a lot of other literature in different genres. Some eclectic influences range from The Simpsons, Kevin Smith movies (very compelling dialogue), and James O'Barr's masterpiece The Crow both in graphic novel and movie formats. More influences from my days as a comic book store clerk and owner are Frank Miller, Chris Claremont, and Neil Gaiman.
I'm also forever interested in the creative process. Reading books about hard rock bands and listening to DVD commentaries are fascinating activities for me. I love to hear how things are put together. I guess you have to subconsciously absorb some of that and inject it into your own work.

Are future novels going to all be in the same genre?

No. I've always written in whichever genre held my interest or best suited the story. The common thread for me is a character-driven story across all areas of life. Life doesn't come in one genre; every day is not a tragedy, nor is everyday going to be a comedy. So, my writings will spread across several genres. In my past work, I've written short stories that ranged from inner-city action to psychological horror to a mainstream love story to a fast-paced medieval chase of a midwife accused of witchcraft. Character observation, development, and emotion taking importance over plot is a common practice in all of my writing. Not to say at all that there is no plot movement, but the character and his/her emotion is the key for me. If I don't care about the characters, I don't want to read about them. The only way for me to earnestly care about the characters is to keep a dedication to their internal motivation.
For instance, Cold Streak has elements of a thriller, horror, mainstream, literary, and suspense novel. Thinking of a specific audience to sell the book was never a factor in the novel's creation. I was interested in writing a story that I would want to read. Some authors write a story with a specific demographic in mind, and I wholeheartedly believe this to be a terrible mistake. This makes the book a widget--a product made exclusively to make money. That's as phony as a boy band put together in a board room. That will never be my motivation. I'd be much happier working a Joe job somewhere than writing under those premises. The story should come from a place that means something to the author. I always told my students, "Write a story that you would want to read, and chances are others will like it too. Write a story for others, and possibly no one will like it, not even yourself." That's a paraphrase from a car restoration enthusiast's advice to build the car that you would want to drive home and to not worry about trying to please anyone else. Honestly, I try hard to follow that advice in any creative project.

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