Waking Lazarus Interview on Basic Book Blog

What inspired you to write? And what was the inspiration for this book?

From an early age, I’ve been captured by stories that left me turning the page. The first book I remember reading cover to cover was Treasure Island. At eight years old, those few days I spent in my room lost in a world of adventure, suspense, and mystery left me with the dream of one day becoming a storyteller. At the time I wasn’t sure how that would become a reality.

After a decade in the music business, and the rise of iTunes, I found myself transitioning in a new career as I stood on the set of a new TV series as an Executive Producer and Director. Another decade passed as I produced hundreds of TV episodes, still searching and dreaming of the perfect story to write.

After a year of writing late at night I sent a draft of my first novel to a friend in the TV industry with the disclaimer, “If it’s not any good, the only two people who’ll know about it is you and me.” Within a few days she called with a thumbs up and that began the search for an agent and a publisher. When The Disillusioned was released it captured what I’ve defined as a “cause-driven” novel. Throughout the pages of the story the adventure takes the main characters into the heart of Africa and the trafficking trade. I was fortunate enough to do a 15-city book tour with Barnes and Noble, and realized I was hooked. I needed to write the next story.

In my second novel, Waking Lazarus, I raised the stakes. I couldn’t simply follow the template I’d created in The Disillusioned. So, I returned to my roots, to a story I heard from an early age about a controversial evangelist from the 1920’s. I was fortunate to spend an afternoon with a family friend who was in his nineties as he shared with me how her life shaped the history of Los Angeles. I didn’t want to write a biography, so I created a character based off of this real life celebrity figure.

As the story unfolds, readers will find themselves following two mysteries, one from the 1920’s and one present day that are on a collision course. What was exciting about the writing process was that I could live in two worlds, and create a storyline that spanned nearly a century. And, for those who read The Disillusioned, they’ll find themselves in a parallel timeline between both books but with all different characters and a standalone storyline. My plan in the third book of the Guardian Novels is for those characters and storylines from the first to books to crossover. I guess you could stay it’s part of my master plan!

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Due to my TV production schedule, my writing schedule is a bit more fluid than regimented. I find that my most productive time is writing late at night, or on the weekends. If I find myself on a roll I might carve out a few more hours during the day. Sometimes the writing goes smoothly, and other times I end up rewriting what I’d done the night before. It’s all part of the chase, the adventure of discovering the world for yourself.

I know that many authors outline each chapter, and spend weeks or months on character development and storylines. For me, what has worked is to know where my story begins and where it ends. What happens in between is part of the discovery. So, I don’t outline. Honestly, I found that when I tried this for myself I spent more time working on my outline than I did writing. It took the excitement and fun out of the writing process.

I want to be on the edge of my seat, wondering how I’m going to squeeze out of an impossible situation, so that it translates to readers. I think the most important point is that you find the right routine that enables you to maximize your writing. It might be a few hours a night, or spending a few days away. I’ve done both and have found that depending on where I am in the story it looks different.

How long does it take to write a book?

I’d say anywhere from 8-12 months. I’m not a fast writer, mainly because I spend a lot of time envisioning the scene in a chapter before I sit down to write. I guess some might say that’s daydreaming not writing, but I’ve found that if I can picture the scene in a chapter playing itself out then I’m able to capture it more powerfully in words.

My plan going into a novel is to get a first draft writing within 4-6 months. Then I take a month off from reading, writing, or even thinking about the book. You need that perspective before you dive back in for a second draft. Typically, the second draft will take another 1-2 months. I follow the same routine and take a break for another month. Then I do my final revisions before sending it out to my editor. That process takes about a month or so. When I get the edits back from my editor, I take a deep breathe from all the red marks, and dive back into the final draft.

One note on my writing schedule: When a book is sitting for a month or is with my editor, I’m already working on the idea for the next book. I think it’s important to have a stable of ideas brewing so that you’re constantly growing as a storyteller.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

When I’m not in production on a TV series, or if I’m taking a break from writing, I enjoy binge watching movies, catching the next NBA game, and driving along the coast in Malibu to unwind. One of my favorite things to do is hike Point Dume with my wife and watch the whales and dolphins as they swim near the beach.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Writing is a journey that leads us into the valleys as we strive to climb the mountain. I would say for any writer the challenge is to live out the 3 P’s: Passion. Purpose. Productivity. Passion is what gives you the endurance to keep going. If you love to write, then you write whether you become a bestselling author or not. It’s part of your DNA. It’s something you’ll do no matter who might end up reading your creation. But passion without purpose leaves you without clear goals or direction. Know where you want to end up in six months, a year, or five years from now. Know what drives your passion for writing. Know the genre where you want to build an audience. Passion and defining your purpose allows your writing to become more productive. Set a writing schedule to start and finish your novel, and then do it! Finishing a novel is the hardest part of the journey. But with each story you finish, you’ll discover what makes your writing and storytelling unique.

Do you have an interesting writing quirk? If so what is it?

With each novel, I create a music playlist that consists of soundtracks from various movies that I feel capture the tone of the story. Depending on what chapter I’m writing, I’ll put certain tracks on repeat so that the mood of the music helps me translate the scene I’m putting on paper.

With my latest novel, Waking Lazarus, I went a step further by bringing in a composer friend who composed a full soundtrack to go along with the book. I’d never seen this done before with a novel, other than those books that were made into feature films. So, with Waking Lazarus you can listen to the soundtrack that fits each of the chapters you’re reading. And we did it in such a way that it doesn’t matter if your a fast reader or a slow reader. You simply put the tracks on repeat depending on which chapter your reading and it fits the scenes in those chapters.

What is the last book you read?

The Whistler by John Grisham.

Who is/are your favorite author(s)?

Michael Connelly. John Grisham. James Patterson. David Baldacci. Brad Meltzer. Daniel Silva. J.K. Rowling. And the list goes on!

What is/are your favorite book(s)?

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling. Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly. The Testament by John Grisham.

After all of your hard work, what does it feel like to be a published author?

For me, it’s more about the chase than being a published author. I feel that if you have a strong enough story there are avenues for you to get that story out. Traditional publishers are no longer the gatekeepers. The Martian is one example. So, I keep my focus on chasing characters, twists and turns, mystery, suspense, and an adventure that unleashes an unexpected plot.

The big unknown is always whether readers will go on the chase with you. That’s the challenge when you’re writing by yourself for months at a time not knowing if the story is going to jump off the page for readers. But I think with each novel that sense of fear fuels an excitement to chase the next story. And I would add, that publishing is constantly changing. If you’re a writer who has written a story you want the world to read, but you haven’t been able to crack the code with a traditional publisher, then I’d say look at ways to indie publish. As we’ve seen in recent years, indie publishing is a valid alternative to traditional publishing and can be the first step toward building an audience who will follow you for years to come.

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