Foto: Dayna Jung
I am really glad you’ve accepted my interview. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.
Can you tell us a bit more about how you became a writer?
Oh, that’s a long story. I’ve actually been at this for a while. I went to college in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and one of my first jobs was with a magazine called 25th Parallel. One of my English teachers was friends with the editor (Paul Galotta of Circus Magazine) and without my knowledge, she passed him several of my writing assignments. He asked me to join the staff shortly after. I quickly branched out to celebrity interviews for magazines such as Teen Beat and Seventeen. From there, I started a newspaper column called “Revealed” which went into syndication. I’d write about haunted places around the country. When you work in journalism, you quickly learn that all your co-workers are writing novels and many of them need help. I had always been good at editing, so I quickly became the go-to guy to help clean up unsold manuscripts. A position commonly referred to as a “book doctor.” I spent nearly twenty years helping other people get published. And honestly, that is where I really learned to write. Over time, I saw what worked, what didn’t, learned what editors looked for, and fine-tuned my own abilities. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Very few people can sit down and write a good book out-of-the-gate. It takes practice. Like a muscle, you need to exercise it, work at it every day. And I did and still do. Regardless of how busy I get, I find the time to write every single day – holidays, birthdays, weekends, it doesn’t matter. That discipline is required to find your own voice and from there, tell a story.
Was it difficult for the first book to find a publisher?
I’ve had an odd path to publication. Stephen King read my first novel (FORSAKEN/Horror) and was kind enough to let me use one of his characters in it (Leland Gaunt/NEEDFUL THINGS). I had interest from several publishers on that one but not at a level I would have hoped so I went ahead and self-published it, knowing that if I sold enough copies, the traditional publishers would take notice. I got lucky, FORSAKEN went on to hit numerous bestseller lists. When it came time to shop THE FOURTH MONKEY I seriously considered self-publishing that one too – I understood how to do it and was comfortable with the process. My wife ultimately convinced me to send it out to a few agents first and see what happens. That’s when things got crazy. I sent the book out to 53 agents, and within a week, I had eight offers of representation. I signed with one of my favorites and when she took the book out to publishers, it sold fast. In the space of a week, I juggled phone calls with all the large publishers, and the book sold in a series of pre-empts and auctions worldwide. At the same time, it sold for both film and television, too. It’s been a rollercoaster ever since.
Could you describe literature in three words?
Hmm. How about, “get lost within.”
I read all types of books, and it’s the ones that make me forget I’m reading that I love the most. I once heard that a good book is like a film in your mind with an unlimited budget. A good story can introduce you to people you’ve never met, take you to places you’ve never been, and wrap you up within the most fantastic of worlds. A world without literature is not one where I’d like to live.
Is there a book you would never read? Why?
That’s tough, I read a lot. And I read most genres. As long as the story is good, I don’t care if it’s horror, romance, a western, or a thriller. I think I’m like a kid when it comes to that sort of thing – if someone told me not to read a particular book, that would probably peak my interest and I’d have to read it. The only thing that turns me off is poor writing. If someone hasn’t taken the time (or spent the money) for a proper edit, and a book is filled with mistakes, I’ll put it down. I’ll probably never read that author again.
What’s your favorite book?
I’ve read (and re-read) all of Thomas Harris’s books numerous times in my life. I’m not sure I could pick a favorite. His writing is about as close to perfect as it can get. Every sentence is though-out, tuned, and polished. Come on, Tom – how about another one? King and Koontz are also favorites of mine.
“Books are like puppies, they wait for you with unconditional love and welcome you back whenever you return.”
EBooks or paper print?
This topic is heavily debated at my house. At any given time, I’m typically reading three-four books. I have one on my Kindle, a print book in the living room, another print book out on our deck, and an audiobook while out exercising. I love the fact that we have so many format choices and firmly believe each has its place. My wife, though, she loves the smell and feel of a hardcover novel. She will lug one around wherever she goes. She also owns a crazy amount of DVDs and audio CDs. The cloud frightens her. We’re working on it 🙂
What inspires you?
Inspiration is everywhere, you just need to look for it. I tend to attach the words “what if” to many things. If you see someone eating a sandwich, “what if” that sandwich bit back? Someone wins the lottery, “what if” they were told they had to give it all away? What if you got in a car and that car drove you to where IT wanted to go instead of your original destination? What if you had a glass of water in front of you? What if that was the last glass of water in the world? “What if” are probably the two most important words in a writer’s toolbox.
Lately, though, all inspiration comes from the smiling face of our newborn daughter. Nothing tops that.
Imagine you were given the opportunity to meet a book character in real life. Who would that be?
Probably Jack Reacher. Life has a habit of tying us down with “things.” Jack travels the world with nothing but the clothes on this back and a toothbrush in his pocket; I’d love to see how he really feels about that. Personally, I think the grass is always greener on the other side of the street. Jack’s nomadic life probably appeals to people with a mortgage, 2.5 kids, and a career. I’d be willing to bet Jack sometimes wishes for what he doesn’t have. We’re watching him through the window from the inside of our our warm house, he’s outside looking in, who’s really better off?
What’s your worst nightmare?
Whenever I step away from my desk for too long, I begin to worry that I’ll never write again. I think I’ve written my last idea. As the day goes on, that feeling intensifies, grows, screams out. I worry that muse is gone and that’s frightening. Luckily, when I do sit back down, that blank page feels like an old friend, someone I haven’t talked to for a little bit and need to catch up on things. The words are there. So far.
The best decision of your life was?
I wouldn’t be here today without my wife, Dayna. She was the one who encouraged me to put my book-doctor career aside and write a novel of my own. She’s my first reader and my most valuable critic. The best decision of my life wasn’t a decision at all, marrying her was just something that was supposed to be.
I can’t wait to read your next book. Are you currently working on a project? Is there any release date to reveal?
2018 is a big year for me. THE FIFTH TO DIE, sequel to THE FOURTH MONKEY, releases in July in the United States and the rest of the world shortly after. I’ve also written a prequel to DRACULA with Dacre Stoker set to release this fall. We worked directly from Bram Stoker’s notes, journals, and personal papers, much of which hasn’t been made public. The final book in the 4MK trilogy will release next year. I’ve got a few other projects in the works I’m not allowed to talk about yet. Crazy fun times, I wouldn’t trade a second of it!