But Gordon is such a fun Twitter buddy that I wanted to introduce him to everyone. Plus, I just like to know what makes people tick and how they approach the job of writing. So I interviewed him~
1. How long have you been writing?
As long as I can remember. I've written compulsively, ever since I was a kid. I won't say that what I wrote back then was any good, but at least I was writing... so that means I've been writing for... hmm, let's see... *punches buttons on calculator*... a LONG time.
2. What is the first work you ever had published?
My first publication was a poem called "Greenland Colony 1375" that won second place in a contest in The Writers' Journal in 1999. I still consider the moment I found out that a poem I'd written would be printed, and reviewed, in a national journal one of my peak experiences to date. I remember mostly reacting with incredulity.
3. Do you write full time? If not, what is your other job?
I wish, but at the moment I have to have a day job. I've been a high school biology teacher for... hmm, let's see... ALSO a long time.
4. What is your writing routine and where do you write?
I'm an early morning writer. I get up usually around 4:30 or 5 AM, or whenever the combination of insomnia and a couple of overenthusiastic dogs wakes me up, put on the coffee, and write for a couple of hours. If I have time, I try to fit a little more in when I get home from school, and whenever I can on evenings and weekends. I never stay up late writing, though -- the early mornings do me in.
5. From reading your blogs, I know you have a wide range of interests and can write many genres. Which is your favorite and why?
My favorite is paranormal fiction. I've always had a fascination for the paranormal. At the same time, I write daily on a blog whose focus is skepticism, rationalism, and critical thinking. Just full of contradictions, ain't I? Another major interest is history, and many of my stories involve some kind of twist from the past. Three of them -- Kári the Lucky, We All Fall Down, and Adam's Fall, are set in the past, in the 11th, 14th, and 19th centuries, respectively.
6. What authors do you admire?
My earliest influences were Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, H. P. Lovecraft, Madeleine L'Engle, Charles Williams, and Stephen King. Other, more recent ones are Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman. I wouldn't say I write especially like any of them; but each of them helped me to form my own style. I am very cognizant of the difference between writing being influenced by an author, and being derivative; and I hope I never cross that line. The most important thing to me personally about being a writer is that it allows me to express myself in my own voice, and so the uniqueness of that voice is critical.
7. What inspires you?
I wish I had a definitive answer for this. In most cases, I honestly have no idea where my ideas come from. There are exceptions, of course; the three historical novels I mentioned earlier all have identifiable origins, for example. Adam's Fall was inspired by reading about the legend of Kaspar Hauser, the German "lost child" of the early 19th century; the idea for We All Fall Down came from a book called Legends of the British Midlands; I came across the story of Kári Solmundarson, the main character of Kári the Lucky, while doing research for my master's thesis. But otherwise, most of them just popped into my head, seemingly out of nowhere.
I can say that most of my stories start with a single, powerful image. The Conduit came from picturing a young man going through boxes of old books from a relative's estate, and coming across a cigar box full of old letters. But some of them aren't even that specific -- just a visual image, that I then have to build a story around, if for no other reason to give it meaning in my own mind. A few examples: a man standing facing an open sliding glass door during a hurricane, his body being pelted by wind and rain, was the beginning of my novel Convection; a girl behind a counter in a deli late at night, clutching the counter and crying, was what became the short story Retrograde; a man grabbing a necklace from his wife's hand, and throwing it across the room, became The Hand of the Hunter. I'd like to be able to tell you where each of these images came from, but the truth is, I have no idea. They simply struck me with such force that I had to write them down, give them an explanation.
8. The Conduit involves ancient evil, demonic possession, Native American legends, a conspiracy, and family secrets. How did you come up with such an intricate plot concept? And how did you go about making it come alive on paper?
The story in The Conduit owes a lot to my grandmother, who got me started with an interest in genealogy. The setting of the novel, the little town of Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania, is where my grandma was born, and many of the surnames that show up in the story are real families from the area (even though I have to hope that nothing like the events of the story ever happened there). I'm very familiar with documents from that time and place, and I think that familiarity gives an air of authenticity to the narrative.
As far as the intricacy of the plot -- I've always loved stories with a lot of twists and turns, so perhaps it's just that I have a byzantine mind. I've been accused of that, from time to time.
9. What's your favorite thing about the indie movement?
It allows writers who otherwise would not have had a prayer of a chance to get their work into print to reach an audience. Of course, this advantage is also the indie movement's greatest disadvantage; some of the work that is now being e-published, and uploaded to Amazon, is clearly not polished enough to be ready to market. But I still think that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, given that I'm a classic example of a writer who has tried for years even to get an agent to read my work, without success. I have, in the last ten years, sent out over six hundred query letters -- and gotten, to date, three responses other than "no thanks." And all three of those responses ultimately resulted in rejections, one of them in less than twelve hours after submission, and after the agent had read a grand total of two paragraphs of the three chapters I'd submitted.
It's not that I don't understand that agents are swamped with proposals, queries, and manuscripts. I get that. But they act as gatekeepers, and the fact is that there is a ton of wonderful writing out there that is moldering in desk drawers when it should be out there being read. The indie movement is helping that to happen.
10. What advice would you give for newbies out there?
Write, write, write. Then read. Reading will keep you pushing your own boundaries as a writer. Then come back and write some more. Don't let yourself get discouraged by the scale of the task, by the naysayers, by the obstacles in your way. In the immortal words of Captain Mathazar from Galaxy Quest, "Never give up. Never surrender."
Gordon describes himself on Twitter thusly: Writer, teacher, musician, biologist, skeptic, atheist, cryptozoology buff, scuba diver, wine lover. And more.
And I'm sure there is much more to this author! You can
Thank you for being my guest, Gordon!