Cake
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    • Tell me about yourself.


      I am a teacher and technology director at an independent school. I grew up in Seattle but have been slowly migrating southward with stops in Portland, Eugene, San Francisco, and now Los Angeles. My first career was as a professional ballet dancer. I studied dance in college and worked for a professional ballet company for a few years before going back to school. Later I worked as a web developer and did some time in the silicon valley startup world before taking a job at a school. I’ve been working in schools ever since. I really like working with kids and can’t imagine going back to being a grown up.

      

Congrats on the publication of your latest novel. Tell me about your publisher. What attracted them to your work?


      Thanks! My publisher is Black Opal Books. They are a small press located in Oregon. My first book, Old Gold Mountain, was an adult mystery/thriller. They mostly publish mysteries and romance so my first book was a more natural fit for them. They have published some young adult in the past though so when I finished writing my most recent book I sent it to them to see if they would be interested. They responded very quickly with a yes. I already had a good working relationship with them and trusted them to do a good job so I went ahead.

      

What’s it like working with a publishers editor?

      Both of my books have gone through two rounds of edits by Black Opal’s editors. The first round is content editing where they look for inconsistencies in the plot, incorrect facts, etc. The second round is for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure. Both rounds are very thorough. My experience with the editors has been wonderful. Nearly all of their suggestions made complete sense to me so the process was painless. I tend to revise, edit, and clean up as I write so by the time I’m done the manuscript is pretty error-free (I hope). I also research and plot very thoroughly in order to avoid the kinds of pitfalls the first round editor would be looking for. 



      What’s your philosophy on the right amount of description to set the scene?


      This is an interesting question. I think it has a lot to do with what story you are telling and who your audience is. Two of my favorite writers are Jane Austen and Thomas Pynchon. They couldn’t really be farther apart in terms of the amount of physical description they offer. Austen limits her aesthetic problem to people, their interactions, their thoughts, and their emotions. She almost never offers any but the most basic descriptions of things and places. Pynchon, on the other hand, often uses physical description as a sort of externalized emotional landscape. He describes things in almost hallucinogenic clarity. I love both and I love them because of how thoughtfully they write. It is clear that they are making conscious decisions about every word they include. So, to (not) answer the question, it depends. I am a highly visual thinker so I probably do more describing than the average author. 



      In “The Place Inside the Storm,” your main character is a high school teenager with autism. Growing up, how was your autism similar to Tara’s and how was it different?


      Any character I write is going to have similarities to me in the way they think and the choices they make under particular circumstances. In terms of the challenges Tara faces, I did try to model her to some extent on autistic girls and women I know or have known but, in the end, she probably ended up being a lot like me. When I was growing up people like me were just thought of as shy, weird, or awkward. This is the same reality Tara lives in the book since diagnosis and accommodation are not available to her. Like Tara, I usually had one friend who I connected with and hung out with almost exclusively. I was interested in things others found strange or geeky. I didn’t do well in group activities. I had a lot of trouble with the school environment and executive functioning deficits. Luckily, I was able to find places where I could fit in. Drama club in High School was one. Classical ballet training was another. Ballet was a life saver for me. It gave me the self discipline and mind-body connection I lacked.



      You have a full-time job besides writing. What does your writing schedule look like? How do you carve out time to write between family and work responsibilities? 


      Simple answer: I get up at 5:30AM every weekday and write for thirty minutes before anyone else is up. I also write sometimes in the evenings when my spouse is putting the kid to bed. We trade off on bedtime. My goal is two hundred words per day. At that rate, I can write a book in a little over a year. It’s not easy to drag myself out of bed that early but it’s necessary for my mental health so I do it.



      What draws you to a story? How do you know which stories are going to be a novel? What’s the longest novel attempt, in pages, that you ended up having to kill? 


      I think it’s about the character. I like to write in the first person and I like to write books that are about a specific person’s singular experience. I admire the kinds of books that follow multiple characters and examine how their lives/histories interrelate but I don’t think I could ever write that way. So, if I have an idea of a character that really feels like a living, breathing person with a story to be told, then I will let the idea float around in my head for a while. Eventually, I will make an outline of a plot. If I can write an outline that seems like it might realistically become a book, then I will put it in the queue. I have several ideas for books that are currently percolating. I haven’t actually started writing any novels and then completely abandoned them so no kills so far. I do have a couple I started and then put aside to finish later. One of them is about 75% done. The other is about 30% done.



      Who is your audience for your novels? Who are your books not right for?

      
Funny story: There is another writer named Bradley Wright who writes in a very different style. His books are action packed international thrillers with hard edged spies who are stoic and ruthless. Think James Bond, Jason Bourne, etc. A few people have purchased my first book thinking it was by the other Bradley Wright. This is why I include my middle initial on my book covers. Alas, they did not like my book one bit and left very dissatisfied reviews on Amazon. So, I can say with certainty that people who want that kind of book are not my audience. My books are gentler, slower, and more interested in details. Some of my favorite authors, aside from Pynchon and Austen who I mentioned above, are Ursula LeGuin, Joan Didion, William Gibson, Peter Høeg, Frederick Reuss, Richard Brautigan, Philip K. Dick. I certainly wouldn’t put myself on the level of any of those writers but I think (hope) people who like their work might like my writing too.



      Why write science fiction? Why read science fiction?

      I don’t really like these artificial categories of literature. Science fiction is just literature that takes place in the future or in times/places with different technology. Fantasy is just literature that takes place in imagined worlds with different laws of physics. Some of the most honored, most loved works of literature are fantasy. The Iliad, the Odyssey, Beowulf, the Faerie Queene, Hamlet. I think writers choose their setting in time and space based on the necessity of their stories. I chose to write a ‘science fiction’ book because I wanted to explore the idea of a character who is autistic being forced to choose between a ‘cure’ and an uncertain future on the run. That wouldn’t have been possible in a contemporary setting so I set it a bit in the future. I think people should read and write speculative fiction for the same reason they read/write any other kind of literature. Books are about experiencing life from another point of view. We feel what the character feels. We are transported into their world. We share their triumphs and failure. We take away some pearl of wisdom, some new nuance of emotional depth we didn't have before because we shared their journey.



      What are you working on next?

      
I’m writing a sequel to my first book Old Gold Mountain. That book was a mystery/thriller that established a character I liked. He’s a kind of amateur sleuth. When I finish that I will probably go back to one of my unfinished manuscripts.

      

How active are you in autism advocacy?

      
I don’t really have time to do much advocacy work unfortunately. Hopefully my book will help in some way. I had one reviewer say: “I've honestly never read a book with a main character who's so much like me.” I hope other people will read it and feel like they see themselves or see someone who they can relate to. Every form of diversity needs to be reflected in literature. This is especially true for children’s literature. To create a new generation of readers, we need to reach everybody. At my school we talk a lot about window books (books that let you see how someone different from you lives and experiences the world) and mirror books (books that mirror your own experience). We need both kinds and we need a rich variety. Every kid deserves a mirror book.

      

If a friend told you that they were lighting it up blue for autism speaks what would you say to them?


      That’s a slogan and marketing campaign started by an organization called Autism Speaks. I’m not a big fan of that organization. Other people have explained the issue much more eloquently than I can so I would just point my friend to those resources. I would urge them to get on Twitter and follow autistic activists like @JustStimming, @autistichoya, @shannonrosa, @NeuroRebel, and @fodderfigure. I would urge them to read Neurotribes by Steve Silberman. I don’t like to tell people what to think but I would make it clear that I have decided not to support Autism Speak based on my research.

      How can we best stay up to date with you?


      My main social media presence is on Twitter where I am: @rabbit_fighter



      I also have a website which can be found here:

      You can sign up for my newsletter if you would like to receive occasional emails from me with information about new releases and appearances.

      Final thoughts?
 
If you like a book (not just mine, any book), rate it on Amazon and Goodreads. Write a review too if you have the time. It only takes a minute of your time and it is super important to authors. Also, recommend books you like to your local library. Library sales are huge for authors. Thanks for reading!

    • I think that confirmation bias always has been and probably always will be a big part of human psychology. There are a lot of people who have beliefs they are unwilling to examine. They seek out evidence that supports their beliefs and disregard evidence that contradicts them. So, for those people, yes, it’s difficult to have any meaningful dialogue. However, for people who are willing to listen and read and consider new possibilities, I think there has never been a better time. Access to well researched evidence and well articulated arguments is almost universal. The biggest problem I see is teaching young people who have grown up with this easy access to information how to sort through it and determine what is reliable and what is not. As an educator, this is something I stress with my students.

    • There were a number of influences that all came together.
      The first was a series of books my dad read when I was a kid. My dad traveled a lot for work and often read the kind of books you find in airport bookstores: horror, thrillers, mysteries, and spy novels. Over time, returning from various trips, he brought home almost all of the Travis McGee books by John D. MacDonald. I didn’t read them then but later on when I was an adult I found one in a used book store and ended up reading them all. They are misogynistic and full of macho posturing but--if you can ignore those issues--the plots, the characterization, and the pacing are all remarkably well done. Those books provided a big part of the inspiration for Old Gold Mountain.
      San Francisco was another inspiration. I love that city. I’m sad that it has become so expensive and unaffordable for many artists. I ended up moving out of the Bay Area not long after I finished the book.
      One other big influence was the book 'Nine Lives: Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief' by Bill Mason. When I lived in San Francisco, I commuted mainly by bike. One day, I was thinking about that book while biking to work and this idea popped into my head: a story about an artist in San Francisco who leads a secret double-life as a high end cat burglar. There were no particular art heists that inspired the story. It was more the idea of taking a cat burglar character like Bill Mason and then sticking him in a completely different set of circumstances.

    • As discussed in the interview above, autism has been a big factor in my life and in the lives of my closest family members. When I was thinking about writing a second book, I decided almost immediately to write an autistic character. I chose YA because I work with middle school aged kids and I’ve consequently become interested in the books they read. YA is fascinating. Figuring out how to write for young teens was a challenge. There was not and still is not much literature out there with positive, non-stereotypical portrayals of autism. I wanted to write a character that could actively break down stereotypes. Most people think of autism as something that primarily affects boys. So, I chose to make my protagonist a girl. I also chose to make her a fairly normal, if awkward, girl. She’s good at programming but she’s not a genius or a savante. She’s able to get by because she has learned how to mask her autism and appear more neurotypical than she is. This is common with girls and is one of the reasons they are less often diagnosed. All of those traits hopefully make her a realistic, relatable character and make her journey to self-understanding and acceptance more engaging.

    • I tend to make very detailed plots divided into chapters with a timeline and word count estimate as well as a list of main characters before I start. I feel that having a framework keeps me on task. I often make major changes during the writing process but I like to have a beginning point. When I do make changes, I go back and update my reference document to make sure everything still works. In terms of the writing itself, I'm not picky. I wrote a lot of my first book on my phone. I'll write wherever I happen to be when I have a few minutes free. I use Google docs to draft my manuscripts so I can open my work in progress on any device as long a I have WiFi or a cellular connection.

    • I listed several in the interview but I few I didn't mention are: Cruddy by Lynda Barry, Heart of Darkness by Conrad, Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami, Orlando by Virginia Woolf, and A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman. Additionally, almost anything by Ursula LeGuin, Haruki Murakami, Thomas Pynchon, or Philip K. Dick. I just finished reading The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler and was surprised by how much I liked it. I'm going to have to read more Chandler. A couple of fantasy books I read recently and really liked were Seraphina by Rachel Hartman and The Real Boy by Anne Ursu.

    • Tough question! I don't know if I can answer because I never really feel done with a book. I can always go back and rework. Partially this is because writing a book is such a long process that by the time I'm done I have become a different person than when I started. So, at some point, I have to decide that I'm just going to accept what the earlier version of myself decided to write and leave it alone. That usually happens when I'm anxious to get started on a new project.