Give a brief summary of your life till now and how it led you to write.
I usually answer this question with something flippant like “I’m a level 49 Ninja Batman” or “I am a Viking.”
While one of those is marginally true, I use humor to deflect the more serious part of who I am.
So, who am I? I’m just a guy fighting a Personal Monster™ (my term for the chronic illness Rheumatoid Arthritis) the only way I know how. The term Personal Monster™ came from describing RA a “monster,” then “my monster,” and while writing my novel Errant Gods, I coined the term “Personal Monster.” I have a serious problem “accepting” RA, so I fight it with humor, by taking back parts of my old life where I can. It fits nicely with my Scandinavian heritage. I have since renamed my disease as Petunia the Wimpy, as I got the feeling calling it a monster was giving it too much power.
I’ve done many different things in terms of career, from investigation to working in the game industry to teaching at university. I have a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence (and an honorary Ph.D. in Sarcasm). I’m married to a real-life Supergirl, and we have a son.
I’ve always written, and have always wanted to write fiction, though during my stint in academia, I spent years writing technical papers about AI, game design and development, and education. Once I was disabled, I turned to reading fiction as a solace, and that turned into writing fiction to combat boredom and insanity. Also, many people asked me what my disease was like, and I wanted to paint a picture of that (the protagonist in Errant Gods is cursed by a dark goddess, and that curse manifests in something very much like RA).
Also, I’m a level 49 Ninja Batman Viking.
What inspired you to honor Jerry Orbach and Lenny Briscoe with a Jewish werewolf and a society succubus?
Okay, this is a crazy story. In 2018, I suffered through a complication to my illness (avascular necrosis of the femoral head) that left me zero percent weight-bearing for about seven months. During the course of that, I developed horrible muscle spasms in my legs that were treated with strong medications. At the same time, we decided to watch Law & Order as something I could do while sitting (and sitting and sitting). When those two things got together in my head, it resulted in CLAW & WARDER. Jerry Orbach was one of my favorite actors on the show—not only because he’s a great actor, but because we shared a very similar sense of humor—so I had to include a version of Lenny. I thought it might be funny to have a werewolf that had a not-very-religious human side and a strict orthodox wolf side, and Leery was born.
You’re very open about your autoimmune disorder, but don’t let it stop your prolific output. How do you manage the mental and physical burden?
I’ll admit that it is hard at times. The fatigue and pain sometimes seem insurmountable, but over that past several years, I’ve learned that it’s a balm for my illness. There are times I can’t write, and on those days, I spend time thinking about the story I’m writing. There are also times when not even that is possible, and on those days, I rest.
What prompted you to feature so many legendary characters, like Aleister Crowley and a Van Helsing descendant?
Epatha Van Helsing came into being because I thought it would be interesting to match Dru with a Van Helsing and see what happened.
What’s your next project?
I’m working on a large horror novel (Wrath Child) as I finish up this year’s CLAW & WARDER offerings. I’m close to the end on that novel. After that I have a massive dark fantasy series in the works. Of course, if readers want more CLAW & WARDER, I’ll write more in the series next year.
What’s your research process like?
I use Google maps for location details (the photographic view), and maintain a set of bookmarks for things I need for each series.
What’s your writing routine? Do you have a dedicated office, or do you write at the kitchen table? Do you write longhand or type everything? Do you outline your stories or let the characters take you where they want to go? Do your characters speak to you?
I have a dedicated workspace with a ton of accommodations around my disease. What works best for me is typing, but I’m not always able to do that. For a list of accommodations, software, and hardware I use, please see Erik’s Gear.
For me, outlining a plot saps the fun out of writing. Generally speaking, I start a book with an image of the cover, a slug for the book, a starting point, and a general idea of where it ends. I let the story evolve as it will—in fact, the closest I come to writer’s block is when I want the story to go one way and it tries to do something contrary to that. The closest I come to plotting a book is in CLAW & WARDER, where I have a five-act play in mind (based on the rigid five-act structure of the television show LAW & ORDER). I have a rough template of how many pages to each act.
What writers do you admire, past or present?
Major influences: Stephen King, Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss, Kevin Hearne, Orson Scott Card, C.S. Freidman, Isaac Asimov
What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like least?
The creative side is incredible, of course. The sense of accomplishment is a heady thing when I put the final touches on a story. The people I meet are also awesome—both readers and writers. I have a very active Readers’ Group on Facebook, and clowning around with those folks is tremendous fun. The thing I like the least is marketing, but that’s crucial to finding new people to meet, so I’ve decided to like marketing.
What little personal quirk would you like to reveal to your readers?
I listen to music as I write, and sometimes sing along 😊
Book Review Gal is currently immersed in Vick’s Errant Gods, the first book in the Blood of the Isir series, which she highly recommends. Like Dr. Vick, she also has a Ph.D. in sarcasm.