1. What is the title of your newest book or short story? What’s it about? Where can readers find it?
My newest novel, “Something More Than Night,” comes out from Tor Books on
December 3. It’s a Dashiell Hammett- and Raymond Chandler-inspired murder
mystery set in a medieval vision of heaven. It’s narrated by a fallen angel
who has modeled himself on Philip Marlowe– imagine central casting for a
1930s noir novel juxtaposed with the heavenly choir:
Angels, Archangels, Cherubim, Seraphim, Principalities, Thrones,
Dominions… It features swell dames and dirty priests, nightclub
stigmatics and the Voice of God. I had a blast with it.
2. How did you choose to become a writer?
Like most writers, writing is something that I’d always felt drawn to. I
played around with it when I was younger, but was never serious or
disciplined about it. I didn’t understand the need for discipline until
much later, in fact. It wasn’t until I’d finished graduate school and moved
a thousand miles from my friends and family when I decided I finally had
time to sit down and try to learn how to write. (I wish I’d figured out
much earlier that one has to make time for writing, rather than waiting for
life to give one the opportunity!) At that point I joined an online workshop
and set about trying to learn as much as I could. I gave myself permission
to take as long as necessary to learn what I needed to learn, and I’m glad I
did — I still feel like I’ve barely begun.
3. What’s your favorite part of writing a new book or story? What do
you like the least?
My favorite part of embarking on a new project is tinkering with new ideas,
new characters, new settings. Everything is shiny and clean and just a
little bit intoxicating. It’s a bit like the first flirty days of a new
relationship — everything is intriguing, exciting, seductive.
I love the raw brainstorming that happens before the writing begins,
especially when disparate concepts collide and transform into something new
that becomes a centerpiece of the new work.
My least favorite part of any new project is that moment when it starts to
feel not-so-new anymore. When it’s no longer fresh and exciting, no longer
intriguing and flirtatious, but merely work that must be finished. This is
usually the middle third or third quarter of each book.
4. What do you read for fun?
I tend to alternate between fiction and non-fiction. In fiction, I read
everything from Raymond Chandler to Charlie Stross. I like to read the
occasional noir story as much as I enjoy spy thrillers, space opera, and
fantasy. In non-fiction, I enjoy reading about random subjects — the works
of Bill Bryson, for instance, or Sam Kean’s excellent book about the
Periodic Table, “The Disappearing Spoon.”
I’ve also made a hobby of reading crackpot science and fringe archeology
works. Not because I buy into the claims, I hasten to add! But because I
find the conspiratorial mindset endlessly fascinating. This reading can get
very frustrating, however, so I can only do it in small doses.
5. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
I’m lucky to have had several wise mentors over the years. They taught me
that the most important thing any writer must do is write! That sounds
obvious, but I think it gets overlooked from time to time.
Enjoying that sense of “having written” isn’t the same as being a writer
— being a writer means working consistently, even (or especially) when it
isn’t particularly fun. But the writing got much easier (or, at least,
bearable) when I gave myself permission to write lousy first drafts.
Click here to listen to a reading from Something More Than Night.