Tell us a little about your path to becoming an author.
I’ve spent my entire life trying to write a better a line than “it was a dark and stormy night…” and that’s what motivates me to this day. It is my sole purpose in life.
In reality, I’ve always been a voracious reader and dabbled in writing. Two things happened to me at the same time that pushed me to take authoring more seriously.
The first was that I lost my father. It was a lengthy process and by the end of it, I was more than a little spent. The situation rudely reminded me that life is fleeting under the best of circumstances and painfully short in the worst. I had to think about what I wanted to accomplish with my time on the planet. And writing books was one of the things on that list. I wanted to prove to myself that I could tell the kinds of stories that I liked to read, and that I could do it well enough to make money from it.
The second thing was listening to an extremely popular podcast and realizing that the writing was mediocre. To be fair, I enjoyed the stories, but I couldn’t help rewriting dialogue in my head as I listened. Sure, that was a bit of hubris from someone who had never written anything longer than a term paper, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could at least rival the stories that I was listening to on my old-school iPod.
So, I decided to give it a try.
What do you find easiest about the writing process and what do you find the most difficult?
The two extremes of writing. The easiest thing about the writing process is coming up with ideas for stories. I often get asked about where I come up with ideas, and they literally come from everywhere, fast and furious, all day long. The ideas aren’t an issue. The execution can be. That and the fact that we are all only gifted with so much time every day, so there will never be a chance to write everything I want to.
The most difficult is that writing is a solitary endeavor. Even for someone with plenty of author friends, the process of sitting down at your computer every day and banging out words can be lonely. The work exists in a vacuum until you decided to show it to someone. And the entire time, your mind plays tricks on you, telling you that your writing isn’t very good, that your story sucks, that no one will want to read what you’ve written.
It’s one of the least glamorous parts of writing, but one that I think most authors can relate to. Feeling like the last three months (or six months or year or ten years) were all a waste. That the words sound bad and you’re an idiot for wasting your time. That no one will want to read what you’ve written. It takes some fortitude to see a project all the way to the end. Kudos to the brave few who make it.
What is a common myth about your job or field of expertise?
I think there is a romanticized notion about authors. That we sip tea all day (it’s actually coffee) and that we sit in oak-lined studies filled with books, wearing tweed coats with elbow patches. [Craig’s note: we don’t?] That we wait for inspiration to strike and then we can peck at a keyboard for a few minutes and voila! Book!
The fact is, writing can be difficult. It can be messy and ugly and it can happen in ways that challenge the author mentally and physically (I mean, hunching over a desk and banging away on a keyboard all day takes its toll.)
But one day I plan on wearing that tweed coat while sitting in my underwear and writing. [Craig’s note: Pics or it didn’t happen.] I think I will finally feel like I’ve arrived.
What is one book you’d wish you’d written?
There are so many good books out there it would be tough to pick one. But I think I’ll go with two, if the editors of this esteemed website will indulge me. [Craig’s note: *sigh* Fiiiiine.]
The first would be Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy. Tom Clancy occupies a unique space in my memory. Rainbow Six was the first of his books that I read, and I remember being fascinated with the complexity of the plot. How he wove several seemingly disparate storylines together and made them all converge at the end.
I loved how he took all the soldiers from different countries and dropped them into a melting pot to see how they would function. They all retained their own unique voices and mannerisms and as a kid, it was amazing to read.
The protagonist of my Blackthorn Thrillers is named Clark, and that is an homage to John Clark from Rainbow Six. Shameless, but it felt right to me.
The other book I wished I’d written is the Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. It definitely skews toward youngers readers, but my first exposure to it was after I was already an author. Reading it with a “professional” (I say that tongue firmly in cheek) eye was incredible.
I challenge you to do this: go to Amazon and pull up the Graveyard Book and read the first chapter of the look inside preview. The first couple pages are so good, it made me want to stop writing, because I realized I would never write anything as smooth.
I still haven’t, but I didn’t stop writing either, so I suppose that’s a win.
If you could only recommend one of your books to a reader, which would it be?
Getting into my Porter series at the beginning is a pretty good way to go. The first book, Forceful Intent, is a good indication of who I am and what I’m about as an author.
What is something about you that people might find surprising?
I suppose everything, since no one knows me. I mean… the real me.
To actually answer your question, maybe people would be surprised to know I never queried a traditional editor or publisher. I know that seems to be a fairly common story: person writes book then spends time trying to get the old-school powers that be to publish it, ultimately failing and becoming an indie author.
I never bothered trying.
When I was finished with my first book, I did some research on the ways to publish books, found out about indie publishing and never looked back. I think it’s worked pretty well for me so far, and I don’t regret it.
Which isn’t to say I’m against being traditionally published by any means, but more on that later.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring authors?
There are several things I love to say to aspiring authors, but I won’t go on a tangent here, so I’ll try to make it brief. I have a nuts-and-bolts suggestion and one slightly more esoteric.
As far as the nuts and bolts go, turn off your spell and grammar check as you write. Go in to the setting of whatever you use to put words on your screen, and get rid of the little squiggly lines that pop up when you make an error.
I would never be able to finish anything if I always saw those lines. I’d always stop and go back and clean things up as I went. And for me, that’s counter productive. There will be plenty of time to edit things later.
When it’s first draft time, I need to get the words out, and stopping because I spelled “the” as “teh” (which I do seventy-five percent of the time) will only slow me down. [Craig’s note: The internet leads me to believe “teh” is actually the correct spelling, and the internet is never wrong, so …] Yes, you can add your usual screw-ups to the predictive text and eliminate “teh”, but you will always come up with creative ways to spell like an idiot. [Craig’s note: It helps to actually be an idiot, like me.] So just get rid of the red line all together.
My other suggestion to new authors would be to have the courage to finish. Don’t be the person talking about the book they want to write, or worse, the one they’d been writing for seven years and they are currently on their fourteenth draft.
Don’t do that. Start works and push until you finish. You will learn more about yourself as an author by simply finishing projects than you will in any course.
What are you currently working on?
So many things, so many things…
I’m writing the seventh book in my Porter series, for release some time in 2022. I am also outlining the fifth book in my Blackthorn thrillers series, featuring the aforementioned Clark.
And, despite what I said above, I am tentatively working on an outline for a book that I plan to shop around to traditional publishers. Not because I have to, since I’ve proven to myself that I can indie publish successfully. But because I’m looking for a new challenge. And I’m a glutton for punishment. So, I guess we’ll see how that goes!
Where can people find you online?
You can reach me at ramcgee.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.