Q: Let me start with asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself.
A. Well, my day job is to serve as the editor of FamilyFiction (http://www.familyfiction.com), which includes the digital magazines FamilyFiction and FamilyFiction Edge, the website, and the weekly email newsletter. Oh, yes, and all the social media. So it keeps me hopping. I’m married and we live in Tennessee.
Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
A. When I was in the first grade. I was six years old and also under the mistaken impression that I could grow up to be Batman. Seriously, I thought it was an occupation.
Q: Could you give us the highlights of your professional writing career including how you got your first writing break?
A. It goes back to high school, when I started writing for the local newspaper. All the stuff I’ve done since then has been one thing leading to the next thing—like climbing rungs up one ladder or another. Over the years, I’ve written and edited for several different magazines, including CCM, 7ball, Homecoming, and, yes, Christian Bride.
Q: Would you tell us about your current book release?
Nursing a Grudge is the first of a whodunit trilogy starring a curmudgeonly amateur sleuth named Earl Walker. When we meet him in the first book, he’s trying the live the life of a hermit at the nursing home. By the end of the third book, he’s grown as a person and he even has other people in his life. But Earl’s growth as a person comes in the most awkward manner possible. I couldn’t really help it—it’s how I write. I tend to be hard on my characters. But they say that comedy comes from pain…
Q: Where did you get your inspiration for Nursing a Grudge?
A: I am a big fan of the classic mysteries by the likes of Agatha Christie, and Rex Stout, and Ellery Queen. So, when I first set out to write a real-deal whodunit—with the clues, and the suspects, and the whole deal—my original plan was to write something along the lines of the Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin mysteries written by Rex Stout.
For those who haven’t read these wonderful books, Nero Wolfe is more or less what we call an “armchair detective”; he prefers to solve the mysteries without leaving his house. Which is where Archie comes in—he goes out and does all the legwork.
So in Nursing a Grudge, we actually meet two people in the first scene—Earl Walker, a bitter old man in a wheelchair; and Jenny Hutton, a well-meaning young lady from the local church sent to visit him. When I started out, my intention was for Earl to stay home and for Jenny to go out and do all the legwork.
But as I continued to develop the plot, the characters took on a different tone. And now Jenny was pushing Earl out of his apartment, and he was starting to meet other people. And then the story became something different—the story became about Earl meeting other people, and coming to realize that God created us to have relationships with other people. No man is an island, as the saying goes—and that is the way God made us.
A little side note: As I think about back, the original plan was for the “romance” part of the novels to come from Jenny’s part of the story. But as I got further into the process, Earl met a woman—and she became increasingly important throughout the series.
Q: What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?
A: We need people. And ministry begins at home, with the people whom God puts in our lives.
Q: What is your favorite scene/chapter from the book?
A: Without giving away any spoilers, I am very pleased with the method I came up with for the murder. For much of the investigation, everyone assumes it’s one thing—but it turns out to actually be something different. I had never seen that one before.
Q: What inspires you to write?
A. My head is full of words. I’m just trying desperately to let them all out so I can sleep at night.
Q: How has being a published novelist differed from your expectations of the profession?
A: From the outside, it always looked like the hard part was getting in. But I find that this marathon never ends—it continues for as long as I want to be a writer.
Q: What advice or tips do you have for writers who are just getting started?
A: Whether one wants to write fiction or nonfiction, I would recommend watching for any opportunities to write: the school newspaper, the church newsletter, even your own blog. As far as I’m concerned, all writing makes you a better writer.
Q: Would you share with us what you are working on now?
A. I find that what I like best is writing quirky characters getting into odd situations and then making bad decisions to get out of them. These are traits you can see in all my books to date—but now I’m trying to embrace these oddballs and let their stories unfold as they will. My agent has one particular book in hand, and I’m working on another one with an eye toward launching a series.
Q: What is something your readers might be surprised to learn about you?
A. When I was in the fifth grade, I was in a Monkees tribute band. We gave ourselves the imaginative name “The Monkees II,” and we had exactly one public performance—which was spectacularly awful.
Q: When you’re not writing what do you like to do?
A. My wife and I love to watch old movies—especially Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, the Thin Man series, stuff like that. On the other end of the scale, we’ve lately become obsessed with Mystery Science Theater 3000; we never had cable, so we’re discovering them on DVD. It’s a hoot! I also do a lot of reading.
Q: Anything else you’d like to tell or share with us?
A. Anyone who wants to sample my writing for FREE, please swing by my website and get your free copy of First Shot: 10 Stories. http://StudioWell.com
Thanks for having me on the Suspense Zone!