Tell us about your publishing journey…
I have a box of rejection letters that I could use to wallpaper the Taj Mahal. I have been taught humility by several hundred agents and publishers that have psychologically flogged me for decades, all while wearing black hoods and going bare chested. In 1989, I got my first agent—and promptly refused a publication contract with Doubleday because they insisted I re-write the second half of the book. I figured I’d have another offer within weeks. My next offer came in 2007. A painful lesson, but I have learned it well.
What do you love about being an author?
The fancy cars, my house in the Catskills, my pet leopard—oh, wait. I have none of those things. I love starting with an idea and slowly watching it fill in. I write almost nothing in sequence, so for me, it really is like watching the picture in a jigsaw puzzle emerge from scattered pieces.
If you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?
Hannibal Lecter. No, wait. I withdraw that comment, too. Serious answer: Father Karras from The Exorcist. We’d have Italian with a nice red and talk about what it felt like to confront the Devil. Now, if you’re asking me about a DATE with a character, definitely Clarice Starling from The Silence of The Lambs. Hm—noticing a pattern here.
If your book was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?
If THE SALVATION STATE was made into a movie, give me Willow Shields as Rebecca, the preacher’s daughter on the run, and Asa Butterfield as Daniel, the atheist outcast.
Vampires – do you prefer them as sexy leads or blood hungry monsters?
15% sexy leads, 85% bloodsucking monsters. That about sums up my vampires in THE FOREVER SHOW and TEETH. Bottom line, if they’re not scary, they’re not vampires.
If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?
I’d set my time machine for “repeat” and stay in 1985 forever. Everybody have fun tonight, Everybody Wang Chung tonight. Seriously, the 80s were so freakin’ happy for me. I mean, like, totally.
Definitely not going back anywhere in time that does not have indoor plumbing, cable TV, and a 7-11 on the corner.
What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?
That’s tough for me, because I was given so much good advice that I totally ignored. Having said that, I do wish someone had advised me to do as I was told as a young writer—that it’s not the world’s responsibility to make you rich and famous, that your dream is no one else’s responsibility to realize for you.
If you were a supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
This is where I expect a lot of people would expect me to say “vampire.” They really are a lot of fun to write about. But if I could be a supernatural creature—say, one with immortality, good looks, superhuman reflexes, et cetera—make me a Tolkien elf every day. I’d be able to sing better, my hair would be awesome, I’d be able to drink without impairment to my permanent health, and I’d be one of the good guys—a wins-all-around type of situation.
Where do you write best?
The only place I write is at the modest little table-desk at the man cave by the sliding glass door with Shazam the cat on his perch to my left. Having said that, my favorite environment to write in is one with a good wrath-of-God thunderstorm flooding my downhill neighbors’ basement—I’m sorry, was that aloud?—or else the quiet of early morning before the sun comes up.
What was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?
The last series I finished was the Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman, and the last individual book I finished was Time Runs Away with Her by Christine Potter. Very different types of books—pure dystopia on the one hand and paranormal teen romance on the other—but both completely blew my mind.
If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?
I typically write horror and—these days—dystopian science fiction. One day I plan to go back to my roots and go full-on swords-and-sorcery again, like I did when I wrote for no one but myself and my pre-teen friends.
Where can fans find you online?