Answers to some frequently asked questions! Feel free to submit your own, in the comments.
What are your books about? Here’s a non-marketing-speak summary: It’s 2173, time travel is a thing, and the U.S. government, along with private individuals, are hiring contractors to do research about the American Revolution (for anniversary celebrations) and much more. Constantine and Associates, a firm owned by a former history professor with ties to intelligence networks, is one of the primary players in this field, thanks to its stable of expert time jumpers (a.k.a. people with adrenaline issues and obsessive interests who don’t balk at being thrown into the past to find things out, and only occasionally break the rules to get the job done). George Merrill, one of C&A’s best jumpers, is just back from making mistakes at the Boston Tea Party when he’s assigned to continue the mission (and several secret ones attached to it) in partnership with newbie Olivia Lake – who has joined the company to clandestinely search for her missing husband, Bernard Quan. Adventure, research, and love triangles ensue, as their assignments take them and their co-workers to 18th-century England, 17th-century Holland and Malaysia, 1940s France, and many other times and places, including back along their own timelines and toward reconsideration of their life choices.
But, as that last bit implies, what they’re really about is people, and all my plots are created by what my characters decide (sometimes rather impulsively) to do, and you can read what I think about character-driven fiction here: The People Who Live In My Head.
Where do you get your ideas? People really do ask this! As I said above, the characters do lead the way once I’ve started, but the basic ideas have to come from somewhere (beyond “out of a dark corner of my twisted brain”) and that’s usually from something I’ve read or picked up elsewhere, some cool little bit of historical research that gets combined with a whole bunch of other cool little bits. The books aren’t all set in the 18th century, but they do wrap around that era, which I find a fascinating one, full of contrasts and hypocrisies that stimulate thought, especially in its American incarnation – and these are very American books, even if the action often takes place somewhere else. But I pick up ideas everywhere and stuff them in my pockets, and then take them out later and shake the fluff off, and try to turn them into fiction. It’s what writers do.
What genre are your books? Oh boy that’s a loaded question, and a complicated one. They don’t claim to be literary fiction, perhaps don’t entirely qualify as science fiction, aren’t grounded enough to be historical fiction, and make for disappointing romance. I don’t know; you tell me.
I have nevertheless written at length about this topic and you can read the results in these places:
Why “Waters of Time”? I have written at length about this as well! See Gush, Drip, Bubble, Flow: Water Metaphors.
Do your books have “adult content”? Well, yeah, but possibly not in the way you mean. I don’t check the box that distributors ask you to if your books are inappropriate for readers under 18, because a) 90% of those who do check the box write erotica, which is not what I write; b) I don’t think my books are inappropriate for minors, though they are unlikely to be read by anyone much under 16 just because of the level they’re written at (meaning vocabulary, degree of plot complications, number of literary quotations, etc.; many adults are going to choose not to read them either). The latter is obviously a personal decision that readers (and their parents) need to make for themselves, so here – of the sort of thing that usually gets warned for – is what you’ll find in my books:
- Violence and bodily trauma, not graphic or dwelt upon, but descriptive enough to provoke the occasional wince or shudder. Characters hurt each other, physically or psychologically, but they also help and care for each other. Characters die.
- Sex scenes, not explicit at the pornographic level, but not shying away from letting you know what’s happening. Occasional anatomically-correct words (preferred over euphemism of the “manhood” variety). Sexual activity is plot-relevant but not the focus of the plot. Characters think about sex and pursue it, but not to the exclusion of everything else; most of them have a good sense of situationally-appropriate behavior.
- Bad words, not constant or gratuitous (except when character-relevant); scatological, sexual, violent, blasphemous. Swearing does not go unremarked-upon; some of my characters hate it and say so. I try to stay away from words that offend in sexist or racist ways.
On the whole, I’d say that the “adult content” of my books has more to do with difficult choices and painful circumstances than the specifics of language or action, but I’m not offended if someone backs away because of specific content issues.
Why self-publish? I wrote an answer to this in the early stages of author-blogging, Why Self-Publish?, and as an update I’d add that it’s working out pretty well so far, though of course there could always be more sales.
What’s your policy on fanfic? Just in case anyone should ever want to know, ha ha. I have no right to have a policy on fanfic, is the short answer; if you want to fic my books, you don’t need to ask my permission. But in case you need encouragement – please go for it. I probably won’t read it (legal reasons) but I have spies so I’ll know about it – and be extremely flattered.