When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

This may sound odd and ironic, but I hated reading and books when I was young. I would much rather play football in 100 degree heat or in the pouring rain than trudge through yet another yawn-fest novel on the school’s reading list, none of which I ever finished. Some, I never opened.

Then, in grade eight, my entire outlook on scholastics changed, largely due in part to the enthusiastic teaching and influence of my English teacher. He made it fun to go to class and understand this amazing language we speak. I went from average grades across the board to straight ‘A’s. I started reading Encyclopedia Britannica for kicks instead of comics. It’s like I woke up and discovered I wasn’t the dummy my parents told me I was.

I recall handing in a major writing assignment that came back with A+++ and the words, “Did you have help with this?” Apparently the quality of the short story caught him by surprise – it must have seemed I was punching well above my weight class, so to speak. As far as getting any help, he obviously hadn’t yet met my immigrant parents who spoke way more German than English. From that moment, I never looked back.


How long have you been writing?

Since middle school, on and off. But never as serious as it is now. Back then, it was just a hobby – strictly for me.


Are you self-published?

Yes, I do own a small company whose name appears as the publisher, but it’s me.


What has been the most difficult part about being a writer? What kind of challenges did you face?

Firstly, writing is a very lonely sport. The best wishes and support of close friends and family are hugely encouraging, but they can take you only so far past base camp on your climb up that mountain. You’re on your own after that. With my novel being my first, I have to admit it was somewhat emotional as well pushing that button to launch it into cyberspace.

As far as the grunt work . . . the writing part, well, it’s certainly not a lack of discipline or work ethic – I’m the toughest boss I’ve ever worked for. The initial major challenge was, and this is probably true for every first-time author, writing the first word. By that I mean, focusing a million thoughts and ideas into the first sentence and then into an overall blossoming structure had me sweating. I finally came up with something that in hindsight was my best investment – a whiteboard. I needed to see the story from a bird’s eye view so I could direct it into a cohesive, organized storyline from my keyboard.

Eventually throughout the writing process, my perfectionism for details became my biggest hurdle. Writing for several characters in various occupations over a lengthy timeline is like playing five-dimensional chess. I wanted to ensure that every last minutia could withstand any challenge if held under a scrutinizing microscope. For instance, every name is consistent with their age group, every birthday is remembered, all ages are correct and when the story indicates a certain day was Thursday, then that’s exactly what it was in real life for that year, and exactly the time the sun rose that day. Also in the beginning, there is a dramatic street scene in Ciudad Juarez. Every street corner and streetlight is accounted for. Originally, I was going to go there in person for accuracy, but when the violence escalated, common sense took over. Using my computer, I virtually walked the exact routes taken by the characters, foot by foot.

My novel has a distinct theme running through it in which the protagonist draws upon his ethnic roots for strength and courage. The research I did for this and previous details mentioned represented over a hundred separate visits to the library, again, virtually through countless databases, tables and articles. That was intense.

When I finished, I realized the biggest challenges were yet to come. I had to deal with the hard core logistics of getting your book out into the digital world. No one is going to do it for you. This involved legal advice, editing, cover artwork, copyright and ISBN numbers, coding for different eBook formats, US tax registration with the IRS, advertising, website, finding the right pen name, etc.


Who are the authors that inspire you?

The best way I can answer that is – anyone who writes a story that stays with me . . . Makes me think. Makes me feel it. Those authors inspire me big time.


Do you outline your story before you write, or do you wing it?

I’m definitely an outline guy. I know there are those who prefer to sit down and let their thoughts and feelings run, which is very adventurous. If that works, then great! But for me, especially in a detail-rich first novel, there was simply too much going on and too much to keep track of. In fact, I never really got any traction from the start until I mapped out the whole story on the whiteboard, much like a storyboard for a director. I needed to see it from ten thousand feet first.

That said, I’m not that pragmatic and robotic – after all, I did start writing the novel from the near-ending and worked backwards. You might say I reverse engineered it from there.


Do you begin writing your scenes as dialogue or plot?

Mostly plot. And all the scenes are laid out before I start. I do, however, know what my characters are going to talk about. How they say it exactly – well, that’s where I’ll let some spontaneity in, unless I’ve prepared their dialogue beforehand.


Tell us more about the universe in which your book is set.

It takes place in the eighties with a backdrop of the violent drug war culture in Mexico and the Southern U.S. Times are uncertain, and drugs and lives have switched poles: one is now the new currency and the other has become cheap. Something needs to be done. I think the following quote sums it up quite well:


“If we do not, on a national scale, attack organized criminals with weapons and techniques as effective as their own, they will destroy us.” – Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General, 1960


Who are your favorite characters in the book? Why?

I think my protagonist, Kurt Sorenson rocks. He is the man. In an instant, his whole life changes in a turn of disaster, but he does not let this define him, where others would understandably allow it. He embodies heroism and strength that we still see today in times of uncertainty and hardship.

I also have a soft spot for my antagonist, El Cabron. Sure, he’s nasty, would run you over if you got in his way, and very mercurial, but in an unapologetic way. “It’s just a business; they create the demand and I supply it . . . So what?” He’d make a great CEO. Well, except for the fear, threats and killing part. But he does have a talent for making a business grow. He’s strangely very similar to Kurt in respect of fortitude and energy, just flat-out evil.


Describe the book’s theme.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, the pain, suffering and death of the drug trade spills out onto society, over the fences of the war arena and onto innocent bystanders. It needs to be stopped, or it will overcome us. The challenge is to do so lawfully and with moral patience, letting the justice system and the political machinery work for us. Sometimes those institutions let us down. That’s the time for someone to step forward, despite the costs. After all, good must always win over evil, even if the lines that separate them get blurred, to the point where they become indistinguishable.


How did you come up with the idea for your book?

I wish I knew for certain.

I didn’t sit down and say, I’m going to write a book. This concept found me. It was like being haunted, but in a good way, by a very powerful, creative force.

They say a relaxed mind is a creative mind. My wife and I go for long walks in our surrounding neighborhoods. One summer, I guess two years ago, I had August off and it was on one of these walks that this idea just filtered in out of the ether. From then on, it was walk after walk, wrestling with this intriguing and complex plot line that would not leave me alone. There were several of these journeys that I did not even remember taking, being so focused on the story.

After numerous tweaks over the course of that month, I finally turned to my wife and said, “You know, I think I’ve got something here. . . I think I’m going to write a novel. I have to. I can’t keep this inside.”


What is next on your agenda?

The sequel, of course!


What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?

I’ve had several people share with me their passion for writing once they heard about my book. That’s so cool, yet, I hope these beautiful stories don’t get trapped inside them never to be shared.

Writing is a fire in the belly – it never goes out, just sits and smolders. It can’t be ignored because it represents passion, and passion can’t be held captive.

My advice? Write. Just do it. You’ll be glad you did.


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Send me your feedback, what did you like, what didn’t you like? Who was your favorite character? What do you want to see in the next book?