What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I don’t believe I have done anything pilgrimage-worthy, literary or otherwise, but I do tend to visit bookstores pretty much anywhere I can find them – especially bookstores with ambience and history. City Lights was one of the very few Must-Sees on my first trip to San Francisco. John R. King in Detroit is a destination all on its own. My wife and I stumbled across Jonathan Rand’s Chillerama on vacation in Northern Michigan. We even spent one anniversary in Wisconsin chasing the haunts of one of her favorite authors… that isn’t the main reason we went out there, but that is the majority of what we ended up doing. Madison has a lovely bookstore called A Room of One’s Own.
What is the first book that made you cry?
No lying – a lot of books have, but I don’t think I could tell you which one was first. I suspect, based on my childhood required reading lists, and the stories I remember, that it was probably Where the Red Fern Grows, or The Incredible Journey, or maybe Charlotte’s Web. Another possibility is the short story The Scarlet Ibis.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
The trepidation that what I am working on isn’t worth the effort of being written down. I can blame distractions, or my television, but that’s the truth. No matter how much I write, that fear will always exist. I don’t think there will ever be a day when I think, “You know, I really am as good as everyone says.” It’s just not how my brain works. I will always need readers to tell me if my work is any good and how it measures up to my other works.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
The connections I draw between my stories are tenuous at best. They’re Easter eggs for avid readers (and myself). Unless I’m working on a series, I think the universe of the story should be cemented between the pages of the book – not outside it.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
My writing suddenly had an audience with limitless potential. Anyone could read my published work. I now had an army of eyes scrutinizing my grammar and my plot. I was lucky and heard from a lot of readers about some of my issues – I’d never published before; I had no idea what the process truly was – and took the feedback seriously. Each new book is a new adventure, but the same old preparation applies, more each time. I feel like I am less desperate to rush my stories out now. I let them go when they are ready, not because I am ready to let them go.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I could take this in a lot of directions, but I feel like my mascot is probably a cat. Maybe it has wings and breathes fire, or uses magic. It’s probably and avid reader and enjoys tea. It also has a lot of opinions about things, and is kind of judgmental. So, it’s likely some kind of cat. Or a dragon. Or a cat-dragon.
What did you edit out of your books? (keep it family-friendly, please)
There isn’t a lot that hits the cutting room floor. I usually have to add more than I remove. I tend to write linearly – from start to end, so as I am writing, I kind of see the curve of the road and follow it as best I can. I have a “word graveyard” for everything I work on, in the hope that one day, all of these elements will find homes. But those documents are rarely more than a couple of pages.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Yikes, I’m not sure. It’s kind of a sliding scale… like, would I give up Snickers forever? Yes, I think I would. Would I trade my immortal soul? No, I’ve seen that movie. So, somewhere between those two extremes is a price that is both a sacrifice on my part and a prize to whoever is collecting. I mean, I guess I could give up some time and energy to dedicate to my craft, but that doesn’t really seem like a sacrifice…
What is your favorite childhood book?
If you ask me this question at another time, I’m sure I’ll give you another answer, but right now, two books come to mind. The first is The Monster at the End of This Book. This is a book that I’ve returned to numerous times throughout my life, and I find a new and different perspective on it each time. I don’t know the name of the second one. It was a special order by my parents where I was the main character of the book, name and all. They might both stand out because each story introduced me to tension and perceived fear. They threatened the reader (or at least me) with the danger of monsters, but they both wind up with happy endings, no lasting harm done. They were, perhaps, my first unintentional introduction to horror.
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
Keeping the story straight. There’s a lot of backstory that builds in my head when I am creating worlds and characters. Every good character has a lifetime of experience, but the reader doesn’t get the whole story – only the part relevant to the book. But it’s all there, somewhere, in my brain. So, what the reader knows about a character versus what I know about them can get a little confusing.
What is the easiest part of your writing process?
Coming up with ideas. I have no shortage of ideas. There’s a veritable backlog of unique situations and scenarios in my head to choose from. The trouble starts from there. Having to choose from all these ideas and pick one that is worth spending the time to write, struggling with the writing, and every step of the way to release. But at least I’ll never run shy of things to invent.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It really depends on what part of the process is “writing a book”… if I’m inspired and excited about the story, I can write a first draft in less than a month. But with editing, revisions, formatting, etc., having a finished book takes closer to six months or so. Some stories take longer than that. Years. But I don’t think we can measure anything about an author or a story by the time it takes to write it. A story is a piece of art, and time must be taken for art to mature to its final state.
A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?
I don’t think it is fair to call any author socially inept. Some may be introverted; some may have anxiety when speaking to strangers or crowds… that’s fine. That’s who they are. I think there is something to be said for people who build entire universes inside their own minds. I think that, sometimes, having dozens of people in/on your mind who are literally depending on you is a little more pressing than small talk with strangers.
When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be an author?
I don’t know when the idea got into my head, but my mother recently discovered a file folder with some of my childhood stories in it. On the front of the folder, in my poor cursive scrawl, reads “Andy Lockwood The Author 1988 – 89.” So I was no older than 10 when this plot was hatched.
Who are your biggest literary influences?
One of my biggest influences is Richard Matheson. He’s an amazing writer and his influence itself is prolific. His writing has been adapted again and again for TV and film. I would argue that most people know a Matheson story, even if they don’t know him by name. It took a long time for me to realize that the same person wrote some of my favorite stories, movies, and television episodes. His work defies genre. Sure, some of it is very horror, but then he writes love stories just as beautifully, or science fiction.
What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book? Why?
Stardust. Because the only bad thing I can say about it is that it is too short. It’s one of the few films on the planet that I can argue the book is necessarily better. I love the book with all my heart; I love the film just as much, because it is the same story, but different. The adaptation doesn’t change the story; it makes the film more cinematic, while the story is more literary. Each version appeals to its presentation, and I love them both for that. Neither misses the important impacts. They both grab you by the heartstrings when and how they want.
How did it feel when your first book got published? How did you celebrate?
Terrifying. It wasn’t an intentional process. It was supposed to be a vanity print. I was supposed to get five copies and be done with it. Instead, I got my five copies and it got listed on Amazon. Clearly, I misread something. But – it did set me on this path, for better or worse, and here we are.
What is that one thing you think readers generally don’t know about authors?
I think people forget that we’re people too. I think there’s a mystique applied to people who write, as if we’re sorcerers that sit in darkened towers writing with quill pens by candlelight all day every day. It doesn’t seem to translate that a lot of us are real people who have 9-5 jobs and dedicate our free time to being authors – writing and doing events, etc. The books get written after the chores are done and we have an extra half hour of quiet – it’s not the full time job, and listing a book on Amazon doesn’t give us millions in return. Just like any other job, the cushy spots are few, and they’re all the way at the top of the mountain. It’s a long, hard climb and it isn’t for everyone. But like I said: authors are people. Just like your friend who knits, or the coworker who paints. It’s a real thing that anyone can do if they set to the task, and, if asked, I bet some of your favorite authors probably wouldn’t mind talking about it with you.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
Since releasing Threshold in May, I’ve been playing with a number of projects. Each one has a promising start, but I haven’t decided which one I really want to invest myself in as the next project. I keep meaning to tackle a zombie apocalypse story, and something with vampires – both solid topics in the horror community that I’ve been relatively silent on so far. I have ideas for both, but so far they haven’t been anything I’ve been obsessed with writing.
Are you attending any conventions/festivals where readers can meet you and/or buy your books? Please provide all the “find it” information.
I still have one convention appearance that has not been canceled yet, but I’m not holding my breath. These days, it’s all about the online presence and online conventions/appearances. It’s really kind of cool how some of these people manage to pull these events together.
The nice folks at Monroe Pop Fest hosted the 2020 Monroe Online Quarantine Con back in March to help support everyone who relies on these events to get their wares out in the world. You can still find the aftermath listed here: https://www.facebook.com/events/207799773780949/
Please provide links and/or instructions about how readers can purchase signed copies of your books.
The best way to get anything is to reach me directly: https://www.facebook.com/happierthoughts/ or https://www.happierthoughts.com/
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring authors?
Never give up. Writing isn’t always as easy as some people make it look.
Be kind – to yourself and to others. What’d I say above? Writing isn’t easy. Sometimes things don’t work the way you want them to; that’s okay. Take the lesson and try it a different way – or try a different story. Encourage your fellow writers, but don’t lie to them. If something isn’t working for you, let them know. Try to be courteous about it, but they need to hear if something isn’t working. It will help them reach their audience, and it will make them better writers.
Find your tribe. Find the people who are willing to help you be a better writer. They don’t have to be writers, but you have to tell them what you need and you have to let them do it. Don’t ask people what they think of your story if you aren’t ready to hear criticism. Don’t get upset when they tell you they didn’t like it. Start asking questions. Find out if it is something you can control. Maybe they just don’t like the genre you write in – find a different reader. But if they like your genre, and they are willing to help, you have to be ready to listen.
You'll find some interesting stuff here... some Op Eds, some Information, Book Reviews, and More. Poke around the categories and see what ruffles your feathers... in a good way!