My Literary Influences

As a boy, I read everything around the house. My mother owned a small library of classic novels, full of literary gems like Jack London’s Call of the Wild, Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth & 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, Herman Wouk’s Caine Mutiny, collections of Sherlock Holmes, and others. Of course, just having a bunch of books in the house isn’t enough to get a hyperactive boy to sit and read them.

But I was always getting into trouble. I did typical boy stuff and was a 10-year-old pyromaniac (I’m cured, now). I lit smoke bombs to trigger school evacuations, just to avoid taking tests I never studied for. Spankings and butt-whippings didn’t work on me, so my mother grounded me for weeks at a time. This was before the days of PlayStation, the Internet, Netflix, and television with more than four clear channels. To keep from dying of boredom, I read those old classics and wrote short stories to entertain myself.

My mom’s discipline revealed my love of reading and writing. I read gritty and thought-provoking books, where the stories were simple but the characters rich and compelling. I read Stephen King’s Cujo when I was 12 and was fascinated with how the man took the premise of a rabid dog and wove it into a terrifying, engrossing story. Years later, I immersed myself in Ann Rule’s true crime novels and Donald Goines’ vivid portrayals of urban living. And I still watch reruns of Forensic Files and documentaries that highlight FBI behavioral profiling and other investigative techniques.

It was a violent crime close to home that inspired me to write my first novel, a police procedural. After a relative was murdered, I became interested in how detectives investigate homicides. I quickly saw that things didn’t work as they did on television, where the police always found critical evidence and suspects received the appropriate sentences for the crimes they actually committed.

I wanted to write a story that focused on the authenticity of a homicide investigation. I wanted to highlight the emotions a detective and the victims’ relatives experience. At the same time, I wanted the story to set up a premise for more books to come. Monsters Behind the Gates is an off-and-on, ten-year culmination of those efforts. The journey was long, painful, expensive, full of setbacks, but rewarding. As any writer knows, one has to pour his or her heart, soul, spirit, body, and focus into completing a book–all with the realization that it may not be the worldwide blockbuster novel one dreams about.

That’s okay. That’s not why I write. Once the journey is finished, it is worth it to have a reader simply tell me that he or she enjoyed the story.

Meanwhile, on to writing the second book.

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