Invariably, the first time I tell someone that I have started writing again, I usually get one of two responses. The first, and most common, is a shrug and a quick subject change to the weather or whatever ballgame I probably missed the night before. The second is a deceptively difficult question:
“Okay, so, what do you write?”
That’s the question that gets me to sweating and rambling. It shouldn’t be a hard thing to answer. I’m the one writing the stuff, after all. The problem is 1) I tend to get really nervous talking about myself and 2) I don’t have any one genre that I really gravitate toward. I’ve tried and am interested in everything from mysteries and historical fiction to horror and romance. My first novel, Sugar Spring (in the last stages of revision and just about done, thank you very much!) fits squarely into the paranormal thriller genre.
Sugar Spring is basically the story of what happens to a guy when a girlfriend he hasn’t seen in ten years mysteriously shows up in his living room. It’s been a long time since Darius Barnes last set eyes on teenage love Adina Lacy. Their relationship had a rocky ending to say the least, with her father nearly murdering him and leaving him scarred for life. So, when she shows up uninvited in his living room a full decade later, Darius is more than a little wary about what’s going on. But Adina is as beautiful as she ever was, and soon Darius is enthralled all over again.
From the moment she re-enters his life, everything else for Darius-his relationship with his on-and-off girlfriend Mia, his job, even his sanity, begins to crumble. Adina begins to disappear and reappear at whim, and Darius is plagued with vivid nightmares. Unable to shake her hold on him, Darius suspects that his old flame is either drugging him or driving him crazy and is determined to find out which.
To unravel the mystery, Darius follows Adina back to where it all began, her hometown in rural Florida. He quickly finds out that Adina is in some serious trouble, and now so is he. Darius finds himself on the run from backwater criminals, crooked cops, and a sadistic serial killer named Frank who views his grisly carnage as art. But the discovery of Adina’s true nature may be the most shocking and dangerous threat of all – Adina is actually dead. The woman Darius now knows is a ghost in corporeal form. She refuses to leave this world until she does two things: stop the evil murderer that killed her and reunite with the one person she ever loved – even if it kills him!
My next book in the queue, however, has absolutely nothing to do with ghosts or murderers (well, maybe just one). It is more of a coming of age/broken romance type of story about a troubled young woman who must make some hard decisions that will shape the path for the rest of her life. She discovers a forgotten tragedy from her family’s distant past and seeks inspiration from that story to ultimately create her own. I also already have the sequel to this book outlined. Beyond that, I’ve also been a life long fan of blues music of the 1920’s and 30’s and have long toyed with the idea of writing a series of novels about The Greatest Unknown Mississippi Bluesman Who Ever Lived. And no, it’s not this guy. I’ve got a bunch of short stories and story outlines that I’ve thrown together about the character over the years, but I’ve never really done anything with it. Throw in a classic haunted house story set in a group home I’ve been sketching out for a while now, and who knows what else may pop into my head. So, you see what I like to write about, and what I have planned to write, is a little scattered.
First and foremost, I believe stories are about people first. Regular folks. I’m not interested in the knights in shining armor that start out their stories that way. I prefer real folks with real warts and faults and all the flaws that make us all human. I believe those flaws are the thing that keeps us, and story characters, from being boring as hell. The heroes of my stories aren’t very heroic at all, at least in the beginning. Take, for example, the main character in Sugar Spring. Darius Barnes starts off as a bundle of neuroses wrapped up in a blanket of insecurity. He’s got some serious unresolved Mommy/Daddy issues, and he’d rather run than fight any day of the week. Yet by the end of the book, he’s mustered the courage to put his life on the line for a woman that he knows may not be doing him any good. He holds his own against a whole host of vicious criminals. He even ventures briefly into the afterlife to find the answers that he needs to live his life happily and become the person that he can truly be.
So, rambling and sweating aside, I guess the best answer to the question of what I like to write is that I like creating stories about regular people in irregular situations. Those situations may take place in the present or a hundred years ago or be set anywhere from a plantation to a spaceship. But at the end of the day it’s all about the characters and watching them squirm when their world goes to crap and then grow as they piece it all back together. It sucks for them, but the ride is a lot of fun for me! And, hopefully, for anyone who reads them!