Frequently Answered Questions
Where did you get the inspiration for Trial by Fear?
My wife and I were camping with some friends in one of Canada’s provincial parks, on a tiny little island in the middle of the wilderness, completely cut off from civilization. The scary stories we told around the campfire actually brought one of the young women in the group to tears. I wanted to capture that feeling of isolation and vulnerability and I started writing a story about a Manson-like cult leader on an island.
Shortly afterward, some high-profile murder cases grabbed the headlines. Even though the accused hadn’t had a trial, public consensus had already condemned them. That really bothered me. So I changed the premise of the story and combined the two themes.
Parts of Trial by Fear are quite graphic. Did you find it difficult to write?
Some of Toby’s chapters made me uncomfortable, definitely. I’d like to think I’m not a violent person by nature. But Toby is. I felt that to do justice to that character I had to fully explore his dark side. As it was I did cut out some material that would have been too extreme.
Wrongful conviction is a central theme of Trial by Fear. Is it an Important issue for you?
I think it should be an important issue for all of us. The statistics Simon Jacks quotes in the novel are all too accurate. No one is immune. Thousands of innocent people sit behind bars while the real offenders walk free. If we want that to change we’ve got to start with ourselves and our attitude, stop jumping to conclusions before hearing the whole story, stop feeding the witch hunt mentality.
Are you going to write a sequel to Trial by Fear?
I’m considering it. It would be interesting to see how these characters have been changed by their experience and what happens to them next. One or two of them may also make an appearance in other stories as secondary characters.
What are you working on now?
Too much! I’m working out the plot for another suspense novel, rewriting a comedy stage play I did some time ago, writing the next episode for Covert Maneuvers, and starting an original online series. Oh, I’m also considering a children’s story. And I’m still working on nonfiction freelance projects as well. Like I said, too much.
You’re distributing Trial by Fear through a print-on-demand publisher. Does that mean you’re not interested in pursuing other publishing options?
Quite the contrary. POD has proven effective for gaining exposure for the work, but I’m very open to other possibilities. I’d be happy to discuss the options with a traditional publishing house or literary agent.
Why are you writing Star Trek fan-fiction?
Because I’m a fan! Combining my love of writing with my interest in Star Trek just seemed natural. Writing my own stories gives me an opportunity to explore certain aspects of the Trek universe I’ve always been interested in but haven’t seen covered on the screen.
How far will Covert Maneuvers go?
I hope to make it an on-going series. I’ve written it with a long story-arc in mind. The first episode lays the foundation for a plot that will unfold over time. Not everything is as it seems.
Do you write every day?
Sort of. I compose every day. I’m always working on plot and dialog. But I don’t necessarily put pen to paper or sit at a keyboard every day. Trial by Fear was written while I was working full time as a computer network analyst and also freelancing as a business writer. So time was at a premium. Now that I’m focused more on fiction I tend to get something down on paper just about every day. Still, I don’t agree with the myth that “real” writers write every day. What you write is more important than how often you write.
Will you read manuscripts or story ideas that people send you?
No. As a matter of policy I can’t read unpublished manuscripts. That would just be opening myself up to law suits. As well, if I read one, I’d have to read them all and I’m just too busy for that. As for story ideas, I’ve got a ton of my own ideas sitting on the shelf waiting to be developed.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read, read, read. Write the kind of story you enjoy reading. Write as often as you can. Listen to criticism with only half an ear; that is, consider thoughtful advice, but don’t feel obligated to follow it all and don’t try to please everyone. Most of all, never give up.