What inspired you to write Panther in the Sun?
I had always wanted to tell my Grandfather’s story. He lived an extraordinary life. I didn’t want to write a biography and so I created a story drawing from his life when necessary. The novel is written in a very indirect manner. I wanted to write a story in which his father (whom he never knew) was a man who loved and lost him (opposite of true events). I created a fictional father that would do anything and everything to get him back. I took full license in constructing a story that simply flowed from my imagination and heart. There is a lot of me in this novel. I have always been fascinated in and naturally drawn to my Native American ancestors. So, this was obviously an inspiration as well. And, honestly, just being a father has always given me great inspiration in all of the things I write. A willingness to do anything for my children is ever present.
Which of the events in this book are based on true stories?
Well, let’s see. My Grandfather and his brothers were put into an orphanage at a very young age. Their mother was a single mom trying to raise five children during the Great Depression. My great grandfather (Lakota Sioux ancestory) wasn’t present and she couldn’t go it alone. She kept the girls and had to let the boys go. My grandfather was passed around foster homes all the way through High School. He was essentially a servant/farmhand and was treated with cruelty more often than not. He would trap and sell furs in secret to buy clothes and other basics not afforded to him. He would often get into fights as kids would make fun of him. But, they would quickly learn not to mess with him. He was an amazing athlete and student. He knew this would be his ticket out. He received a full athletic/academic scholarship to Ohio University. In his second year he was drafted to the Navy. Showing great attributes, he was recruited to become an elite UDT Navy Frogmen (which is essentially a modern day Navy SEAL). He was a commanding officer of ten men in the war against Japan. It should also be noted, that he was the Navy Boxing Champion, this is also worked into the story in a different way.
What issues are you addressing with this book?
I would say that I am addressing all sorts of issues that arise by simply being human. In this noveI I am touching on the Native American struggle in a way that I understand it. In particular, the struggle to find a place in the new America (time period in which this novel is written). The inequality and hate they faced. Inner strength. Connection with higher power. The power of love and its ability to redeem and move mountains. The human condition in general. As a fiction writer, I have the ability/freedom to jump in and out of different people’s shoes. I’m a sympathetic/empathetic person with a pretty strong imagination and this allows me to create stories and bring characters to life. I’m simply telling a story and as the story unfolds, so do a lot of emotions and issues.
Who do you envision reading / want to read this book?
Anyone and everyone. It wasn’t written for a particular audience. Obviously I would love for my grandfather and his generation to read it, but a lot of them have passed. My grandfather is still with us and I am excited for him to read it. It’s a story that touches most every age, stage, walk of life, race, sex, religion, etc. and so I want it in everyone’s hands. Absolutely my parents’ generation and all of the generations down. And it goes without saying, that it would be wonderful if it was read by Native Americans.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I’m a massage therapist by trade. So I work about 30 hours a week in this field. I am very family oriented. So, anything we can think of fun to do…we do it. We love the beach, hiking and seeking out cool new adventures. I played college and professional soccer and that still sticks with me. I play when I can and train as if I am in season. I also coach Jonah’s (my 12 year old son) soccer team. I love spending time with him alone and with his buddies. Angela and I try to sneak time to go out to eat, etc. Other than that I am doing things around house, captaining the ship and making sure everyone’s happy. My wife is battling cancer, so life has been extra tricky the last few years. But, we are strong and positive. My stepson, Sage, is 20 and pursuing a degree at a college not too far from home. I’m blessed to have such a wonderful family.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I always loved my creative writing classes in High School and College. This is where I found that I had the ability to tell a story. When my youngest son was four (2008) a surge of creative energy erupted. I wrote a 550 page novel in only a few months. I wrote whenever I could, making sure it didn’t interrupt me being the best stay at home dad I could be. I wrote in the “in-between times” and at night when everyone was asleep. So, yeah, in 2008 “Running for Our Lives” was created. A novel I’m very proud of and well received by all of its readers. Between 2008 and 2011, I wrote four novels and five feature length screenplays. In 2012 I had massive knee surgery that required a full year of PT. 2013 was committed to getting back to work and getting back on the soccer field. 2014 Angela was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable yet highly treatable cancer. Needless to say our world was turned upside down and it was up to me to try to keep it right side up. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. The only writing I have done in this period was humorous “coping material”. I wrote about 250 sarcastic/twisted/funny greeting cards (just the text). And, obviously, I’ve been doing a lot of revising for Panther in the Sun.
Where do you get your ideas?
I have a pretty vivid imagination. If I get an Idea for a novel or movie, for example, I play it out in my head rather quickly, entertaining the potential and if it sticks and I personally like it, then I write it. As I’m writing, I immerse my whole self into the story/situation and let the words flow naturally.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
I haven’t yet. Knock on wood!
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I just write. It’s very organic. I have a general idea of who/what/where/when/why but I really just let things evolve. I write with instinct and passion. I don’t dwell on perfection. I don’t try to make every sentence a homerun. That only impedes the flow. I’m a “flow” writer.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
The Alchemist. Very simple with a powerful message. Hatchet, when I was a kid. I love survival stories! To be perfectly honest, I’m much more of a writer than a reader. It’s like soccer. I don’t like to watch…I like to play or coach.
Will you have a new book coming out soon?
I hope to see Running for Our Lives come next. And who knows, depending on response/inspiration, maybe a sequel to Panther in the Sun.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I would like to write a sequel that is focused on the two brothers, Charlie and John. Like I said, we’ll see.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Write with your hearts and smarts. Write because you love to write. This shows in your writing. Don’t get hung up on perfection. Let your imagination go wherever it wants and wherever you guide it. Enjoy the ride. When you think there’s enough twists, twist it some more! It’s your world that you are creating…so go for it.