Your novel, The Replacement, is an absolutely addictive read. Can you tell those readers who have not read your novel, briefly, what it is about?
The Replacement is a story about two homicide detectives, Patrick Sullivan and Jonathan Hawkins, chasing after a serial killer that the public has named The Surgeon. The only problem is that The Surgeon is so good at covering his/her tracks that the police can’t seem to find any substantial evidence to lead them to their perp. This causes a lot of tension between the two partners, who share very different views on how to go about a murder investigation.
How long would you say it took you to write it?
I created the file on January 21, 2011. I was pretty much tweaking and doing some fine tuning as far as editing was concerned up until a day or two before it was released, which was January 20, 2015. So the whole process, from start to release, took four years.
You made mention of the tension between Patrick Sullivan and his partner, Jonathan Hawkins. How would you best describe the relationship between the two?
I think the best way to describe Patrick Sullivan and Jonathan Hawkins would be to say they can easily be compared to fire and water. They are two people who have, by no means, any right to be working side-by-side with each other. Yet they are forced to and, as one could guess, it’s not always smooth sailing. They share completely different views of the job, which only leads to a continuous building tension throughout the story. This adds a dynamic to the story that I don’t think could be portrayed if the two partners got along just fine.
What inspired you to write The Replacement?
Years ago, my friends and I got the brilliant idea to start writing screenplays. Our first attempt was at a comedy, and, looking back at it now, it was pretty terrible. Still, back then, we thought we were writing gold! During this time, I came up with the idea for a screenplay about a rookie detective coming in to replace a retiring veteran, and they end up working a case together; chasing after a serial killer—I swear I did not come up with this idea while watching the movie, Se7en! Haha. I also had the ending plotted out, which I’m obviously not going to discuss here.
So years later, when I decided I wanted to write a novel, that particular idea stuck out in my mind. I had toyed around with a few other ideas, first, but I eventually landed on the one that would become The Replacement.
What made you decide to become an author?
If I’m being honest, growing up, I never really envisioned myself being an author. My dream, starting in my teens and running through my mid-twenties, was to stand on stage; playing music. However, when a friend of mine published his own debut novel (The Never Enders by Michael Sonbert – Check it it!), I purchased a copy to show my support. When reading it, I found myself thinking how cool it was that he had created this entire novel just from something he thought up in his head. I had a bunch of ideas floating around, at the time, so I thought I would give it a shot. Once I got started, I loved it. The entire process; ranging from thinking up these stories, fleshing out characters, and then getting it from the imagination onto the paper is such a satisfying feeling. I have a far greater passion for it than I ever did for music.
As a thriller suspense novelist, what is your advice to other writers in your genre on how to write a compelling story with believable characters?
Well, for starters, I don’t consider myself a thriller/suspense novelist. I simply consider myself a novelist. The book I’m working on now does not fall anywhere near the realm of Mystery/Thriller. I don’t like the idea of being tied down to one genre. If anything, I am a writer of fiction. That would be my first advice to any writer; don’t become tied down to a specific genre, and don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons. If you have an idea that you think is good, go with it! Don’t become a mystery writer, or a romance novelist, or a horror writer. Just be a writer!
As far as the question you asked goes, the best advice I can give is to bring your characters to life. I know that sounds pretty vague and very cliché, so let me try to explain. You are playing God here, and you are creating characters and controlling their destinies… do your best to humanize them. If your reader doesn’t connect with your characters, they aren’t going to become invested. You could have the most intriguing storyline in the history of fiction, but if your characters do not resonate with your reader, there’s a chance it will fall flat. Give them lives, give them histories, give them emotions, and give them meaning. Don’t just have them do. Let the reader into their souls, and have them understand the actions.
Also, read On Writing by Stephen King. It was the first piece of advice ever offered to me when I started writing, and I’m thankful for that book every time I sit down in front of the computer to write.
What would you say influenced your writing the most?
I think, more than anything, living has influenced my writing. I like to think I’m pretty in tune with my emotions. I’m not afraid to get angry, upset, or even cry if I’m overwhelmed. I know what makes me happy, and I know what I’m afraid of. I also think I have a pretty good sense of human psychology. Now, I’m not saying I’d go and offer people advice and call it professional, but I think I have a well enough understanding of it that when I incorporate it into my writing, the reader can feel a connection with my characters or story. With living, also comes the burden of learning the sad and the ugly things that go on in this world. With the Internet, television and Smart Phones, the world is at our fingertips. I remember being on lunch at work when I heard the news of the Sandy Hook school shooting. I was on my phone; just browsing my Facebook newsfeed when I saw it. With no hassle at all, the world, and everything going on in it is at our fingertips. Those kind of things, indirectly, get incorporated into my writing. Not the actual events, but the raw emotions that comes from seeing the things that go on in this world. This is also the same for all the good things that happen in the world. We go down our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram newsfeeds, and we see friends getting engaged, married, having kids. Those things that bring us joy should also get poured into our writing just as much as the tragic things we are exposed to
What are your future projects that you are currently working on at the moment?
I am currently working on my second novel. The details of it, I am not ready to divulge, as I am only five chapters into it. I will say this about it… It is nothing like The Replacement. I think with The Replacement, I was getting my feet wet. Even though the storyline and characters are very original—at least I think they are!—the detectives chasing a serial killer has been done before. I just took something that’s been done and that’s popular, and I made it my own. This new project is me jumping into uncharted waters without a lifejacket! The idea is more out there than your popular Mystery/Thriller, and I’m not entirely sure it’s even been done before. At least that’s what I’m hoping!
Do you have any plans for any sort of follow-up to The Replacement?
As far as a follow-up goes, I have no plans for writing it, at the current moment. I’m diving into more uncharted waters, like I just mentioned. I will say this: I do know what happens to all my main characters once the last word of The Replacement has been read, and the book has been closed and put up on a shelf.
Do you enjoy reading a lot? And if so, what books have your read that you liked? Which authors inspired you?
I do enjoy reading. I wish I had more time for it, but sometimes life gets in the way of doing the things we enjoy. You should never shun life’s responsibilities, but they should never stop you, completely!!! I also wish I discovered my enjoyment of reading at an earlier age. I could’ve covered far more ground and discovered a lot more authors by now, if I did.
As far as books I have read go, I actually have a story to tell. In 2013, I decided I wanted to find a book that made me cry. Not feel sad. Not even get choked up. I wanted this book to make tears stream down my face. So I actively searched for books that would, undoubtedly, pull at the heartstrings. Attempt after attempt, book after book, author after author, and I couldn’t find the book that made me cry. Don’t get me wrong, I read some great works that year. Just nothing made me cry. So when the year ended and my goal had not been reached, I didn’t renew it in 2014. Well they always say when you aren’t actively looking for something is when you’re most likely to find it. One morning, I was sitting on my couch and nearing the end of The Fault in Our Stars, and by the time that book was finished, I was having myself a good cry. That story will always stay with me and I recommend to anyone.
Other title’s I’ve enjoyed and just couldn’t put down are Silver Lining’s Playbook, the Harry Potter Series, The Help, The Glass Castle, and Looking for Alaska. I’m currently reading A Dance with Dragons from the Songs of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) series.
As far as authors who have inspired me go, Stephen King has to be at the top of that list. I start every year off with a Stephen King novel, and I’m a fan of most of his work. We share some similarities when it comes to writing. I would never be so bold as to compare myself to Stephen King, and say my writing is like his! My writing is like Jason Pellegrini’s, and that’s who I’ve always wanted it to be like. King and I just both have a strong emphasis on character development, and I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about pacing a story from him.
Other than King, I draw my inspiration from whatever I read that captivates me. You can learn just as much from reading as you can from writing. You learn what works for you and what doesn’t work for you by discovering methods that you love and hate.
Lastly, where can readers buy your novel?
My novel can be purchased at Amazon.com and on Amazon Kindle, currently. I’ll be getting it on other platforms, in the near future, hopefully. If searching for me on the actual Amazon site, I suggest searching me by name instead of title. There are other books with the same title, and you wouldn’t want to purchase the wrong one! On Kindle, last I checked, I was the third choice in the store when you search The Replacement.