1. Can you tell us a little bit about your background, education and family.
I was born in Chicago, raised in Southern California, and currently live in Birmingham, Al. with my wife of nearly 16 years. I’m the second of five boys, most who are now scattered across different states, which makes a good reason for cross-country trips. After graduating high school I entered the working world, without a clue that I’d one day write seriously, much less complete several novels.
2. So when did you start writing? What inspired the characters and story? What is it about Film Noir and Steam/Dieselpunk that inspire you?
I started writing right around my 29th birthday. As I approached the age of thirty, I realized that I had not done anything with all the stories that swirled around my head. I made a goal of writing a novel from start to finish by the time I turned thirty. It was a massive fantasy epic that I sometimes regretted starting, but ultimately I reached my goal and completed it. At the time I still felt it was greatly imperfect, so I had to set it aside and work on some smaller projects to develop my craft.
I became interested in noir and dieselpunk because I’ve always been intrigued by the private detective character. It’s almost a cliché in itself –that world-weary, chain smoking, hard drinking, morally gray character with a bit of stubble on his chin and a bandage on his face. I wanted to take the whole slang, grit, and feel of the noir detective and place him in an entirely different setting: a dystopian world, one that was equally dark and hazy as the noir setting. I didn’t know I was writing ‘dieselpunk’ at the time I published New Haven Blues, but it turned out to be a fortunate side affect to be embraced by the dieselpunk community.
3. How would you differentiate Dieselpunk from Steampunk? (For readers who might not know the difference.)
More than anything, it’s the time periods that divide the two. While there are no hard rules, steampunk tales generally take place from the Victorian age up to the first World War. Dieselpunk tales generally start around the first World War, and continue until the atomic age, or Cold War time period. But it’s also a completely different look and feel than steampunk as well. Obviously with diesel you’re going to get a lot of grease and grit, so the stories reflect more gritty and darker tales, reflecting the conflictions of the time period. The style is much more military and noir inspired than the Victorian styles of Steampunk, as well.
4. What authors have influenced you from childhood to adulthood? Is there one author (living or dead) that you’d like to meet and why? What would you ask him/her?
I believe the first author to truly impact me as a child was Lloyd Alexander. His Prydain Chronicles put a stamp on my consciousness, leading to my love of fantasy novels and eventually my desire to write one of my own. The works of Robert Cormier were also devoured, particularly After the First Death and I Am the Cheese, which mesmerized me as a youth. I also loved certain classics: Lord of the Flies and Frankenstein being a couple of them. As I grew older I discovered the fantasy world of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time novels, the thrillers of Jeffery Deaver, the Easy Rawlins mysteries by Walter Mosley, and many other writers and stories that would take too long to name. But fantasy has always been my first love, so the works of George RR Martin, Gene Wolfe, Patrick Rothfuss and others continue to command my time and attention. Not to mention a certain newly discovered writer named H. Leighton Dickson…
I’ve never had the desire to meet any of the authors that I enjoy and admire. Not sure what I’d talk about. It’s enough that I get the opportunity to read their work.
5. Are you a city dweller? If so, how has your life in the city inspired your creative process?
I’ve lived in or nearby the city for almost all of my life. I’m not sure how that inspires my creative process, or if it has any effect at all. Looking at what impacts me and stirs my imagination, the settings around me usually aren’t all that important. But that’s an interesting thought.
6. Explain your writing method. How do the images, stories and characters flow from your mind to page? Do you write from beginning to end or do passages in-between reveal themselves? Do you find at times you have writer’s block or is your vision constant?
I am never without stories building in my mind. I’m pretty sure I could write for the rest of my life and still have unwritten stories that will die with me. So it’s never a problem coming up with something to write. I generally mull over the details, characters and the path of the story before every sitting down to write. I prefer to know the ending of the story before I start, so I know where I’m going. I always write from the beginning to the end. Anything additional is added after the first draft is finished. And I never have writer’s block. In fact, the only thing that blocks my writing is time constraints with ‘real world’ duties. Once I start typing, the words flood from mind to my fingertips.
7. You frequently write poetry. Is that a first love for you? How does that poetic spirit influence your writing?
Poetry will always be special to me. The reason I chose to write under the pseudonym ‘Bard’ is to pay homage to my poetic roots, which is how I built my writing skills to the point to have the nerve to write novels. I try to keep that poetic touch when I write, but sometimes I overdue it and have to come back and get it up to shape. Generally my shorter works tend to be more poetic in tone. You can get away with that a bit more with novellas and short stories. It’s harder to do so with longer works, at least in my opinion.
8. Explain your choices to self-publish. How has that been for you?
I started off self-publishing just to test the waters. I wanted to see what the whole ‘revolution’ was all about. In a way, that experiment is still ongoing. Unlike some indie authors, I don’t hold a negative attitude toward traditional publishers, and find the whole ‘middle finger’ attitude toward them puzzling. I see pros and cons with both avenues of publishing, and it’s really about what you want to put in as a writer. It takes a ton of hard work no matter which way you choose to go, but you really have to be ready to put on a lot of different hats should you choose to self-publish.
I’ve enjoyed the journey so far. It’s been gratifying to have my books read by complete strangers every week, every month, and every year since I published my first work. I enjoy hearing feedback from readers and reviewers, all who have pushed me to try to produce the best work that I possibly can. I’m truly indebted to those readers who chose to pick up my books.
At the same time, I feel that my publishing journey has just started. With my latest novel I’ll be testing the waters of traditional publishing and want to see how that goes. I like the idea of hybrid publishing, taking advantage of both options for specific works. The landscape is rapidly changing, and I’m glad to be a part of that atmosphere.
9. On the road to becoming an indie author what have you learnt about the industry and yourself along the way? Would you change anything? Regrets? Lessons learned?
Number one lesson learned: Go with professional editing. An author just can’t properly edit their own writing. Nothing is more embarrassing than a glaring error pointed out after you published your book. There is so much that your eye just won’t catch on your own.
Other than that, I wouldn’t change much. I didn’t know anything about the industry and had to learn as I went. That’s something I see with so many budding writers. It pays to do the research, learn how to spot the scams, know what you should pay for (editing, professional cover art) and what you should avoid paying for. Overall, it’s about being a professional. Publishing is a business, and those who ignore that fact will be in a world of hurt.
10. Who does the cover illustrations for your novels? How did you connect?
My Troubleshooter novels boast the photographic skills of Mark Krajnak of JerseyStyle Photography, who poses as Mick Trubble, and the photomanipulation art of Stefan, an artist in Paris who is also an icon in dieselpunk art. I was fortunate enough to connect with both online, simply browsing through their work. I owe both gentlemen much for combining their skills to create the visual look of the world of Mick Trubble.
The current cover for The Aberration was artwork by Chris Cold, an artist I found on Deviantart. That was simply a matter of finding the art and inquiring about licensing it for the novel. Sometimes you’re fortunate to find something that fits well for your book, which ends up being less expensive than having something commissioned from scratch.
11. You make some bold choices in your writing (no spoilers!) Is that hard for you or is it dictated by the power of the story? How much do your characters live/speak in your mind? And can you see any of your work in film?
It’s a bit cliché to say that a story writes itself, but there’s no other way to put it. Whatever the situation demands is what tends to happen. I’ve been surprised more than a few times by unexpected twists, but that’s the joy of writing. You can never be too sure of what’s going to happen, even when you plan ahead. And my characters are always in my mind, demanding to be written. I won’t go cuckoo and say I hear their voices, but the stories spin, build, and gather constantly, just waiting for the time when my fingers pound the keyboard.
As far as film, that’s funny because I tend to think that I write in a cinematic style, and movies definitely impact my writing. I picture all of my films as movies when I’m writing or reading what I’ve written. I particularly enjoy casting actors, even directors for the films. It’s definitely a dream of mine.
12. Where do you write in your home? Do you have a special place that inspires? Any particular time of day?
I have a corner desk in my study/man cave, but I can and do generally write anywhere. There’s no special place where the muse appears. Give me a screen, a keyboard, and some mild quiet and I will be lost in an instant. I do love evening writing, though. Something about night is magic to me.
13. What are your future goals and aspirations? What would you love to do one day as an author?
I still want to walk into a bookstore and pick up a book with my name on it. That’s what drives me. I also would like to write for a living. I have so many stories to tell, but a full time job and the related duties hold me back from accomplishing some of it. So in the meantime I work at mastering my craft and trying to improve with every effort. I figure eventually I’ll be able to get to that point. That would definitely be something.
14. What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?
Don’t rush. Take the time to develop your craft. Don’t be discouraged. Quit procrastinating. Keep at it. Rewrite, revise, redo. Invest in editing. Research the market. Learn, learn, learn. And most importantly, keep writing.
Many thanks to the Bard for taking the time to discuss his writing process. It's interesting to see what motivates/challenges/inspires us and how so many new stories can be percolated inside that wonderful thing we call Imagination. Check out his work at http://bardofdarkness.wix.com/bardconstantine.