How old were you when you first started writing?

In second grade (at Acacia Elementary) we were given a creative writing assignment. I can’t recall the prompt, but what I wrote was an exploration of the motivations of the snake in the movie Anaconda. The movie had just come out, and I remember thinking “why is this snake so angry?” I mean a giant snake doesn’t really have to be afraid of anything and being hungry can’t explain the way it relentlessly perused the people on that boat. To resolve this, I decided to write the story of the anaconda. She was a new mother who had lost her babies in a storm that was somehow caused by the boat (not my greatest plot device). As laughable as it is now to look back on, at that moment I relived the power of writing to explore what we don’t understand and it sparked the passion for telling stories that fuels me today. Though, Anaconda still isn’t a good movie.

What was your inspiration for the book?

One of my favorite books is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In the back of the edition I own there is an interview with Bradbury where he talks about the characters coming to him as more than fictions but actual—real—people. This is how I found Evelyn. It was in a day-dream one day. I saw her in her gas mask, moving through a city choking on ash. She was confident and inquisitive, and I knew I had to follow her. I went to my keyboard and wrote down what I saw. I didn’t create Evelyn so much as I became friends with her and told her story.

However, writing her story hasn’t always been easy. The world of the Great Society is grim, and it often takes an emotional toll on me to walk the streets with Evelyn, to witness the atrocities, and wither under the glare of the Caretaker’s propaganda. I think the germ of the idea came from my study of history. I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in history from NAU, and I spent most of my time studying the atrocities of the twentieth century. In many ways, the Great Society is my attempt to understand the totalitarian and fascist regimes that inflicted so much pain and violence on the world.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer?

To write Filtered and Burned I had to lock myself in my office, turn the lights off, put on music, and float away into Evelyn’s world. And to put it mildly, the Great Society is not the kindest of places to lose yourself in, and it often left me drained. Yet I know the journey was worth it and that I am better for it. But the challenges of writing—the physical and emotional act—pale to the challenges of being an author and selling your story. The meaning of Evelyn’s journey is so self-evident to me that I often find it difficult to put into words why it should mean anything for you the reader or why anyone should even care. Presenting my work to readers is akin to flaying myself bare—a trying experience at the best of times.

Do you have a message for other aspiring writers?

Fall in love with the process. Whether that is putting pen to paper or clacking away at your computer, getting satisfaction from the act of writing will save you from many of the pitfalls that mire writers and other creatives. If you tell yourself you can only be happy once your perfect manuscript (song, painting, movie) changes the world and reaches the top of the best seller lists, you will chase unhappiness forever. The notion of perfection often keeps us from even starting a draft. I’ve let that pressure drive a wedge between me and my stories before and in the end, all I had were empty pages and heartache. Your drafts will have faults and errors and typos. So what? Within every draft you will also have gold—small glimmers of the greater treasure buried within. Approach your writing every single day like a miner panning for gold—let the muck float away while concentrating the gold—and your persistence will lead you to the motherload. When I struggle to write, I often turn to the words of Hemmingway who said in A Movable Feast, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” The greatest works ever written are little more than well-crafted sentences strung together with punctuation. With dedication and persistence, all of us can aspire to that.  

What is the last book you read for pleasure?

I just finished reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and I finally see what everyone has been talking about for thirty years. Though its plot and vision of the future are firmly mired in ‘Cold War’ attitudes, Card’s predictions of virtual reality and the internet are almost prophetic. Written a decade before most people were even aware the internet existed, Card vividly describes a world in which information bubbles, anonymous talking heads, and fake news come to dominate reality. Ender’s Game does what I love about science fiction extremely well—it uses the future and fantastic settings to explore the fundamental truths of being human.

Where can your book be purchased or read?

Filtered is available in Kindle and dramatic audio book on Amazon ( and in paperback at ().

The first several chapters of Burned can be read on (). If you like it, you can follow along and be part of the publishing process.


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