How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in your books? A lot. I lived a life as a drug criminal for many years. It started as a runaway at the age of 12. It continued for 20 more years. Through writing, I found a spiritual way to deal with it in a positive way.
How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing? I usually have the story already done before I start. Of course a few new twists and turns can happen but for the most part, I see the story as if it is a movie.
How do you develop and differentiate your characters? I paint with the true colors of life, with real characters, so they are divided by different drug gangs, different races, different sides of the law and different motivations.
Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track? At times, my writing turns to fiction to transition the story from point A to point B and that Is when it gets hard to stay on track. Sometimes I have to throw away sections and start over.
How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story? In the beginning that was hard because I wanted the perfect ending. My first novel, Roll Call: A True Crime Prison Story of Corruption and Redemption is 700 pages but I got the perfect ending! Kirkus Discoveries from NY Nielson Media reviewed it and called me a “Master Director” and said, “A Harrowing-Down-and-Dirty Depiction of the U.S. War on Drugs” they also related it to my favorite drug war movie “Traffic”.
Now all my books are way shorter. I figured out how to end them a little easier.
Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp? I have nine drug war and prison books that are meant to do two things. I strive to shine a light on how “tough on crime” political platforms are hurting us as a society because they aren’t “smart on crime” and we need more compassion in relation to the drug laws. My books show human beings being sent to prison who are addicted to drugs and fighting poverty the only way they know how. While in prison, the readers can see for themselves that the addiction is bred into an affliction much harder to escape, where gangs, tattoos and violence are the solution to the pressure. What do you think that does for the community when those petty drug criminals are released without any new skills or way to live, starting over from scratch, without a job, or a place to live?
What are you working on right now? The TV show “Lock Up Abroad” interviewed me for the upcoming season that is going to focus on U.S. Prisons. They want me to write a story without any fiction at all about my time in prison toward the end of my sentence when some crazy stuff happened.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? No, I never imagined it until I was in prison for 10 years and stuck in a cell in solitary confinement.
At what age did you discover your love of writing? I was 32 years old at the time.
What was the first story that you wrote? Roll Call: A True Crime Prison Story of Corruption and Redemption.
When were you first published? How were you discovered? I published in 2009 after sending my manuscript to a bunch of publishers.
What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process? Going over it again and again to make it perfect. The rewriting can be overwhelming and it takes other professional readers and authors to add their thoughts.
What do you like to read? I love suspense thrillers, romance, young adult, crime anything, mystery and Westerns.
What writer influences you the most? There are so many it is hard to name one. Lee Childs is fantastic. James Patterson writes short chapters the way I do. James Clavelle writes culture the way I do.
If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, which actors would you like to see playing your characters? I envision making stars out of real prisoners who are in my books. Why have someone pretend to be a Mexican Mobster or Hell’s Angel when the real thing is available?
Where can people learn more about you and your books?