Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
My grandfather, William Pappalardo, he was one of the few great men I had the privilege of knowing in my life. He defined integrity and selflessness, willing to sacrifice any and everything for his family. A brilliant lawyer who assisted his immigrant brethren in settling their legal issues without cost as the entered the gates of freedom and settled in this amazing country of ours. He is the standard I set for myself when it comes to how I deal with others, treasure my family, and define and develop my own character. A true patriot, valuing liberty, equality, and devotion to God and his family, above all else. If I can be half the man he was, I will accomplish some semblance of greatness.
Who is your hero?
Anyone who faces cancer with a courage few of us could even imagine to muster. The soldiers who sacrifice everything to protect the freedoms of strangers who probably will never acknowledge, let alone, appreciate it. The outcast who stands up to the bully by refusing to change who they are no matter the weight of the oppression they face. The Christian, who refuses to yield their beliefs in places that make hell seem like a day spa. The woman who escapes abuse and finds herself, finds a strength that heals the wounds we will never see. The volunteer who gives up everything they want to do, to do what we all should be. Heroes, don't wear capes and cowls, they are invisible, by choice most of the time. Heroes are not born or made, they are defined in a single moment. And that moment sets in motion a legacy that forever alters the course of history. My hero is the man, woman, or child who faces the impossible, and whether they succeed matters not. But the integrity, bravery, and nobility they demonstrate during the trial and tribulation. But if I had to single it down to one person, hands down, it would be my wife. Anyone who has to live with me on a daily basis has to have some sort of super powers, in patience alone.
How did your mom's battle with cancer inspire you to write an apocalyptic science fiction horror story?
It didn't. Her heroic struggle inspired the characters who participate in the story. The way they overcome their broken spirits and bodies. My mom refused to relent to the disease and died in the very throes of war with it. That amazing resolve had to be epitomized, and I did so the best way I knew how. Through the genesis of characters, people could identify with and root for. And what conflict would be greater than the trial and tribulations of such an abominable disease. The only thing I could think of was surviving the end of the world. I only wish she could have read it, I know, being an accomplished English teacher, her critique would have been staunchly honest. She would have dinged me on the profanity and some of the gore. But I know, without a doubt, she would have enjoyed and applauded the substance.
What word best describes you as an author?
Tenacious, it best describes me as both an author and a person. I refuse to give up on a character or story I believe in. And no matter how many times failure may visit my doorstep, I refuse to yield to its unwelcome appointment. I have spent my life unwilling to relinquish my ambitions to "can't." My writing style and drive are no different. My heroes reflect that. My concepts reflect that. I have been a tenacious leader in my career life. I am tenacious in my beliefs and convictions. I was tenacious in courting my wife. In fact, I think her admiration for my dexterity more than any adoration, won the day and her hand. I continue to teach my children tenacity, because it is tenacity that fuels success, both in their education and future endeavors. Yes, that is the word that embodies who I am in its entirety, just as this answer proves. It too is as tenacious, don't think I haven't noticed that.
Do you find it hard to write horror stories as a Christian?
Absolutely not. Facing your fears is a key element in spiritual growth. Ignoring fear is a foolish endeavor that only ends in a weakened soul. Succumbing to it is a life unfulfilled. I think horror writers provide a great service to humanity. They help us find a way to reduce what scares us the most into mere entertainment, lessening its impact on our lives. Now, I am not referencing the glorified gore of slasher flicks, those are just lazy excuses to shock and nauseate. My focus is on the suspenseful, psychologically disturbing, emotionally disarming, and deeply moving yarns that send chills down the spine during a humid autumn afternoon. I guess I would call it horror with hope attached to it. Horror that evolves its characters rather than kill them off in some sort of methodically violent and predictable order. I want to create mental images that stick with you. That literally haunt you, forcing you to decide whether its a flight of fantasy or personal phobia. And then find the logic to reduce it as such without losing the experience. That is what horror should be, terrifyingly authentic and psychologically intimate. Its needs to scare and strengthen at the same time. The scariest story is life itself if one ponders the possibilities long enough. My faith allows me to face it with optimism. And that same faith is secure enough that when challenged it only evolves into something greater.
How do you see mankind's future, Utopia or Armageddon?
Armageddon without a doubt. It is inconceivable for our species to create a Utopian society. Sheep do not foster the pasture, they tread on and devour it. We, as a collective, are far too susceptible to corruption, especially when presented in any form of community. We are also far too malleable, reshaping ourselves at a whim, based on fads, superficiality, perversion, misinformation, and deception, turning our integrity, humanity into so much PlayDoh. The very same will that drives us to excel drives us to destroy ourselves. I don't think we will be wiped out by some natural catastrophe or rogue asteroid. No, we will be the device of our own extinction, forged by our selfish curiosities and blind ambitions. Whether it be by some wayward super-bug created without reservation. Or manufactured technology that can both benefit and damn. Or exploration that digs too deeply into the abysses not meant to visit. It will be our hand that will inevitably wield the blade that finally impales mankind's heart. So with that said, does that mean I have no hope. No, my hope remains unhindered. My hope relies on what we can accomplish individually while we exist during this borrowed time. The hope that the some will do great things before the many demolish the final pillars supporting our fragile civilization. It may, seem to most, that my hope is then a futile endeavor. But for me, it holds a tremendously sincere, irrevocable significance.
Why Sci-Fi? Why horror?
Write what you enjoy, or it won't be worth a damn to you or anyone else. I grew up on classic Sci-Fi literature and cinema. It is my favorite media when done right. So science fiction is easy for me to write. But with that said, I am less of a tech head and more into the mythology and fantasy of the genre. I just don't have the desire or time to delve so deeply into the legitimacy and actuality of the cold hard facts. I much rather abuse every law of physics and biology to achieve my story goals. I was never a fan of horror. Interesting contradiction isn't it. I only began horror concepts in my forties. Yes, my forties. It was a sort of therapy for me. A way to force my fears to conform to my imagination and not the other way around. To challenge myself. To push all of my boundaries and threaten the proverbial comfort zone. And when I mix the two, for me its gold. I tried writing in other styles, but they always ended up in the same place, the scientifically absurd and supernaturally suspenseful. Why fight what is meant to be?
How do you gauge success?
A personal sense of accomplishment. If you aren't happy with what you are writing how do you expect anyone else to be happy with it? Fame is fleeting and can be as damning as it is rewarding. Influence shifts moment to moment, many times without rhyme or reason. Popularity is a disease that can become fatal to a person's integrity. But to be true to yourself, in all things, without deviation or compromise, that to me is a real success. Mind you, this only works with an ample dose of humility. If pride is present, and I am speaking of arrogance, not confidence, it corrupts accomplishment, making it superficial and stunting. Once the ego has been enlarged in any manner, it suffocates the legitimacy and continuity of achievement. It becomes empty, hollow, nothing more than detestable vainglory. There is a danger in any path to success, no matter how you define it. If your self-worth is determined by the success, you lose. But if what you write is made more worthwhile by a healthy level of self-assurance than you have won in ways missed by most.
What is your favorite style or genre of music?
I like a little bit everything. But if you were to take a quick peek at my playlist you would find a predominance of movie soundtracks I utilize to when I am writing. You'll find a variety of compositions from such talents as Henry Jackman, Tyler Bates, Alan Silvestri, Basil Pouledaris, Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, Cint Mansell, and John Debney playing loudly as I gleefully and frantically type away. That style of music helps me generate the strong and intricate mental imaging I need to forge some of the most elaborate scenes. I have also been caught enjoying some specific Operatic performances. And to lend some credibility to that last statement, my favorite song right now is Jonathan and Charlotte's version of The Prayer. Now, don't get me wrong. My office also fills with the dulcet tones of Evanescence, Linkin Park, Nickelback, EMF, Jamie N Commons, Alanis Morrisette, JET, and Eminem. To say my tastes are quite diverse and that music plays an important part in my creative process would both be tragic understatements. Music is nourishment for my imagination, not merely a delicacy, but a literal sustenance.
How much does ego play a part in your drive to write?
A healthy pride is the fuel I use to press on; not ego. The reason; because I am involuntarily humbled on a regular basis. Every time I clean a bathroom at my "real job," I am humbled. Every time I do a quick sales report on Amazon to behold yet another day of zero sales, I am humbled. With each new email from my proofreader, I am humbled. And being married for twenty-three years guarantees any humbling in between. I refuse to be satisfied until I am an accomplished author. But that doesn't mean I am not grateful for all the blessings I have now. Some make the mistake that thankfulness and ambition can not exist in the same stratosphere. I truly appreciate all that I have been blessed with and know how unworthy for each and every one. But that doesn't mean I abandon the sense of urgency and vigor to accomplish more than my current state. It is a tricky balance, I will admit, but that is what evolves us, develops our integrity and character. That delicate tightrope walk between the two with one false step plunging us into the dismay and damage of our own arrogant delusions. I keep my ego in check because I know that, it, more than anything else, is what erodes our effectiveness and dilutes our dreams.