Twenty-year old Carson Rhodes flees his home in Arizona with fifty-thousand dollars in cash; his mission - to make sense of living in skin burdened by extensive port-wine birthmarks...or to end that life if he fails.
At a campground in Missouri he meets the beautiful Karen Hunter, unwittingly picked up by a local rapist while hitchhiking.
Cast as reluctant hero, Carson fends off her attacker, who in retaliation recruits a psychopath to aid in tracking them down.
After narrowly escaping the pair, Karen joins Carson on his journey. A collision with a deer postpones the trip and brings them to an abandoned church camp inhabited by a band of young adults, led by the idealistic Charlie.
At the camp Carson finds friendship and the stirrings of purpose, but conflict with a loner named Jonas threatens an explosive confrontation that could undo it all. Carson also must deal with his growing feelings for Karen, even as he realizes she can never be his.
Will the truths discovered in this story of one man's quest for meaning result in the birth of his new life...or in his ultimate destruction?
As an introduction, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm 38 years old, married with three children ages 2, 4, and 9, and live in Southwestern Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh. My interests, besides writing, include reading (I'm always reading something), graphic design, and landscape photography.
What is your book about?
Essentially it’s a story about overcoming adversity, and finding the true value of things beyond what society defines as "good" and "right".
When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing about a year and half ago. I started for two reasons:
My first love was landscape photography, but having a family made it very difficult for me to pursue it as a profession. I only got so far before realizing that the time I would need to succeed simply wasn't available to me. I decided to try my hand at writing. It's something I can do every night after the kids have gone to bed. The catalyst was winning a short story contest in and Honors English class in high school, voted on by the other students. Also, a newspaper reporter asked me, after looking at my photography website (which currently isn't up) and the captions I had written below the photographs, if I did any creative writing. He thought the paragraphs were quite good. It was enough for me to begin my first novel.
Second, like the character in my book, I've dealt with some issues of physical imperfection for most of my life, and I wanted to focus on a character that has similar struggles. I do not have port-wine birthmarks, and this is not an autobiography. I wanted to tell a good story first and foremost, but I would hope that at least some readers come away with a sense of empathy for those that are handed, for whatever reason, something difficult to deal with on top of the daily struggles we all face. The world can be cruel, but often we are the cruellest to ourselves.
What genre do you prefer to write in?
I can't say I know for sure yet. This one is mostly a suspense novel, but with other elements thrown in that makes it atypical, I believe. I'm working on another that would be best described as a thriller/horror novel that also explores issues of faith. I have a good bit completed on a third book, which is a fantasy work, but I needed a break from it to work out some kinks but that I plan to get back to.
What is your biggest writing achievement to date?
Simply finishing, editing, editing again, and once again my first novel.
What inspired you to write this book?
The challenges some people face with physical imperfections, especially in a society that often excludes them, whether intentionally or inadvertently.
Who is your favourite author, and what is it about their work that strikes a chord with you?
There are so many authors I enjoy, but I'd have to put James Lee Burke at the top. He creates amazingly complex characters, and writes with depth and poignancy. Some of his villains are the best I've ever seen in a book.
What book are you reading now, and would you recommend it?
At this writing, I'm actually in between books but just finished "11/22/63" by Stephen King. I used to be a fan, but got away from reading him after some disappointments. I was intrigued by the premise of time travel with the intent to stop the Kennedy assassination. It really wasn't horror, and I think his best works, "The Green Mile" and "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" for example, are actually not horror.
It was a little too long, but overall I enjoyed it and would recommend it.
What are your current projects?
Two other novels currently being worked on. I have no idea when they'll be out but I hope the first of the two at least within six months.
Where and when do you do most of your writing?
I have a Mac upstairs (not hooked up to the internet as I don't need the distraction) in a small office, and I usually don't start until at least ten at night and work until I can't keep my eyes open anymore.
What would you say was the hardest part of writing your book?
Dealing with the lack of sleep.
Who designed your book cover – and was the cover something you deemed important?I designed it myself. I have a degree in Graphic Design, so that was a no-brainer for me. Of course the cover is important. We do judge a book on face value (and people often too, hearkening back to the theme of my book), so I wanted a cover that was both a solid design and intriguing enough to create interest.
I read the Kent Chronicles by John Jakes, and loved them. The first book was borrowed from someone and a recent edition, so it had a modern, action-oriented cover. I got subsequent books from the library, which were dated in the seventies, and the subject matter on the covers heavily focused on romance. I know that if I had just been browsing for something, I would have immediately put them back on the shelf and would have missed some great stories...so I'm just as guilty as anyone. But it does bring home to me the need for a great cover, which I hope mine is.
Did you try to go down the route of traditional publishing first – or did you feel that self-publishing was right for you from the beginning?
I did not try to go the traditional route. I like the possibilities offered through self-publishing, as I believe it's the future of publishing, period.
On the whole, how have you found self-publishing?
It's too early to tell for me as this is my first book. The formatting was a challenge, and I'm looking now at ways to market my book and attract some attention. This does not come easily or naturally for me, but I'm willing to learn some new skills and hopefully make something happen.
Where can we buy the book?
Currently it's for sale only on Amazon.
Do you have a website or blog where we can keep tabs on you?
I'm currently creating a website which I hope is up soon:
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Being a relatively new writer, I feel somewhat presumptuous offering advice. But I can say this; Write. Period. There were many times during the first novel that I wanted to quit, thought I'd never finish it, was sure it sucked, positive that I was wasting my time. But I did it. And once you finish one, you know you can finish another one. Sometimes I only got a page done in one night. My best I ever did was six ( I know most authors do word count, but I've always gone by page). But if you keep at it those pages pile up and eventually you have a finished first draft.
And, finally, do you have anything else that you’d like to say to everyone?
Thank you, Rachael, for the opportunity to present myself and my book. Good luck to all trying to do something with the self-publishing, and never give up.