Travis's book will be free this coming weekend starting Friday, the 16th. Be sure to stop by online retailers to check it out.
Welcome, Travis. We're looking forward to getting to know you.
Have you always liked to write?
Welcome, Travis. We're looking forward to getting to know you.
Have you always liked to write?
Every since my English Comp class in Junior High. I was asked to write a short story about anything that was interesting to me. I wrote a story about a soldier who was fighting on Hill 403 in
My teacher marked the paper with, “Good Imagination. Well done!” And I was
hooked from that moment forward. Oh, what I’d give to have a copy of that
What inspired you to write your first book?
I was rushed into a hospital to have open-heart surgery to repair a heart valve that was failing, and I had 4 months to sit at home with nothing to do. I pulled out an old storyline I had tinkered with over the years and decided to finish the project. 6 weeks later, When Love Called emerged. I never intended to be a romance author, but that was where the market was focused. So, I jumped into the stream and swam for my life!
Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
Well, my first book that influenced me was a children’s story, Chippy Chipmunk’s Vacation by Adda Mai Sharp. Her book stirred something in me as a child that sparked a love for reading. From there, it was only a matter of time until I put pen to paper.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Probably. At least I think I probably do. However, I would be hard pressed to identify the uniqueness of it. I’m probably too close to the forest to see the trees anyway. But, my stories are dialog rich and my characters describe their world through their words. Much of the plot advances from their dialog. Another thing I do is rarely describe an individual’s physical appearance in a story. My theory on that is to let the reader decide what that individual looks like, which makes them more comfortable with the character.
What does your writing process look like?
From the moment my idea sparks (usually from a sermon or something I see in the news) I jot down the idea on whatever scrap of paper is the closest. Then I process that idea until I get enough information to expand into an outline. From there, I take each point of the outline and expand it into a paragraph. At this point, I’m adding dialog ideas, characters, and settings. Once I get to the place where paragraphs become pages, I will start the first chapter and allow the story to materialize. I usually won’t start a story unless I have 6-8 weeks to write it. Once I launch, I have to finish it. My wife hates it when I start a new project…She says it consumes me. I think it does.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Most of my problem is finding the time to write. And if it’s a story that requires research, I could sit on it for years. Time is my biggest enemy, I think.
Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Scenes with younger children and babies. I have two of my own who are now older teens, but accurately writing dialog and movement for young children is tedious and burdensome for me. I know this because in my first book, When Love Called, was about a 4 year old girl who was playing with the phone and dialed a working number, which is how my love interests meet. Accurately portraying a child is tricky, because every mom out there will call you out on it!
What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
EDITING. Sigh… Okay, beyond the obvious answer, promoting my work as an author. I really don’t like to burden people or make them feel obligated to me in any way. And by promoting myself, I feel as though I’m asking the reader to buy a book they wouldn’t have bought automatically. Of course, how will they know if I don’t tell them? What a cycle! And editing. Of course. Do you have any idea how often I use the word, “that” and have scenes that are cut entirely? I’m used to it now, but a strict editor can really make life gloomy.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
We are all tempted to listen to the inside voice that our work stinks, and that we are only fooling ourselves to think otherwise. The voice says, “why are you wasting all this time when you know it will never be good enough to publish” and so on… I hear that voice EVERY time I submit a manuscript. I have to choose to suppress it and keep moving forward. So what if I have to rewrite? I’ve rewritten 5 or 6 chapters in a row that were shredded. I didn’t like it, but I kept moving forward. So, my best advice is, never stop moving forward, because discouragement will permanently derail your train of progress.
Do you have a favorite writing conference to attend? What is it?
I’m not very qualified to answer this question. I’ve NEVER attended a conference. Part of it is geographical. There are very few conferences I can get to without having to fly across the country, and the nearest airport to me is in
which is about 120 miles away. But, at this point, I think I’m hiding behind
the distance. I’m very intimidated by conferences. Again, it’s a self-promotion
thing. I’m not good at walking up and making editors and publishers listen to
me self-pitch. (Ironically, that’s how I got my first book published.) And, I
do know that conferences are also about fine-tuning the writing craft and
working out plots and things like that. So, this February, I will be attending
a Writer 2 Writer conference in Spokane, Washington . I’m going to do it and get my first one
behind me! Mercy, we writers are tormented souls, eh? Hershey,
How did you decide upon the title of Shadows: One Choice a Future Makes? Titles are tricky business. My wife usually nixes a few before I finally hit on the right feel. But, my editor came up with this title. Well, sort of. The original was simply Shadows, because our choices either cast a shadow because we are below the Light (God) and we are casting a shadow from that source. The other shadow is the one where you are in the very shadows themselves, hiding in the darkness. Our choices always “reflect” one or the other. My editor added the part about One Choice a Future Makes, and I loved it immediately.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names of character in Shadows based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
What a complicated question for me. I’m actually quite jealous of writers like J K Rowling, who name their characters with such deliberate and brilliant foresight. I struggle to get this right, but I do attempt to do so. In my current release, Shadows, I deliberately chose to name my character using common names, because I wanted the characters to seem like people the reader would immediately resonate with. I love names like Remington Steele, Han Solo, and Longmire, but in this story, I needed ordinary people who are placed into extraordinary situations. I did choose the nickname “Flip” because that eventually becomes my main character’s identity because of his choices and their consequences. As for resources, I keep 3 or 4 books on my desk that are usually title, “Name that Baby” or “1,000 Baby Names”. In my work in progress, I actually Googled Greek mythology until I stumbled across the proper bad guy name. I’m secretly very pleased with my blundering discovery there!
Are any experiences in Shadows based on personal experiences? Did you draw upon any stories or movies for inspiration for the novel?
I usually draw upon my own experiences to establish a foundation for a story. In Shadows, my own experience is rather sordid. My character, Justin “Flip” Gray, is an ordinary man who was on a business conference for the weekend when he is approached by a young seductress, who tempts him to experience the night of his life, all the while assuring him that no one will ever find out. Justin has to make a decision whether or not he will stay true to his wife or betray her. I was placed in that situation when I was in college. I had been married almost 5 years before I returned to finish my degree. A young co-ed basically solicited me in a similar fashion, and it would have been very easy to allow her to seduce me. That experience stayed with me for my life, and I drew upon that when designing the premise of the story. As for other inspirations, I find them everywhere. Sometimes a word or a phrase here, an odd character there, and an interesting plot idea from a movie. Sure. I’m always taking notes!
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in Shadows?
I don’t think so. The story is so layered and complex that it would be very difficult to tinker with it much. I create two parallel realities for Justin “Flip”. One of them is the path where he refuses the seductress and stays true to his wife. The other reality is where he chooses to spend the night with her, thus becoming “Flip”. I allow both of those decisions for him, and have the stories run parallel to each other, projecting probable outcomes. When you have a story where both realities attempt to reflect the opposite of each other, it gets tough to make changes. But, there are always things you wish you said differently or explained better! Oh, the torment!
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Two parts were quite difficult. The first was remembering how close I came to failing my wife and kids when the young lady approached me. The second difficulty was projecting the lives of the characters in each reality, and keeping them consistent with each other. In one reality, Justin and his wife, Connie, continue to live a normal life in a healthy relationship, and continue to serve God and their church together, and their kids follow along. In the dark reality, Flip betrays Connie, who has to endure the pain of separation, rejection, betrayal, etc., and has to fight through the depression that accompanies it. That, in turn, affects their teenage kids, and they react to the situation and attempt to hold on to “normal life” as well. Geez…it’s hard to explain in one paragraph, and even harder to write it out for an entire story. But, somehow, I managed to pull it off! The credit goes to God. Otherwise, my fairytale wouldn’t make sense!
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That our choices really do shape our future. Even the small choices we make impact the big picture. Should I start saving for the kid’s college fund today, or should I wait until we’ve paid off the car? Should we buy the house on the corner, or the one on the edge of town? Should the kids go to the all night lock in at church, or should they go to the concert with their friends? Should I apply for a different job, or be satisfied with the one I have. Daily life stuff. Each choice we make pushes us down a particular path. So, we must strive to make the best decisions possible. Prayer helps!
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life? Holy moly! These were some crazy story lines to keep straight. I spent a lot of time researching string theory and the possibility of dual realities, and parallel universes in order to get a firm grasp on how alternate realities work. While the story is not science fiction (not even a little bit), I required a lot of science to understand it enough to write it. The characters never cross over from one reality to the other. Each reality follows it’s own conclusion. In fact, the characters never know they are experiencing a different reality, because the life they’re living is completely real to them. Essentially, when Justin makes his choice to be faithful, that is the path HIS entire family follows. When “Flip” makes his choice, that is the path HIS family follows. They never know or are aware of the other paths that are occurring parallel to them.
Did you have to travel much for research for Shadows?
Very little. The conference takes place at Hilton Head, a small resort town in
. I’ve spent a few weekends
there in the past. A small part of the story takes place in South Carolina ,
where Justin’s son is serving in the Army in one of the realities. I was not
wiling to visit a war zone to get that research done. Instead, I interviewed
several soldiers. The rest of the story takes place in Afghanistan North
Idaho, where we live. Bonners Ferry is a mountain community that
thrives on logging and agriculture, and where people live ordinary lives. Plus,
I wanted to honor the good citizens of
by telling a story set in their local neighborhood. Almost all of the places I
mention are real. The characters are fictitious, of course. Idaho
What was it like coming back to the Glenfield characters for the novels in the Glenfield Series? Do you foresee any more stories for this family of characters?
My work in progress is a continuation of the Glenfield Series, which was launched by When Love Called, which is a story about a man who lost his wife to cancer shortly after she gave birth to their only daughter. The daughter is the little girl who was playing with the phone and accidentally calls a working number, thereby introducing my two love interests. The story is very sweet, but is a romance told from a male author’s perspective. The book is very well received, and I was bombarded with requests to continue the story line. My publisher,
Publishing, and I just signed a contract to produce the series, which will
probably be four books, with a possible fifth, depending on reader response. I
truly love the characters I created in that series. Caton and Lily are as real
to me as if they were my family members. I really enjoy hanging out with them
while the stories are being written! Elk Lake
Who was your favorite character in Shadows? Well, I think Justin’s wife, Connie, is my favorite. She’s witty and wise, and is a fun person to hang out with. In the reality where everything is normal, she is very instrumental in reaching out to hurting families and even establishes a “safe” home for battered women who need a place to stay while escaping danger. However, in the alternate, dark, reality, Connie becomes the victim who needs shelter. However, there is no one there to help her. What she endures in the dark reality is quite painful, especially when the readers get to see how blessed her life is in the normal reality. I really hated to inflict pain on her in order to tell the story, but really enjoyed blessing her in the other reality. Whew… what a story!
Was there anything in Shadows that you did not enjoy writing about?
In the dark reality, one of the teenage kids abandons their faith and becomes pagan. This particular storyline was quite painful for me. I hated the pain that inflicted on the family, and how the consequences of that choice played out in their lives.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
“I’ll take impossible answers for 500 dollars, Alex.” So, it’s hard to read them and it’s hard not to read them. It’s impossible! Once in a while I’ll stop and look at the stars on Amazon and see how I’m doing, but I try very hard to avoid the negative comments. I’ve seen authors respond to negative comments, and even argue with them, but nothing good ever comes from that. In truth, it only negatively impacts the author. I’m eternally grateful for the positive reviews. And, I must admit, there are a few times when I was deeply touched by a review and I sent that individual a private message expressing my gratitude. The negatives I avoid. I have enough issues in my real life without further complicating my fragile ego! But, in truth, a handful of negative reviews are a healthy thing to have. It proves you didn’t stack the deck by having friends and family stage their ratings.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Loree Lough is the author I often contact to discuss mentor type things with. I’m so blessed that she’s actually my friend and not simply a mentor, for that allows true depth in our conversations. She’s been there and done that, and has the scars to prove it. And she freely shares her experiences in the desire to help anyone and everyone from avoiding those pitfalls. When I was in seminary, I had a professor tell me, “You must find someone who will be Paul in your life. You must also allow someone to be a Timothy who allows you to be Paul in their life. There is much growth in that.” So, I try to reach out and “pay it forward” every piece of advice Loree shares with me. It’s important that we all succeed.
What book are you reading now?
The Man in the
by Philip Dick, which is a novel set in 1962 . But, in this book, America America lost WWII and is occupied by Germany and . (Again with alternate
realities!) I watched the TV series and was really intrigued by it, but the
book is difficult to read. Many of the characters follow the I Ching and seek
the Oracle for guidance. The author insists on step-by-step uses of the
divining process, which is incredibly tedious and more than boring if you’re
not into I Ching. But, I will persevere for a while longer. Japan
What books have most influenced your life most?
I was an avid Louis L’Amour fan, and literally consumed each and every one of his books, which has helped me develop characters who are true to themselves, whether good or bad. I was also a huge fan of the Hardy Boys Series, and learned that being mischievous can often backfire, but tends to produce positive results.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Gosh, there are so many, I will respectfully decline to answer for which of my new discoveries deserves the most praise? I love Facebook and my writing network, and I deeply value each of the authors I’m friends with. I want to help each one succeed. There are enough readers for all of us!
If you didn't like writing books, what would you do for a living?
Well, I’m a police chaplain by trade. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to do that for a living. I love giving back to the boys in blue, and all those officers who stand between us and evil. God bless ‘em! I grew up ranching, but there is no way to make a living as a cowboy. Besides, my body wouldn’t allow me to be a ranch hand anymore. It’s a hard life. So, if I could pick anything else, I’d have to say I would own a green house and a tree farm. I love gardening and growing. I love the smell of freshly turned soil, and the fragrance of rain.
What are you working on now? What is your next project?
So, I’m in the throws of completing the Glenfield Series. Three of the four books are complete and in the editing process. The fourth book should be written by summer. And then I’m turning a corner and going full Sci Fi and writing a young adult series that involves time travel, alternate realities (Again! I know! I love alternate realties!), space flight, and heroic struggles of good and evil. Big plans! But, my other passion is writing theatrical plays. I absolutely love writing scripts and seeing them come to life!
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
So, I’m divided between two masters at the moment. I’m editing the Glenfield Series, and I’m in the process of finalizing my script for my new theatrical play, Forbidden Rose. I want to share with you a small snap shot of that play. The story is about a man who was a Jew during the holocaust and whose family was brutally murdered by the Nazis when they were being rounded up and placed in the camps. He survived the war and made it his mission to track down his family’s murderers. He finally traps them in a bank, where he takes everyone hostage and attempts to hold a public trail and execute the men responsible. Only—the other hostages complicate his mission, and nothing goes according to plan. Here is a small snippet of his dialog…
I married at an early age and had my first child, a girl, in 1930. My wife, Hilda, named her Hydrant. She was the joy of my life and we loved to fly kites together in the park, along with her brothers and sisters. In all, we had five children, Wolfgang, Manfred, Wilhelm, and Gretchen, in that order. Gretchen was born in 1935, shortly before the 3rd Reich rose to power.
(As he speaks, he glances at the Heinz brothers, who are staring at the floor.)
By the time the ethnic cleansings began to take place, it was too late for those of Jewish descent to escape to
Many of my family members fled Germany
just ahead of the Nazis and settled in Argentina,
in the mountains near . However, I delayed, trying to sell my
business interests and… (His voice cracks and he wipes a tear from his eyes.) And my greed cost me everything. Our
neighbors, who were Austrians, hid our family for many months, just like the
stories of Anne Frank. The Nazis conducted a house-to-house search and
discovered my family in the basement, hidden among the wines in the
cellar. For their efforts at humanity,
our neighbors were shot in their own driveway, and we were led away in chains.
As the storm troopers were dragging my children to a truck waiting nearby, my
wife screamed and grabbed for little Gretchen, who was so…small. (He stops and blows his nose into a
handkerchief.) I’m sorry; some wounds
even time can’t heal. Let’s see, where
was I? They shot my wife and little
Gretchen. My children watched them die. Hydrant was so upset that she never spoke
again. She would stare into the sky and
she refused to eat. Not that they
offered to feed her enough to stay alive.
She was too small to survive life in a camp. All of them were. After a few months, I… (He stops and gasps
for air, as if he had run a marathon.) I began to pray that God would allow my
children to die, so that they might be spared such misery. Cordoba
I’ll stop there, for this man’s story is much to complicated to retell in this venue.
What book do you wish you could have written?
Oh, I’d love to lay claim to the Harry Potter series.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I’m so grateful for each of my readers. I’m honored they would take time to experience my work, and I will endeavor to continue writing stories that will keep them engaged. Thank you, one and all!