1. What inspired you to write WARD?
Simply put, Mental Illness is among the last of the taboo-black-sheep concepts that Humanity has left to tackle that’s holding us back, both as a society, and as a species- and yet, it remains stalwart in that it is a subject that Humanity, and America, is rather hesitant to talk about.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.
These numbers are alarming. One would think the United States and its citizenry would be taking active steps to remedy this situation, but we’re not, at least not as a unified collective. Individual states and non-profits are giving their all, but we’re yet divided on the matter; I suspect it’s because of the stigma surrounding Mental Illness. “Cray Cray Joe,” “Lunatic,” “He’s Mad”- they’re all demonizing labels, that in our society, puts people in some lower caste in our minds where the caste should never exist to begin with.
And I’m not speaking from some outside perspective looking in- I’ve served my time in the trenches, if you will. I, too, am a survivor, not a victim, of my own battles with Depression and a very brief flirt with suicidal thoughts back in 2009 when I was thirteen years old. I’ve had a long relationship with the darkness and loneliness and feelings of worthlessness that come with it- but as of two years ago, I’m more than happy to announce my annulment with Depression. I am writing WARD, and all the novels that’ll follow, to give voice and attention to those who feel trapped by the stigma surrounding Mental Illness. I’m here to bring about the end of the stigma.
2. What is your book about?
WARD is set in the dystopian hell of Sacramento, California, since converted to The Ward, a sprawling city-prison where Tango Primary Five, and the Angel of Death, find themselves imprisoned by The Collective, the Military Junta that has since taken full control over the former United States of the American Empire. The Ward is a place where even angels fear to tread; people are afraid to whisper its name for fear of being condemned to living in their tomb. WARD, chronicles how the Angel of Death and Tango Primary Five must begin to find their escape from The Ward, all the while having to contend with a paranoid mafia syndicate obsessed with pyrotechnics, a society akin to cannibalistic Vikings, and a Roman-inspired death cult ever-embroiled in war.
But none of those are the deadliest threat- that comes in the form of their individual and unique Mental Illnesses they must contend with while trying to navigate The Ward’s denizens and darker forces at play behind the shadows.
3. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I have to be original, I can’t see myself writing any other way. I aim to deliver a product that’s designed to address problems our society is facing today- but in a manner that will attract and retain reader’s attention- and ideally, prompt them to take action. Today, the United States is facing a slew of problems that are keeping our Nation from unleashing our full potential to lead the world into the era of tomorrow. People are so caught up in their everyday lives, so bombarded with endless white noise from the internet and media, that we find ourselves overwhelmed and unable to take everything in. It is my aim, that through my novels, through my engagement with the public and non-profits and those government entities who are willing to set aside politics in the name of progress- we can unify as one solid federation to combat this specific problem. And once we accomplish this goal, we’ll move on to the next one.
4. How realistic are your books?
They’re like me: brutally honest. This isn’t a children’s fairy tale. WARD is going to tell the hard truth, and nothing but the hard truth. Combat is in your face and detailed, the internal struggles with the main character’s Mental Illnesses gives the reader a glimpse into the dark reality of the battles in which people fighting against Mental Illness must contend with every day. Manipulation and every ruinous detail, both in the city-scape, and the Human ruin born from drug-addiction and madness, is taking center-stage, waiting for you to turn the pages so they can tell their tales. The way of The Ward is not Politically Correct, and never will be; the hard truths of reality are among the only things that can survive in the world I’ve created.
5. Do your novels carry a message?
I’m a firm believer in that every piece of art must carry some message, no matter how subtle, behind it. Otherwise, I don’t believe it’s art. I believe it is the artist’s duty to reflect the prosperity or perils of the times, and right now, we’re at a fork in the road in terms of what path our society is going to take.
My message is simple: Erase the Stigma surrounding Mental Illness. Pull away from Facebook and Instagram and look at the world in which you live- you’re either leaving it behind for your children and their children, or you’re inheriting it- along with all the problems. Humanity has a bad habit of letting things get to a crisis point before addressing them; are we going to do the same with Mental Illness?
6. Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?
In the words of one of my Beta Readers and now Superfan: “I’ve never been one for reading- but your stuff was so vivid I actually couldn’t put the novel down until I finished it. I felt like I was there- I could see what the character saw- I had to know what was coming next.” I don’t want to elaborate too much, but I’ll say this: when you read WARD, you’re going to leave our reality for a while and step into another- and you won’t be coming back out for a while.
7. As a California native, no doubt you’re aware of our Nation’s increasingly volatile political climate. I imagine some of your readers may wonder if there’s some hidden political or social agenda behind your novel. Can you clarify and put any of those suspicions to rest?
Oh boy- no interview’s a real interview without throwing the Devil’s Game into the conversation nowadays. Listen, I’m just going to give you my honest stance on American Politics and its nonexistent relationship with my novels: In Book One of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, he writes: “…not to become a Greens or Blues supporter at the races, or side with the Lights or Heavies in the amphitheater…” apply the Greens and Blues to our political parties and you start to get the idea.
Personally, I see the American Political system as having devolved into a pacifistic and bantering blood feud, where neither side can see any reason in the opposing party and is unwilling to negotiate on matters of national importance that ultimately impacts the citizenry, us. Both sides see their views as superior, and can’t bring themselves to sit at the table with the opposing party without plotting their downfall and backroom deals before they’re even seated.
This is why I will utterly reject any and all political support, regardless of party or platform. To do so is to alienate half of your audience, it’s to take a side when taking a side means you lose. One faction sees their opponents across the floor as gun-toting fanatics who’d rather see kids die in school shootings instead of surrendering all their firearms who’ve thrown in their lot with the Citrus Antichrist who’s always having a bad hair-day. The other side is seen as whiny little crybabies with overly sensitive skin who want to censor everything because everything offends them and impose their political agenda into every form of media, Hollywood, and as of late, video games.
Who wants any of that baggage attached to their hip? I’m not in the business of politics, I’m in the business of getting things done. If my views above agitate people who feel the need to demonize me, I welcome it. Free publicity can always be spun in one’s favor. Thank you in advance.
8. Were you a troublemaker as a child?
Always. Always. I remember so many times where my mouth would get me into trouble because I couldn’t help but call out all the BS around me. I always had a very hard time getting along with my peers. Instead of playing sports or going to social events, I’d prefer to sequester myself in my room and think about world events and the future of Humanity (which turned out to be the worst idea ever- but that’s gonna have to be saved for another interview). I wouldn’t say I was raised to be rebellious, but I was raised to question everything (much to the occasional annoyance of my parents). I was taught never to take BS from people- I had that knowledge for a long time- but I’ve only recently gained the courage to apply that knowledge to the world.
I certainly don’t regret being brought up rebellious, or all the stuff I went through as a result. It taught me to see the world differently, to see evil where it likes to hide, and then expose it to where it can no longer be a threat.
9. When do you often have those moments when something just seems to “click” in your mind about writing your novel?
This is probably one of the funnier answers I’m gonna be able to give. Believe it or not, my brightest ideas come whenever I’m on the toilet or taking a shower (I’m laughing alongside you). So much so, I always keep a water-proof journal next to me just in case something happens. I’ve been going about my business when suddenly BOOM - an entire scene or chapter is instantly downloaded into my brain and I have to get it all onto the paper as quickly as possible. Honestly, some of the best scenes, both published and up and coming, came to me during those times.
10. If you could spend time a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
The Angel of Death. And we certainly wouldn’t go out in the day- we’d wait till nightfall and go on an enthusiastic walk through the woods. You’ve got to understand, the Angel of Death represents the absolute best and worst of Humanity. She’s trapped in a way neither she, Tango Primary Five, nor the readers, are going to be able to understand right away.
And besides, who wouldn’t want to stare into amethyst eyes all through the night?