Tell us about your newest release!
Primitive Weapons is the second book in the Tye Caine Wilderness Mystery Series. Woodsman and animal tracker Tye Caine is hired to find a billionaire missing on a private island in Puget Sound. Of course he gets more than he bargains for, and soon finds himself mixed up with venture capital schemes, ancient artifacts, and a nascent romance with his local librarian.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been writing since I was a teenager. I’ve completed nine novels, and would do some morally questionable things to make sure no one ever reads four of them.
From 2017 to 2019, I published the books in my Rose City series, a trio of dark, gritty crime thrillers. The launch of those books went far better than I had any right to expect and gave me a tremendous amount of confidence.
I wanted a break from “dark and gritty,” so in 2020, I published The Valley of Lost Children, the first Tye Caine Wilderness Mystery.
I live in Southwest Washington, right on the edge of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. I frequently have black bears and the occasional mountain lion on the northern edge of my property.
What was your journey to publication like with your most recent title?
Primitive Weapons is my pandemic book. I published The Valley of Lost Children in 2020, but that book was mostly finished by the time the pandemic started.
The fear, uncertainty, and doubt made writing difficult, but it was also a welcome escape from reality. I released the book a couple of months behind schedule, but considering all that was happening in the world, I’m not beating myself up too much.
Have you gone on any literary pilgrimages?
I haven’t. But before too long, I really want to visit The Berry Center in New Castle, Kentucky. I’m from Appalachia (like Tye Caine) and as a teen, I read Wendell Berry’s poems and stories. They were important to me because they gave rural people some dignity, and treated their stories with respect.
Did you do any unusual research while writing this book?
In some ways, the Tye Caine series is an excuse to write about the things I already do. I’m an amateur naturalist, and have trained in wilderness survival. This book gave me an excuse to write about traditional archery, which I love.
For Primitive Weapons specifically, I researched the culture and dysfunctions of hi-tech startup companies, the history of secret radar stations in the Pacific Northwest during World War Two, and an island stocked with African game animals in Puget Sound.
For my next book, Wild Mind, I’m researching “re-wilding,” which is modern people who try to live as much like ancient hunter-gatherers as possible, and the history of members of the radical environmental movement that engaged in direct actions against timber harvesting of old-growth forests.
Do you have any must-do writing habits?
I outline my books. My outlines aren’t the detailed treatments some folks use, but I have a list of my major plot points, a character arc, and a list of scenes. Usually, I deviate from the outline a bit, but I usually have an idea about what happens next when I sit down to write.
The morning is the best time for me to write, before I start my day job. Decision fatigue is a real thing, and if I put off writing until the end of the day, there’s a pretty good chance it won’t happen.
What’s your favorite book that you’ve read in the past year?
You know I’m not going to pick just one, right? Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger was my favorite mystery this year. I love the way he writes about rural people, how he handles the conflict between Native and White populations, and how you can just breathe in the natural world in his books.
Braiding Sweetgrass is a book by Robin Wall Kimmerer about the intersection of science and traditional ecological knowledge. As someone who is the caretaker (not “owner”) of some forested acres, this book has been the most personally significant book I’ve read this year.
I’m going to read S.A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears again. This time I’m going to have a package of different colored high-lighters and some sticky notes, because I’m going to study that book hoping to become a better writer.
If you could go back in time and give your younger author self advice, what would you tell yourself?
I’d tell myself to take myself seriously as a writer, and value my work.
When I was a teen and in my early twenties, I dreamed of being a published author the way little kids dream of being a superhero. I left college after two years to join the military, and never quite made it back to school.
But here I am, almost fifty, with five novels published, and a sixth well underway. The twists and turns my life has taken have been valuable because they gave me something to write about, but I wish I’d paid better attention to certain things along the way, and I wish I’d been working diligently on my craft the whole time.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve heard this from so many people I can’t attribute it to a single source: be disciplined and treat it like a job.
When I’m drafting, I sit in the chair at the same time every day, and write until it is time to start the day job. Some days, I feel like a literary genius and the words just fly out of my fingertips. Other days I think I should just give it up because it’s torture to write a few words.
Months later, when I go back to edit, I can’t tell which days were which.
How can people learn more about your book and follow you?
I always love to talk shop with other writers via email at email@example.com. I’m happy to be a source of info about the outdoors, wilderness survival, naturalist questions, etc.