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Is your last name really Lady?

Yes.  Believe it, or not.  :)

No, seriously.  Come on.  That's got to be a made-up name.  Is it your pen name?

Nope.  My last name really is Lady!

What kind of name is Lady?

Weird.  It’s a really, really weird name.  But seriously…I’ve heard it’s British.

Did you get made fun of when you were a kid because of your last name?

Yes.  Nothing too bad.  I got called “Jason Ladybug”, which made me very upset in first grade and amuses me now.  My last name definitely gets me weird looks when I introduce myself.  Most people are like, “Maybe I heard him wrong.  That can’t really be this guy’s last name.”  Oh, but it is!  It helps me be unique and makes me easy to find.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I suppose I have!  When I was a kid, I loved newspaper comic strips like Garfield and Calvin & Hobbes.  I would draw my own comic strips starring my stuffed animals as the characters, like Lucky Duck and Binky Bunny.  In 4th grade or so I moved on to reading superhero comics like Spider-Man, Captain America, X-Men, Avengers, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, and Justice League International.  Comic books inspired me to start making up my own heroes and villains and drawing my own comic books, like The Starhoppers, Excelsior, and Eagle Force.  I was an Army Brat and moved around a lot.  In each new place I lived, I would draw my new friends as superheroes in their own comic book adventures.  I gradually grew impatient with drawing comics since it took too long for me to draw the stories, so I began writing novels starring my friends, mainly parodies of Robin Hood and Star Trek.  I would fill up these huge spiral-bound notebooks and they would get passed around on the bus on the way to cross-country meets and other school events.  It really helped a bunch of military brats bond very quickly.  I’ve been writing ever since.

Where do you get your ideas?

Sometimes another person, like my wife, gives me the idea for a story, and I take it and run with it.  I think it pays to do things other than write.  A lot of my ideas come from observing the world and asking myself “What if…?”  If I just locked myself indoors and did nothing but write, I wouldn’t get to learn how the world works, or see how people behave, or hear how people talk.  Knowing that stuff can make your writing better.  Monster Problems and its eventual prequels are somewhat inspired by my own childhood (though I never had a magic pen!).

When and where were you born?

December 1976 in Columbus, Ohio.

Where did you grow up?

My father was in the Army so we moved between Fort Knox, Kentucky and different places in Germany including military bases in Ansbach, Bad Kreuznach, and Baumholder.

Where did you go to school?

As you might imagine, since we moved around so much I went to a lot of different schools.  Highlights are Rainbow Elementary School in Ansbach, Germany and Baumholder American High School in Baumholder, Germany where I graduated high school in a class of 35 kids.  I got my Bachelor’s degree at Bowling Green State University and my Masters at Cleveland State University.

Where do you live now?

Cleveland, Ohio, with my wife.  It’s the place where I’ve lived the longest, by far.  Over 20 years and counting! 

Is writing your full-time job?

It’s not, but anything is possible.  If it worked out that writing could be my full-time job, that would be great.  My “day job” (which I also enjoy!) is in the areas of Training & Development and Talent Management.  I like helping people improve their skills and advance their careers, and I like helping organizations achieve their goals.  In the past I’ve been a Project Manager/Corporate Trainer and I’ve managed an early talent/summer intern program for a Fortune 500 company.

Do you have any hobbies?

I like going to baseball games, and my wife and I have a goal to visit all of the baseball stadiums in the USA.  I like watching superhero, fantasy, science fiction, and action-adventure TV shows and movies.  I grew up in a household that played all kinds of music so I listen to music a lot, especially 80s music.  My favorite band of all time is U2.

If you had a magic pen, what would you draw with it?  Knowing that it would come to life? 

Probably a really cool sports car that would fold into the size of a wallet so I wouldn’t have to park it anywhere, and a little robot helper like BB-8 or R2-D2 who could follow me around and do tasks for me.

How can I become a writer?

·  Read a lot and write a lot!  There’s no substitute for doing those things. 

·  Pay attention to how other writers write.  How do they structure stories?  How do they write dialogue?

·  Figure out who your audience is.  Are you writing for adults?  Young children?  Teenagers?  Middle grade?

·  Figure out your genre.  Is your story science fiction?  Fantasy?  Romance?  Spy thriller?  Spooky ghost story? 

·  Learn how to write.  Developing characters, writing dialogue, setting up the story structure, writing different points of view, keeping your reader hooked…there’s a lot of stuff that when it’s not done well, the reader will notice for sure. 

·  Do your research on the process of preparing your manuscript and getting published.  Attend workshops and seminars where you can learn about the craft and the business of writing.  I’m in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and their events have taught me a lot.

·   Find other writers who are serious about writing and you can help each other with your writing.  I’m in a critique roundtable that meets every month, and they’ve been a huge help in making my work better.  Hopefully I’ve been helpful to them, too. 

·   Find people who are positive and encouraging about your writing and hang out with them.  Don’t listen to the naysayers. 

·   Stick with it!  It took me about thirteen years to get Monster Problems published.

·   Develop a thick skin!  We invest a lot of time and effort in our writing and it can be painful to have people critique it.  Keep your ego far away from your work.  They aren’t critiquing you; they’re critiquing your writing.  And our writing is not always perfect.  In fact, our writing is often not good.  Be prepared to put stories away.  You need people in your life who will not be afraid to tell you that!  Ultimately it will make you a better writer!


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