Interviews – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the thriller “Serpents Underfoot”. After I published my review, I contacted the author, Darren C Gilbert, for an interview.
Myself: First, a little about your background. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?
Gilbert: I think I probably always wanted to be a writer. I jokingly tell people I could read before I could walk. As young boys, our parents read to both my younger brother and me a great deal. We grew up with a love of books and reading.
Myself: What is your academic and work background?
Gilbert: I think my background is probably part of what makes me a good writer. I grew up as a stutterer, so I was always trying to prove something … that I was as good as everyone else. This attitude led to my doing many different and exciting things in my life. I grew up camping and backpacking. I was an Eagle Scout. I studied martial arts. I served in the military successfully despite stuttering. While in the army I spent time in Germany, South Korea, and Panama, as well as Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. I have also worked a lot of adventurous jobs. Transmission Lineman, Glass Truck Driver, ran a karate dojo and graduated from the top bodyguard school in the U.S. before settling down into a more normal career in IT.
Myself: You have had an interesting career. What part of the world do you currently live in?
Gilbert: I currently live in Cary, NC. I was born in Ilion, New York in 1960 and grew up in North Adams, Massachusetts. We moved to Clinton, Tennessee the year after I graduated from High School where I enlisted in the Army. After leaving the Army in 1983, I stayed in the Clinton, Tennessee area until moving to Cary, North Carolina in early 2016.
Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?
Gilbert: I enjoy martial arts, ballroom dancing, reading, and shooting. Unfortunately, there are not enough hours in the day to stay active in all of these activities, so I had to trim them back a bit. I needed to make time to write!
Myself: What else would you like to share about yourself?
Gilbert: I would add that I am a quiet, easy-going guy who loves dogs. Currently, I have a 2-year-old German Shepherd named Sophie. She is a handful, but great company.
Myself: You mention that you enjoy reading. What’s the first book you remember reading for yourself?
Gilbert: The first book I remember reading my self is Frosty. It was about a Husky that was owned by a young family with a little girl. The dog is young and has a lot of energy, so he gets into a lot of trouble, and the family is thinking about getting rid of him. Then one day, their little girl gets lost. Frosty finds the little girl and gently taking her hand in his mouth, leads her home. The dog is now a hero, and of course, the family keeps him.
Myself: It sounds like that book made quite an impression on you. Did you continue to read while growing up?
Gilbert: I read all the time growing up. I have read thousands of books of all genres and topics.
Myself: What have you read recently?
Gilbert: I just finished Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Currently, I am reading Luck Lady by Steve Jackson, a book about the heroic crew and light cruiser, the USS Santa Fe, in World War II.
Myself: What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?
Gilbert: I have two favorite genres. I enjoy historical fiction. Bernard Cornwell is one of my favorites. I also love spy/military action thrillers. I read a lot Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Greg Isles, and WEB Griffin. I also enjoy military history, especially WWII and Vietnam.
Myself: While I haven’t read much historical fiction, I too have been an avid reader of spy/military action thrillers. Where is your favorite place to read?
Gilbert: I read where and when I can. Lately, I find myself reading in bed at night a lot … until I fall asleep. I guess my days are just too full.
Myself: I try to read a little every night too. I find it convenient to use my iPad so I can read in the dark without disturbing my wife. Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?
Gilbert: I prefer real books. If I like a book, I will get the hardcover for my library. I do listen to audiobooks while traveling.
Myself: I have several hardbacks in my library too, though there is not near enough space. What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?
Gilbert: I have a lot of stories to tell. While my stuttering has all but disappeared over the years, in my younger years, I could not often tell the stories I had bottled up inside. It was pretty frustrating.
Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Gilbert: I would like to continue to write novels. I have ideas floating in my head for about four more after finishing the one I am currently working on. Two are essentially murder mysteries; one is a collection of short stories, and the last is a World War II love story. Then, If I have time I might do a book about growing up as a stutterer. I feel that may be helpful to other young stutterers who are trying to deal with this problem.
Myself: Why do you write? What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?
Gilbert: I have always enjoyed writing. When in school I enjoyed writing assignments and always did well on them. I love the art of wordsmithing!
Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?
Gilbert: My writing is undoubtedly influenced by other writers, Tom Clancy, Louis L’amour, Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, John Grisham, Bernard Cornwall among many. But, people I meet affect my writing more. People I meet and get to know. People like to talk, and I enjoy listening. They often have amazing stories to tell. It is true that truth is often stranger than fiction.
Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?
Gilbert: There is an old saying, “write you know.” That may, in fact, be kind of limiting. I say, “write what you enjoy.” If you are not interested and enjoying what you write, how can you be good at it? I think I tell the story and then see what genre it fits in.
Myself: I think that is very good advice for the prospective author. Where do your story ideas come from?
Gilbert: I start with a character or an idea. Then I let the story unfold on its own.
Myself: I know that you say you prefer just to see where an idea takes you, but do you work to an outline at all?
Gilbert: I do use a loose outline. That functionality (essentially drag and drop chapter and scenes) is built right into the tool I use for my first drafts. I think working from a plot is too confining or limiting.
Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?
Gilbert: I use Scrivener for my first drafts and then do the editing polishing in Word. I have a couple of other tools I use. The Hemmingway Editor, Writer’s Diet, and of course, Grammarly.
Myself: I have heard many good things about Scrivener, though I have not tried it myself yet. I do use Grammarly and find it very useful. What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?
Gilbert: It’s funny. The hardest thing about writing for me is getting started. The easiest thing for me is, once I get started, continuing. I have found I have to lock myself away for a couple of hours every day. No TV or other distractions so I can get started. But once I do, the two hours fly.
Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Gilbert: To aspiring authors, I would say … read all you can whenever you. The second thing is to write all you can whenever you can. Writing is a craft. You can learn. However, you do have to practice and see what other writers have done.
Myself: Good advice. What novels/works have you published?
Gilbert: I have published one novel, Serpents Underfoot, which is doing very well and getting great reviews. It is out in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle. I will be releasing an Audiobook version soon.
Myself: What are you currently working on?
Gilbert: I am currently working on the sequel to Serpents Underfoot. The title of it is Montagnard. It will continue the adventures of JD Cordell with some exciting twists.
Myself: I will be looking forward to reading that. What else would you like to share?
Gilbert: One thing I will mention. I got a lot of confidence from doing gigs on Fiverr.com. I wrote book descriptions, bios, fight scenes, and did some editing for other authors. It is a great confidence builder for a new writer. While you don’t get any credit for your work, you can get paid for polishing your skills, and the positive reviews are a pretty good motivator. And, as a bonus, I get to see my prose on the covers of other author’s books. That is kind of exciting.
Myself: That sounds like another good recommendation. How should your fans follow you or get in touch?
Gilbert: I have a website/blog at https://patriotwarrior.org and it has a newsletter if anyone is interested. I also have a Facebook fan page at https://www.facebook.com/darrencgilbert. I am on Twitter @patriotwarrior5 and Instagram as darrencgilbert. I am always interested in hearing from fans and friends and meeting new people.