1. You have one of my all-time favorite author names. What's the story behind it?
Real simple. It's my real name :)
Actually, the name pokes fun at myself and Indie Publishing. I think many "writers" rushed into self publishing thinking it was a gold mine. I was one of these people. I make some decent bucks inventing things, but often I was not paid my royalties due by my broke or greedy licensees. So, I decided to write a book to see if I could cash in on some direct payments from Jeff Bezos. In all, I've made a few hundred bucks on book sales, so I no longer have any illusions about writing for big bucks. Instead I write because I really enjoy it. This amazes me because I never had any desire to be an author, but now I'm loaded with ideas for books and having a great time with it. I totally look forward to writing and try to put in an hour or two a day. I also discovered I have an ability to consistently write 500 words an hour and I never have a bout of writer's block. I'm not sure this is a skill, but I can crank out books and it is a very part time thing for me.
2. When writing comic fiction, do you generally have a sense of what will read as funny to other people, or do you regularly share your work with other readers to get a feel for how it plays?
I do not test my stories to see if people think they are funny. I couldn't care less. I just let it rip and hope for the best. My books start with a concept. I then make up a related story in my head. I then write the story down fast--very fast. I don't use an outline. I then re-write the book a couple times to make sure the quality is good. All the funny stuff happens in the first draft. I never come up with a funny thought when I'm in editing mode. After I complete each book I'm overwhelmed by a desired to re-write the whole book again to make it better, which I'm doing to The General Store to make it more light-hearted.
3. Who are some of your favorite writers of comic fiction, and how did you get started with your own writing?
My favorite writer of comic fiction is Kurt Vonnegut. I loved Blue Beard, The Sirens of Titan, and several of his other works. Frankly, until recently, I didn't read many novels. I spent a good deal of time reading technical articles about physics, public health, and other things that interest me, but I only read a few novels a year. So, I don't know my own genre. In fact, on several occasions a real writer has sent me an email saying I remind them of some famous author who I then have to google. Per above, I got started writing because I thought I could cash in on the ebook wave--maybe some day :)
4. What is your "day job," and do your colleagues know about your writing career?
Nobody knows I write books, but my lawyer, and Uncle Sam. My wife and family don't even know I write books. I am not ashamed of my work in any way, but it's just my thing. I'm not looking for advice or acclaim. I like to keep things simple, and sometimes keeping your mouth shut helps. I received an email the other day saying it's a damn good thing I have a pen name, because if radical Islamists read Billy Grist, they're going to try to kill me. This is true. But, to this I say, bring it on! (You can talk tough when you have a pen name.)
I real life :), I'm a engineer and scientist. I make a living inventing things. Most of my inventions involve the manipulation of light. I have numerous patents and a couple million unit sellers on the market, so I do okay, not fantastic, but I have no boss and I usually make ends meet.
5. As a writer who values originality, what's helped you to get your books into the hands of interested readers, outside of mainstream channels of the "big" publishers?
I have zero desire to work with a publisher. I want to do my own thing without interference. This means I have a very small following, but I'm cool with that. I'd write for ten or ten million. I started out with Twitter which led to relationships with a few authors which led to a few readers. I then did a free giveaway of The Walking Man at Amazon, and for some reason, 8000 downloads happened in a few hours. I picked up many readers after that event. In comparison, Billy Grist, a better book, only received 81 downloads over the same time period. So...I'm currently struggling to find readers. However, based upon my reviews to date, which are not from family and friends, I seem to be picking up a few readers, which is all I need. If people like reading my books, great. If not, there's not much I can do about it because I have no desire to write a book based upon an outline with proven sales appeal, which does not mean my next book is not going to be about a voluptuous teenage-female vampire who hangs out with an orphaned wizard :)