Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Alex Silver – Alex Silver grew up mostly in Northern Maine and is now living in Canada with a spouse, two kids, and three birds.
Thanks so much, Alex, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Alex Silver: I discovered writing as a kid. In middle-school I found my mom’s old typewriter in our basement. I dragged it upstairs, set up an office in my tiny closet, and started writing stories for my friends. The first time I believed I was good at it was when my 8th grade English teacher recommended me for the honors English class at my high school. Between that official affirmation and my friends always asking for the next chapter of my stories, I felt like I could string together words to tell a solid story.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
AS: Yes, I read all the time. I still do. My parents’ go to punishment when I was a kid was to take away my book. Lucky for me, I’m forever reading multiple books at any given time, so I always had a backup book stashed somewhere.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
AS: Why not both? I am naturally more inclined to pantsing, but I’ve learned over the years to plot out the major events first because it saves me hours of grief in editing. Now I’ve got something of a hybrid system where I might dive into the first few chapters to get a feel for the characters, then plot out the major arcs in vague terms, outline the next few chapters, then see where that takes me and go back to outline the next few chapters whenever I get stuck or events seem to be veering off track.
JSC: Where do you like to write?
AS: I love writing at the park. I’ve got a little keyboard that connects my phone so I can load my google doc, turn off the internet, sit at a picnic table, and put my sole focus on my writing. Part of the fun with writing in public is that I enjoy the energy of having people around without having to interact with them much. I get more written without all the distractions of home my desktop computer too. Now that it’s a bit too snowy and frigid to sit in the park, I write at a local coffee shop while enjoying a warm beverage once a week or so.
JSC: Name the book you like most among all you’ve written, and tell us why.
AS: My current favorite is Quick Fire. I love it for so many reasons. It’s the first book I published with trans leads. That’s huge to me because there are so few stories where trans characters get to be the hero and have a happy ever after. I grew up with approximately zero trans heroes. For a long time I thought I had to chose between having the life I wanted and being myself, so putting narratives into the world where trans people like me can be the hero, fall in love, and live their lives without compromising who they are means everything to me. Besides that, Finn and Oliver are so sweet their romance arc could rot out your teeth. I thoroughly enjoyed writing them and their romantic explorations.
JSC: Star Trek or Star Wars? Why?
AS: Star Trek. I love the vision of a united federation where humanity as a whole (along with other species) can learn to look beyond all the differences that divide us and come together to solve our problems and achieve the big impossible dreams of the federation. The idea that we can overcome our worst impulses as a species. And they don’t do in the name of banding together to fight a common enemy, but in the name of exploration and discovery. I find that inspiring.
JSC: How did you choose the topic for this book?
AS: The concept came from a weird place. I lived in Vancouver for a few years, and housing there is pricey. So I follow news articles about creative ways people find to live and work in the city. One article about people living in converted vans caught my eye and the concept grew from there. I wanted to write about a guy who lived out of his van. Looking up videos about the vans, many people who do these conversions also vlog about their travels. I prefer to write paranormal or otherwise fantasy settings, so it seemed natural for Dan to vlog about the paranormal, similar to any number of popular ghost hunting shows on television. From there the story took on a life of its own.
JSC: What inspired you to write this particular story? What were the challenges in bringing it to life?
AS: The inspiration for the haunting was my roots growing up on a farm. Even without a ghost, old barns can have a certain creepiness factor, especially when there aren’t any livestock to make the place feel warm and alive. My family farm grows mostly potatoes and grains today, but we used to have dairy cattle. So it was fun to explore some history from an era that isn’t as popular in historical romance and explore what my family farm might have looked like if the industry had continued to thrive where we are located.
The biggest challenge was getting all the parts to working together to weave a more complete story. The historical details of the haunting, the mystery aspects of uncovering what happened in the past, the paranormal aspects with figuring out how the ghosts in the Hauntastic Haunts universe function, the budding romance between the two leads, the technical side of the Hauntastic Haunts vlog and filming. It was a fun challenge to take all those pieces and tell a single compelling story.
JSC: What secondary character would you like to explore more? Tell me about him or her.
AS: I want to write more about Drew. The kid on the Hauntastic Haunts forums who looks up to Dan as a mentor. I’ve already done a short story about him, but he didn’t get his HEA yet, so I am hoping to revisit him later in the series as he grows into himself. He’s a high school kid at the moment, so he is anxious to get out on his own, experience the world and be in a place where he feels confident to come out to his family. I would love to explore where his journey takes him once he gains some confidence and control of his life.
JSC: What are you working on now?
AS: My current project is the sequel to Goodman Dairy. Dan’s Hauntastic Haunts Investigates: Hawk Lake. The book is set partially in a fictionalized version of the town where I grew up, so that’s fun to write. I am enjoying the chance to expand on the relationship that started in book one between Daniel and Chad. The haunting includes a ghost-ship, and the backstory for that is proving fun to develop. I expect to have it published this spring.
And now for Alex’s new book: Dan’s Hauntastic Haunts Investigates: Goodman Dairy:
When ghosts reach across the veil, Daniel Collins is there to tell their stories.
Dan is a vlogging ghost hunter. He has devoted his life to documenting paranormal activity. In his converted van, he travels around the country exploring haunted sites. He loves the thrill of filming restless spirits.
Chad Brewer, skeptic, works for an insurance company. He doesn’t believe in ghosts, but watching Dan’s vlog is his guilty pleasure. The cute vlogger is accident prone. He has Chad’s work extension on speed-dial. The two talk whenever Dan gets hurt during an investigation, a frequent occurrence.
When Chad loses his job for approving too many claims, Dan offers him a position as his personal assistant. The pair sets out to investigate a haunted dairy barn for the vlog’s next video series. The catch is that they must live and work together in Dan’s tiny traveling home.
As the paranormal activity at the haunted dairy ramps up, so does the romantic tension between the two men. Can the love between a skeptic and a social media sensation conquer a vengeful ghost?
Dan’s Hauntastic Haunts is a paranormal MM romance between a gay vlogger and his trans personal assistant. Buckle up for a hauntastic good time.
Dan Collins, ghost hunter, was trending on social media. This was it. The moment I’d been living for since I started my vlog channel. My moment to shine.
Too bad that instead of incontrovertible proof that ghosts walk among us, I’d become an overnight vlogging sensation because I fell. Through—not down—the rotted out steps of the old deserted building I was investigating. Over a quarter of a million views and everyone was yucking it up because I almost broke my neck.
At least I had good insurance, the ambulance trip and treatment for my broken leg were both covered. And my phone survived the fall, even if some of my ghost hunting equipment did not.
The footage captured the characteristic lens flare of a ghost in the corner of the frame right before I took my plunge back to the ground floor.
No one cared about that. No, all they saw was my expression of shocked horror as the ground gave way under me. My arms windmilling, my expensive gear smashing down the stairs and then I fell out of frame.
People posted reaction videos to my video. Kids reenacted my facial expression at the moment the ghost touched me. None of them seemed to notice the evidence of a spirit pushing me onto the rotten stairs. Only my most devoted subscribers pointed out the other presence in the frame.
The social media frenzy took off with me stuck in a hospital bed with nothing but my phone for company. Stacy quit once it was clear I would not die. She claimed she hadn’t signed on to risk her neck as my personal assistant. In all honesty, I couldn’t blame her. This wasn’t the first time I’d ended up with injuries while capturing footage.
It wouldn’t be the last time. Not that it was my fault. It was just that hauntings drove the living away. So they showed up in places that were falling apart.
By the time they generated enough buzz as urban legends to reach my ears and became accessible to the public, haunted places got rundown.
It also wasn’t the first time I’d lost an assistant to my injury prone nature. Stacy had lasted for almost a year. Zack, the assistant before her, quit after a couple months. Others had come and gone too. Martha, my first hire, quit after our first haunting.
Martha preceded me into the building to film my entrance. Her first step into a spider web had resulted in her screaming at coming face to face with the web’s occupant and then running back out of the building. Martha hadn’t been my best hiring decision ever, but I was still new to figuring out the whole employer thing.
My vlog, which I started after highschool, took off enough to consider supporting myself with it when I was a community college freshman. I developed a loyal core of followers. And I put out quality content.
My brand started as more of a ‘dare me to stay overnight in the spookiest spots on earth’ gimmick. But after my experiences road tripping to various spooky spots all around the Northeastern US, I’d started to believe in ghosts. How could I doubt with all the weird stuff that happened?
My subscribers agreed. Ghosts were real, and we were on a quest to prove it. I started getting gifts of ghost hunting gear and researching it more myself.
A good quarter of my webisodes were just talking about the ways we could measure paranormal activity. On my site fans discussed what would constitute incontrovertible proof of a haunting these days. In an age with digital media being what it was, skeptics could refute any evidence we found.
The other half of my video archives were the hauntings. Like the Old Miller House. Where I fell.
I sighed and refreshed my landing page. The view counts had ticked past three hundred thousand now.
I got an email notification. Since my video took off, my fan-mail had increased on a massive scale. I considered ignoring it. I used the term ‘fan’ in a loose sense, most of the people writing to me after the accident thought I was a joke.
But the preview in the notification for this message showed it was from my insurance carrier. They had denied my latest claim. Not again, ugh.
It probably said something about me that I had my favorite insurance agent’s extension saved to my speed dial. Heck, it said something that I even had a favorite insurance agent.
Stacy said it wasn’t normal. She joked that I should add a channel to my vlog rating the nation’s ERs since I spent so much time in them. Setting bones and getting stitches.
I suspected she was right about the not normal part. But my job could be dangerous. It wasn’t like haunted sites were famous for their impeccable maintenance. I dialed Chad’s direct line. He picked up on the third ring with his usual professional greeting.
“Chorus Insurance, Chad speaking, how may I help you this evening?”
“Hey, Chad, it’s me again, your favorite customer.”
There was a beat of silence.
“Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!”
Chad sighed into the phone. Well, that was a break from the cool professionalism, progress on my campaign to wear him down from a call center bot.
“What can I do for you this time, Mr. Collins?”
“You can start by calling me Daniel, come on, Chad, we’re best buds at this point.”
I imagined Chad pinching the bridge of his nose. It was a gesture my dad used to do a lot with me when I strained his patience, so that was where the mental image came from.
Not that I’d ever seen Chad to compare him to my father, but from his voice I imagined he was a hot older guy. Maybe a bit of a nerdy professor vibe going. Salt and pepper hair, clean shaven. A person who wore chinos and pressed dress shirts and thought hipsters ate too much avocado toast. A real stickler for the rules. Real dad-like.
“Mr. Collins, can I just have the claim number you are calling about?”
“See? This is the reason I always turn to you in my hour of need, Chad, you’re just so efficient,” I rattled off the claim number from the email.
“It says here that your claim got rejected because you are being dropped as a Chorus Insurance client.”
Alex Silver grew up mostly in Northern Maine and is now living in Canada with a spouse, two kids, and three birds. Alex is a trans guy who started writing fiction as a child and never stopped. Although there were detours through assisting on a farm and being a pharmacist along the way.