He leaned against another tree and slid into a sitting position. He noticed the grass sticking through Serissa’s bare feet. “So I have to decide, basically, the course of my life from here on out—assuming, of course, I’m not simply losing my mind.”
Serissa stood her ground, summoning Rip with her finger. “Give me your hand.”
Rip climbed to his feet and stepped forward, hesitant. He reached out, unsure what to expect from a dead, intangible girl.
Nor did the dead, intangible girl know what to expect. She had no idea if this would work, but her lips curled up in the anticipation that it might. Serissa slowly interlocked her fingers with his, and they both squeezed.
Contact. Solid contact.
“You’re warm,” Rip said, feeling a soft human hand, indistinguishable from any living person’s.
“Only to you,” Serissa said, smiling at her first physical sensation since…in a long time.
What inspired you to write this book?
A random thought in the middle of the night—or rather, one random thought that built into an even better random thought. I was thinking about ghosts, naturally, and I thought about someone being able to physically interact with ghosts as if they were flesh and blood. Then I turned it around and wondered what if a ghost was able to touch a living person for the first time since he or she died? The first thought was a kind of interesting notion, but the second thought had substance and I knew this needed to happen.
Can you give us an interesting fact about your book that isn't in the blurb?
I originally wrote RIP as a TV pilot script. It was a finalist and semi-finalist in a couple of competitions, and I eventually got it in the hands of a producer who was nice enough to read it. He passed on it, though, as he preferred to see it executed as a procedural. That gave me the hint that maybe this might work better as a book series.
How did you choose your title?
Titles are always tough. At some point early on, I realized, “Hey, I can name the main character Rip and then call the series RIP.” See what I did there? I forget where “Choices After Death” came from, but I knew it was right the moment I thought of it, given that people generally aren’t used to making post-mortem decisions.
Tell us about the cover and how it came to be.
I hired a talented cover designer named Mike Messina. He found the image and made everything look great. He deserves all the credit for it.
Did you self-publish or publish traditionally and why?
I self-published. I can’t say whether indie or traditional is the better route, but my feeling is, in any creative medium, indie is the place to start (well, the place to start getting your work out there after you’ve spent many years refining your skills). That’s how you show you’re serious about this work and start building an audience. Then maybe after I’ve proven myself I might try looking into traditional publishers.
What do you consider the most important part of a good story?
It has to be entertaining. Your story can reveal all the secrets of the universe, but if it doesn’t entertain, it’s not a good story. Might be a good textbook or philosophical tome, though.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A bit of both. I plot enough at the beginning to assure myself the story will work and that it has somewhere to go, but I might be a bit vague about later parts. Things change along the way. In fact, RIP: Choices After Death originally had a different ending scene…until my trusty beta readers pointed out how it didn’t feel right. I had an ending I thought needed to happen all along, but the characters went and grew in a different direction than I had intended. So, yeah, I’m going to have to alter some of the plans I had for the second book now, and that’s why you don’t plot too specifically too far ahead.
What part of the writing process is the hardest for you?
Physical description. Much of my background is in playwriting, so I’m used to being very specific about what characters say and less specific about what things look like and precisely how everyone moves. In theatre, the director, actors, and designers fill in all those details. In books, I’m on my own. Sometimes I’m able to find my way into description by getting into a particular character’s headspace and viewing the scene in his or her idiosyncratic way.
What tips can you give on how to get through writers block?
Exercise has many wonderful benefits, including clearing your head.
What kind of music do you like to listen to while you write?
Mostly instrumental soundtrack music, plus some musicals and classic rock. With RIP, Les Miserables was playing a lot, as well as Alice Cooper and Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtracks.
Who is your favorite character from a book?
My favorite character happens to be from my favorite book. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird is basically the soul of Superman, as I see it, and how can you beat that?
Read anything good lately?
I recently remarked that I had been failing as a nerd lately by reading books like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Silver Linings Playbook, both of which I enjoyed. But now I’m rectifying that by reading the first John Carter of Mars book, which is interesting mostly from the historical perspective. It’s the original sci-fi western, and it influenced everything from Superman to Star Wars.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Well, there’s always reading. But aside from that, I take a kickboxing class (I earned my black belt last year), I play with my four-year-old niece, and I occasionally get addicted to TV shows like Buffy and Doctor Who.
What advice would you give an author just starting out?
Don’t write about writers. Also, realize that it takes time to get good at anything new. I started writing when I was nine years old putting together homemade comic books, and I never stopped writing something. Comic books gave way to screenplays and novels and plays, but I was always working on some project. I published my first book, Earths in Space: Where Are the Little Green Men?, at twenty-nine. So that was twenty years of constant writing before I unleashed any books on the world. If you’re a nineteen-year-old college student eager to publish, then pause. Put the book aside, work on something else, and promise yourself you won’t publish anything until you’re at least twenty-five, maybe even older. You’ll thank yourself, because even if your teenage works have wonderful qualities, your first release years later will be that much stronger. I suspect I would’ve made the mistake of prematurely publishing if I had the option back then.
What's your next project?
I’m finishing up the second installment in the Earths in Space series. This series is basically adventurous space travel without the aliens. A team of explorers visits other Earths scattered throughout the universe, and each one has a unique human civilization. The second volume, We Must Evolve, will consist of four novellas that build on each other and show a clear arc for the main character, Amena. I’m hoping to get it out the first half of this year, but I won’t release it until I’m certain it’s ready.
Daniel Sherrier is a writer based in central Virginia. This is the guy who writes the Earths in Space and RIP series, which you’ve doubtless heard much about. Occasionally, a play he’s written gets performed somewhere. He graduated from the College of William & Mary in 2005, where he earned a degree in the ever-lucrative fields of English and Theatre. Recently, he achieved his black belt in Thai kickboxing. And there was that one time he jumped out of an airplane, which was memorable.