I am the author of Lost Exit, which is my debut novel. LOST EXIT is about a self-destructive college basketball player named Timmy Davenport who comes home to Atlantic City for the summer. It’s been a long hot summer at the Jersey Shore – unlike any other he can remember, and the city of his past has changed dramatically. Filled with violence and turmoil, Atlantic City is transforming from faded seaside resort to vibrant, entertainment Mecca in the late 1990’s. His friends have changed, he’s unsure of where he’s going in life, and a bloody neighborhood rivalry has left a trail of bodies scattered throughout the town. Timmy must navigate a path through all kinds of painful memories as he searches for answers, friendship, and above all, redemption.
The novel is about Timmy’s relationships with family and friends, his search for love, and tells the story about the passion for a game that was once his salvation. He gets one last chance to prove himself, both on and off the court. As he prepares for the basketball tournament that may define his future, Timmy has to confront the ghosts of his past before he can move forward.
Tell us something about yourself.
I grew up in a little town not too far from Atlantic City, and I’m one of those few people you’ll meet who is proud of being from New Jersey (My biographies state that I’m “everything New Jersey – attitude, edginess, and Bruce Springsteen but not Bon Jovi”). I still live at the Jersey Shore. New Jersey is a tremendous source of inspiration in my writing…..there’s such a wide variety of people, backgrounds, life styles, and cultures mixed together. I think living in the shadows of New York and Philadelphia give most of us who grew up here a little bit of an “attitude”, and that’s the kind of characteristic that sneaks into my characters’ actions and my stories.
What inspired you to write this book?
The book was a little bit of an homage to some of the local characters I grew up with – low-rent gamblers, mobsters, neighborhood basketball stars, and friends looking for direction and purpose in life. But the “hook” for me was Timmy Davenport – he’s a flawed character with a past filled with broken relationship, bad family dynamics, and pain so bad that at times he tried to kill himself. With his addictions and that hurt in his background, he was easy to visualize and I was drawn to his character. I never set out to write what some might consider a coming of age story or touch on teen suicide, but the book took on a life of its own and charted its own course. And then there was the idea of coming home to Atlantic City…for me it was a little bit of a Thomas Wolfe moment where I was determined to prove that you can go home again.
How did you choose the title?
The title worked for me on a couple of different levels. I loved the imagery of the main character and the people he comes in contact with being lost and in search of an identity or purpose. Timmy Davenport is a character searching for an identity, trying to figure out who he is, who loves him, and what he can do with his life. And for anyone who ever lived in New Jersey, the typical question people from out of state ask is: “What’s your exit?” (like where you live and who you are can defined by where you reside in relation to the Garden State Parkway or New Jersey Turnpike).
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacle was that LOST EXIT didn’t have a clearly defined niche or category (like horror, fantasy, or romance). There’s more broad-based appeal to the story and it crosses over between different genres like YA and contemporary fiction. Many of the publishers who read the book felt it was a strong story but didn’t know how to position it in the market or where to target the audience (most were afraid it would fall through the cracks). I believed in the characters and the story, and I was encouraged by the feedback from everyone who read it – I felt that there was more potential than the publishing community was willing to give, and I was afraid that if it was published by a traditional publisher it would get lost on the book shelves and never find its audience. I thought long and hard about my options, and finally decided to go the independent route, putting it out through e-publishing (on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Ipad, etc). I believe that by going that route I could let the story find its own audience and its own market.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I always loved reading as a kid – I think that being a good reader is what inspires most writers. And I have always had a passion for writing (starting in high school and continuing through college), although it wasn’t until a few years ago after a career as a corporate warrior that I decided to pursue my dream of writing fulltime. I had written off and on for a few years, but most of those stories wound up in desk drawers and on closet shelves where they never again saw the light of day.
Most writers have a burning desire to write – it’s that itch that needs to be scratched, and writing is one of those things that creates complete satisfaction and happiness for me. Throughout all the years I worked in the corporate world I felt that dissatisfaction gnawing at me, and I knew I would never be happy until I pursued my dream. I can’t imagine finding happiness doing something other than writing.
My only regret is that I didn’t choose this path earlier.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I like to start writing early every day. Once I drag myself out of bed I’ll get in a morning run on the beach or boardwalk, then pour the coffee and start writing. I still write the initial drafts by hand, and I can’t break that habit because there’s a certain comfort level in physically putting words down on paper. I try to remain disciplined and write every day, no matter how good, bad, or ugly my mood – I’m the kind of writer who has to be relentless day after day (even if much of what I write gets cut, sliced, or edited in my search for perfection).
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would have kept a more open mind to going the independent route – for a long time I was so focused on pushing my book through mainstream publishing houses that I didn’t see that there are other options available to writers.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I’ll read just about anything if it’s interesting or can grab my attention, but I’m drawn to writers of crime fiction – Elmore Leonard, Robert Parker, Michael Connelly, and Harlan Coban are my favorites. In particular, I think Elmore Leonard is one of the best at writing realistic and authentic dialogue, and most mystery/crime writers have a sparse, lean style and an economy with words that I find appealing. Their descriptions are vivid and powerful, and they don’t use a lot of words to create images that are impactful (like Hemingway and Mailer did years ago).
That being said, I think one of the best and most eloquent writers around today is Pat Conroy……I read South of Broad a few months ago and remember being so envious of not only the beauty of his words, but the grace and style of the imagery in everything he wrote. There are times when you sit back as a writer, admire what someone else has written, and just say, “Damn….I wish I could write like that.”
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
My second book is already finished and in the pipeline – it’s entitled STILL BLACK REMAINS. I’m finishing some short stories that I had committed to writing, and then once those have been completed I’ll be sitting down to begin work on my third book (I have a strong idea about characters and plot, but I’m still fleshing out some of the direction and details). One of the things I love about the creative process is that you can start out at one point, thinking you know which way you’re going, and your story or the characters or some small aspect of what you’re writing can take you in an entirely different direction. That’s the fun part of the journey….
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Writing is a craft. Keep working at it and never allow yourself to get complacent or careless. Writers write. That means edit and revise and review what you’ve written, and don’t be afraid to make changes, even when they are drastic. If you want to write realistic dialogue you have to listen – every conversation has a certain style and flow, and as a writer you need to capture that and reflect it in the dialogue your characters use.
And don’t ever give up. The world is filled with critics and people who will tell you about insurmountable odds and the difficulty in achieving your dreams…..ignore them and keep writing. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
I think Lost Exit has the most appeal to an audience between the ages of 18 to 25 – that’s the segment of the market that will most identify with the characters, their issues, and the attitudes.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
I maintain a site at http://kmwriter.blogspot.com where I post updates and copies of stories that get published, and fans can find me/friend me at Facebook. The book is available at Amazon. And within the next few weeks we’ll have a web site up for Lost Exit.