I’m originally from Goshen, NY, a small town upstate in Orange County. It’s an idyllic little village that’s been around since before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I’ve also lived in several states including Northern and Southern California, North Carolina, and Hawaii and have traveled extensively in Mexico, Europe and Northern Africa. My dad had wanderlust and I guess I have it to. After my son turns 18, I’ll be on the road again.
When and why did you begin writing?
The first thing I remember writing was a re-working of the Easter Bunny story back in 2nd or 3rd grade. My mother was good with helping me to write poems early on as well. Throughout my life I just wanted to write longer and longer pieces. Clicking on the “word count” button gives me a strange thrill when I realize I’ve stacked up a lot of words. And not just any words, the thrill comes from knowing I’ve arranged them differently than they’ve ever been arranged before. Why did I start writing? It was just something that was in me to do, some kind of ailment that I can’t get rid of. It was and is my way of relating to the world. I don’t mean to be so vague, but there’s no other way to say it. Maybe I’m just delusional.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I suppose it must have been in high school. I wrote love poems for girlfriends and awful surfing stories which I sent to Surfer Magazine. None of them got published, however, my friends enjoyed them and I was known among them as “the writer.” It was better than having to buy a bunch of clothes to look “Goth” or “Mod” or whatever. A much less expensive image. A couple of pens and a notebook and I was instantly cool, no matter whether anyone read my stuff or not. I always wished I needed glasses so I would look smarter.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book began as a short story entitled Tradewinds. My intentions were to create a piece that defined the rite-of-passage from adolescence into early adulthood. My feeling is that nowadays young men and women have very little to guide them in their coming-of-age. I picked it up and put it down for years and it eventually became a novella which, combined with a second novella, became Ticket To Ride. I’m embarrassed to say how long it took to write.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I like to think that my writing style is wholly my own but I will say that I emulated Kerouac, Hemingway and Dylan Thomas. I believe that by doing this long enough my own style eventually emerged. Like Bono from U2 said, “every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief.”
How did you come up with the title?
I have a literary manager in New York who came up with the most recent title, Ticket to Ride. However, as I mentioned earlier, my first novella was called The Tradewinds, named for the winds that blow daily in Hawaii. I like the idea that one could follow the winds around the world, experience unfettered freedom, and get lost in the breeze (more evidence of my congenital wanderlust).
The second novella Just Another Day was written as a companion piece to The Tradewinds. In The Tradewinds I had introduced a female protagonist but hadn’t developed her story. Just Another Day is, for the most part, about her. It’s based on a Paul McCartney and Wings song entitled “Another Day” which tells the story of a lonely working girl. Livy Tinsley, my female protagonist, is a devoted fan of the Beatles and Paul McCartney and, since my two main characters meet on a train in Portugal, my literary manager felt Ticket to Ride (also the name of a Beatles song) was fitting as the title of the two novellas combined. Confused yet?
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Read something else, anything else. Honestly, I guess I wanted people to be able to walk away from this book and feel that there were no obstacles they couldn’t overcome. All things can be gotten through. It’s a coming-of-age novel and I wanted to, at least attempt to, re-define our rites of passage and try to clarify the transition from adolescence to young adulthood. Both characters deal with their father’s alcoholism, poor parenting, extreme peer pressure, and self doubt, among other things. I also wanted it to be sort of a fun yet thoughtful romp through a crazy period of time. I believe it can be read either way. It might best not to read it at all. it could scar you for life.
How much of the book is realistic?
I’m a firm believer in writing what you know. I read a lot of historical fiction and I can see right through an author who hasn’t done his homework. My characters are both ten years older than me but since I’ve always been an “old soul” or just old, it wasn’t much of a leap to add a few years to my own person. What I didn’t experience myself I either garnered through the stories of friends, or pushed myself deep into my imagination to arrive at something entirely believable. I guess I’d have to say that it’s 75% me, 15% other people, and 10% imagination. Honestly, it’s all plagiarized.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I think I answered this one in the last question. But I will add the following as examples: Most of the European portion is all me, however, I didn’t travel alone. I went to Europe with my best friend. And I never actually slept with a prostitute in Lisbon but I did stay in a pensione there. A large portion of Livy’s experiences are my own, however, I made my best effort to feminize them. I believe I’ve had enough girlfriends, and a sister and a mother, to help me to write from a feminine point-of-view. If I’ve failed in any way in this book it might be in grasping the fullness of the feminine experience. Do you think that last line might get me some dates?
What books have most influenced your life?
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Red and the Black by Stendhal, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, The Bone People by Keri Hulme, and On The Road by Jack Kerouac. Maybe even Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. His sense of humor is phenomenal.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
The guy who writes Hallmark cards. Actually, Dylan Thomas literally set me on fire. Quite Early One Morning showed me that words could have a life all their own.
What book are you reading now?
I’m re-reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and am finding it quite different from when I first read it 20 years ago. I’m actually quite disappointed with it in that it’s almost entirely devoid of feeling. I think I read a lot into it when I was 19. I think I also assumed that since it was Hemingway it had to be good. Who do I think I am, right? He’s one of the great “masters.”
If you had to choose one book to read the rest of your life, and nothing else, what book would it be and why?
It’s a toss up between Catcher in the Rye and The Fountainhead. Catcher in the Rye because I never tire of Holden Caulfield’s cynicism and no nonsense approach to life, and The Fountainhead for it’s definition of the true artist and being true to your convictions. I wish I was more like Howard Roark. He’s so damned cool.
Do you have something you are working on at the moment that you’d like to share with us?
How much abuse can people take? But seriously, I’m mostly writing bits for my blog but I’m also working on a sequel to Ticket to Ride. The sequel will chronicle the life of Dylan Blake, the son of my two main characters from Ticket to Ride. I’m only half-way through it. I have a million little notes I’ve written on scraps of paper that sometime soon I hope to add into that book. I’m finding it much harder to make sense of the decades of the 90s and this most recent one than I did with the 70s. I’m considering a collection of my blog posts as well. I’ve had some good feedback there. I also recently bought my first guitar and am hoping to spend some time with it soon. Then I can annoy people with songs instead of stories.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Whatever it takes to make it a bestseller. Really though, there’s a typo in Chapter 15 wherein there’s a poem I wrote for a real-life woman and I included a line about having a son. I meant to change the line to “the sun” instead of “my son.” Everyone who proofread it missed that. I also might have made it more sort of PG rated so it would be more appropriate for the YA crowd. My thirteen-year-old son wants to read it but, as street-wise as he is, I’d rather he wait a few years.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think it was always there waiting for me to discover it. I don’t remember not being interested in writers and writing. I suppose it might have been a disease I was born with and I don’t believe anyone has found a cure.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Writing, or, at least feeling like I’m writing something that has never been written in quite the same way. I’m terrified of being redundant. There’s a famous quote that says something like writers have only one story to tell and they tell it over and over again. I suppose some readers enjoy this because they know what to expect of their favorite writers. I like to be surprised with something new.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I named my son after Dylan Thomas for the reasons I mentioned above. He literally set me on fire.
Who designed the covers?
I designed them myself. I’m a graphic designer by trade. For better or for worse, I don’t think I could have had anyone else design them. I guess I’m a bit of a control freak that way.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Returning to the place I left off. Getting back into character time and again to maintain consistency. I can be a bit of a chameleon. Being a chameleon keeps me from getting bored with myself and keeps me from being stuck in any kind of mindset or even caricature. I think a lot of people become caricatures of themselves by being always the same about everything day in and day out. I like to surprise myself with some new way of looking at things. It can be challenging to turn it off and be a consistent me when I need to for writing. Maybe some lithium would help.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I should probably stick to graphic design. Honestly though, writing only “what you know” can be a hinderance. Sometimes you have to settle for less than 100% on that one. Imagination can be a wonderful thing. I might better put in a call to the Wizard of Oz.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Become an accountant or something where everything always adds up. Honestly? Read, read, read. Read what you love, read often and don’t expect to find your way as a writer until you’ve read a small library of books. Reading establishes patterns of thought that will translate later to words on paper.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Mom, go easy on me. Seriously though, to future readers: Be patient with me. I may not hand you the story in boldface print but if you spend some time with me you might find something you can use. To current readers: Thanks for taking the risk. Choosing to read a new novelist is a gamble that many don’t feel they can afford. Books aren’t cheap these days unless of course you’ve managed to get a hold of some form of e-reader.
If you could mirror the career of any other author, who would it be and why?
I’m torn between living like J.D. Salinger and Bono from U2. Of course I’d have to be as famous as either one of them before I’d actually be faced with that dilemma. What a fine dilemma that would be.
If you had to choose something besides writing, what career would you choose and why?
I’d like to be Adam Sandler. He seems to be having a great time all the time.
I find great joy in creating. If not in writing then in graphic design. So far, graphic design pays a lot better. Perhaps if I spent more time writing I’d find more opportunities to make it my livelihood. Although I’m afraid of any kind of writing career other than being a novelist. I believe novelists have the best opportunities for creativity. Deadlines can quickly snuff out inspiration. In newspapers, this morning’s headline is this evening’s trash. I admire those who write for newspapers because there’s a great need for them but I like things with lasting significance. I actually did some news writing in the past. Woodward and Bernstein are 2 of my heroes but I don’t foresee anyone breaking stories like theirs ever again. With government and all that, it’s kind of been done, people are desensitized or immune to that sort of thing now. I know I’m going to step on some toes here but I think the big news stories have all been written. But what do I know, right?
Do you have a muse?
Muses come from anywhere and everywhere. I wish I had one that would never fail me but I find that eventually I have to move on to new sources of inspiration. Just like I hate to write the same thing twice, I don’t think I can tap the same fountain more than once. I never know where it’s going to come from, I just hope that it does. Today I went to the store and a beautiful Latina woman asked me what I was doing for fun on my day off and that question sent me to my laptop where I wrote my blog post for the day. It’s all very random. Knowing I might have something to share is one of my motivations. Writing for yourself is one thing and writing for the sake of writing is another. I’ve heard it said that we write to know that we’re not alone. I suppose it’s good to feel you have an audience and that you’re not “screaming into the void.” Did I say something or was that an echo?
What is the interview question you always dread being asked? Can you give us the answer?
I fear no question. It may be my vanity but I love this process.
What is your favorite interview question, and what is the answer?
It would have to be what I am trying to accomplish through my writing because I like to feel that I have something to say. Sometimes I wish I was like Stephen King or James Michener with respect to their ability to crank out one giant book after another. But I don’t write that way. I’d like to be like an exclusive vintner, creating limited edition wines as opposed to going the Gallo route. At this point, I might even settle for fermented cider, as long as people can hold it down. What’s the old saying, “what doesn’t kill you, will only make you stronger.” Drink Ticket to Ride at your own risk.
If you were to assign an MPAA rating (PG, PG-13, etc.) to your book, what rating would you give it and why?
Rated R for a sex scene, some drug use and some inappropriate language.