Acts of the Apostles
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I grew up on a farm in New Jersey and went to high school in Manhattan. I live on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, where I’m a freelance technical writer, food pantry volunteer and volunteer firefighter. I’ve had every job there is, from driving a truck delivering emergency food supplies in west Africa to insulating Carly Simon’s house, and including 15 years working in the heart of Silicon Valley as a manager of software engineering. I’ve been married to my wife, a molecular biologist-turned-librarian, for 30 years. Our three children are allegedly grown up.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Acts of the Apostles arose from my meditations the darker side of humankind’s relationship with technology. The genesis of the plot was a conversation I had with a friend of mine, a computer chip designer, who was having trouble understanding why his prototype chip didn’t work properly. I asked him if it would be possible for somebody to have sabotaged his design by hiding a secret function in it. He said, “John, there are 275,000 transistors on that chip. You could hide the Titanic in there and I wouldn’t know it.” That gave me the idea for a murder mystery about a computer chip designer.
How do you create your characters?
It’s basically a process of auto-caesarean section. I cut myself open with a rusty knife and rip them out of me. But also, I try to precisely describe people I know, and then imagine how they would be different if they had this or that secret.
What inspires you to write?
Same thing that inspires me to eat, sleep, have sex, go to the toilet. It’s pretty much a biological necessity.
What do you like to read?
I like to read about science, mathematics and computer programming languages; American history, the novels of Nabokov, Sterne, Stanislaw Lem, Patrick O’Brian, Anthony Powell, Tolstoy, Anthony Burgess and Nicholson Baker; comic books and online diaries; illustrated histories of ancient civilizations; philosophy, porn, and New Testament exegesis.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Do interesting things. Help people. Risk things. Be a firefighter or an EMT. Avoid rich people. Commit yourself to one or more important causes for which you would be willing to endure physical deprivation or harm. Listen to lots of music, with your full attention, not while you’re doing something else. Master at least one language other than English so that you’ll be able to hear English with fresh ears. Do vital stuff with your time on earth. Then, if you’re lucky, you’ll have some stories to tell, and perhaps the skill and humility to tell them well.
Anything else you’d like to share?
“I would like to thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.” — bonus points for knowing who said that, in what context, without asking the Internet.