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Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
Born and raised in deep S. Texas. Fifth generation Texan. Parents divorced in sixth grade, mom remarried and we moved to Syracuse, New York – in January. (We’d never even seen snow before!) Graduated High School in Scarsdale, NY. (I’m basically “bi-Yankee”). Went to four colleges in 5 years (wanted to see the world and get credit for it!) Hofstra U., then Interamericana U. in Puerto Rico, then a year abroad studying non-western-nations (lived in Ethiopia, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Japan – seminars in Rome, Athens, Israel, Burma, Thailand and Hong Kong.) Finished up the semester at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Took half a year off to work on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Mexico (I was the only one on board without a prison record!) Graduated with a BS in Communication from the Univ. of Texas in Austin. Worked for a major airlines for five years, got my first play produced, moved back to New York, wrote for theatre and television, then moved to Los Angeles and wrote movies (and NO, I did not write TITANTIC), spent a 4 year interval in Santa Fe and then returned back to Texas, more or less full time, after 9/11.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
I had in the back of my mind an idea about a prisoner getting love letters from a woman – who turns out to be a closeted male. I loved the set-up. And I wanted to explore small town Texas life as well and of how this sort of thing happens (particularly?) in these very small, seemingly constricted environments. And also of how so many lives are seemingly randomly affected and drawn into circumstances of a deeply personal nature that are anything but arbitrary coincidences. (For reasons only God understands, “It’s six degrees of separation everywhere but in Texas, here the rule is 1.5 degrees.”)
How do you create your characters?
STORY creates character. Give me a plot, a theme, an idea – I’ll give you all the characters you can handle.
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
Inspiration? A check and a deadline. Started? I went to film school and when I graduated I wanted to be Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, Francois Truffault – but I was only qualified to hang lights for the six o’clock TV news. So I started writing my own stuff just to make something happen. My first effort was a play that won a Regional Award and was presented with a very fancy premiere. They should’ve just given me crack cocaine, I’ve been hooked ever since.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
I write in my cramped living room now – but I’m moving to a larger house soon where I’ll have my own office again. Huzzah! Drinks? God, how I wish I was Hemingway and I could imbibe all night and write THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA the next morning. Alas, not in this lifetime. Music? I need the silence of the tomb to hear my thoughts. Wish as well I could go down to Starbucks with my earbuds blasting and write the Great American Whosit – just ain’t gonna happen.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
By living life. (Airplane rides for some reason are great idea nurseries. Not sure what that’s about but I usually come up with a half dozen humdingers every time I board a flight. I always carry a small notebook to scribble them down. If not, you’ll forget them in 24 hours. And I’ve never had a dream in my life where it seemed to be the most fantastic idea of the decade at 3 AM and then rereading my scribblings the next morning it always, ALWAYS turns out to be complete rubbish.)
What do you like to read?
History, Biography, Travel Books, Journals, the occasional periodical. I scan The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The San Antonio Express and The Austin American-Statesman online every morning (and yes, I’m the reason paper newspapers are dying in this country – and I can’t bring myself to do a bloody thing about it.) Another wretched confession – I generally LOATHE reading contemporary fiction. (Does Madonna study Lady Gaga in order to understand herself?)
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regard to writing?
That’s easy – just DO IT! What other advice is there? Get off your duff and start the hard, boring, tedious, anxiety-producing, grunt work of writing. And re-writing. And re-writing. And …
Of course THE BEST part of writing is when you’re finally done with it! My God, what an achievement! As Virginia Wolff said, “Just write one page everyday, good as you can make it. In a year you’ve got a novel!” Brilliant advice.