When I set out to write a novel in 1998 I had no clue how difficult it would be. Everything is connected to everything, so each word, each descriptive phrase, each metaphor, simile, and analogy, it all has to drive the story and themes forward. The moment you lose your focus, ease up on a phrase here or there, the story breaks down for the reader.
It’s a monumental task, one that takes perservearance and commitment. It also requires an ability to get underneath the leaves to where the real stuff exists.
I don’t have an MFA. I didn’t study English in college. But I have read a lot and I’ve hung out with writers who were kind enough to share their wisdom and insight. Writers like Barry Hannah, James Houston, Roxanna Robinson, Suzi-Lori Parks and Randal Keenan. I also attended workshops and conferences including Squaw Valley, Breadloaf and Sewanee.
But most of my growth came from self-study, reading classics like Moby Dick and Anna Karenina; books by Chekov and Fitzgerald, Carver and Chandler, O’Connor and Proulx; I even read most of he Bible, Greek and Roman mythology too. As I write this, I’m realizing that it all sounds like a snoozefest, but for me, a person that didn’t have the luxury to focus on this in school (I took mostly business classes), it was a blast. I even audited a couple of Shakespeare classes.
I’m all over the map when it comes to favorite writers. I’m in awe of Martin Amis, Christopher Hitchens, John Fowles, Updike too. I love Richard Ford, Jennifer Egan, Nick Hornby, Michael Chabon, Amy Bloom, Lolly Winston, Richard Russo, Jennifer Weiner, Thrity Umrigar, Mark Haddon, Paul Theroux, David Halberstam. As a kid, I loved fantasy and science fiction. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land rocked me. Today that genre doesn’t do as much. I recently wrote that I gave up on Games of Thrones even though I love the HBO series, but I will admit that I have read almost everything by British scifi writer Julian May. I also have a penchant for thrillers by LeCarre, Deighton and Ludlum.
I’m clearly forgetting many authors.
Suffice it to say, it is with a great amount of humility that I put my work out into the world. I greatly appreciate that you are here, visiting my site, learning more about me and my work.
Thank you so much.
My Year as a Clown is now out. The Sound of Money will follow in about a year. I have several ideas for other novels, but for now, I’m focused on getting these out the door.
I was digging through my files recently and came across this note that Barry had sent back in 2006. I met him at the Sewanee Writers Conference and he was a tremendous inspiration. He gave me the confidence to carry on in the face of relentless rejection and countless other reasons to give up on my dream. Sadly, Barry passed away in 2010. If it wasn’t for his belief in me, I very well may have walked away long ago.
Here’s that note he wrote back in ’06 that I’ll always treasure.