Everything! I love the feedback I get from readers. My books are hyper-local, with the novels all set in my area of Virginia and West Virginia, and the non-fiction books are about the history and culture of the area. Every reader from the area identifies with someone or somewhere I've written about. It's great hearing from them.
What are you working on next?
Marketing! After eight books released in eight years, I'm taking a writing break, spending my time with my other business ventures, with volunteering, and with marketing the current books.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Moving! I love to hike, bicycle, and walk. Motorcycling is my favorite pastime. I love to travel and have been to 43 states and 16 foreign countries, where I shun hotels but stay in country inns or guest homes. And of course reading and educating myself.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The book, The Stolen Train, was about a band of Union soldiers that executed an unsuccessful commando raid into the Confederacy with the intention of stealing a railroad locomotive. This fueled my imagination into local history, the Civil War, and great storytelling.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Nature! Unless I've got a plane to catch, I never use an alarm clock. I wake with the sun. I'm a restless, self-motivated person and I strive to move forward every day. I love to be in and with nature.
What is your writing process?
Conceptualization is first. In acting as my own agent, I don't face deadline pressures other than my own. But I have come to realize that whenever I take on a new project, and I've written eight books in eight years, I need to be really excited about it! I check the market to see if there are other books like mine, as I don't want to duplicate someone else's effort. Then I start research, especially anecdotal, as I get my best information from interviewing people. Then I begin to write, letting the story drive the process for more information. One of my most vital tools is walking! I walk several miles almost every day, and use that time to allow my mind to wander and develop my stories and unanswered questions. Once I'm done writing, I self-edit, re-reading over and over again, often aloud, to check for syntax and flow. While my editors are doing their magic, I continue to re-read and refine.
What do you read for pleasure?
Science, travelogues, and history.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up Jewish in a small Appalachian southwest Virginia town. When I was a child, we were the only Jewish kids in the entire town. As such, I always felt like an outsider, giving me a unique perspective on my own community.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
* The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen. Great travelogue. Wonderful insight. Great mix of angst, hopefulness, and nature. * Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig. A classic! Fantastic look at the human condition, how we relate to our world, our devices, and our relationships. * Cosmos, by Carl Sagan. A magnificent treatise on the universe and our place in it. * Collapse, by Jared Diamond. A gripping look at the chance our society has for survival by evaluating past societies that didn't. The subtitle, "How societies choose to fail or succeed," is worth the price of the book. * A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. I swear, this guy can make anything interesting.
How do you approach cover design?
I live in an area of immense natural beauty. Since my book are all of or about the area, I try to celebrate that beauty on my covers, either in photographs or graphical illustrations.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is "Chasing the Powhatan Arrow." It is a travelogue in economic geography from Norfolk, Virginia to Cincinnati, Ohio, following that famous former N&W passenger train. As a businessman, I have always been interested in how economies work. I realized that communities, like businesses and even people, make good and bad health decisions. With the re-launching of steam excursion train rides in 2015, I realized the extraordinary interest people in the corridor still have for trains, and thought the corridor provided an excellent travelogue path to explore the economic health of the mostly rural communities along the way.
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