Back in 2005, a misdiagnosis by a doctor landed me in the hospital with severe internal bleeding. I lay in my bed that first night, feeling weak, isolated and let down by the medical community. Suddenly I saw in my mind's eye, a group of five tigers prowling within me. I knew everything about them -- their names, their backstories, everything -- and I knew that they were there to help me. They were a source of great comfort. When I was released from the hospital, I thought, "Why keep this story to myself?" So I wrote it up as a children's book to give everyone a good read, but particularly to give hope to ill boys and girls and their parents.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I wanted to become a published author in the worst way. And I did. My experience with a traditional publisher was pretty awful, so I decided to strike out on my own with book #3.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Most of my writing has been for documentaries. Very factual, precise and, if done well, powerful. But children's books permit me to go on a prolonged recess, color outside the lines and have endless amounts of fun.
What are you working on next?
I've starting a new series about an imaginary school located in Africa, where the students are animals and the subject is survival. In each new adventure, an action team consisting of an impetuous young female elephant, her wisecracking cattle egret friend and a majestic white lion who's an emissary from the stars is dispatched to help an endangered species. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, there is plenty of humor as well as practical tips for young readers to get involved. I've written three books in the series so far and can't wait to get started on the fourth. I think it's my best work.
Who are your favorite authors?
First, and above all, Cervantes (Don Quixote). Then, and in no particular order: Mark Twain, Thomas Mann, Haruki Muarakami, Barbara Kingsolver, Joseph Heller, Ross Thomas, Tolstoy, Dorothy Sayers, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Charles Dickens.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The thought of making new connections, both personal and creative.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm a voracious reader, and I also like to spend time out alone in Nature. The Japanese have a lovely term for walking in a tree-filled landscape: forest bathing.
How did you discover the power of words?
When I was a young boy I used to play in a baseball league, I almost immediately discovered that if you shouted out "Swing, batter!" loudly and forcefully enough, an opposing hitter could be made to go for anything: a ball that was eight feet above his head or bouncing on the ground. I never forgot this lesson and when I'm writing on behalf of the causes I believe in, my mantra is still "Swing, batter!"
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1) Don Quixote -- because his creator originally set out to mock him, then ended up falling in love with him (as have most of us)
2) The Magic Mountain -- some find Thomas Mann very ponderous, but I loved this book. Its ending still haunts me.
3) Catch-22 -- my introduction to satire. I see now he was only mildly exaggerated the madness that is war.
4) Bleak House -- not as popular as many of Dickens' other novels, but my favorite. The characters, the plot and the resolution are all fabulous.
5) The Song-Lines -- Bruce Chatwin's account of Australia sometimes seems like a product of the Dreamtime, but there's also a healthy dose of humor and some stunning insights about the nomadic life.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read everything for pleasure. I am no longer required to do homework, so everything I read is intended to enlighten, instruct or otherwise entertain me. I find learning new things outrageously enjoyable, and hope my last words are: "I didn't know that!"
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I'm a fairly devoted Kindle user. I freely admit I was one of those who talked over and over again about loving the physical feel of books, but I have around 3000 books and we're seriously downsizing, so a Kindle it was. And I really like it, although saying "I have to go charge my book" still sounds very strange to me.
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