When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm a big fan of the Green Bay Packers, so I follow them. I try to get to see training camp, and to a game as often as I can. Music is also important. I've been to 34 Billy Joel concerts and I plan to go to as many more as I can before he finally retires.
I'm a politics junkie. I watch and read as much about politics as I can. Sometimes, I'll even take a position contrary to what I really think, just so I can have a debate with someone. That annoys people sometimes.
Finally, and most important, I spend a lot of time with my family. Writing has given me an opportunity to work from home, which gives me a lot of time every day to spend with my son. We're buddies.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I prefer my iPad. I read a lot at lunch, when I go out to get out of the house. I find that the iPad is much easier to read with than a print book, because you don't have to try to hold it and turn pages while eating a sandwich.
Describe your desk
It's a mess. My wife says that I'm one of the most disorganized people she knows. I've recently started using writing software though, and that allows me to save all of my research and notes within the application, so now I'll have less notebooks and paper all over the place. Now, if I can just clean up all the old stuff....
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the Chicago area, and my mystery stories are set there. I think Chicago is one of the premier cities in the world. The many different neighborhoods, each with their own identity, also make it interesting.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I'm naturally a very shy person, very much of an introvert. Writing allows me to explore other characters and live vicariously through them. I think that Jeffrey Sparks, the main character of my detective stories, is the person I wish I could be. He doesn't really care what other people think, he just does what he needs to do in order to reach what he thinks is the right thing to do. His methods may not always be the best, but he has good intentions.
Who are your favorite authors?
I've always been a fan of Kurt Vonnegut--I wish I could write like him. He had a unique way of identifying themes he wanted to explore, and used humor to make his point. I also admire Edgar Allan Poe. He has some very bizarre stories that I love, and of course he invented the detective mystery.
These days, I read a lot of mysteries. Sue Grafton, and her Kinsey Millhone character, is by far my favorite. I also like Laura Lippman, and even Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
This is a short answer: My son. He's a year old and he is simply the best kid I have ever seen. He's easy going, sweet, and funny. If he has a temper tantrum (all kids do), his last about three minutes, then he's done and everything's fine. I get up early and start writing first thing in the morning before he gets up. Then, him and I spend the day together until my wife gets home from work. I don't know if you can tell, but my son and I are buddies.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I wrote was when I was nine or ten. I wrote it with my brother and cousin when we were visiting the cousin in Wisconsin. It was a dark, horrific, gross story about a serial killer that lived in the woods and made lampshades from human skin (look up Ed Gein). It was a bad story, not well-written, but at least I finished a story.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read a lot of mysteries, especially Sue Grafton, Laura Lippman, and Janet Evanovich. I also like rereading the classics: Poe, Vonnegut. "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Catcher in the Rye" are two of the best books ever written, and I have read them many times.
I also read nonfiction though. I like history, especially presidential history and the Civil War era.
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