Most of the fiction that I read is from the classics. I admire writers who love language. The books of Charles Dickens have never really been turned into good movies because the beauty of his work is in the language, not the images. Somerset Maugham's short stories and novels take me a long time to read because I keep being stopped by a glistening sentence that I have to read again and again. A favorite subject is history, particularly American history. At the moment I am reading Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, a wonderful read which follows his bio of George Washington, also amazing. I have some favorite books that I have read several times in my life and to which I keep returning, including The History of Rome, Moby Dick, anything by Mark Twain, and the complete series of Sherlock Holmes stories by Conan Doyle. At the moment, interspersed with the Hamilton bio, I am struggling through Aristotle's Ethics.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle, not even the latest model, but it is wonderful. I carry around about a hundred books in one hand.
Describe your desk
Reading from left to right, there is my Kindle, a Merriam-Webster dictionary, a favorite book on Southeastern Indians, a book called 501 Spanish Verbs, then a Spanish-English dictionary and Reinhold Niebuhr's Moral Man and Immoral Society. There's a box of Kleenex (there is always pollen in Tennessee), a DVD player and a phone. An apple, an orange and my PC fill up the rest of the desk. Also a Swiss army knife - the essential tool.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I never really grew up, but I was born and raised in Nashville. The influence on my writing is probably the same as for anyone raised in the south. Language. I married a girl from Iowa. They talk differently in the midwest. For instance, here we say "That's as far as I can go." In Iowa they say ":That's all the farther I can go." What does that mean? On the other hand, my wife can't get used to people saying "I'm fixin' to go." The language of one's youth tunes the ear, and that is what writing is about.
When did you first start writing?
I started a novel when I was ten years old. I wrote about three pages before I ran out of story and gave up for about forty years. I had an idea one day and started to write. The task sort of grabbed me and dragged me along. It still does.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I'm working on something now about a young girl who gets caught up in the migration across the mountains in the 1780's. Orphaned, she becomes part of the settlement of Nashville and writes her own story years later. This kind of story takes a lot of research and that is mostly what I am doing, but now and then, one has to sit down at a keyboard and put some of it down. It may never see the light of day, but I enjoy putting a story together. My latest finished story is a novel of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. My grandfather died then at age 25, and The Resurrection Tree is a highly fictionalized novel of his life and death.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I got my first novel onto the desk of three New York Publishers. I got some good comments, but I got rejected by all three. I discovered e-publishing, though, and it just made sense. I think it's the wave of the future in publishing. At least now, my words are available anywhere in the world, every day. The only task is to make sure that they are good words.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing for any author, I suspect, is hearing from a reader that they like your work. Writing is hard work. It's too hard unless the author hears from a reader. I recall a conversation that Somerset Maugham had with a reader. She gushed, "Oh Mr. Maugham, it must be wonderful to write." He answered, "No Madam, it is wonderful to have written."
What is your writing process?
Writing is really just thinking, with a piece of paper (or a keyboard) in front of you. A writer friend used to complain "Walking is not writing. Only writing is writing." He's right, but I think as I walk in the woods or along the road. I can think faster than I can write. Then I try to remember what I thought when I get to the keyboard.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
My mother read Alice in Wonderland to me before I could read. I didn't understand it, but I was enthralled by the fantasy. Anything could happen, I discovered, in the pages of a book.
How do you approach cover design?
Design was my day job for more than thirty years. I was a designer/illustrator on Music Row, doing mostly CD's and DVD's for the music industry, but I did a lot of books. I worked for Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and many lesser performers, even won some awards. So I design my own book covers. I've done a number of other book covers on Smashwords, too. I design for impact, for legibility, and to say something evocative about the book. Designing book covers is just about as much fun as writing stories.
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