I like different authors. I admire Wendell Berry although I don't write with the ease and grace that he does. I like Ron Rash and Cormac McCarthy. Serena by Ron Rash is very good. Suttree by McCarthy is one of my recent favorites. Child of God by him is good but very disturbing. I read everything Louise Erdrich writes. Four Souls is outstanding. I've been paying attention to pacing, and James Patterson is really good at it. J.K. Rowling is great with pacing also. I love Annie Dillard's thoughtfulness, and Barbara Kingsolver's insight. Really, there are too many good writers out there to have a favorite. I like a lot of them.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I like the early mornings. I like to see the sun come up. We have great coffee. I have zero personality without coffee. I like being alive. Every day is worth seeing.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I teach. I spend time with children and grandchildren. I like to drive around anywhere with my wife. We have great conversations. We like to work on projects together. I sit in one of my deer stands, watch the wildlife, nap, and think about the world. Since I quit eating meat a few years ago, I don't shoot much anymore, but the solitude of a deer stand is a great place to sort things out.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I read in streaks. If I find an author I like, I generally read everything they've written. I do internet searches. I look at recommendations and award lists, things like that. I read anything, but if it's not good, I get out of it and move on to something else.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. It was an expansion of an old family story I heard about how my grandfather found Christmas presents for his children during the Great Depression. I may go back to it sometime. It's a good story.
What is your writing process?
I usually have some little incident that triggers my imagination. Then I try to put a character in it and just let the character run. I let the character lead me through the plot. I'm constantly asking the question, "What is this character going to do now?"
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I read everything I could get my hands on when I was growing up. My mother always said she thought I read too much. Maybe I did. My favorite children's book was "The Pancake That Ran Away." It really ticked me off that the pancake was eaten by a pig at the end. The first story that grabbed me and made me want to write was a science fiction story, "Surface Tension" by James Blish. What imagination it took to write that story!
How do you approach cover design?
I like to put clues about the book in the design without giving away too much. I have ideas, but I'm not an artist, so someone else does it for me.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
A list of five is tough. There are so many great books, and on any day, the list might change, but today, this is the list. The Brown Dog novellas by Jim Harrison because Brown Dog is such and interesting and unique character. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner for its intensity. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe for its plot and its examination of the clash between cultures. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller because it shows the futility of war. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for its narrator's presence and its impact on society.
What do you read for pleasure?
Everything I read is for pleasure. Recently I went back to John Dos Passos' writing and it was just as good now as it was thirty years ago when I first read him. I avoid escapist writing. That is to say that I like writing that is rooted in reality.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle, but I use Amazon Cloud Reader on my desktop and find it to be very good as well.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a small town in rural South Carolina. Even though we lived on Main Street, behind our house, the world opened up with woods and creeks and countryside. I had the freedom to ramble all over the countryside in the woods and especially up and down the creeks behind where we lived. I think all that freedom really expanded my imagination.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The last hanging here in my town in 1898 is what triggered the story, but the book is not tied to what actually happened then. The main character, Stash Harris, is sentenced to be hanged for murdering two me in a particularly violent way. The sheriff who is responsible for carrying out the sentence is Stash's uncle, Leland Cason.
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