JRR Tolkien for showing me just how far imagination can get you, David Sedaris for showing me how far making fun of yourself can get you, and William Faulkner for showing me that nothing else matters but the truth.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
On an old Apple Macintosh in the mid-90s, I cranked out a five page (single spaced) short story about a crack detective and his humble - if less eccentric - sidekick who solved the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. Turns out some crazy criminals were powering the legend with a submarine to make quick buck. My wannabe Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Watson made short work of them.
What is your writing process?
First, I have to find the right music before I can begin writing. Sometimes, I will barely even write a sentence before I'm back in my iTunes looking for a better way to set my imagination off right.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien, for finally crystallizing within me the idea that I could be a writer in my own right. 2. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, for its raw characters and McCarthy’s unique and flowing prose. McCarthy is a genius. 3. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, for its esoteric, and tragic, brilliance and its connection to my own Southern heritage (my family has lived in the South for over three hundred years). It also helps that I wrote my Honors Thesis on Faulkner. 4. Dune by Frank Herbert, for its incredible world building. 5. Naked by David Sedaris, for everything it has taught me about voice, and because Sedaris can be so funny, depressing, and poignant, usually all at the same time.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. Obviously, as a fiction writer, I love reading fiction, and there is nothing more fun and exciting by being swept up in a great story. Recently, as far as fiction goes, I've read American Gods by Neil Gaiman, re-read some Faulkner (it never gets old), and enjoyed some of Edward P. Jones' amazing short stories in All Aunt Hagar's Children.
I also make sure to read some non-fiction from time to time. Non-fiction writers are just as talented, and learning more about the world we all inhabit is always valuable. I've enjoyed recently reading Rick Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy about the war in Europe during World War 2, as well as the Autobiography of Malcom X as Told to Alex Haley. So, I guess I read a little bit of everything. Short story collections, full-length novels, non-fiction. I usually have at least two books going at once.
Describe your desk
Cluttered with pictures of family and pets, with trinkets from my travels, and with just enough room for a pair of small, thin Bose speakers. Oh, and stacks of Moleskin journals. So many Moleskins...
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up an only child that lived in the woods away from town, and so this led me to read a lot as a child. Since I loved reading so much, I quickly wanted to try my hand at writing. I started writing short stories in first grade and haven't stopped since.
My only child upbringing perhaps has led me to write mostly about isolated characters who find themselves alone most of the time. Whether they've been alienated by society, lost their family or their loved ones, or done something to separate themselves from others, my stories are filled with characters trying to find some understanding and some camaraderie, sometimes after a period without it, and sometimes without having ever felt it at all.
When did you first start writing?
First grade, typing away at an Apple Macintosh and listening to the album Help by the Beatles.
What are you working on next?
Right now I'm finishing the first draft to my debut novel, a Southern Gothic tale about a family torn apart by crime, betrayal, and one simple misunderstanding that changed the lives of generations.
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