In your own words, please tell us about your latest book:
My most recent book, Yesterday Road, is about an elderly man trying to make his way home. Home is a tough nut to crack though, especially since he can’t seem to remember anything further back than yesterday. He sets out to find his daughter, and on the way is helped by Joe Easterday, a young man with Down syndrome, and Ida Pevely, a waitress with a less-than-thrilling life of her own. Adventure ensues.
Do you have a favorite character?
If you mean in my book, it would have to be Ida — partly because she sacrifices a lot to help these wayward fellas and has nothing to gain for it but her own self-respect. Plus, she’s funny and endearing — sort of a kinder, gentler Kathy Griffin.
If you mean a character from all of literature, I guess I’d lean toward a classic, sort of archetypal one like Don Quixote. Figures like him turn up all the time in different garbs.
Where do your story ideas come from?
Mostly they just pop into my head, but usually start from a character. A lot of people think most novelists do thinly veiled autobiography most of the time, but my characters are usually a little too offbeat for that.
Once in a while I’ll read a story in the news or hear of something odd and provocative through word-of-mouth, and I’ll develop a plot that way.
To my friends and family, you’re not in my books! Or if you are, I melded you with other people.
How do you work through writer’s block?
Hard to believe, but I never really have writer’s block. If something’s not working, I have plenty of other projects to mess around with until the juices start flowing again. Writer’s block is a state of mind.
What do you think makes a good story?
Frankly, I really look for something fresh, that I haven’t seen before. There’s probably a little too much reliance on formulas and conventional wisdom in fiction these days, so I like to see unusual characters in unusual situations. Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers is a great example. The protagonist is a female artist/motorcycle racer/street anarchist. What’s not to like?
Do you think most authors understand the importance of marketing their own work?
Nowadays I think they do. I wish I’d understood it better when my first novel came out in 2003. Of course, the tools we have today — social media especially — weren’t available then.
What are some of your methods for self-promotion?
I blog, I tweet, I have a Facebook fan page, I had t-shirts made and bookmarks printed, I have a link to my book on every email I send. I’m really pretty annoying. But, kids, please: no spam!
What’s your writing schedule like?
When I’m really rolling on a book, I write every day, from about 8 am to 1 pm. Since I’m self-employed, I get to juggle my schedule and work around my writing. It’s a real luxury. I used to get up at 4 am and write before going into the office, but that was pretty hard on my brain — a self-administered lobotomy.
What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re not writing?
My wife and I are avid hikers, so we’re always out there among the trees with our dog. I’m also an extremely amateur guitar player. I enjoy writing and recording extremely amateur songs and making my wife listen to them.
Who would you say has been a major influence in your life?
Do you ever use friends, family members or acquaintances as character models?
As I mentioned above, I might make composites that resemble any number of familiars. Mostly, it’s subconscious, I have to think. I certainly don’t carry out fictional vendettas or wish fulfillments through my writing, though.
How do you deal with criticism?
Ignore it. (Well, partly.) It depends on the spirit in which the criticism is offered. I can handle a negative review that’s thoughtful and well-meaning. I appreciate, especially during revision, critiques that might help me see the material from a different angle. But when criticism is flip or spiteful — well, I don’t think anyone benefits from that.
What would readers be surprised to know about you?
That I exist.
If you could spend the day with a famous author (past or present) who would it be?
I would have loved a day with Kurt Vonnegut. Between his humor, his voice, his ideas, and his decency, I hope some would have rubbed off.
How would you spend the day together?
After reading his volume of letters, I guess we might have had a few drinks together. All day.
How can readers connect with you?
Are you working on anything new now?
I’m planning to publish a new novel later in 2014. It’s sort of a hybrid literary/chick-lit story called Wish I Were Here. I hope readers are willing to give a chick-lit novel written in first-person by a man a fighting chance.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Take up rocket science instead. It’s easier.