When and how did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?
Like virtually every other writer, I’ve always been an avid reader. My father’s cousin was the children’s librarian at the Missoula Public Library, and as a child I haunted the place. One afternoon when I was eight or nine years old, it suddenly occurred to me that it would really be a lot of fun to be the person who wrote the book and not just the one who was reading it. I began writing my first novel the following afternoon. It was an adventure story, but at this point, I can’t remember what the adventure actually entailed. Sadly, I was unable to find an agent to represent the book and so my writing career was placed on hold for a number of years while I went back to the fourth grade in order to learn things like spelling, punctuation and grammar.
What other writers have influenced your work?
I would imagine that every writer I’ve ever read has affected my own work in one way or another, most often subconsciously. Each writer strives to find his or her own voice, but inevitably you’re going to be influenced by the other authors that you read. Even the bad ones are bound to teach you something.
The first “adult” novels that I read were mystery novels that belonged to my parents. My father loved Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason series, and Gardner was the first author who had a profound influence on my life. Reading his books as a young boy, I became addicted to crime fiction. Like a lot of other impressionable youths who read Gardner, I also decided that I wanted to become a lawyer. I later came to my senses, though, and realized that being a lawyer would probably involve a lot of hard, boring work, and that it would very seldom involve sultry, sexy blondes showing up in your office with complicated problems that only you could resolve.
Moving beyond Gardner’s novels, I read people like Ross McDonald, Dick Francis, Richard Stark, Jeremiah Healy, Jon A. Jackson, Elmore Leonard, John D. MacDonald, Ed McBain, and a host of others. I’ve always been a huge fan of Lawrence Block, and like most other crime fiction fans, I enjoy the work of contemporary authors like Michael Connelly, Lee Child, John Sandford, James Lee Burke, George Pelecanos, Ian Rankin, Don Winslow and Tony Hillerman. T. Jefferson Parker is a particular favorite, and the list could go on practically forever. All of these writers have given me thousands of hours of great entertainment and I’m sure that they have all influenced my own writing, at least to some extent.
All of your previously published work is non-fiction. Why did you decide to start writing crime novels?
As I suggested above, I have always enjoyed reading novels, crime fiction in particular, but it never occurred to me that I might actually try writing a novel. Then one morning a few years ago, I was minding my own business and working on book about the lives of women on the Rocky Mountain mining frontier of the 1860s. In the middle of that effort, an idea struck me for a suspense novel, and once the idea grabbed hold of me, it refused to let go.
After resisting the notion for a while, I finally surrendered, set aside the non-fiction project, and began toying with the novel, just to see what might happen. I fully expected that, after a few days at most, the effort would run out of gas and I would get back to work on my “real” book. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen, and seven months later I had the first draft of a finished novel. I spent a couple more months polishing the book and then set about the task of attempting to someone who might want to publish it.
Unhappily, no one did. While I got a number of very encouraging responses, that book was destined to become my “practice novel,” and is now gathering dust in the “Inactive” folder on my hard drive. But even though the book did not sell, I discovered that I had enjoyed very much the process of writing it and was anxious to get to work on another.
Where did you get the idea for No Place To Die?
I was at an author’s event at the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona, and in introducing the program, the store’s owner, Barbara Peters, made a casual remark that planted the seed of the idea for the book. Because of other commitments I was unable to begin working on the project immediately, but once I had the chance, I did the necessary research and began writing the manuscript. Fortunately, in this case the book found both an agent and a publisher, and having discovered how much I enjoy writing in this genre, I’m hoping that it will be quite some time before I get back to the women I abandoned on the mining frontier.
What is your workday like and do you write every day?
A number of years ago, I signed up for a series of golf lessons. Before the pro gave up in despair of ever teaching me how to play the game, he told me that I should touch my clubs every day, even if it was just long enough to take a couple of practice swings, so that I could stay connected to the game. Unfortunately, the advice did nothing to improve my golf game, but I have found it to be critically important to my writing (touching my writing, that is, and not my golf clubs).
When I get up in the morning, I try to get all the distasteful stuff like exercise, household chores and errands out of the way first, so that they’re not hanging over my head all day. Once that’s accomplished, I generally read the newspapers over an early lunch and then get into my study and work through the afternoon and early evening. I’ll sometimes take a break for dinner and then go back to work for another two or three hours, but my preference is to work straight through until eight thirty or so. Then I’ll often reward myself by going out to eat a light dinner, usually someplace where there’s live music and where I can also have a couple of glasses of wine to unwind at the end of the day.
Once back home, I’ll read for a while, listen to some music, or watch a little late-night TV before heading off to bed. But even on a day when I don’t have a chance to spend a lot of time at my desk—when I’m traveling, for example—I still make it a point to spend at least a few minutes with my current project as a way of staying “connected to the game.”
Where can I get a signed copy of No Place To Die?
The Poisoned Pen Bookstore has signed copies of both No Place To Die and Until Death. Their address is 4014 N. Goldwater Blvd, Scottsdale AZ, 85251, and you may also order books from them as you would from any other on-line bookseller. Their website is www.poisonedpen.com. If you would like to order by phone, the store's phone number is (888) 560-9919.
Can you speak to my group?
In addition to the events that are scheduled at bookstores in connection with the promotion of my books, I enjoy meeting with book clubs, speaking at libraries, conferences and at various other functions as my schedule permits. If you would like me to speak at an event you are planning, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.