- A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?
Depends entirely on the author. Writers are prone to the same foibles as others; while some who spend their lives with ink-stained noses buried in books may be uncomfortable in the company of humans, others thrive on that company. In my case, spending most of my career as a working journalist forced me to develop certain social skills, especially the art of engaging others in meaningful â€“ or occasionally spurious â€“ conversation.
- What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?
Almost everything I write these days is autobiographical. Some would call that self-indulgent; I prefer the term self-revelatory. It is the art of finding that in your own life experience which has relevance and meaning to the life experience of others. In some ways, I consider this the most basic â€“ even elemental â€“ kind of writing; the genre out of which many others have been forged.
- Do you think writers have normal lives like others?
Once again, it depends entirely on the writer. That said, I’m not sure that there’s any such thing as a “normal” life. What makes a writer different, though, especially in a genre like mine, memoirs, is the ability to see his or her life as a story complete with memorable characters, compelling narratives and, most importantly, an overarching theme. A memoir writer views his life as a fascinating drama in which he plays a central role. Not everyone can or should view their lives that way.
- What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?
Most writers, I think, go through periods of intense creativity when the stories just pour out of them without regard to time or place. The difficult times are the periods, sometimes unbearably long, between those creative bursts when there’s just nothing there but the painfully blank page. The challenge is finding a way to make good use of a fallow period while maintaining the faith that it will eventually end. Because, ultimately, faith is the only thing that gets you through.
- Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?
Both. I proofread, proofread, proofread, edit, edit, edit. Then, when I can’t really see it any more, I give it to someone else for a final proofread and edit. No writer is too good to benefit from a second pair of eyes.
- Have you ever left any of your books to stew for months on end or even a year?
Frequently. No, actually almost always.
- Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?
I would tell myself “have more faith in your abilities.” Have the confidence to look change in the eye and welcome it. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) I found something early that I was good at and paid the bills; namely, newspaper reporting. I have often wondered what would have happened if, rather than settling into the comfort of that career, I had been more willing to take risks by trying other things sooner. I always dreaded what would happen if I ever lost my job; eventually, of course, I did and everything turned out just fine. Sometimes I wish that had happened earlier.
- Do you ever read any of your own work?
Only when I must. Occasionally I run across something I wrote years before; so far in the past, in fact, that I have completely forgotten it. Then I have the unusual pleasure of reading it as if I were another person seeing it for the first time. To enjoy a piece of my own writing under those circumstances is deeply gratifying; sometimes I find myself admiring the writer’s skill and thinking, wow, this guy can really write! It’s moments like those that keep me going.
- It is often believed that almost all writers have had their hearts broken at some point in time, does that remain true for you as well?
I think that almost all human beings have had their hearts broken at some point in time and, yes, that’s true of me too. Whether you use it to dig better ditches or write better books depends entirely on your particular set of skills.
- Poets and writer, in general, have a reputation of committing suicide; in your opinion, why is that the case?
Certain types of mental illness, for reasons not completely understood, do tend to occur more frequently in creative types. Musicians, for instance, are more likely to be schizophrenic. That said, suicide is among the most self-indulgent acts I can think of and writers, almost by definition, tend to be self-indulgent
11. From all that we have been hearing and seeing in the movies, most writers are alcoholic. Your views on that?
Same answer as above; self-indulgence. I really detest movies and popular culture that romanticize alcoholism and other vices among writers. I especially detest writers who then rationalize their alcoholism and other self-indulgences by citing the so-called needs of their “artistic” souls. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all poppycock
12. Do you believe that it’s more challenging to write about beliefs that conflict with your own?
Not necessarily more challenging, but definitely better for your writing muscles. Probably better for your growth and maturity as a human being as well. I grew up in traditional journalism where writing about those with different belief systems was an almost daily necessity. I think that’s a very good background for a writer because it forces you to stretch, to get into a mental space from which you are simply an observer. That is the best space from which to write many other genres as well, including fiction.
- Writers are permanently depressed; how true is that?
I certainly spend a fair amount of time being depressed. Not sure, though, to what extent it’s a function of being a writer; I suspect I’d be depressed no matter what I did. That said, however, there’s probably some truth in the idea that more introspective people tend to be more depressed, especially when they brush up against the ample evidence that life really has no purpose save that which we invent. My worst days are when I ponder the meaning of it all and come up short. Better, sometimes, to just shush that inner voice and enjoy the beauty surrounding us.
- Did the thought to give up writing ever occur to you?
Many times. Even tried it on a couple of occasions, but ended up right back where I started. All roads, it seemed, led to the same destination. Which led me to the conclusion that it’s a calling; if you’re not called to write, don’t bother doing it because there are lots of more sensible things one can do.
- What does the word “retirement” mean to you? Do writers ever retire?
To me, retirement means working at your own pace and only on things you really want to work on. I retired some years ago when I left daily journalism. I still work, but never at the ferocious pace I once did and certainly not for as many hours. And if I lose interest in a project, well, I lose interest in it. No more squeezing out the muse even when it’s in a drunken stupor.
16. If you die today, how would you want the world to remember you?
As someone who lived in an interesting time and did his best to understand it.
- Are you working on something new now?
I have an idea for another book. Wrote about nine chapters and then stopped, not sure where to go from there. So now I’m kind of stewing on it, waiting for the wind to reanimate my sails. In the meantime, I’m working on day-to-day stuff which, at the moment, means several stories a week for the local radio station. I’m always working on something, even if it’s smaller short-term stuff.
- Have you received any rewards for your literary work?
When I was younger I used to receive journalism awards with some regularity. More recently my memoir, Nazis & Nudists, was named a runner-up in the 2016 Maxy Awards and a finalist in two categories — nonfiction e-books and memoirs — of the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I was stoked.
- Did you ever change sentences more than five times just because it didn’t hit the right notes?
Absolutely. Rhythm is very important to me in writing; if the cadence is off or the timing not quite right, it just doesn’t work for me. Sometimes it takes many tries to get perfect.
- What would you say is your biggest failure in life?
I wish I were more patient, especially with people whose skills and abilities I do not recognize. I wish I could love more deeply and completely.