When did you start reading as a child? Favorite childhood book: I was an early reader. I remember that in first grade, my teacher had me teach some of the other students how to read. I loved the Encyclopedia Brown series as a child.
What have you been reading, and what are you reading now? I’m teaching Kite Runner this fall, so I reread that book. What an excellent plot and incredibly complex protagonist. I’m also reading Jonathan Safron Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Clearly, Foer is a gifted writer, though I can’t say that I have “dialed into” this novel yet. I’m not sure what he is trying to do. I haven’t put in the work to understand it. I’m a bit of a lazy reader.
What types of books do you enjoy reading, or what makes you love a book? I like books that tell a strong story. I don’t need an author to show me his erudite vocabulary or cleverness; I need a story that produces a physical reaction while I’m reading. For example, when Amir runs for the kite at the end of Kite Runner, I cried.
Five must-have books for a desert island: To Kill a Mockingbird, Bible, Huckleberry Finn, Grapes of Wrath, Catcher and the Rye
Book that changed my life: Huck Finn
What was it that brought you to writing? The desire to tell a story that might move someone. I believe that stories motivate people more than facts.
Did anyone inspire you to write? I wrote a short story in high school that I thought was clever. My teacher praised the story, and I’ve been writing since.
How do you write? Do you have a daily routine? What’s good, bad, and ugly about the process? I wish I did have a daily routine. I don’t. I teach full-time and I write in the summers. But I also have so many other things to do in the summer, so writing often takes a back seat to having fun or doing projects around the house. But once I’m into a writing project, everything fades away and I just write.
What did you have to unlearn, un-believe about yourself to find your truth as a writer? What had to go? I had to let go of great sentences, paragraphs, and passages that do not serve the arc of the story. It is hard to say goodbye to something you sweated over and love. I’ve learned less is almost always more.
Is finishing harder than starting? Is there a part of you that doesn’t want to let go? The hardest part is creating an entire arc of a story. I need to know where I am going from the start. Unfortunately, I often just start writing without knowing where I am going, and only get to writing an outline after a few chapters.
Do you have any particular story to tell concerning the writing of this book? I knew the story was powerful, but it took a number of drafts to find my voice. Once I found the voice, everything came together.
What advice have you received concerning writing? The relationship between the writer and the editor is the relationship between the knife and the throat. When you can use the knife on your own work, you are well on your own. What advice would you offer young writers? Embrace rewriting and listen to what editors say when your work is inevitably rejected. If you believe in your work, don’t give up. When you hit a wall and have no idea where to go next in your story, this is where the greatest possibility lies. Embrace obstacles.
How did you find the publisher for this book? They did a book like mine that I enjoyed.
What are you working on at the moment? A novel on high school.
When not reading, I am: kayaking, being a dad, biking.