First of all, tell us a little about yourself!
Sure. I'm originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I grew up with a twin brother and an older sister. I moved to Portland, Oregon after college, where I taught middle and high school for about fifteen years. It was during those same years that I started writing and publishing, so both of my careers have been simultaneous. Three years ago I moved with my wife and son to Reno, where I now teach English to 7th and 8th graders.
What inspired you to become an author?
A few other authors. The first thing I wrote was a play, which was inspired by Tom Stoppard's, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (a philosophical comedy about two minor characters from Hamlet). But what really made me think I had to be writer was reading the short story collection, Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges. Each book in the Forbidden Books Series starts with a quote from Borges.
What was the main inspiration for your book?
One of the short stories in my collection for adults, Dictionaries Out of Order, was written many years ago, before I began the Forbidden Books Series. It's about a book that has pages with words that randomly change, producing mostly nonsense, but with the potential of revealing the most well guarded secrets and profoundest truths. The collection was also inspired by Borges. When I was finished with the story, I felt the idea deserved more room. At that time, I hadn't considered writing for children or teens, but I had recently read the first Harry Potter book, and it was all the rage. I'd also just read The Golden Compass and was amazed and impressed that authors were taking on such weighty subjects for teen audiences. So...it all came together. I was inspired to take my changing book and develop a much longer story around it for teens. I hoped to infuse it with adventure, magic, and thought-provoking plot developments. I'm thrilled to have read comparisons to Harry Potter and The Golden Compass, but also to The Da Vinci Code and Indiana Jones. Toss in Borges and you have the ingredients for Forbidden Books!
Who influenced you the most in life?
I'd say my parents and all the good people they made sure I was surrounded with growing up.
What is the kindest thing someone has ever said and or done for you?
I dropped down to half time the year I began my adult novel, Fun & Games. I was wonderful of my wife to support me in that decision that year.
Do you have a favourite author? (Or name a few)
Borges, for sure. Mostly it's individual books that attract me, but if a new book comes out by any of these authors, I'm probably going to get it: Colson Whitehead, Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Safran Foer, AS Byatt and Umberto Eco.
What is the best writing advice you have ever received?
Probably that the most compelling drama in any situation is what goes on below the surface of the scene, and that readers must be allowed to determine "what's really going on" for themselves.
Do you like to listen to music while you write? If so, who are your favourite artists?
I don't because I'm one of those types who can't help paying attention to every lyric when I listen to songs. My favorite artists are Elton John, Cat Stevens, Billy Joel, Van Morrison, and the like, but I do listen to many other types of music.
What helps you write when you're stuck and or have writer's block?
It helps that I write for children, teens, and adults and usually have several projects going on at once. If I'm stuck on one, I can turn to another. If that doesn't work, the best solution for me is always just to go back to the beginning and start revising. I almost always find I can push a bit further when I reach the end. And when I get stuck again, I just go back to the beginning and start revising all over again. For this reason, the hardest part for me is starting from the blank page.
After a long day of writing etc, do you have a favourite tv show you like to watch?
Not really, but my all-time favorites are The Sopranos, Deadwood, The X-files, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
What are you working on currently?
The same publisher that is releasing Forbidden Books has acquired a six-book early chapter book series of mine called Mysterious Monsters. That was my first attempt to write for that age (7-10) and I had a lot of fun with it, so I am starting another series, though I'll only be writing one book to start with.
When you're not writing, or working, what do you like to do?
Spend time with my family. Lately I'm re-becoming a ping-pong addict and dragging them with me.
What are some of your most favourite books of all time?
Ficciones, The Remains of the Day, Waterland, Watership Down, The Lord of the Rings, The Things They Carried
Which of your characters do you love the most and why?
That's a bit like asking a parent which of his children he loves the most! I really don't think I can choose. I dearly love the foolish young adults in my adult novel Fun & Games, but am also deeply attached to Dex and Daphna, the twin thirteen year-old heroes of the Forbidden Books Series.
What is the title of the last book you read/was it good or bad?
I've just finished re-reading The World According to Garp. I really enjoyed it, though not as much as I did twenty years ago. John Irving is great influence on some of my work. I think that can be seen in Fun & Games, which like Irving (who does it masterfully) meshes comedy and tragedy.
Is there anything specific you'd like to try writing about in the future?
I'd like to try to write a book set totally in a fantasy world.
What is an interesting or hidden talent you have?
For some reason, I can almost always count on finding a parking spot whenever and wherever I need one. I have no idea why.
If you could have one super power, what would it be and why would you choose it?
Well, I already have the parking spot power, but if I could have another one it would be the power to digest gluten, which, sadly, I've lost!
Is there anything else you'd like my readers to know?
I appreciate your interest in my and my work. With any luck, I'll have news soon about a movie (or movies) and Forbidden Books because they are in the hands of a former producer of The Lion King and the screenwriter of Dolphin Tale. They are developing it for film, so, my fingers are crossed! (Hard to type this way :)