Frequently Asked Questions
Where did the idea for The Death Collectors come from?
As a teenager in the late 60ís I was fascinated by the Manson Family murders. Iím also a devotee of art and art history. Somehow the two concepts mingled in my head and began creating a novel. I didnít copy Manson Family events, but took generously from the idea of a sad and self-absorbed band of misfits under the influence of an egomaniacal madman.
How about The Hundredth Man?
Thereís a classic joke about a person searching for a lost item. Like all great jokes, itís a reflection on human nature. Naturally, the joke has a dark side. While mulling over the joke a few years back, I thought it might make a fine underpinning for a novel. The joke opens Chapter One and, in its own way, continues.
And in A Garden of Vipers?
The idea for a Garden of Vipers/The Broken Souls (in the United Kingdom) came in part from a famous American political family who basically hid away a family member who was perceived as ďimperfect,Ē and thus an embarrassment. The other part came from having seen some folks who used money like a broadsword.
Why the name Carson Ryder for the protagonist?
Carson from Kit Carson, the renowned frontiersman. Ryder from Albert Pinkham Ryder, the 19th and early 20th-Century American artist.
How often do you write? Whatís your working structure?
I get up before dawn (a die-hard angler, Iím acquainted with early hours) and pound the keys until itís light enough to walk. I trot to the Ohio River and wander around, making notes into a pocket recorder. Then I return home and work until mid-afternoon. At night Iíll give the dayís work a read and make a few notes on what needs to be accomplished the next day.
Do you plot out your novels before you begin writing?
About as much as I can plot out a dream. I create the characters and a situation, then let them run (nudging every so often). About a third of the way through, structure seems to emerge from the chaos, and I have a loose sense of where Iím headed.
What drives your work?
Curiosity. I want to take a situation or event, drop characters into it, and see how they respond.
What would you recommend for an aspiring writer?
Write as often as possible; nothing replaces dedication and practice. Iíve read several books on writing and recommend the two Sol Stein works, Stein on Writing and How to Grow a Novel (St. Martinís Press), as well as Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. There are no doubt other good works on the subject (and many mediocre ones); the aforementioned books were helpful to me when I was making the jump from advertising to fiction and wanted to get a sense of the craft.
When you feel ready to jump up a notch, find or form a critique group. If you donít have a clue on this, I suggest The Writing Group Book, ed. Lisa Rosenthal, Chicago Review Press, 2003.