I’m best known for my two books of short fiction, The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea and the recent Months and Seasons.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
As I’ve read the histories of literary blogsters on such sites as yours, I see I wasn’t as avid a reader compared to others (and probably you.) My parents didn’t want my brothers and I up reading after bedtime, but I’d sneak under my blanket to read by flashlight in fourth and fifth grade. Frankly, my English teachers pounded out of me the joy of reading.
It was only when I was in Denmark in my junior year of college studying abroad that I found myself so utterly alone that I devoured books again. At that time, I’d planned on living with my Danish girlfriend, who’d I’d met in Minnesota, but by the time I had all my studies arranged and got over there, I learned she was living with another man. She didn’t tell me until I landed. She arranged it so that I could live with her parents. Life’s odd, yes? (That loosely became the basis of an upcoming novel, The Laughter and Sadness of Sex.)
The local Danish library did not have a lot of English-language books, and the ones they had were well-known ones. I tackled Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage right away because it looked wonderfully thick. I needed escape. I then fell into Hemingway and Fitzgerald and found their stories fabulous. How had my English teachers made it seem only they could properly understand these books?
I came to make some Danish friends, and at one of their parties, I found books by Kurt Vonnegut in a bathroom, and the host let me borrow them. I became a Vonnegut fan because his stories were so different than Fitzgerald, Hemingway’s, and Maugham’s. He was having fun. Vonnegut was probably the first author who showed me that serious stories could have humor.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, Months and Seasons, and what inspired you to write such a collection.
I love writing short stories, but my first agent made it clear he wouldn’t represent a collection of short fiction because they didn’t make money. I started writing novels. I had already put together The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea, however, and so I had it published independently from my agent. The book didn’t make money. However, it received some great reviews, including a mention in Entertainment Weekly and a big review in the Los Angeles Times. The agent called me to say congratulations.