Do you see writing as a career?
No, and I don’t consider it a hobby either. Writing gives me pleasure and I enjoy it. I would do it whether I became successful or not. I’m fortunate that Winter Goose Publishing liked Roma, Underground, and committed to Wasp’s Nest (out in November 2012), and I hope they want more of my Roma characters. Writing is an extension of my living and making sense of the world around me. I find writing to be constructive, instructive, and pleasant, even when it is frustrating. Reading refreshes my curiosity and it gives me comfort.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
The passage I cite is from my latest novel, the third in another series. The novel is called Diminished Fifth.
The house was a clapboard colonial on a poor-man’s hill with a front-swinging fence half-dead on the hinge. The tessellated walkway had enough cracks to give a seismologist concern. The front porch between two corrupted columns had slanted to the right because the termites had been either misguided or the wood tasted better on that side. It was a brown house with weeds everywhere, with one stunted tree out in front as its last defense. There were four shuttered windows, two on each side of the front door, and a chatty screen door that spoke no matter which way the wind blew it. The front door was ajar.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
It depends on my mood. You may like a certain dish but if you eat it daily you soon lose the appreciation. I find myself returning to Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest (1929) because I am amazed at how much he can convey in so few words when he describes a scene or character. The style fits the story. You can’t expound, like William James, on describing a fleeing criminal as he gets into the car because the reader knows the car would be long gone. Red Harvest, like Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, seems to me a rather searing indictment of American corruption, hypocrisy and violence that has stood the test of time. Hammett, I think, influenced Hemingway (so said Gertrude Stein); but even if you dislike Hammett’s themes, he was a prescient writer. Red Harvest remains a relevant novel in today’s world of failed financial institutions, and economy. Both Hammett and Hawthorne deal with crime, concealment, and the cost of keeping a secret. I would contend that Hawthorne is the dark shadow, the dormant influence that every American writer has to grapple with in order to take the full measure of the American ethos.