Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I have been a journalist for the last 35 years and have worked in New York, Rome, Paris, London and now Los Angeles. Having gone freelance a few years ago, I started to write fiction, and found that I enjoyed it immensely. It stretches different muscles and challenges me in different ways from journalism.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Milk and Honey on the Other Side is an inter-racial love story set in the Deep South post World War One — and is inspired by the history of the time and the place that I’ve always been steeped in, read about, and heard about from relatives and old-timers in and around the town of Vicksburg, MS where I grew up.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don’t know about “unusual,” but my routine is generally to write in the mornings, and edit myself at night. Occasionally I put Bach on the stereo or just listen to the crickets outside (in Mississippi) or the winds off the desert (in Los Angeles).
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Too many to count, as I have a PH. D. in English Literature and in Renaissance Studies from New York University. I’m very fond of Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Henry James in the 19th century and James Joyce and William Faulkner in the 20th. And, among recent writers, I enjoy, and hopefully have learned a little about style and perspective from, Jonathan Franzen, Donna Tartt, Elena Ferrante and Ian McKeowan.
What are you working on now?
I’m toying with two or three different story ideas, one historical and one contemporary. Not yet decided which to further.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’m fairly new to this but I would say Facebook to start with.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Make sure you’re passionate about the subject you intend to explore and make sure you carve out a regular routine for putting pen to paper.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Take in as much critical advice as you can, mull it dispassionately, and then make choices as to what to follow and what to reject.
What are you reading now?
I just finished A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, which is marvelous for its mastery of time shifts as well as for its general hilarity about serious matters, and, for a change of pace, I’m reading the on fiction bestseller The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, which has already made me look at the frogs in the back garden differently: Homo Sapiens is at least partially responsible for the disappearance of many amphibs as well as bats, chestnut trees and the Sumatran rhino. Among many other plants and animals to worry about.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I plan to continue to freelance pieces for entertainment magazines I have worked with — and to get another novel underway.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Shakespeare’s plays, John Keats’ poetry, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, and Mary Beard’s SPQR