Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m a former journalist who started as a free-lancer covering the war in Viet-Nam. I helped produce the Watergate hearings on public TV; won awards for uncovering corruption in state prisons and for documenting the failure of a public education system; traveled the campaign trail with presidential candidates and spoke about freedom of the press in Eastern European countries as communism fell. In the mid-1990s, I wrote a pioneering column about the new Internet technology before blogs were ever created.
After stepping away from the grindstone, I decided to try my hand at fiction but got called away to finish my Viet Nam memoir. I’ve written three novels, all of which are in states of rewriting.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Hotel Constellation is about the two years I spent in Southeast Asia after I was booted out of Viet Nam in 1970 during the war. I went to Viet Nam to study, not to fight. The Saigon regime wanted nothing to do with me, and I ended up next door in Laos. I discovered there a secret war between the CIA and the North Vietnamese, and started writing about it as a very inexperienced freelance journalist. So this is about what I saw, what I learned, and how I grew.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I’m not sure what the norm is so I don’t know how far outside it I may go.
I try to sit down at my desk with a pot of coffee first thing in the a.m. and write until lunch. Next day, I read what I wrote the previous day, make any minor changes and forge ahead.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Too many to give adequate credit to all, but … Alexandre Dumas, the younger; James Fenimore Cooper; Annie Proulx; Orson Scott Card; Neil Gaiman; Terry Pratchett; Margaret Atwood. There are many, many more, but these are the people, if I see one of their works that I haven’t read, I will buy it, borrow it, pick it up and read it.
What are you working on now?
Lots of things in the queue. Revising for publication three books in a supernatural series I call The Black Orchid Chronicles. A first-contact sci-fi novel called PSNGR. And another memoir, this one a humorous look at my- ah – notable ancestors.
I expect to publish at least one more book this year and perhaps three in 2019.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Gosh, I’m hoping it’s Awesome Gang!
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Same advice experienced writers gave me.
Write. Write some more. Don’t give up. Never stop.
The only writer who doesn’t become an author is the one who stops writing.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
See above. If it’s good enough for others, it’s good enough for me.
What are you reading now?
I just discovered the Longmire series of books by Craig Johnson so I’ll be working my way through all of those. That’s how I read. I discover an author and devour everything they’ve written.
But I’ve also got McMasters’ Dereliction of Duty underway as well as a bio of Max Perkins, a history of the Utes, a travel journal called Orchid Hunter and something called Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier on “the hidden battles to collect your data and control your world.” (I also tend to read more than one book at a time.)
What’s next for you as a writer?
I keep trying to write fiction but continually revert to non-fiction.
I’m determined to finish all the fiction I’ve already started … although I’ve got this backlog of humorous family stories that beckons as well.
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?
The Collected Works of William Shakespeare because it would keep me busy for a long, long time. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas because it’s just the best escape story ever told. The Leatherstocking Tales by James Fennimore Cooper because I appreciate his command of the compound, complex sentence. That should do it. (You are sending a boat for me, right?)
Oh, and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series because it would remind me I might be better off on the island.