Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Can we skip this part? (laughs) Talking about myself is a lot harder that writing, that’s for sure. Let’s see… I grew up in southern California, spent a lot of years in northern New Mexico. I’ve been living here in New Zealand for over a decade now.
I’m mostly a musician, I guess, with a background in horses as well. I’m a senior lecturer in music at a major university here, but I got my degrees later in life. I teach recording, songwriting, stagecraft and performance skills and other things. My research lies in the area of digital culture and ecosystems, exploring how this digital age is affecting humankind in general, and music and the arts especially.
I spent most of my musical years out there playing music. I play a whole bunch of varied and weird instruments. In addition to guitar, I play mandolin, banjo, Dobro, accordion, lap steel, pedal steel, bass, piano, and a few other obscure instruments like mandocello, Theremin, and the musical saw. I play on a lot of records as a recording session musician for other artists, and I have four or five of my own albums out there in the world.
I was a saddlemaker for many years, and I still keep my hands in the leatherwork from time to time. These days it’s usually me, ruining a perfectly good guitar by covering it in fancy carved leather. Sort of cowboying it up. Not practical, but it’s a lot of fun.
As for writing books, this is the first full length work I’ve done (unless you count my doctoral thesis… but nobody actually reads those, do they?). I’ve been a songwriter most of my life, so I do a lot of short form writing; poems, blogs, short stories. And academic conference papers for geeks like me.
Oh, and I have two grown daughters who are a LOT smarter and more worldly than I’ll ever be.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
It’s called “Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America”, and it’s title and inspiration came from the same thing… in 1974 my horse, Gizmo and I made a journey across the United States. Forty-four hundred miles, seven months, across an America that was a whole lot different than it is today. It’s part memoir, part adventure story, with a large mixture of Gizmo thrown in. It’s a reflection upon my horse and myself, and upon how the country has changed through the years. And as it turns out, it is about how a young man found his way in the world, and the young horse who showed him how.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Isn’t the very act of writing, itself unusual? (laughs) I mean, what sort of person is up at three thirty in the morning, writing notes to himself and trying to figure out if he already said that, or if this word is the right one, or how many S’s there are in ‘Mississippi’?
I write a bit every day. I try to keep that part of my brain exercised. My desk is extremely cluttered (that’s a euphemism for, “muddled, messy shambles”). Piles of papers and books, and other research material. Wires and cables, headphones, microphones, musical instruments everywhere in the office. Three–count ’em– three computers, running different systems for different things. Amps and instrument cases, horse gear and leatherwork hanging on the wall. You name it, it’s there. Basically, it’s a mess.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I read about a hundred books a year, and there are so many authors that it’s impossible to pin it down to just a handful. I’ve always love science fiction, so naturally you’ll see Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, and all the classic sci fi writers, along with Brin, Benford, Stephenson, and others. But I read everything from westerns to hard science, philosophy to poetry, so on my bookshelves you’ll find Louis L’Amour, Richard Feynman, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Annie Proulx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Lawrence Lessig, John Perry Barlow, and Jack Kerouac. This past year I’ve been reading Sherry Turkle, Tim Winton, Ivan Doig, Kevin Kelly, John Yount and a bunch of academic writers like Daniel Dennett, Alan Williams, . It’s a long list.
What are you working on now?
Besides writing songs (which I’ve done all my life), I’m trying to write a novel. It takes place along the Texas-Mexican border in 1968, and has all kinds of wacky characters and quirky plot twists. There are hippies and outlaws, and buried treasure. Hopefully, I haven’t gotten myself into something that I can’t finish (laughs).
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Not sure if there’s a “best website” (although Awesome Gang has certainly helped!). That implies that there might be a SINGLE thing you can do to promote your book. I’m no expert on this, but I’m thinking that it just takes commitment and consistency. You just have to have a plan and follow it as best you can. In my case, it involves putting the book out there on different sites and platforms and allowing people to discover it. Trying to force things on people doesn’t work in the digital age.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Once again, I’ll reiterate what was passed on to me a long time ago: Do what makes your heart sing.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
If you’re going to be a musician (and this applies to writers…), get a set of mechanic’s tools and learn to work on your own car. Because twenty years from now, you’ll still be driving the same car, and you won’t be able to afford a mechanic.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading the last in a 4-book “trilogy” by Caimh McDonnell called “Last Orders”. A great yarn, and a fun series of books. I’m also reading “Thinking Machines: The inside story of Artificial Intelligence”, by Luke Darmehl, and I’m almost finished with “The Human Condition”, by Hannah Arendt. I just finished “A Gentleman in Moscow”, by Amor Towles, and “The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet” by Becky Chambers.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I’ll just keep plugging along, playing music, writing songs, trying to get a novel finished, and enjoying life day by day. As I wrote in “Man & Horse”, it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.
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?
Blank ones, so I could write in ’em…