Born in 1946, I grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts. I attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, majoring in English literature. During my junior year, I studied English Literature at Oxford University and travelled in Europe. I wrote a travel journal as my senior thesis.
After graduating in 1968, I enlisted in the Air Force one step ahead of my draft board’s kind invitation to join the army and travel to Vietnam. I married Susan, my high school girlfriend, during leave between tech school and my posting to the Philippines at Clark Air Base. During this period, I wrote poetry.
Discharged from the military in 1972 and despite my lack of computer experience, I was hired by Liberty Mutual Insurance to attend their three-month computer training course. I learned later that the major reason I was hired was my writing and communications background. An English degree can be a valuable asset!
I began writing short stories, a novel and a screenplay, but wasn’t disciplined enough to produce much over the next 25 years. A job, a house, and raising two children took all my energy.
After 35 years in information technology, I retired from Massachusetts Financial Services in the spring of 2012. I sat down and had a long talk with myself. “If you want to publish a book, you’d better take writing seriously.”
My wife and I moved north of Boston in 1974. Our daughter lives in Ireland with her husband. Our son and his wife are pediatricians in Rhode Island. We have four grandchildren.
Echo from Mount Royal is my first novel, published in 2015.
What inspires you to write?
One inspiration comes from the books and stories I read. By this I don’t mean the subject matter of the work, but instead the tone, point of view, and writing style. These factors trigger a memory that inspires me to write or to rewrite an existing story that isn’t working in its present form.
Another inspiration results from a connection I make between a past event in my childhood and an event either in my adult life or in the life of my children. This connection forms the basis for a story that, in the end, may be far different from the original events.
My recent book was inspired by my friendship with an elderly Jewish woman I frequently met in the coffee shop downstairs from my office. When she learned that I was a part-time writer, she told me many stories about her experiences growing up in Montreal before and after WWII. Her story about her engagement as an 18-year-old girl astounded me. She invited me to ‘write it up,’ thinking it would make an interesting short story. Instead it became the basis for my debut novel, Echo from Mount Royal.
Tell us about your writing process.
When I start writing the first draft, I may have some ideas, observations, bits of dialogue written down, but I never have an outline. When I am well into the writing and have a clearer idea where the novel is going, I will create a list of the scenes that I must complete to finish. Nothing is ever cast in stone. During the editing process I will find scenes that can be omitted or combined with another part of the book. In some cases, I will write the subject of each scene on a Post-it note and use them to rearrange scenes to clarify plot or to have the characters behave consistently. I always keep a list of minor changes or additions I don’t want to forget.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
When I sit down to write, I often imagine that I am going to visit friends and spend the day with them. At first I will take charge of the visit to get things started, but eventually they exert their influence and I am content to become an observer. As I write, I watch them acting out the scene and listen to what they say. I often feel the ideas go from my subconscious directly onto the page. Things happen that I never imagined. The characters may begin to act out one of my own experiences. They say things I wish I had said at the time. While in this semi-unconscious zone, I let them do what they want and only rein them in when they risk going off the plot’s cliff.
Who are your favorite authors?
Sebastian Barry (A Long, Long Way, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty), William Trevor (Lucy Gault), Colm Toibin (Brooklyn, The Master, The Heather Burning, The Blackwater Lightship), Frank O’Connor (short stories), Jaime O’Neill (At Swim, Two Boys), Edna O’Brien (In the Forest), Jane Gardam (Filth), Brian Moore (Lies of Silence),
Peter Ackroyd (Chatterton, The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde), John LeCarre (Smiley Trilogy), Ian McEwan (Atonement, Enduring Love), Magnus Mills (The Restraint of Beasts, All Quiet on the Orient Express), John Mortimer (Rumple short Stories), Roddy Doyle (A Star Called Henry), Virginia Woolf (To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway),
Michael Frayn (Headlong), Graham Swift (Last Orders), Graham Greene (End of the Affair, The Quiet American), Elizabeth Taylor (Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont), Barbara Pym (The Sweet Dove Died), Hilary Mantel (the Cromwell Trilogy), Charles Dickens (Bleak House, Great Expectations), and Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited).
How did you decide how to publish your books?
In my research about publishing, I was dismayed to learn how long it takes to get a book ‘out there’ using the traditional route. At the age of 68, I didn’t have the time to wait 2-3 years (if I was lucky) before holding a book in my hand. I also realized that I would be responsible for marketing my debut novel no matter how it was published. I also didn’t want to sign away my rights to my book only to see it in the Orphanage of Remaindered Books after 90 days on bookstore shelves. That’s when I decided to independently publish my book. I chose a local company to help me. I liked the personal touch as well as the ongoing marketing support in my local area.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I don’t believe that the printed book will ever disappear. Nothing is more satisfying than holding a book in one’s hands. Big publishers will always have the bestselling writers and those authors who want the cachet of a publishing house. But independent publishing will continue to absorb more and more of the market. Independent bookstores are more accepting of taking self-published books on consignment. Independent authors know their audience and are creative in their use of social media. The media industry no longer has a monopoly on telling readers what to read. Every independent book bought by a reader is one less book purchased from a big publisher.
What genres do you write?
Literary fiction, women’s literature, romance, memoir
What formats are your books in?