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 inspires you to write?
I’ve messed around with writing most of my life, though not any formal attempts at writing books. I’m a songwriter, so I reckon I’ve concentrated on short things, for the most part. “Man & Horse” is the first long form thing I’ve written, although I have written the odd chapter in an academic book, or conference papers for academic get togethers. Oh, and my doctoral thesis… that was a monster (laughs).
I had been kicking the book around in my head for decades, and I guess the time was right for me to just jump in and do it. It felt like it finally needed to come out, so I knuckled down and did the hard yards, and eventually got it done. And I’m glad I waited. As a retrospective, I think I was able to say a lot more than I could have in 1974, when Gizmo and I made the journey.
Tell us about your writing process.
In writing both prose and songs I tend to write like I speak. Plain and simple. Oh, I’ll sometimes use more flowery words and verse, just to make a point, but my writing style is pretty straightforward. I often wish I had the talents of say, Mark Helprin or John Steinbeck, whose prose just carries you along with it. But I just try to work to my strengths. And I try to keep in mind that a reader, or someone listening to a song, wants it to touch them in some way. They need to be able to identify with the story, with the language, and with the sorts of feelings and observations the writer chooses to share. I don't want to lecture, and I don't want to over-explain. I want the reader or the listener to figure it out for themselves, and to take away from it the things that are important to them.
Who are your favorite authors?
There are so many authors that I can’t possibly list even a fraction of them. I read around a hundred books a year, and have for most of my life. I’m big on science fiction, but read everything from Louis L’Amour to Richard Feynman, from Margaret Atwood to Neil Gaiman. I like smart writers, people who can make words flow and create imagery in my mind. Mark Helprin, Tim Winton, Jane Smiley, Kim Stanley Robinson, William Gibson, Ann Cleeves, Kurt Vonnegut, Neal Stephenson, Leif Enger, Annie Proulx, John Yount, Patrick deWitt, James Morrow, Amor Towles. Some of my favorite songwriters include Guy Clark, Nanci Griffith, Eliza Gilkyson, Kora Feder, Rodney Crowell, Townes van Zandt, Chuck Pyle, Donna Dean, and so many others. Each of these writers has his or her own special way of giving voice to a novel or a song. They are all very different from each other, be each one manages to touch me in their own way.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I rode my horse, Gizmo, across the United States in 1974, from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. It was a journey of over 4,000 miles that lasted seven months. After a great long while, I finally decided to sit down and write a memoir about it all, with the hindsight (and hopefully, wisdom) that comes with age. I published it through Createspace (Amazon), and it has all been a great learning experience for me. The book has done well, and I have received a tremendous amount of positive feedback about it, for which I am eternally grateful.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I'm no expert in this area, and I have mixed feelings about it. I'm pretty sure that most consumption of books will take place on eBook readers like Kindle, Kobo, and the like. It's better for the environment, with a smaller carbon footprint. But I have to say, I'm an old fashioned book reader. I do have a Kindle and I use it every day and love it, but I much prefer a solid book in my hands, just as I prefer a real newspaper to a computer screen for my news. Reading the news on a screen just doesn't go well with a cup of coffee in the morning.
What genres do you write?
Bio/Memoir, Adventure Travel, Literature & Fiction, Academic writing (music, digital culture, internet studies)
What formats are your books in?
All information is provided by the author and is presented as it was submitted so you the reader get to hear the author’s own “voice” in their interview.