Tell us about your genre. How did you come to choose it? Why does it appeal to you?
I have never chosen a genre, so I don't really have one to call my own. I choose stories—or maybe I should say stories choose me, because I honestly don't know where the ideas come from. A character or a scene will percolate up into my consciousness and I can see there is a tale to be told there behind it, then I go to work. Like, for example, I was reading about Alaskan bush pilots, 'cause I'm a pilot and the Great White North was also a pretty tough and interesting frontier for flying. Maybe I watched Animal House and Treasure of the Sierra Madre around that time and suddenly an opening scene with two Ohio State dropouts unconscious inside the fuselage of a plane wreck out on the tundra came to me, which morphed into Somethin' for Nothin'. Anyway, back to the question. Besides that adventure novel, I have a romance: Lodging. I have a murder mystery: My Brother's Keeper. A satire of the Sixties: In the Black. An espionage thriller: Crossroads. A young adult dystopian tale: Untethered. And, of course, I have a sci-fi series now—the Murder by Munchausen books. I don't read books of just one genre, so why should I write in only one?
What do you find most challenging about the writing process, and how do you deal with it?
My last “Writers Write” monthly meme (Writer's Write Gallery) was a quote from Thomas Harris that writing novels is harder than digging ditches. Well…that's just BS. For me, at least, it is a bunch of fun telling tall tales, creating colorful characters and generally wreaking scenes of havoc that would likely get you thrown in jail or at a minimum slapped silly by the people you're messing with if you tried it in real life. Really, the most challenging thing is not to let my ideas and stories get derailed by all the friendly “advice” out there about what the ever mysterious book market wants to see published. I know not everyone will like my stories, but you just can't calculate your way into a reader's heart.
When and where do you do your writing?
I like to write first thing in the morning—before checking emails, on-line news or social media—so I'm up at five. I might have a cup of coffee first, but then I get at it. That way my mind is free of petty distractions the World Wide Web is excrutiatingly good at delivering into your face. As to where, I work wherever I happen to be at the time. In bed…out on the back patio…in an airliner at Flight Level Three-Seven-Zero…in a cold and uncomfortable cookie cutter hotel room…or at the desk I built from 100 year-old lumber I scavenged out of the Herald Building I bought with Lola in downtown Lorain, Ohio (Finally, The Desk I've Always Wanted). The important thing is to write. You can't wait to be in the perfect place at the perfect time or you'll never get anything finished.
What have you learned about promoting your books?
Wow, it is much harder work—and much less fun—than actually writing the books. It is definitely a job in and of itself. What is most astonishing is the brute force needed to get noticed, like how an Amazon ad takes hundreds of thousands of impressions or views to get just a hundred clicks or so to put eyeballs on your book's page. Not only that, but it is so impersonal. I especially like doing book fairs, signings, interviews and other “meatspace” events where you can interact with real people in real time.
What are you most proud of as a writer?
I guess that I haven't quit yet or been driven totally insane—maybe just 20-30%. Really, I'm always proudest of the book I just finished and most excited about the next one I'm working on, so it's kind of a moving target—which is good. You don't want to get complacent.
If you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?
Mark Twain. He wrote one of my all time favorite novels, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. We both grew up in Missouri along the Mississippi River side of the state. He worked as a typesetter. I supervised the Text Editing Center for Ma Bell, which set all the phone company's internal manuals for publication. He was a river boat pilot and I'm an airplane pilot. We both travelled extensively out West, though a hundred and some years apart. I think we'd have a lot of notes to compare. Oh, yeah, and I'm a writer, too. But I don't see it as a working dinner. I think it would be just plain fun.