If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
Richard Ford, whose Frank Bascombe series, set in my home state of New Jersey, captivated me through three terrific novels and a collection of novellas. I’d probably make homemade grilled pizza, a technique that produces a great, crunchy crust, and serve it with cold beer.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
Like many writers I fear not being able to write; to not be able to tell a good story. I combat that fear by recalling the concept of “shitty first drafts” explored in Anne Lamott’s terrific book on writing, Bird by Bird. To paraphrase Lamott, the goal is to get something down on paper, to simply write a shitty first draft, and to worry about cleaning it up later.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
There are so many. I tend to read literary writers like Philip Roth (absolutely loved American Pastoral) and Jonathan Franzen, whose novel Freedom is one of my favorites. As for characters, few can beat Captains Woodrow F. Call and Augustus "Gus" McCrae from Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. I read it in college when I was home sick with mono and it was one of those books I wished would never end.
What books are on your nightstand?
I just finished The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel and was absolutely captivated. It’s the story of a man who walks away from civilization at age 20 and lives in the cold Maine woods in a tent for 27 years. I’m currently reading a collection of short stories by the great French writer Guy de Maupassant. Up next: Russell Banks’ Continental Drift.
Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?
Many ideas are borne of my own experiences and distilled through the prism of time. I am working on a collection of stories inspired by events from my childhood and teen years tentatively titled “Lakewood Stories.” I hope that the stories, including one about a fight over a plate of french fries in high school and another about crushing on a waitress at my first job in an Italian restaurant, connect with readers who recall that things were so much simpler, and so very different, just 30 or 40 years ago.
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
The comma is cool, because it’s so handy in breaking things up.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
Great Expectations, though I think I did read enough of it to get the gist and pass the test.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
The laptop computer. Not any in particular but, more generally, because the laptop allows one to write and work almost anywhere. I love a Samsung Chromebook that I’ve been writing on lately -- it’s so light and portable, with a good battery and access to stories I work on in the cloud.
Why do you write? The first 5 words that come to mind. Go.
I write to be me.
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
If you like to write, write! Don’t put it off or wait until you have enough life experience. Write now!