Please share about your background (where you were born, where you grew up, siblings/family dynamic, career background , where you live now, etc.)
I was born in Jacksonville, Florida after humans first sullied the surface of the moon with their boot prints, but before they could figure out how get along peacefully on their home planet.
I was quite young when my parents and I moved to Minnesota, and I consider my childhood home to be the formerly small town of Annandale. I grew up surrounded by creeks and woods and open fields. I walked or rode my bike to school, even having to cut through a soybean field to reach the elementary school. In the summer, I spent hours in the local library, which smelled of old books and wood beams when it heated up. I collected baseball cards and stamps and rocks and bird feathers. I painted my Huffy bicycle red and called it the “Red Baron.” I was a bit of a war history buff when I was a child, for reasons still unclear to me. I once even dressed up as Adolph Hitler for a book report in fourth grade. I was a bookish little guy who wore Wrangler jeans purchased from the “husky” clothes rack. Not having been born in my hometown, I wasn’t always treated well by the less bookish, less husky fellows. We would call it “bullying” now, but really it was just a decade-long rite of passage. As a result, I had few friends and tried to suck up to adults instead.
On the upside, I developed a rich inner life. Flash forward to today: I live in the urban area of St. Paul, Minnesota, which, much to the surprise of many people who have not been to Minnesota, the capital of the state – not Minneapolis. My wife, Naomi, and I have been married for seventeen years and have converted our city lot into organic raised-bed gardens. As of this writing, just before the first frosts will fall, the garden is a verdant knot of greenery, evidence that benign neglect creates the finest habitat for butterflies, bees, and neighborhood cats. I love cats. By day I am Marketing Manager for a small company in St. Paul and love the variety of things I get to do there. For nearly my entire career, writing has served as the basis – the springboard – for all other skills.
When did you begin your writing journey?
In third grade I pined for an ultra blonde-haired girl named Alice. To encapsulate this undying affection that lasted well into fifth grade, I composed the very catchy “I Love Alice” song, whose lyrics go thusly:
I love Alice!
Yes I do.
No one knows
How I feel.
And if you ever
Tried to stop
I don’t know
what I’d do.
I don’t know
what I’d do.
Chaunce, ca. 1978.
Alas, the love remained unrequited and the song never made it onto cassette, but it gave me confidence to write a short story about aliens coming to earth to eat Chicken McNuggets, and that story was published in the local paper. This was before aliens were health-conscious and before they knew about the pink slime in our food. I also made extra under-the-table income in high school by writing reports for my classmates for the reasonable rate of $1 per page. My writing picked up steam in college and I found myself enjoying creative writing classes more than organic chemistry classes. Soon, I was in the English program with an emphasis in creative writing, with absolutely no career aspirations. This ruined my chances of becoming an astronaut. After college I wrote primarily short stories laced with dark humor and once even won $150 for a short story contest. The story was called I Think I Snore. It was inspired by the startling revelation by my first wife that I snored. My first wife is still my same wife. Why change wives in mid-narrative stream? But then the novel happened. It represented a shift in my goals as a writer, requiring a much more fierce determination and a sharper, sustained control of those glib creative impulses that plague me like an eczema on my right brain.
What inspired you to write this book?
I literally dreamed of a boy wearing a cape and riding a white tiger who was looking for his mother. The scene was so vivid that I immediately jotted it down when I awoke. I developed it, at first, into a short story but realized there was still more to it. I fleshed it out and after months of writing had the first draft of my first novel. Like any first-time novelist should, I immediately shoved the manuscript into a desk drawer and let it age, like a fine wine, while I moved on to other writing and life projects. After being fired for insubordination in 2011, I had some free time, so I found an ancient .txt file containing the first draft of Luano’s Luckiest Day. Then began the arduous editing process, which I hate, but as I reworked chapter after chapter, I fell in love with the characters and the story all over again, and even cried at the end of it.
Please share about your latest book.
This has been the most difficult (and most common) question I receive – essentially “what’s your book about?” In addition to some bare-chested cover art and a NY times book review blurb on the back cover, the advice writers hear is to have the “elevator speech” down to explain your book to popular book bloggers like Teresa Morrow. Here goes. The boy in the white cape riding the white tiger from my dream is one of only a few hundred inhabitants of a small, isolated desert town. His name is Luano, and he misses his mother. He wishes more than anything that she return to him, and he has some very high expectations about what she would be like. Two spiders appear at his windowsill and, to Luano, they foretell the return of his mother. He lets them stay, but they feed on him and make him ill, without his uncle (with whom he lives) realizing the cause of Luano’s strange behavior. Luano’s mother does return to the town to try to repair her family, but the entire town rejects her. Even Luano cannot accept her as his mother, because he has idealized her. There is a Big Secret in the town and the family that I think it imprudent to discuss here, but needless to say, readers should buy the book.
It is literary fiction with some elements of magical realism thrown in for good measure. The characters and setting, I am told, are delivered in a way that makes the story come to life for readers.
How did you decide to publish (self or traditional) this book? Why?I chose self publishing because my social network is absolutely free of any connections to publishers, agents, or other authors. I wanted to finish the novel and have it completely done (written, edited, published) so I could move on to writing my next novel, The Blank Slate Boarding House for Creatives(due 2013).
If, however, in the course of feckless fortune I encounter agents and
publishers willing to back a writer of humble origins, I would gladly
consider traditional publishing avenues.
What is the best advice you have received about writing?
2. Don’t edit while you write. (I still break this rule, but it is good advice.)
3. If you ever use the phrase “silver-jagged moon” in your writing, check to make
sure your BACKSPACE button is working correctly.
4. Read your writing aloud.
5. Don’t take yourself – or your writing – too seriously. You’re not writing the
Bible, after all.
6. …unless you are writing a Bible. Then you should take your writing deathly
What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?
Most writers are readers. What are your top 3 “to read” books?
* Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
* Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun
* The Stranger by Albert Camus
Where can readers find out more about you and your book?
* Available on Amazon in both pillow-soft print and eco-friendly Kindle formats.
* Get a flavor of the story in the Luano’s Luckiest Day video book trailer.
* Check out the big spider on Luano’s website.
Question for fun sake—what wasyour favorite childhood story and why?
I really enjoyed The Hobbit, The Three Investigators series, and the Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander. They created very evocative settings in which slightly average persons (or hobbits) are compelled to become something greater than they had anticipated.