I grew up on the High Plains of Eastern Colorado, home to few trees, ample sagebrush, cowboys and wheat fields. The nearest airport or McDonalds was 164 miles away, but I was never bored. My family has owned the local newspaper in Burlington for five generations, and at nine years old I started working as (in my grandfather's words) the "super sanitation engineer." When I got older I started writing stories and taking pictures of everything from burned-down mobile homes to prize-winning sows at the Kit Carson County Fair.
I was a weird kid. I didn't play sports. I thought my parents were cool. I had a clown doll named Toody. In the second grade I tried to start an after-school coloring club, but it lasted just fifteen minutes; I had to kick everyone out because they weren't coloring inside the lines well enough. I sometimes call myself "Mr. Fussy," an alter-ego that makes his way into my essays and speeches. Mr. Fussy comes out when he sees someone toss a cigarette butt out the car window.
My mother was the only feminist in Eastern Colorado, and early on she had us boycotting products that were endorsed by anyone who spoke out against the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. I had to sneak Hawaiian Punch into the house because Donny and Marie Osmond, both anti-E.R.A Mormons, were the spokespeople for my favorite drink. (IRONY ALERT: I have a huge Mormon following; my book Househusband was nominated for book of the year in the Salt Lake City library system.) Some of my fiction features strong women, no doubt attributable to my mother's influence.
From Colorado, I studied art history and journalism at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and, after graduating, got my first job with the newspaper in Fort Myers, Florida. I was a lowly reporter when I met my wife Carol, the advertising director and a Kansas native. Eight years older than me and in management, she was forbidden fruit, but I was drawn to her and began to pursue in earnest. It did not take long for us to have a baby, Haley Joy, and our family began moving across the country like gypsies (Rochester, New York; St. Paul, Minnesota) as Carol trained for her dream job of newspaper publisher. I stayed home with our daughter, wrote freelance magazine articles and interested myself with cooking. I still have trouble walking by an unfamiliar grocery store without going in for a look.
Carol landed her first publisher job in Macon, Georgia, and it was living in this beautiful, quirky city that first inspired me to write fiction. We then moved back to Fort Myers for 10 years, where I based my novel All This Belongs to Me, and eventually landed in Nashville, which might be the coolest place we've ever called home. It's Southern with a bit of New York and Los Angeles mixed in because of the entertainment business. Nashville is filled with beautiful, young, talented folk who have come to get discovered, which means it's hard to find bad karaoke here.
Meanwhile, I'm taking a break from novels as I work on a collection of short stories—and to pay the bills I'm copywriting for some creative agencies, dreaming up websites, CEO speeches, branding campaigns, TV and radio spots, a little bit of everything.
We're empty nesters now, and though I still miss my daughter who was the focus of two of my books, life is good. In the evenings you'll catch Miss Carol and me on the back porch, overlooking the ravine, where I delight in the birds and a stiff gin cocktail after 5 o'clock.
Strange but true Ad Facts
- I like to facebook and drink cocktails at the same time.
- When I am home alone with nothing to do, my default entertainment is watching Legally Blond.
- I am skeptical of Attention Deficit Disorder.
- I once underwent past-life regression therapy and discovered that I had lived as a woman during Roman times.
- I have never thrown nor received a punch. I have, however, been bitten in the face.
- I can't watch violent movies because it makes me worry about the safety of my own family. Ergo: Legally Blond.
- I shower outside, on the patio. The neighbors don't speak to me. They should stop trimming their hedge.
- I never let my gas gauge drop below a quarter-tank.
- I constantly battle my love affair with gin and Jack Daniels.
- Curious people
- Indian food
- Home Depot
- National Lampoon's Mr. Wong
- My F150 truck
- People-watching in airports
- The obscure novels published by the New York Review of Books
- Watching movies on the couch with Carol and Haley
- South Park
- Museums of any kind
- Steamed clams
- Watching what people do in their cars when they're at a stoplight
- Anything that involves a chainsaw
- Art by obscure regional artists
- Correcting other peoples' unruly children
- Mangoes in July
- Cocktails at 5 o'clock (Okay, maybe 4 o'clock.)
- My cats, Mitchell and Tomas, who was found buried alive in a plastic trash bag when he was three weeks old. (This explains the appearance of the bizarre cat scene in my novel, Househusband)
- Working in the garden
- Cooking ethnic food
- Pine Island, Florida
- Cruciferous vegetables - especially cabbage
- The honkeytonks in downtown Nashville
- Athens Diner on Eight Avenue in Nashville
And my favorite books:
- How Green was my Valley by Richard Llewellyn
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
- Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
- Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rolvaag
- A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
- The Fire-Dwellers by Margaret Laurence
- Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
- The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
- Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
- Crooked River Burning by Mark Winegardner
- I'll Go to Bed at Noon by Gerard Woodward