When and why did you begin writing?
I enjoyed writing in high school, but at that age, I had nothing worthwhile to say. As my children grew, I wrote Christmas letters describing the stupid things I and the kids had done over the previous year. The time I got a stick of butter stuck in the vacuum cleaner is still one of the favorites. Writing the letters taught me the importance of brevity and clarity. Graduate school reinforced the need to be concise.
I grew up in a family that told stories. For years, I listened to my father’s stories about showing Clydesdales in the 1920s and 30s. I learned that in telling a story you were expected to stretch the truth a bit and add the details that should have been true. It’s often confused with Marketing.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote many reports published in scientific journals, but I didn’t consider myself a writer until my short story The Attempted Armed Deposit was published in the 2009 California Writers Club Chap Book and I’d completed several drafts of Doc’s Codicil.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
Desperation. My original plot was weak, and I had to think of something to give the story a stronger plot. A prompt given in a writing class made me face the question of what I was to do after my fast-approaching retirement. Struggling with that late mid-life crisis gave me the idea that became the plot for Doc’s Codicil and defined the genre.
What are some day jobs you have held?
For 19 years, I was a large animal veterinarian, then a graduate student for 5 years, and a scientist working on vaccines for cattle and swine for 19 years. Now I’m a writer. My wife thinks it’s because I lack focus.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I’ve always had a penchant for writing humor, but in writing my last book, A Jerk, A Jihad, And A Virus, I had to write tense and dramatic scenes. In my books and later short stories, I’ve tried to add layers to the writing to address important topics.
What have you written so far?
I’ve written the novels Doc’s Codicil and A Jerk, A Jihad, And A Virus. I’ve had a couple short stories published in literary magazines, and another, entitled Pain, will be published in April in the Midwest Review.
Do you work to an outline or plot sketch, or do you prefer to let a general idea guide your writing?
I’ve started my books with only a scene or two in my mind and a vague idea of the overall plot. It would have saved me writing many revisions if I’d had the discipline to work from an outline or plot sketch, although the story of Doc’s Codicil would not have had as many layers or been as rich in characters.
Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?
In A Jerk, A Jihad, And A Virus, Veterinary virologist Jason Mitchell can’t keep his mouth shut, can’t lie convincingly, and can’t follow orders. He’s an unlikely candidate to help the CIA locate and destroy a deadly hybrid virus stolen from Jason’s lab at the University of Minnesota. From Washington to Djibouti, from Minneapolis to Yemen, Marines cringe, Senators turn livid, and CIA agents shudder as Jason struggles to prevent the virus from becoming a biological weapon in the hands of jihadists.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start writing this book?
I got the idea for a cattle virus hybridizing with the SARS virus from recent work that showed how HIV-1 probably developed after two monkey viruses hybridized in a chimpanzee.
Tell us more about your main character. What makes him or her unique?
Jason, the main character, is a typical bachelor graduate student. His apartment is a pigsty. He only cleans it when he thinks his girlfriend will stop by. Like most graduate students, he reaches a point where he can think of little other than his graduate project. He’s forced to grow up and take a broader view of life as the story develops.