As a punishment from our English teacher, the class had to write 1000 words on ‘How to Build a Lean-To Out of Wet Noodles.’ I was the only one to complete the assignment and the teacher had me read my nearly 1200 word composition to the class. They liked it and so did the teacher.”
How did you discover that you were a writer?
I guess I discovered I might have some ability during freshman year in high school. As a punishment from our English teacher, the class had to write 1000 words on “How to Build a Lean-To Out of Wet Noodles.” I was the only one to complete the assignment and the teacher had me read my nearly 1200 word composition to the class. They liked it and so did the teacher. Whenever we had writing assignments after that, I was asked to read them to the class. In my sophomore year, my English teacher, Mr. Tom Cahill, told me I should consider writing as a profession. About 50 years later, I decided to take him up on it.
Describe your writing process.
I have different writing processes depending on what I’m writing. I find I do best with time constraints. When I write my bi-weekly humor column for The Voice, I’m usually working on it the last two days before its due. When I was a copywriter, I had deadlines to produce ads and promotional materials for clients or magazines. For my stories, screenplays and novels, my best time to write is 10 am – 2 pm, but those hours aren’t available to me often, so I end up writing 9 to 12 or 1 am. For my novel, I wrote scenes on colored cards, coded to different story threads. I could lay them out and see if I was neglecting one story line and rearrange the cards to maintain balance. Most of what I wrote was from memory, but I researched army regulations, maps and Google Earth to make sure I wasn’t too far off base.
What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?
My inspiration came from my fellow veterans. One afternoon, a group of us were sitting in the barracks at Eighth Army Headquarters in Seoul, Korea, exchanging stories of inanities in our jobs. A few of us were to be rotated back to the U.S. and out of the Army. One of the guys said someone should write a book about what went on, but another guy said nobody would believe it. I kept that thought and maybe 12 years later began turning the events into short stories that ended up getting published in different places. Eventually I had enough that I thought I could turn them into a novel.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on the prequel: Music Man–What Did You Do in the Band, Grandpa? I’m shopping around a screenplay adaption of a book by Wilson Casey. It’s the true story of the last moving train robbery in America in 1949. I’m finishing up work on a book Dick Tracy creator and Pulitzer Prize winner Dick Locher. He passed away this summer, so his wife and I completing it as a tribute to him. It will be published by Sourcebooks.
What was the last great thing you read by another author?
The last great thing I read was my tax refund from the IRS.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?
I’d probably invite Joseph Heller to my party, Dave Barry as a second choice.