Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I was born and raised in New Orleans and its suburbs, and have lived in so many states, even in another country–but for the last seven years I've resided in Austin, Texas. My mother taught me to read at age four, and I believe she helped instill in me a love for language and the written word. Since I was five, I wanted to be a writer. I've always felt that I HAD to write, that there was no other way. I've written for various publications–for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Sewanee Purple, the Riverside Reader, the Baton Rouge Advocate, and most recently Austin.com. But I fell into my groove when I pursued fiction–I've published two novels, Water Lessons and The Second Cortez.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
The Second Cortez was my second and latest novel, published in June 2018. Originally, I wanted to depict the experiences and struggles of a desperate man who crosses into the United States illegally, but in this particular case that man is a young but esteemed professor-turned-fugitive. Years spent living in the Southwest and a decades-long interest in Mexico and the American West also helped inspire the novel.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I keep a small Moleskine journal in my pocket, and will jot down thoughts and observations throughout the day, but especially in the evenings and at night. Virtually all of what I inscribe pertains to the main writing project in my life at the time. What might be unusual is that I've written pages of notes, even in the thick of a busy restaurant. Much of what is transpiring around me has found its way onto the pages. Lately, those very creative, small-plate, locavore spots here in Austin have particularly been good for inspiration!
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Walker Percy–who I knew briefly as a boy (see my website for the blog piece). Fyodor Dostoevsky, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Papa Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Herman Hesse, Eudora Welty, Philip Roth, Virginia Woolf, William Butler Yeats, Cormac McCarthy. Shakespeare and Cervantes. There are many others.
What are you working on now?
I've been writing my third novel, and researching and journaling a lot for it as well. This novel's got what I believe many would consider a great setting and an intriguing protagonist, with a unique mission and struggle. The main character of my first novel, Water Lessons, is a major character (but not a protagonist) of the third novel. This novel-in-progress is very different from both the first novel and the second. But I don't want to share too much at this point!
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
My best method is working with my marketing manager, who is an accomplished writer in her own regard–Lara Reznik.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Start early. As in start writing as soon as you can in your life, and while you're at it, start writing as early as you can in the day, if your schedule permits. One must make time to write, despite how packed one's schedule is, or how unpredictable life gets. Otherwise life has a way of pushing out one's writing to the point of it being an occasional practice.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Walker Percy once wrote me a letter. Near the end of the letter, he gave me some great advice that I have not followed consistently in my life. I feel though in retrospect that Percy was correct and if I'd heeded his words, I would have been more productive as a writer. He wrote that one of the best things a writer can do is to journal on a daily basis, even if it's just a few sentences.
What are you reading now?
I'm rereading Vogler's The Writer's Journey, Sol Stein's How To Grow A Novel, and John Truby's The Anatomy of Story. Such helpful classics on the writer's craft that I've shamelessly plugged for years!
What’s next for you as a writer?
I'm fast at work trying to make this third novel the best that I can. It's already an exciting journey. And I do have an eye as to what projects come after. But I vow to grow, improve as a writer along the way, to explore even more of life and its greatness, its pain and mysteries, even its humor and absurdity. And to enjoy this journey–it is important after all for a writer to have fun, right? Just as it's essential that a writer helps the reader enjoy the tale.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Some would not like me going straight to the king of the Western canon, but if I'm going to be truthful, I'd say the Collected Works of Shakespeare.