Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Really, "Sketches of a Black Cat" is my first. However, it happened in two phases, so there is a very different second edition from the original "family" version. More on that below.
I was an English major, and the employment climate when I graduated didn't leave much hope of running with that. My fallback position was landscape design, a career that has now spanned 37 years. I entertained writing a landscape design book and was beginning to accumulate photos and text when my writing world changed.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
"Sketches of a Black Cat: Story of a night flying WWII artist and pilot" is the second adaptation published in 2016. It was inspired by a childhood memory. I was just a boy when my father took me to a basement file cabinet and pulled from it a manilla folder full of sketches — wonderful scenes of planes, jungles, and soldiers. After a few years of secretly sharing the file with childhood friends, one day I found the cabinet locked and I wouldn’t see the artwork again as a young man.
When my father died in 2011, the family discovered an unknown trove of historical photos, artwork, and writing that my father had squirreled away for nearly 70 years. His entire WWII story was hidden in these boxes, like a jigsaw puzzle, and my task was to figure out what it was.
The original family book magically led me to a string of former squadron members, all in their nineties. The ensuing filmed interviews gave me an opportunity to ask question that I could never ask my own father. In time, I had all that I needed to complete the book.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I am really slow! Maybe it is my style, maybe being overly fussy, but for whatever reason, I find I can't even write a letter without reading it and editing over the next day or two.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a small, intimate class with Daniel James Brown. We share a similar genre, and in fact his story of stumbling into the perfect set of circumstances for his brilliant "Boys in the Boat" was strangely familiar. What a gentleman; a wonderful source of inspiration and wisdom. Best class I ever took.
What are you working on now?
I am desperately trying to edit a documentary about the WWII squadron featured in "Sketches of a Black Cat." I have about 30 hours of filmed interviews, a library of archival film and photos, and not nearly enough talent to make this happen as quickly as I would like. Help!
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I am in the learning mode myself here. No solid methodology to offer.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Right or wrong, write something! It is far easier for most of us to look at something the next day and make adjustments and corrections. If you dwell on every typo and awkward sentence as you are trying to establish a writing tempo, you will likely bog down and get frustrated. Write when you are feeling it. Fix it later.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Certainly one valuable piece: "You don't know what you don't know until you get in the game." More sound advice for authors.
What are you reading now?
Two books. Kathleen Dean Moore's evocative discussion of climate change in "A Great Tide Rising" is a forceful, intellectual work. Not always an easy read. Another is a little known collection of short stories by Mark twain.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I hope to find another WWII epic soon. These wonderful veterans are passing away so quickly and it is urgent we collect their legacies in the short time we have left.
I am currently working on a book about a small community in Oregon that has a rich and colorful history.
What is your favorite book of all time?
How do you answer this one? Some classics like "To Kill a Mockingbird" are up there.
More recently, historical selections – "Boys in the Boat" (Brown) and "The Big Burn" (Egan) – are favorites.