I’m a forty-something dad now living in South Jersey, most of my disposable time going to doing things with my kids. I’ve been a wrestling coach, baseball coach, soccer coach, boy scout leader, girl scout leader, marching band helper, and a bunch of other things that don’t have names. In my spare time, I work on my writing career.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As I alluded to, there was a time when I was heavily involved in wrestling — not the kind that Hulk Hogan did, but the kind that Cael Sanderson and Dan Gable did. I noticed that there weren’t enough books about the sport, like there are for basketball, football, and the like. So I gave it a shot with Throwback, my first book. Once that was out there, for better or for worse, I was a writer, and I couldn’t wait to try it again. And I did, seven more times so far.
What is Hard Lines about?
It’s about Jake Zarephath, a somewhat naive kid who surprises everybody by making it big in college football, but gets himself accused of rape just when things were getting good. As it often happens in the real world, it looks like the whole thing is going to be swept under the rug, until Jake realizes that he can’t live with himself if he takes the easy path and lets it all happen. So he doesn’t. It’s a bumpy ride, and along the way he does some growing up and even faces up to some responsibilities from his past.
What was the most difficult part about writing Hard Lines? The most rewarding?
Many times while I was writing this, I was afraid that I was coming across as preachy. I didn’t want this book to be all about condemning college athletics and tarring athletes. In the same way, I didn’t want to smear anybody who accuses an athlete of a crime. Every case is different. Sometimes these accusations are legitimate, and sometimes they aren’t. It was a real challenge to present this as fiction, which, although it has a lot of roots in pop culture, is nothing more than a story. Early on, Jake is getting hammered by the press and around campus. Later on, it’s the accuser that gets dragged through the mud. I wanted to try to show the pain on both sides of this.When I read it through the first time and realized that there was something for just about everybody to be ticked off about, I felt like I succeeded in telling it from a neutral standpoint. That felt pretty good.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
I normally don’t accept the idea of writer’s block, at least at some level. If I’m not sure what belongs in a story, maybe there just isn’t a story to tell in the first place. That’s my lofty answer. Really, it’s a scare tactic to get myself moving again.But that’s a lot of hooey, really. There are plenty of times when I know where the thing has to go, but I’m not sure how to get there. I often think about Stephen King’s fictitious writer in Misery, the guy who racks his brain and finally figures out how the bad guy gets the body out of the movie theater. Most of my writer’s block incidents are like that one. When that happens, the last place I need to be is in front of a blinking cursor. It usually comes to me while I’m working out, about to go to sleep, or doing something that has nothing to do with writing. Then I make a note and get back to the machine to make it happen.
Which authors do you look up to?I’m a lunch-pail kind of guy, and it’s the same with my writing. I tend to admire and emulate writers like that. I’m not sure I want to name them, because they might not like being described that way. But I like somebody who writes a straight-ahead story without a lot of flab that isn’t essential to the plot. That’s because I don’t think I’m capable myself of doing it any other way. I’m the only writer I know whose second draft is bigger than his first draft, because I make some effort to put some meat on them bones.Really, the writers that I truly admire are from a particular band of indie authors that I spend a lot of time with and learn from. They’re all much more successful than I am, and they have the grace to share what they know and give me lots of boosts. I want to be like them, and not just when it comes to writing.
What are you currently reading?
I’m just about finished with A Cape May Diamond by Larry Enright. I’m already getting that sad feeling, like I’m losing a good friend, that readers get when finishing a great book. I wish he’d write more books faster.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?
Only that I can’t express how much it means to me that they choose to use their valuable time to take a chance on something I wrote.