How did you become a writer? I don't actually know when I wasn't a writer, or at least trying to be one. My mother gave me a toy typewriter when I was about six, and even on that I started to bang out ghost and horror stories. What's odd is that my tastes haven't changed very much all these years later. My most recent novels, "Blood and Ice" and "The Medusa Amulet," for instance, are still gussied up supernatural tales, and I could swear I'm still doing versions of scenes, and going for effects, that I was striving to achieve on that little red typewriter in my bedroom in Evanston, Illinois.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.) Boy, I had so many influences over the years, from terrific English teachers in high school (Curtis Crotty, Ronald Gearing, Barbara Pannwitt -- thank you so much!) to various writers ranging from W. Somerset Maugham (who taught me how critical it was to create characters the reader cares about) to Ian Fleming (who taught me how to hold off the conclusion of an action sequence) to the great English writer of ghost stories, M.R. James, whose tales still give me the creeps every time I re-read them.
When and where do you write? Anytime, but only in my messy little upstairs office. I have no set schedule, but I usually feel most creative at night when the phone stops ringing, the e-mails slow down, and the dog, my sole companion, goes to sleep.
What are you working on now? Right now I'm doing the copy-edit (a hard, but vitally important, chore in the progress of any book) on my upcoming novel, "The Romanov Cross." And in any spare time I have, I'm working on the idea for the next one. I have a general arena for the action, and a main character I'm excited about, but the plot is still escaping me. Plot, for me, is far and away the hardest part of any project, and I so much admire writers -- from Dickens to Stephen King -- who seem to never want for one.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? Not really. There are certainly times when the work is not going well, but I usually just turn to writing something else -- an essay, say, or an article -- until the big project (a book, or script) gets moving again. Sometimes, all it takes is a day or two away from the project to come back to it with fresh eyes and energy.
What’s your advice to new writers? Stick to it, if you're serious. It doesn't necessarily get any easier, but you do get better at it. I know so many people who WANT to write, but very few of them can force themselves into a quiet room, for hours at a stretch, to get it done. It's lonely work, and isolating -- and that's, without a doubt, the most difficult aspect of it for me. I'm a sociable guy by nature, but much of the time I have to sequester myself in this little room (in need of a paint job) that I'm in right now. Thank god for the dog!
Bio: I grew up, as mentioned earlier, in Evanston, Illinois, studied writing under Robert Stone and Geoffrey Wolff (two marvelous writers) at Princeton, then moved to New York, where I wrote for magazines and newspapers for many years. I also turned out a few books in those years -- "Black Horizon," "The Spirit Wood," "Private Demons," "Fallen Angels," "Raising Hell" ---- which have now been reissued on-line by Premier Digital. It's nice, but strange, to have those old titles available again. It's like meeting up again, years later, with children you had been forced to abandon. (I wonder if I have the nerve to read them again.) I moved to Los Angeles in 1991, wrote for some TV shows (such as "Charmed" and "Sliders"), and then returned to my first love, books. The most recent, a supernatural thriller rooted in the Renaissance, is called "The Medusa Amulet," and it came out in a paperback edition from Bantam just last week.