How did you become a writer?
Pure carelessness and a fear of ending up working with hot tar (my nightmare career would be in roofing). I started as an actor, but always suspected I should be writing. I successfully procrastinated for some years, then started writing plays at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, LA. My future wife introduced me to an informal writing group. We teamed up shortly after. Her desire to finish things combined with my love for starting them turned out to be a nice combination.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
Sophocles, Montaigne, Saki and Joseph Heller. Oh, and Mr. Clark in tenth grade at Derryfield School in NH was a vicious critic of paragraph structure. He thought me talentless, which I thought rude.
When and where do you write?
I work in a home office – a converted garage space in the Hollywood Hills with an excellent view of hummingbirds and squirrels. I’m in there almost all day. I used to be most productive in the morning, after a walk and breakfast. But that golden time seems to have shifted to the late afternoon.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a novel and a screenplay idea. Novels have more words than screenplays, I’ve discovered.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
It took me quite a while to write this sentence. Yes, I have had terrible times facing writing, and even backed away from it for extended periods. But I always assumed I would return.
What’s your advice to new writers?
Writing requires nothing but time and a willingness to feel like a fool for much of that time. You know those nameless monsters in horror films? They’re hiding behind your screen and you’d better type words over them or they’ll come out and get you. If that image doesn’t help you, I can supply others. Use every possible trick and strategy to get out of your own way and write.
Bio: I moved around a lot as a child, spending no more than two years per school in Boston, Germany, France, New Hampshire and northern Virginia. I got a liberal arts BA from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD. I worked as an actor in summer stock, New York, Santa Fe and Los Angeles. After I teamed up with Noni White, we wrote a spec screenplay that got some attention. Our first feature pitch and studio job was “Newsies.” Just before they started shooting “Newsies” we sold that first spec script and then split our time between live-action features and animation. We contributed to “The Lion King,” shared screenplay credit on “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Anastasia,” “Tarzan” (and its sequel) and “102 Dalmatians.” Twenty years after the film “Newsies” was released, it became a Broadway hit.