- What did you want to be when you grew up?
Like most kids my age, I wanted to be a Jedi Knight, or space smuggler with my own spaceship and a furry alien as a best friend. Alas, technology didn’t advance as rapidly as my imagination anticipated.
- When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was around 11 years old when I started wanting to be a writer. It was sort of an odd desire considering that at the time, I didn’t really like to read all that much. But I loved coming up with stories that I used to create while playing with action figures. I’d set up these elaborate plots that would take days and days for me to play out. Around that age is when I began to have the urge to write these stories down.
- What’s your first childhood memory?
It was my third birthday and I was sitting on my father’s shoulders. My cousin was on her father’s shoulders. We were running around in a circle in the living room. It’s a fragmented memory, but I remember laughing and being incredibly happy. It’s only one of two memories I have of my biological father.
- What’s your most embarrassing childhood memory?
When I was in 5th grade, my best friend tape-recorded a phone conversation where I admitted to liking a certain girl. Of course, I knew he was recording. It was actually a plan that we came up with together. The second part of the plan was getting him to play it for everyone at recess. It seemed easier to admit that I liked her if I could pretend I was being betrayed. However, that didn’t make it any less embarrassing when the whole school heard it the next day. The girl handled it with class, which only made me like her more.
- What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Holding hands with my “girlfriend” in Kindergarten while we said the Pledge of Allegiance. I remember the teacher noticing and smiling at us. I just remember feeling like everything was right with the world. It was one of those perfect moments that stays with you. I’ve actually used this memory in one of my books.
- As a young person, who did you look up to most?
My mother. She did everything.
- What was your worst subject in school?
I was lucky enough to have any “bad” subjects. I always did well in school. But ironically, my worst subject was definitely Spelling. I’m still a horrible speller, so I’m very thankful for spell check.
- What was your best subject in school?
Probably math and science, though I never really enjoyed either of them. But for some reason, they both came easily to me. English classes took much more effort on my part, which is most likely why they kept my interest.
- What was your first job?
Babysitting. I have two younger brothers and two younger sisters. So I was a defacto babysitter very often. But my first real job was as a lifeguard when I was a teenager. I also taught swim lessons to toddlers, the patience required for that job certainly helped prepare me to be a writer.
- How did you celebrate publishing your first book?
Honestly, I’m still celebrating. Every time I look at any of my books, I’m very thankful.
- Where do you write your books?
I have an office in my house where I do all of my work. The room is filled with books, music, and toys. All the walls are covered with photos, pictures from magazines, drawings I’ve done, and letters from kids…it’s sort of like an external portrait of what goes on in my head.
- Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Anywhere and everywhere. I get inspiration from other art, be it music, literature, film, or visual art. I also find inspiration in the world around me. Any little thing can be inspiring if you take the time to look at. I like to keep a notebook on me at all times and write down ideas because I never know when a passing stranger or a bit of conversation will spark my imagination.
- Which of your characters is most like you?
In varying degrees, all of my characters are somewhat based on me, or aspects of my personality. However, Brendon from Pure Sunshine is very much me. It’s the most autobiographical book I’ve written.
- When you finish a book, who reads it first?
My wife is always the first person to read anything I write. After she reads it, I usually do another draft before anyone else ever sees it.
- Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Certainly NOT a morning person…in my younger days, I’d say I was a night owl. Though now, I’m solidly a day person.
- What’s your idea of the best meal ever?
A twenty course dinner with every kind of food…so much food that I’d explode if I’d eat it all. There’d have to Asian food, Hispanic food, seafood, gourmet dishes, and good old American cuisine like pizza, burgers, and fries. Then I’d wash it all down with a sundae of Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, hot fudge, peanut butter topping, whipped cream and one of those fake cherries on top.
- Which do you like better: cats or dogs?
Growing up, I was always a dog person. I had two dogs as a child. Now I have two cats. I could never choose between the two. They’re both so different and both have so much to offer.
- What do you value most in your friends?
Intellect and open-mindedness.
- Where do you go for peace and quiet?
I live in a remote part of the Catskills, so there’s no lack of peace and quiet. If I’m feeling even more in need of seclusion, a long hike through the mountains is as good as it gets.
- What makes you laugh out loud?
Junie B. Jones, Homer Simpson, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
- What’s your favorite song?
I’m a music junkie and have a collection of several thousand CDs, so choosing a favorite song might be the hardest task for me to imagine. I couldn’t even tell you my favorite album without naming at least 15…but I can say my favorite songs of the moment are: MGMT’s “Weekend War”, Elvis Perkins “Sleep Sandwich”, O’Death “Down to Rest” and Black Mountain “Stormy High”.
- Who is your favorite fictional character?
Addie Pray from “Paper Moon”.
- What are you most afraid of?
Any evil that cloaks itself in an elaborate disguise.
- What time of year do you like best?
Winter. I love cold, grey, snowy weather and always have. I’ve read that people most enjoy the season they were born in…at least for me, that theory holds true.
- What’s your favorite TV show?
I think Lost is the most creative show on the air. So many television shows assume viewers are dumb. It’s one of the few shows that assumes it’s viewers are smart and can handle big ideas. I’m also a nut for Doctor Who.
- If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you want for company?
My wife. We’ve never run out of things to say and she’s the only person I’ve ever met whose company I never grown tired of at any point.
- If you could travel in time, where would you go?
The future…WAY in the future…as far as it take for long-distance space travel to be possible.
- What’s the best advice you have ever received about writing?
Strangely enough, it wasn’t meant to be advice. A teacher (not one of mine) tried to discourage me from pursing writing because he said there were only about 1,000 people that could make a living as a writer and asked if I really thought I was one of them. I thought about it for a second and decided that yes, I did think I was one of them. And whenever I’ve felt discouraged, I remember that conversation and it always helps me regain my confidence. I think in order to achieve anything, you need first believe that you can.
- What do you want readers to remember about your books?
Whatever is important to them. I think that’s the great thing about art. It’s a fulfillment of personal creativity that people respond to their own personal way. For me, what readers take away from my books isn’t too important to me. As long the book is meaningful to them in some way, that’s all that matters to me. That the book has some personal meaning for them is the greatest compliment a writer can get.
- What would you do if you ever stopped writing/illustrating?
Probably teach, though I’m not sure I’d like it…so I’m going to hope it never comes that.
- What do you like best about yourself?
The fact that I’ve never completely lost the ability to be a child.
- What is your worst habit?
Smoking. It’s such a disgusting habit that I’ve been able to scale back but never quite kick. My biggest regret in life is that I ever started.
- What is your best habit?
I’m a clean person without being a freak about it.
- What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
I like to think I haven’t reached my greatest accomplishment yet. I still believe that the best work I’ve done is always the latest. By never feeling that I’ve accomplished anything, it keeps me motivated to keep striving.
- Where in the world do you feel most at home?
New York City. I lived there for 10 years before I moved away for a variety of reasons. But anytime I’m ever there, I feel that I belong.
- What do you wish you could do better?
Sing. I’d give anything to be able to sing.
- What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
I’m not-so-distantly related to Jesse James.