1. What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
Besides school writing assignments, the first thing I can recall writing was the prologue for an unfinished spy novel. Very unfinished, seeing as I never got beyond the prologue. I recently came across it in an old file. My story involved a plane crash, a deserted Caribbean island and two survivors. I have no idea where I planned to take it from there. Maybe I didn't have a plan. Which would explain why I never finished it.
2. What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
I needed a change from writing screenplays, which I've been doing for more than twenty years. The craft of screenwriting can be very restrictive. I wanted to experience the freedom of writing of a book. Adapting to prose writing wasn't easy, but in spite of all the hard work I had a blast writing Killer Pizza. And now that I’ve tried my hand at writing books, I don't think I'm ever going to stop.
3. Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
Yes, constantly, sometimes in ways that I don’t even realize. It was just recently that I made the connection between Strobe, one of the main characters in Killer Pizza, and Carl Bennett, one of my neighbors when I was a kid. Carl was older than I was, a really cool guy and someone I really looked up to. Strobe shares a lot of Carl’s characteristics, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The bottom line? I believe my childhood will always be an inspiration. How can it not? The person I am today was largely influenced by my childhood experiences.
4. What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?
From my childhood, definitely The Hardy Boys. I loved those books. I see Killer Pizza as a kind of cross between THB and Buffy. As for adult titles, the works of Eric Ambler. Ambler is credited by some as the inventor of the modern suspense novel. His books – often set in war torn Europe during the late 1930’s, early 40’s and featuring ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances - are superbly written and great fun. I read all types of books – from contemporary fiction and nonfiction to the classics and graphic novels - but suspense and mystery novels are the ones that have most influenced my work.
5. What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
My jukebox is by biggest hobby. I bought a Seeburg Select-O-Matic 100(1953 model) a while back and I’m constantly adding to my 45 vinyl collection so that I can restock the “juke”. I played the drums from my early teens to my late twenties (professionally for about 5 years after college), and I have no doubt the jukebox is my way of tapping into my musical past. Besides that, it’s a great way to listen to music. Sometimes you just can't beat the primitive, bass-heavy, kick-butt sound system of an old jukebox!
6. Who are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators? What is it about their work that inspires and interests you?
Of the classic authors, Mark Twain. “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is my favorite book. It’s not for nothing that “Huck Finn” is considered one of the true American classics. Twain masterfully spins a multi-layered story within the context of a classic boy’s adventure. That’s what I tried to do, in my own modest way, in “Killer Pizza”. First and foremost I wanted the book to be a fun read, but I also wanted to have something else going on “underneath” the story, themes that anchor the story and hopefully make it more than just a page turner. So, yeah, whenever I need inspiration, Twain’s the man.
Of the newer authors, Neil Gaiman. He’s been writing great stuff for a while now, but I think he’s surpassed himself with “The Graveyard Book”. It’s alternately funny and wistful, exciting, suspenseful and heartbreaking, with a wonderful cast of characters. It’s the kind of book that makes me want to be the best writer I can be. For me, that’s a pretty good definition of an inspiring book, and an inspiring writer.
7. What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?
Read "If You Want to Write", by Brenda Ueland. I had a difficult time getting started as a writer. It didn’t come easily to me. This book was reassuring to me in a way that none of the teachers I had in writing classes ever were. The entire book is wonderful, but the line that stuck with me is on the first page of Chapter One… “Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.” Ms. Ueland is not kidding when she says that. And that’s what makes her book so inspiring.