Where are you from?
I live in Brooklyn, N.Y. I was born in Richmond, Va., but spent most of in my life in and around Roanoke, in the mountains of Virginia.
Who are your favorite writers?
Jonathan Kozol, David Halberstam, Molly Ivins, George Orwell, and Lincoln Steffens
Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Poison Penmanship and The American Way of Death, both by Jessica Mitford; Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America by John M. Barry; Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch; The Children and The Powers that Be, both by David Halberstam; Foul! by David Wolf; and The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes.
What are your hobbies and outside interests?
Reading, hiking, basketball
What is your favorite quote?
A favorite quote comes from the late Sam Lacy, the sports editor for the Baltimore Afro-American who helped push the campaign to end the color line in Major League Baseball.
The secret to being a true journalist, he said, boiled down to one word: Restlessness. "Anybody can be a reporter. The kid coming home from kindergarten and telling his mother what happened is a reporter. But if you are restless and feel that you haven't finished a story, that there is one step further that you have to take, and you can't be satisfied with that step until you take another step, that is restlessness. That is the secret of it."
What inspired you to write your first book?
I co-authored a book on businesses that target disadvantaged consumers, Merchants of Misery, back in 1996. I was inspired to do that first book for the same reason I wanted to do this new book chronicling the rise and fall of the subprime market.
Through my reporting I've seen, again and again, how average folks have been badly hurt by financial companies bankrolled by the big players on Wall Street. It's important, I believe, to document these abuses and connect the dots between decisions at the top levels of American finance and the effects they have on people and communities in every corner of the nation.
Where do you write?
Everywhere: at home, at my office, on trains (long Amtrak trips are my favorite venue for writing).