Q: Did you always want to be an author? If not, what else would you have done?
A: I guess I can trace my writing life back to a single, old dusty book my grandma found in her attic when I was ten or so. It was Tick-Tok of Oz, one of the L. Frank Baum series, and I read it in a single sitting, waiting for my mother to pick me up to go home. The next chance I got, I read it again, and I remember thinking that this would be something worth learning to do. Write a book. Tick-Tok is still in my library. It’s a 1911 First Edition with a great, full-color illustration on the cover.
Thing is, I got side-tracked, and didn’t really write any fiction seriously until I’d grown up and worn lots of hats besides the writer’s hat. I released my first novel in 2009, when I was 57. Before that, after school and college, I’d herded goats, carved wooden commercial signs, done pen and ink illustration, run a ski shop and a camping store, worked in a cannery and planted trees. In 1973, when I was twenty-one, I hitchhiked to NY from an Oregon commune, found work with a retail sporting goods store then used my learned skills and became an ad man and graphic artist/designer. I wrote ad copy, designed corporate communications materials, for medical instrument and aerospace clients as well as for some charitable organizations. In 1985, my wife (the marketing professor) and I decided it might be fun to try our hands at trading in American Indian arts, and we founded a business that took us back and forth from New Mexico to New York, operating a bricks and mortar gallery from 1989 until 2007, when it moved online. About the same time, I started writing short stories again, and the idea for a novel kept pressing against the inside of my head, trying to get some notice. I only bring this all up (and there’s a lot more, too), because looking back, it was all just adding to my story inventory. Somehow, it was always in the cards that I should write, no matter how far I strayed from it.
1. Q: Describe your writing style?
A: In a word, eclectic, as you can imagine. Today, another writer referred to my voice as rebellious and realistic, but I had a writer I really respect compare my style to Maeve Binchy, so your guess is as good as mine. I don’t try to corral my voice, but I always prefer stories that are told in an accessible fashion. If they are too contrived or greatly embellished, I tend to lose the immediacy of what I’m reading, so I consciously try to pare that down. One thing I do obsess about, is trying to be sure to establish a sense of place in my work, so my readers can be transported and immersed in the world my characters walk on. I enjoy history. It’s always been my favorite academic subject, so I also try to impart a slight period tone to my historical fiction, but it’s not as apparent in work set in the present or future, in the case of my scifi stories.
2. Q: What is the most difficult for you to write: Characters, conflict, emotions?
A:I’m always being told by beta readers that I need to bring out more accessible emotion in my characters, so that is a standard rewrite focus. If there is one unifying theme, it is a sense of the struggle to find one’s place in the world, of having a home. Of recognizing it when you arrive. Probably a result of my childhood. We moved a lot. Usually every year through my school years. The longing I felt for stability as a child is still ever-present, quietly in my writing process, but uncovering can be something of a chore, so I work on that in rewrites and edits.
3. Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A:I should probably make a joke, and tell you the website url where you can buy ideas for the reasonable price of five for $25, three for $15. But it’s been done to death already.
One place I regularly visit is my disbelief at some of the examples of intolerance we show each other. Our species seems particularly good at cruelty and violence, and in the process of wondering why, I usually find stories lurking. My characters are often people that the outside world doesn’t really understand. Their journeys make good stories, or so my readers tell me.
4. Q: Are you self-taught, or did you study writing in school?
A:My college years were more involved in manning the barricades and lettering posters than in sitting in lecture halls, but I do have some basic academic cred for writing. Still, life has taught me more about it than the classroom. I will also say that other writers, some published, some on their way, have been very generous with me over the years. Much of the craft I retain now comes from their experiences, successes and failures as much as from my own. I also read a lot. I’m one of those kids who’ll read both sides of the cereal box before breakfast is over.
5. Q: Do you already know what to write next? Can you tell us?
A:I usually have a couple of things in the works at once. It helps me to swing back and forth, keeping my brain loose, because when I hit a single-minded roll, it can close everything else out. I’m just finishing the editing on a novel set in New Mexico and I’ve got another waiting in the wings, that takes place mostly on a tugboat, between Red Hook, Brooklyn and New Orleans. One man — two cities, two families. I’m about three years out for that one, but there will always be unexpected intrusions. The two novellas I released last year, just intruded into the middle of work on the New Mexico book, and had to be completed before the muse would let me get back to work, so I expect there will be other intrusions before the new one is finished.
6. Q: Where can we find more information about you and your books?
A:Probably the best place is to visit my writing and news site, http://www.sailletales.com, where I’m usually interviewing another writer, an editor, ranting about the day’s affairs, or announcing a new book. I’m also found regularly all over the net on Goodreads, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Kindle Boards, etc. and since I generally detest sock puppets or anonymous trolling, I use my real name anywhere I hang out. My books can be found on Amazon in print and for Kindle, on Barnes & Noble in print and for Nook, and on Smashwords, Kobo and AppleBooks for any other format you may need. Check with your local bookseller, too — as quite a few of my print titles are out there in “bricks and mortar” bookstores.