I lived most of my kid-life in Collinsville, Illinois, a little coal-mining town not far from St. Louis. The town turns up as the setting in Coaltown Jesus. My parents were hard working, blue-collar folks, and that’s probably why I write pretty much every day seven days a week. Well, I don’t write all day, of course, but three or four hours for sure. I’ve been a smart aleck all my life without being (I hope) too obnoxious, and being funny is how I made my way through high school and college and beyond. My smart mouth gets me into trouble, but it’s also helped me out of some tight spots. I never planned to be a writer, though I did have a high-school teacher who was encouraging. I started out as a poet (and still am one) because I met kids in college (University of Illinois) and grad school (University of Arizona) who were writing poetry and I wanted to hang with them, so I did what they did. I didn’t keep it a secret from my folks, but the idea of a boy from Collinsville writing poetry would’ve been hard for them to get their heads around.
So you know about the poetry. As far as fiction goes, somebody who went to college when I did (1958–1962) and who wanted to write, went directly to novels. I did publish one for adults, but the next few were all failures. Finally a friend of mine said that I was so chronically immature I should write for sixteen-year-old boys. That didn’t hurt my feelings, since it was true, so I just sat down and wrote Where the Kissing Never Stops. The book did well, so I’ve been pretending to be a sixteen-year-old boy (or girl) ever since. Fiction doesn’t come easy to me, exactly, but novels are just long stories, and I like to tell stories. When I get letters from readers, it’s almost always about how one of my books made their day a little better. Such a great thing to hear! There’s always funny stuff in my novels, even if the story has serious or even sad parts. I can’t help myself apparently.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. How old I am. Early seventies. And yet I keep writing for kids/teenagers. I tend to ask for ideas-for-stories (some would call that praying), and when the ideas show up, they’re for the audience I always write for.
2. I like to handicap race horses and bet on them. A good friend of mine works in theatre in New York. He and I go to different race tracks every year. I’ve been part-owner of Thoroughbred. I know West Coast jockeys. It’s a hobby, like golf, but I don’t have to buy special equipment.
3. I’ve been a teacher pretty much all my life, and one of the coolest things is seeing somebody I’ve mentored as a writer go on and do well. Success isn’t like a small room; there’s always space for more and more and more people.