HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN?
I’ve written seven, five of which eventually got published.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO START WRITING?
I’ve been writing since high school, but I never really “decided” to write. The stories just started coming, and I had to do something with them.
WHAT OBSTACLES HAVE YOU FACED AND OVERCOME ON YOUR PATH TO BECOMING A WRITER?
Becoming a writer was easy; becoming a published author was hard. I had to develop thick skin to deal with rejection and (often merited) criticism. I also had to learn the self-discipline to write regularly and improve my writing to the point where it interested a publisher.
WHAT DOES YOUR WRITING SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE?
I write for about one hour in the morning while I’m taking a commuter train to San Francisco and another hour in the evening on the way home.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR "REAL JOB." HOW DOES IT INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?
I’m a Deputy Attorney General in the California Department of Justice, and I spend my days (and a fair number of nights and weekends) prosecuting corporate fraud. My work also doubles as research for my legal thrillers. For example, the secret world of free-lance corporate spies I describe in When the Devil Whistles is a slightly fictionalized version of the one I deal with in a lot of my cases.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST PROJECT?
Unfortunately, that’s also secret right now. Sorry. :-)
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS?
I’m sure I’m forgetting some excellent writers, but here are a few that I have read enough to know that their writing is consistently outstanding (and in genres I enjoy): Isaac Asimov, James Scott Bell, Ray Bradbury, Tom Clancy (his early books), Robert Heinlein, Tracy Higley, Randy Ingermanson, Tosca Lee, John Olson, Jim Rubart, Randy Singer, Kathy Tyers.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
There are lots of things I wish I’d known when I was starting out, but here are a few of the big ones:
• Make writing part of your routine. It should be a habit; something you do daily if you can. You’ll be much more productive.
• Look for ways to get better. Writing is like playing the violin: Almost no one is good when they first start. Seek out learning opportunities and constructive criticism. Without them, you can’t improve.
• Don’t give up. The world will give you lots of reasons to give up—agents who ignore the book you slaved over, editors who reject it, family or work demands that threaten to eat up the time you need to fix the book or write a new one. The writers who succeed are the ones who manage to persevere, get better, and ultimately land their first contract.*
HOW DO YOU LIKE TO SPEND YOUR TIME WHEN YOU’RE NOT WRITING?
When I’m not writing or lawyering, I spend as much time as possible with my family. We love to go hiking in the hills around town or go to see a good movie or (of course) read a good book together.
*There are a very few authors—less than .01%—who manage to sell their first book without major edits and then see it become a bestseller. These people (a) are celebrities, (b) quickly learn not to tell other writers about their success, or (c) get beat up a lot at writing conferences. Sometimes all three.