Like most authors, you’ve been writing from a very early age.
What did you put on paper when you were a kid?
early as elementary school, I could entertain myself for hours writing
stories. Even then, I focused on suspense. One of my first stories I
can remember writing had to do with a little boy encountering a burglar
in the basement. I used to scare the daylights out of myself. I wrote
mysteries, ghost stories and adventure stories, too. I went through
a phase of writing westerns, too, in my adolescent years. Looking back
on it, I guess I’d have to say that my stories back then reflected
what I liked to watch in movies and television shows.
You wrote a couple of books before NATHAN’S RUN. Might we know
what they were about, and why they never got published?
second part of the question is easy: they never got published because
I never thought they were good enough to send out. I look back on them
now as extended writing exercises, all of them with very good moments,
but just not enough of them to make a whole book.
As for what they were about, one was about two American brothers who
visit France before the Nazi invasion and befriend a member of the French
Resistance. When the invasion does come, they are stuck in France and
have no choice but to join the Resistance. Problem was, at the time
I wrote it, I’d never been to France and had never studied the
second world war. There were some great action sequences, though.
I’d say that was a common them to my early work and why it was
never quite right: I never bothered to do the research.
NATHAN’S RUN was a big hit. What is the recipe to writing a bestseller?
is no recipe. It’s an odd combination of a good story well-told
that a) resonates with a lot of readers; b) comes along at exactly the
right time; and c) is well-marketed by the publisher. And even with
all of that, there’s an X-factor of plain old fashioned luck.
You sold the film rights of your books. Has one of them been shown on
screen already, and if so, how do you like it?
RUN and AT ALL COSTS were both purchased by major studios (Warner Bros
and Fox, respectively). Neither has been produced yet.
In the two books that I read (NATHAN’S RUN and SCOTT FREE) the
main character is a youngster. Why?
of those stories would resonate as well as they do if it were not for
the young age of the protagonists. There’s an innocence to youth
that automatically raises the stakes of any suspenseful situation. Besides,
I think I capture the voice of young people particularly well.
Do you intend to make writing your full time job?
Writing already is my full time job. It has been for nearly seven years.
Do you ever get bad reviews on a book?
my, yes. They come with the territory, I think. I’m being perfectly
honest, too, when I tell you that heartfelt reviews don’t bother
me. In fact, I often learn from them. Fact is, you can’t pay attention
to the positive reviews without paying equal attention to the negative
You encourage readers to contact you. Is the contact with them very
important to you?
contact is extremely important to me. Unlike many writers who got into
this business because they enjoy seclusion, I find solitude to be the
greatest drawback to this profession. I enjoy talking with people, whether
in person or via correspondence. Plus, it never hurts to be reminded
that there’s someone out there at the other end of the stories
Do you visit the places you write about, do you do extensive research?
wouldn’t say that I do extensive research; I do the amount of
research that is necessary to make the story seem real. That’s
one of the reasons that all of my stories are set in fictional locations.
Readers of NATHAN’S RUN, for example, might recognize my Braddock
County, Virginia as Fairfax County, Virginia (with some artistic license),
but by making the place fictitious, I can use police procedures and
specific locations that serve the story without worrying about getting
I’m also fortunate to have led a professional life that has exposed
me to many elements of society. As a safety and environmental engineer,
I dealt with many of the specific problems faced by Jake and Carolyn
Donovan in AT ALL COSTS, while my years as an EMT and avid skier let
me put Scott O’Toole through his paces in SCOTT FREE.
Can you tell us if you have your own favorite book or author?
favorite writer of “serious” fiction is Harper Lee, whose
book, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, is one of the finest books ever written.
More recently, I’ve fallen in love with the Harry Potter series,
and people could do a lot worse than reading any recent works of Stephen