COG: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A baseball player for the Chicago White Sox, who was a surgeon in the winter and a year-round Senator, who didn't do much in the Senate, but that was okay, because he was such a good baseball player and surgeon that everyone in his district cut him a lot of slack.

COG: How did you become you instead?

Bad at baseball, science, and hated the idea of running for office.

COG: Fave lesser-known hero (personal or fictional)?

Maury Muehleisen, who was Jim Croce's lead guitar player and a very cool dude, and who died with Croce in a plane crash. 

COG: What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your work; the least?

Most: when a story starts to reveal itself and teaches you something in the process. Least: I actually like it all, even the parts where you get stuck. Don't love having to turn people down when they ask for blurbs.

COG: If you were a hybrid, what would your two halves be?

Weeping sentimentalist vs complete cynic. So...unicorn + alligator?


COG: Describe a teacher, student or colleague you hated (or hate, you big meanie); why?

Nah. I think the role of the student is to take whatever hit the teacher gives and use it for good. (Assuming the teacher knows his/her stuff and has good intentions.) And I have been very lucky in my teachers. I did have a guitar teacher once who heard my very best piece and then took a long pause and said, "If you don't change the way you live, you're going to be a very unhappy adult." Which...made me think. He was saying, I now believe, that I wasn't taking sufficient care with my tone...which got into my head and stayed there forever. And he was right. So I didn't love it at the time but he did me a lot of good. It wasn't pleasant, but it worked.

COG: In desktop publishing, a character tag is embedded code defining the style of a word or phrase. But in the literary lexicon, “character tags” refer to fictional characters’ habits, catch phrases or other distinguishing marks: Yoda’s syntax. Hello Kitty’s bow. Clint Eastwood’s rugged squint. What’s your character tag?

I would think that a writer wouldn't want to know this, but would hope to rediscover it with every story.


COG: What’s the last thing that made you laugh, cry or cuss?

Cry:  Arrival,* last night.

COG: Describe your ideal road trip.

Long, slow drive from NY to California, in a truck I used to own - a 1966 Ford with a camper on the back. With time to meet people and talk to them, and with a small writing desk built into the back. But also, my wife and kids and all of our pets are along.

COG: What problem, large or small, are you hell-bent on solving?

How to represent, in prose, both the beauty and horrors of life. And make it, you know, funny.

*Arrival is a 2016 science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve. The screenplay by Eric Heisserer was based on the 1998 short story "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang.

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