Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I started writing full time in 2001.
What makes writing your passion?
It's difficult to motivate myself to sit down and write, but when I do, I hit the ZONE fast and won't stop writing until I'm finished with the chapter or short story. Writing is my super power.
How long have you been writing?
In 1984 California instituted THE CBEST exam to measure the knowledge base of its teachers in Math, Reading, and Writing. Teachers had to take the exam if we wanted the state to recognize our credentials. I passed the test, but my score in Writing blew me away. I scored in the top 1% in the state. I didn't realize I was talented in this area and began taking writing courses.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
That was "Goodbye Tchaikovsky" and "The Legend of Koolura" published by two different publishers, and released a few weeks apart. I was excited and my wife and daughter insisted I have a book signing party, which was so much fun.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
Choice of characters is evolutionary. First, you pick a central character who may tell the story. Flesh out their personality. They need family and friends. Fill in and use the personality of individuals you know to help you bring these characters to life.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Sometimes I plan a day to write and then things happen pulling me away. Also, last year I searched for an agent for "The Lip Reader," writing to over 75 agencies. Only a small fraction of those agents took the time to respond (negatively). If my name was Tom Hanks or Morgan Freeman, my book would have been picked up faster than a $100 bill on a casino floor.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
This is a problem I don't have.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
First, I make a commitment to myself. "I'm going to write this book." It's a promise to self. Then I organize and brainstorm ideas, which takes a few weeks. Once I have enough ideas in place, I begin writing. I make sure I complete at least one chapter per month until the book is complete. I give myself a year off to prepare the book for publication and marketing and once its self-sufficient, I'll begin the next one.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Learn American Sign Language!! I lost most of my hearing when I was 44 years old. I took ASL classes, but it was hard learning a language when you're that old. But I kept at it and 25 years later, I'm near fluent. If I learned ASL as a teen, it would have been easier on me.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
To be honest, I rarely receive a bad review. I did get one, once, but there was no written review, just one star. I suspect it was from a writer who was unhappy with the review I gave his book on my website.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
I feel elated when I get a good review. The best review came from the Acquisition Editor of Paper Angel Press (PAP) who wrote this about The Lip Reader: It's so vivid, so earnest, so honest, so full of love and luminous intelligence, so lacking in mean spirit even as it treats some of the deepest horrors of life with total clarity and resolution. I'm not ashamed to say that even this much-scarred, stoical woman is weeping freely. The world must have this book.
The book was published 7 months later by PAP
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
All the time. For example, when I was in college I was forced to hitchhike home from a place a group of boys stranded me and two other friends. We were joining a fraternity. A car pulled up and the man offered us a ride. However, he was being followed by police, who arrested all of us for drug possession. I used that story in "Goodbye Tchaikovsky."
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
As I wrote earlier, I lost my hearing when I was 44. What would my life be like if I lost my hearing as a teen? So I created David Rothman, a violin prodigy, who on his twelfth birthday, lost all his hearing to a genetic illness. Then I explored how this boy could survive such a dramatic change in his life. You can read David's story in "Goodbye, Tchaikovsky."
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
The book cover is important because it's the first thing that grabs a reader's attention.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I connect with my readers on my website, on Facebook, and Twitter. If a reader contacts me on Facebook messenger, for example, I respond right away. I enjoy chatting with my readers and getting their feedback about my writing.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
I love it when people appreciate my work; however, I've never been recognized in public.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
On my blog I review books by Indie authors, and my favorite is Jeanne Bannon. Jeanne writes from the heart, is honest, and her style makes her books fun to read. There are so many Indie authors that lack media attention. Check out any one of Jeanne's books and you'll love her, too.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
I've always wanted to own my own house, but never could afford one in Southern California.
I have no dreams being as big as anyone; just being the best I can be.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
I can't begin to tell you how many times I've rewritten my books before publication. For example, I started writing "The Abduction of Joshua Bloom" when I was in my mid 20s. The book underwent four name changes, was re-written as an adult sci-fi novel to one for young adults. However, once published, there's no need for a rewrite.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
I wouldn't mind getting into the head of Mark Twain.
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
I received one of those a few years back. I just ignored it. Most of my reviews are 4 and 5 stars. I'm sure readers will ignore a wordless review and realize it's bogus.
What would you say to your readers?
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I live in Encino, California, a community in the San Fernando Valley. I have two adult daughters and four grandchildren. My wife, Jila, passed away seven years ago.
What is your day job if you have one?
I left my day job, a sixth grade Glendale, California elementary teacher, 21 years ago due to a severe hearing loss. Ever since, I've tutored children, helped adults with their writing needs, and write for my blog and create my books.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I have an adorable dog, Scribble. I spend free time training her. That dog knows more ASL than my brothers.
Did you have a happy childhood?
Yes. I was lucky. I had a womb-mate, and my twin and I have been friends all our lives.
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
When I found out I scored in the top 1% in the state on a writing test, I realized I have potential. That was back in '85.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
Currently, I'm working on "The Lip Reader: Mickey's Story." It's the sequel to "The Lip Reader," which was published November 1, 2021.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
I taught elementary and middle school for 28 years and have two master's degrees in education. Schools as they exist today are not working. Classrooms should be in the community and kept small no larger than 10-12 students. Mornings should be focused on the basics--Math, Reading, Writing, Science and History. During the afternoons, kids should be taken on field trips focussing on career ideas, music, athletics, science and art.
Each classroom should have one certificated teacher and their assistant.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
1. World Peace and Unification
2. Good health and long life to my daughters.
3. My twin brother, Elliott, recover completely from bone cancer.
What is your favorite music?
Being near deaf makes hearing music difficult. Most of it sounds like a cat screaming. However, Karen Carpenter still sounds like the singing angel she has always been.
Share a secret with us 🙂
SHH! Mickey's Story will be very autobiographical.