Interview with the author

When did you first start writing?
I began at age 10, inspired by a movie I saw, “Gentleman’s Agreement,” starring Gregory Peck as a magazine writer working on a story that explored society’s hidden anti-semitism.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The sense of self-discovery and the gratification of story-telling.
What do your fans mean to you?
Every story-teller needs a story-listener. Together they complete a circuit that I consider magical.
What are you working on next?
I have just begun a story set in Pawleys Island, SC. I can’t wait to see what it is about!
Who are your favorite authors?
I have many favorites: Novelists Thomas Hardy, Somerset Maugham, Jane Austen, Dickens, Camus, Margaret Mitchell, Erskine Caldwell, Willa Cather, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Eudora Welty, and poets Shakespeare, Browning, Wordsworth, Blake, and T.S. Eliot. I also like my own writing. So there.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My dogs are eager for their morning walk. ‘Nuff said.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I scour book sites today just as I used to scour bookstores and magazine stands.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Among the first was a short-short story written in about half an hour in a freshman English class at the University of Georgia. Each Friday, we had to write a paper in class (50 minutes) based on one of several themes the professor wrote on the board.
After some¬† minutes of indecision, I chose “Good Ol’ Friday, King of the Week” and wrote about the Crucifixion of Christ from the point of view of some Roman soldiers whose duty it had been to carry out the execution. Mine was the only paper that was fiction, and it was probably the first such theme paper she had ever received. She loved it, pronouncing it the best theme paper she’d ever had. Alas, she handed back the paper with a grade of 40 (out of a 100) and said, “See me after class.” After class, she repeated her praise of the story but informed me (correctly) that I did not know grammar — and would fail her class in spite of my writing talent if I did not learn it. I got busy and learned it, and made a B+ on the final. What a good teacher she was! Renamed “TGIF,” the story I wrote then appears in my book Six of One, Half Dozen of Another, a collection of short stories and poems.
What is your writing process?
I write about four hours every day when the going is good. I begin each session by rereading (and editing) what I wrote the day before. I aim for producing 1,000 words a day, and I count the words at the end of each session and record them on a calendar-like grid, putting the day’s production above a line and the running total under the line. This ritual is tantamount to giving myself a gold star at the end of each day’s work.
Do you remember the first story you ever read and the impact it had on you?
No. The first stories I ever heard were at my mother’s knee, long before I could read. But I believe they helped me develop a facility with language.
How do you approach cover design?
When I’ve done my own, sweating blood seemed to work well.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Georgia. Southerners seem to be born with a story-telling gene.
What’s the story behind your latest book?

It’s about the redemptive power of music, specifically (in this case) rock ‘n’ roll. A rich white boy and a black handyman form a lasting friendship when the boy is exposed to the handyman’s collection of rock ‘n’ roll records.

What motivated you to become an indie author?
After my second novel, Atlanta Blues, I couldn’t find a publisher. At that time, book publishing was changing drastically; I seemed caught in the upheaval.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
It helps writers like me distribute their work to readers.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading, walking my dog, listening to music, nurturing my children, helping my wife, helping aspiring writers, especially my former students.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
-To me, Gone With the Wind is the great American novel, and not because I’m a Southerner or Confederate sympathizer. It’s simply a wonderful novel.
-All the Thomas Hardy novels except Jude the Obscure number among my favorite, but I’ll single out Far From the Madding Crowd.
-All of Jane Austen’s novels, but, with apologies to Sense and Sensibility, I’ll pick Pride and Prejudice.
The Razor’s Edge, Somerset Maugham. Great storytelling.
-My own A Majority of One. It’s really that good. Surprised myself!
What do you read for pleasure?
I’m an inveterate reader. If nothing else is handy, a cereal box will do.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I haven’t found any.
Describe your desk.
I write on my laptop at the dining-room table, which at the moment is a mess.
What is your advice to young writers?
Learn your craft. As Stephen King said, the English language is your toolbox; know your tools. Then, bearing in mind that the first two letters of d-o-n-e spell do, apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair, and write!
(Editor’s Note: This interview is from Smashwords:

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