A lesson in perseverance
How did I become a writer? Well, I’ve always been an avid reader, especially crime fiction. My favorite crime and mystery writers include Dashiell Hammett, Rex Stout, Jim Thompson, Ross Macdonald, and Donald Westlake/Richard Stark. Over the years I’ve devoured any and all books of theirs that I’ve been able to find. Other favorite writers outside of crime fiction include Joseph Heller, Bruce Jay Friedman, Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton, and Robert E. Howard.
How did I go from reader to writer? My interests in school were in math and computer science, and I earned a B.S. in Applied Math and Computer Science from the University of Colorado. After college I earned a Masters in Computer Science at Boston University and worked for over twenty-five years developing software (and wrote two computer technology books), so the idea of ever publishing fiction seemed little more than a lark. Yet I kept finding myself drawn to writing. My early attempts were awful, mostly because I kept aping the styles of my favorite writers. Something happened, though, when I was working on my first novel, Fast Lane. After several failed attempts, I found my own voice, and I started getting more excited about the idea of writing something I could be proud of and even being published one day. This led to selling my first story, A Long Time to Die, to the small crime fiction magazine, New Mystery, for all of $35. Since that first sale, I’ve had a lot of exciting things happen in my writing life, including visiting the set this summer of Small Crimes, but nothing has beaten the excitement of that first sale.
After finishing Fast Lane in 1992, it took me eleven years to sell it—first to an Italian publisher, then to the famed tiny micro press Point Blank Press. By this time I’d sold two short stories and written a second novel, Bad Thoughts, which Five Star would publish in 2007. Sometime around 2003 I wrote Small Crimes, only to see it rejected by every publisher in New York before selling it to the London publisher, Serpent’s Tail. Then, in 2008, the following happened: Small Crimes was published, NPR had it top their best five crime and mystery novels of that year, and Outsourced (which still hadn’t been published) was optioned for film. By this point, the writing bug had burrowed too deep to ignore, and I quit software development to try writing full time. Since then my books have been published in seven languages, reviewed by major newspapers around the world, and have made best-of-the-year lists for the Washington Post, ALA, Booklist, and WBUR. I’ve also had dozens of short stories published, won a Shamus, Derringer, and two Ellery’s Queen Readers awards. Finally, I’ve had four books optioned for film, with Small Crimes set to hit theaters next year.
Yeah, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been a case study in perseverance.