Starting life in Bonham, Texas, I attended school through the third grade at Benbrook, learning to sit still and pay attention while in class and endlessly awestruck by the giant ten-engine B-36 Peacemakers, the largest warplanes ever deployed, flying out of nearby Carswell Air Force Base on the outskirts of Fort Worth. I had the benefit of wonderful early instruction from Ms. Strother and Ms. Dunham as well as my mother, herself an elementary teacher, with the result that I became a spelling bee kind of kid and a word-wolf, hungry beyond hope of satiation for books and stories and ideas. Then, owing to transfers required by my father’s work, the family relocated to northern Minnesota for a stay of about seven years, to Colorado for several more years, then to Alaska after a brief tour in New Jersey. I graduated from a better than average high school in Security, Colorado outside Colorado Springs, and completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Alaska, where I met and married my first wife, Patricia Kathleen Ryan. Facing the prospect of having to provide for a family and not quite trusting a degree in English Literature to assure that, I allowed myself to be lured away from the English Department and over to the Arts & Sciences Building by Dr. Mitch Berkun, a brilliant experimental psychologist who became my mentor in psychology and, probably much more importantly, did his best to teach me the rudiments of orderly thinking and clear technical writing. I continued to enroll in the university creative writers’ workshop every semester, however, and still consider it not only a critical aspect of whatever one properly calls the process of growing into a fiction writer but of my education as a whole.
Until WHAT DIES IN SUMMER (W.W. Norton, Canongate, Edizioni Piemme, Ambos Anthos, Eugenia, Duomo, Text, Presses de la Cite, Bertrand), my only book-length writing project had been my doctoral dissertation for Texas A&M Commerce (“Selected Aspects of Counseling and Psychotherapy With Non-voluntary Clients”), but a few years ago I decided to try fictionalizing an event from my own life that had been circling idly in my mind for some time, and I wrote the short story that became the nucleus of the novel. My first attempt at an extended work of fiction, and of necessity written in the evenings and on weekends, WDIS was somewhat slow in coming but was eventually met with considerable positive response from reviewers at Kirkus, The Sunday Times, Texas Monthly, the Inside the Beltway List, the GQ Book Club, Parade, Historical Novel Society, Publishers Weekly and a number of others. Following the publication of WDIS, the characters and context of the book did not fade away but continued to grow and develop in my thinking, and the broad outlines of a series of novels dealing with the family at the center of the first novel began to take shape. To explore this territory I have projected a series of three additional novels in which I hope to carry forward the narrative of the core characters of WDIS and the extended family and environment within which their stories play out.
My first marriage ending after not quite ten years, I had met my present wife, Mary Pat Carlson, a fellow Masters student in counseling at the University of Texas Pan American in south Texas, and the following year we enrolled together as doctoral candidates at Texas A&M Commerce. Professionally, except for a few excursions off-trail as a child protective services investigator, wildlife enforcement officer, drug
treatment center director and classroom literature instructor, I have stuck with the private practice of general clinical psychology since earning my doctorate with concentrations in psychology and marriage and family therapy. Having spent most of my working life in that endeavor, I now find myself attempting to stack on a new career as a novelist, and admittedly crossing my fingers against the possibility I may be overcommitting in terms of personal resources. I do have a tireless teammate and cheerleader in Mary Pat, who practices with me in Texarkana, Texas, where the two of us, in addition to learning how hard it is to make a book from scratch, are also beginning to find out how much more gratifying grandparenting can be than parenting ever was.