- The Boys from Joppa
Q. Is your newest book, The Boys from Joppa, biographical?
A. Yes and no. Hallowell is a real Maine city. The names of places, people in the background of the story, Dip, and the store are real. Big Robbie is a real character and many of the events took place. The rest is a fictional take on the time, place and people of the Kennebec Valley.
Q. As a poet do you find writing fiction a difficult task?
A. My type of poetry is often a capsulized short story. Everything has a beginning, middle, and an end. In a novel I increase the connections and broaden the scope, but everything comes from a small grain of an idea.
Q. In the past you have narrated several wild plant books. What brought you to write about wild plants and recipes?
The books Fiddlemainia, The Blueberry Coast, and The Dandelion Conspiracy are iconic to a Maine way of life. When I returned to Maine some years ago, I found many people didn’t realize these plants had been eaten for thousands of years. Thanks to my friend and photographer, Linwood Diket, I was able to share knowledge of the plants, beautiful photos, and unique recipes from around the world to a new generation.
Q. What are you currently working on?
A. I have just finished the draft on the second book in the Kennebec River Trilogy (Dummers Lane), started the last book (The Valley of Good and Evil), and I am finishing up a new collection of ten short stories (A View From the other Side of the Road).
Q. What would you be doing if you weren’t writing books?
A. Maybe jail time?
Q. Why do you never mention your military career?
A. I am proud of my military service, those who serve in the military, and those who support them. I went in a Marine private and retired an Army Colonel. Some of my experiences filter into my books and poetry. In my next collection of short stories, I have Henry Hinckley’s Vietnam War Diary (Episode One), a funny look at a young soldier’s first weeks in Vietnam. A subject I know well.
Q. Why do you live in Maine?
A. I believe writers need a special place where they can do their best work. I found a 158 year old French Mansard in a town of 850 people where I can draw the energy I need to write. I don’t believe I would write the same way in a different place.
Q. As a writer do you live as a hermit or are you social?
A. Other than being a monk walled up in a cave, writing requires a massive amount of time in your own head. That being said, when I quit writing I burst out with a frenzy of social activity until a stray idea forces me back into a writer’s hibernation.
Q Do you have any advice for new writers?
A. Always believe in yourself, read everyone, listen to everyone (but don’t take it to heart). A writer needs to be true to their own vision. All you really need to do is write, write, write.
Q. Is there anything you really want to write about?
A. My focus is, and will always be, on the human condition. Technology and media changes our lives, but humanity is about being human. As a reader, I enjoy the experience more when I see parts of me in a story. The great writers hold an unblemished mirror up to their readers. Everything I write has my perspective on humanity in it.