At about the age of 16 I was struck by the urge to write. The occasion was an assignment in my third-year English class at long-gone DePaul Academy, to write a story, any story. So I wrote a story about a young, promising boxer and his rapid rise through the ranks of his sport. I don’t think my fingers ever moved so fast on a keyboard. My instructor, a jaded fellow who sold loud men’s clothing on the side, was unimpressed, pointing out that by killing off my protagonist on page 6 of a 10-page story, I had transgressed against the Aristotelian unities, whatever they were.
But I was hooked, and from that point on, I wanted to write fiction. I kept the idea of being a writer in the back of my mind through college – DePaul University – and graduate school at Michigan State. As soon as I finished with my MA, I started sending out stories.
I will spare the reader the gory details of my attempts to get published. Suffice it to say that I wrote hundreds of pages of stories, hundreds, and there always seemed to be more coming out, like sneezes in an allergy fit. For a short time I grew disenchanted with the glacial pace of it all and concentrated on poetry. But despite getting a handful of these early poems published, I realized I was no poet. Meanwhile, the stories were still in there.
I once heard the great jazzman Miles Davis interviewed, and at one point, when asked about his writing process, Davis said, “there’s always music going through my head. I can hear it right now while I’m talking to you.”
And I nearly jumped out of my seat, yelling out to Miles on the TV screen, “Yeah, Miles, me, too, except it’s stories. There’s always a story moving around in my head.”
Eventually I went back to fiction, got a few stories published in small literary magazines, and began the long, bloody process of trying to sell a novel.
I’ve now published nine books, with number ten, Murder in the Summer of Love, due out in the very near future. I have two books in progress now, one a mystery and one a mainstream novel.
So that is my story. I live in Chicago with my wife Katherine, and my three grown
children are never far away.
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