I've always been a closet-writer. As a kid, I lived for the opportunity to write short stories. I was the editor of my high school newspaper for a while (the Valor Dictus, Robinson High School, class of 1975), until I quit ("You can't fire me! I quit!") over a lofty First Amendment issue that seemed very important at the time. My goal, in fact, was to become a journalist in the vein of Woodward or Bernstein. Okay, I confess, I wanted to be Woodward; Robert Redford played him in the movie, and chicks really dug Robert Redford.
I graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1979, and armed with a degree in American history, I couldn't find a job. I ended up settling for a position with a little-noticed trade journal serving the construction industry. They called me the managing editor and they paid me food stamp wages. I hated it. With few marketable skills, I went the way of many frustrated liberal arts undergrads—back to graduate school and earned a Master of Science degree in safety engineering from the University of Southern California. For the next decade and a half, I became an expert (don't you hate that word?) on explosives safety and hazardous waste. Meanwhile, I kept writing. I didn't tell anyone, of course, because, well, you just don't share artistic dreams with fellow engineers. They look at you funny.
My first novel, Nathan's Run, was in fact my fourth novel, and when it sold, it sold big. At a time in my life when things were going well—I was president of my own consulting firm—things were suddenly going very well. Warner Bros. bought the movie rights to Nathan's Run two days after the first book rights were sold, and as of this date, the novel has been translated and published in one form or another in over 20 countries. With Nathan's Run in the can, as it were, I thought I might finally be on to something, but I didn't quit my "day job" until after I sold the book and movie rights to my second novel, At All Costs. I figured that while one-in-a-row might be luck, two-in-a-row was a trend. So, I started writing full-time.
More novels followed, and then a few screenplays. I was living the dream.
But I really didn’t like it much. I learned pretty quickly that when you’re born a Type-A personality, those extrovert tendencies don’t go away just because you’re practicing a craft you love. In fact, after just a couple of years of dream fulfillment, I was pretty friggin’ bored with the company of my imaginary friends, so I did something that I’ve never heard a full-time artist do before: I went back to a day job. At first, it was just a matter of reactivating my consulting business, but then, in 2004, I was handed my ideal Big-Boy Job (that’s what my wife calls it) working as the director of safety for a trade association in Washington, DC.
And I continue to write. In 2006, Six Minutes to Freedom was published to considerable acclaim. My first (and probably last) foray into book-length non-fiction, SixMin tells the story of Kurt Muse, the only civilian of record ever rescued by the super-secret Delta Force. Thanks to Kurt’s cooperation (he is co-author), I gained access to people and places that lifelong civilians like me should never see. The heroic warriors I met during that research turned out to be nothing like their movie stereotypes. These were not only gentlemen, but gentle men, who remained free of the kind of boasting and self-aggrandizement that I was expecting. They were supreme professionals, and very nice guys.
And through them I got the idea for my new series character, Jonathan Grave. He’s former Delta, released from the Army under circumstances that will be revealed over time, and now he’s a freelance hostage rescue specialist. He’s the finest friend you could ever have, and the worst enemy. No Mercy, the first entry in the series, will hit the shelves in June of 2009, with a a sequel following a year later. If fans like him, and if they enjoy his adventures, there’ll be many more to come.
So that’s it. My history in a few hundred words.