I’m a recovering reluctant reader turned award-winning author of books for young readers (Moonbeam Award, 2009).
I started my first book when I was 16 years old. It was “The Outsiders-meets-The Warriors” — a kid my age was thrown into a Minneapolis street war over a drug deal gone bad. I didn’t know it then, but that first manuscript was an attempt to connect to a larger world where events and people had a higher purpose than just getting through daily life.
I wasn’t a great student as a kid. This “reluctant reader” was called “slow” and “lazy.” If reading was difficult, television was my escape into the stories and worlds of other people. Later, the discovery of high school art and humanities pulled me out of a dropout spiral and gave me a fascination for the world and new ways to express myself.
After high school, I moved to the Southwest and enrolled at the University of New Mexico, where I studied art and worked as an illustrator and exhibits specialist at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. Hours in the exhibit halls and collections rooms filled my imagination with the stories of people lost to time. After freshman year, I returned to Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, on my way to earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. At the same time I traveled the Lower-48, Canada and Alaska.
After getting married, becoming a stepfather and graduating from college, I managed an art gallery where I learned basic business and sales skills. A year later, I began working in motion picture and TV production—I still write, direct and perform today. That experience led me to a job in account management at a major Minneapolis ad agency, where I learned the creative process, market analysis, international marketing and strategic planning. Then I moved to Target Corporation’s merchandising division and learned retail merchandising.
But something was missing. I wanted creative expression than advertising provided and I realized I had enough brains and enough stories to write a book. So I did. I consider the process of writing my first thriller manuscript to be my MFA in Creative Writing. I revised diligently and joined a writers’ critique group, continually honing my craft.
In 2006, I debuted in print with my short story “Chili Dog” in “Twin Cities Noir,” part of Akashic Books’ popular “Noir” series. Since then I’ve gotten to do numerous signings, events and radio appearances for various projects. My regular attendance at book conferences paid off when I learned that Stone Arch Books, the fiction imprint of Capstone Press, was looking for boys’ fiction. I wrote a manuscript for their audience and received a contract to develop a graphic novel action series which became “Recon Academy.” I joined the SCBWI—the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators—and found an entire culture dedicated to creating great books for young readers.
I hit on something significant with Young Adult books. I realized how close to the surface my inner boy is—the wonder, challenge and triumph of growing up. I began looking at ideas I had stored up for adult novels and asked, “How would a teen react in this situation?” The results are exciting stories about boy protagonists growing into a world full of intrigue and danger. My goal is to connect with young people through thrilling stories, to open up an inner world where adventure is our calling and danger is a metaphor for the challenges of our heroic life.
I live in East Tennessee with Pat, my wife, and our dog, Molly, and our cat Max. When not writing, you can find me hiking in the mountains near home or visiting schools and libraries to share my love of reading and learning.