His horror screenplay, “Healer,” was a Semi-Finalist, and his urban fantasy script, “Like A Hero,” was a Finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.
He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University. He went on to earn a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master’s in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.
He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including “Fatal Images,” “Club Dead,” and “Things II,” the reviews of which are much more fun than the actual movies.
He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook.
He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to eight different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles.
He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed him and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.
He is currently working on a sequel to Spinner.
His goal as a YA author is for teens to experience empowerment and hope; to see themselves in his diverse characters; to read about kids who face real-life challenges; and to see how kids like them can remain decent people in an indecent world.
My relationship with a good book comes from the characters. If there are characters I can relate to, who resonate with me, who experience real human emotions and face real moral dilemmas I can relate to, I am enthralled. If a book is all plot over character, I can enjoy reading it, but like a fluff movie it’s forgotten the moment I close it.
When did you first start writing and what was the first thing that you wrote that you were proud of?
I always wrote stories growing up, even in grammar school. I think in the fourth or fifth grade I wrote a story called “Tarzan and the Flood” about how Tarzan lured a bunch of poachers into an area surrounded by huge rock formations and then used his famous vocal call to draw all the animals away. Then somebody (can’t recall who) detonated dynamite and sealed the entrance, trapping the poachers. After that they flooded the enclosed area to drown all the bad guys. It was almost an early horror story. LOL I got lots of praise for my imagination. As you can probably tell, I was always in love with nature.
Please describe your work ethic as an author.
I usually begin at eight every weekday morning and write pretty much full time, until maybe four in the afternoon. I take stretch breaks, eat lunch, but mainly write. I keep this pace pretty consistently until I have a finished first draft. Then I do pretty much the same while revising, rewriting, and editing.
How do you balance your work as an author with the other aspects of your life?
When I was teaching full time, the job always came first. I had little time for writing except during summers, and even then I was super busy. That’s why it took me twenty years to get my first book out. LOL Once I took early retirement for several reasons from full-time teaching, I wrote six books in two years. I still am involved with lots of volunteer work and do some tutoring, but for now I have time to write and, more importantly, rewrite.
Why did you write this book?
I’ve always loved the horror genre, even as a child. My parents thought there was something wrong with me for loving scary movies. I didn’t understand until much later in life that my love of these films and characters fed the sense of isolation I felt from everyone around me. I was a shy kid, yes. But more than that, I was born with a hearing loss that impaired my ability to understand with clarity what people around me were saying. There were no hearing aids at the time that could help me, and no one in the family or at school had hearing loss like me. Even my grandmother could hear better than me when she was ninety years old! So I was very much in a world of my own, a true outsider that no one around me could fully understand.
Horror films are otherworldly, about people outside the “normal” spectrum, often shy loners like me who didn’t fit in. I felt immense empathy for The Creature from the Black Lagoon, uprooted from his home, brought to a strange place, and put on display for people to gawk at. Frankenstein’s monster, especially as portrayed by Boris Karloff in the first three films, was incredibly sympathetic. He was misunderstood by everyone. All he wanted was love and acceptance (like all of us.) His ugliness frightened people so they rejected him. Those films inspired me to read the original book, and through that story I felt an even greater kinship with the monster. I wasn’t physically ugly like him, no, but I was “weird” in the eyes of my peers. I would give strange answers to questions, or respond oddly to a statement, or react incongruously to something another child did simply because I couldn’t hear correctly. But because I wore no hearing aids and the disability was invisible, even I would forget it was there and think I was just stupid or dumb for how I responded or acted in a given situation. I struggled in every group activity because the noise and chattering from other kids made it much harder for me to understand them clearly. And team sports? Let’s not even go there!
So horror was, for me, an escape into a world where even weird people have a place and a purpose in life. Horror films helped me manage my own fear when I’d be confronted with something new and scary. In Spinner, I attempted to create this kind of horror tale, one that will engage all the emotions, not just fear. The teen characters are like me, outsiders with disabilities who don’t fit the “norm.” But they accept very quickly that something dangerous and otherworldly is happening to them and they use the skills they do have to solve the mystery and save lives. Spinner has lots of traditional horror “scare scenes,” but it also features action, excitement, sadness, the power of friendship and family, and the overriding need for all of us to find our place in the world. Horror helped one lonely boy find his way through life. Maybe, with Spinner, that boy can pay it forward to someone else.
What experiences from your past do you find yourself drawing upon repeatedly for inspiration in your work?
Almost everything I’ve experienced can find its way into my books. My characters tend to be offshoots of people I’ve known, even fleetingly. My experiences as a teacher, a volunteer, an activist for children’s rights, my vacations as a child, my favorite things to do as akid growing up, my hearing loss, relationship with my parents, my… well, you get the idea. There’s nothing I’ve experienced I’d be afraid to explore in a book.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years, both as an author and in your outside life?
I hope to get my books out to a wider audience than they are now because I believe the themes, the characters, the situations and issues I explore will resonate with teens if they are made aware of my books. On the personal side, I expect to be a foster or adoptive parent within the next year or two.
Since you are a storyteller, please tell one good lie about yourself.
I once got lost in the Amazonian jungle for three days before I found my way back to civilization. That was crazy!
- A Spinner Mouse Pad