and here’s an interview with him! BTW, I think he’s written a million books. AND had them published. Woot woot Dean!
How did you begin writing?
I’ve always written. At four I started scribbling on paper and telling my mom to read my “story.” (Too bad that I didn’t know all my letters.) She would pretend to be read what I it back to me, and I would say, “That’s not what I wrote.” (In case you’re wondering about POV on that story, I must admit, I don’t remember the whole thing. Mom told me about it later.)
I wrote a play in fourth grade, became a devoted reader, and by junior high was telling people I was going to be a writer when I grew up. In high school I had an amazing creative writing teacher who taught me the basics of fiction writing, and I got serious about trying to publish. I wrote a novel the year I graduated from high school (rejected), another in college (rejected), another when I first began my career as a professor (rejected), and then a fourth, which was intended for young readers. That one sold. By then I was thirty-five.
The Earth’s under attack, you go to the bookstore for one book to take with you during escape. Go!
I’m afraid I would stand in that bookstore, catatonic. The attackers would find me and shoot me down. I could never choose one book. I guess I’d take my Kindle, with a small library of recent reads, but that would be very satisfying. I’ve been reading books all my life and I’d miss hundreds of them. For one thing, I love many genres—fiction, history, non-fiction on all sorts of subjects, etc.—and I don’t even know which category is my favorite.
So who started this “favorite” thing anyway? When I used to visit schools, kids would ask me what my favorite color was, and I would say, “Blue,” because I’d been saying that for a long time. But then I realized, I had only chosen blue under duress. I was supposed to like one color more than all others. Does that actually make sense? I want the whole rainbow and chartreuse, mauve and ordinary old tan besides. I like colors; that’s what I like. I can’t choose one color, and I can’t choose one book.
When you’re not laboring over the keyboard, what would we find you doing?
I read a lot, of course. I love movies and my wife and I go off to afternoon films, when the prices are lower and the theaters are empty. (There are some good things about getting old.) I keep trying to learn to fly fish. I’m getting a little better at it. I live ten minutes from the Provo River, so I keep telling myself that this year I’ll fish a lot more. I just had back surgery, so this year I can’t ski, but I still plan to return to hills next season (I live about fifteen minutes from Deer Valley ski resort). I play golf (have a course in my back yard); I watch BBC series on Netflix; I teach an adult class at my church. I also clean house. Kathy and I have always divided that sort of work, and sometimes scrubbing a toilet actually seems more appealing to me than looking at more words on my computer screen. For Kathy and me, our big thing is travel. Lately we’ve made trips to Italy, England, and we took a cruise to South America and the Antarctic. We have some other trips in mind. We also do lots of family stuff. We try to attend events our grandchildren get involved in, and we gather once a month if we can to celebrate the birthdays in the family.
What’s the last book that made you do a spit take? Or at least laugh out loud?
Does it tell you anything that I had to Google “spit-take” to find out what it is? (Actually, I’m impressed that I found my answer that way.) Now I’m trying to think what has made me laugh lately. I obviously read too much serious stuff. I don’t remember spitting all over the place, but I did reread Catch 22 lately. The book makes me laugh and cringe and worry. It seems more real than the first time I read it.
Can you give us a typical day in the life of?
I’m known for being “prolific.” That’s really a back-handed way of saying that I’m a drudge who really “cranks them out.” I hate that image, but I will say, I have worked hard all my life. I’ve published 102 books in about thirty-five years. For most of my career I tried to be at my computer by 8:00 a.m., and I stayed there most of the day. But I have a good process, and I think I write efficiently, so I do find time for other things. And lately, I’ve begun to change. I’m afraid my new image may be that of the self-indulging artiste. I get up later than I used to, exercise before I write, and usually get to my computer about nine-ish, or some days, not at all. I’ve been writing a history lately—not just historical fiction, but actual history—and that gives me the excuse to read all day, sometimes for weeks. And since my wife and I are traveling more these days, we escape work altogether and run off to see the world, or we drive to California to see grandchildren. The fact is, I have no real schedule anymore, and I rather like that.
You’re at Carol’s dance party. Are you dancing in the middle? Head bobbing? Fly on the wall? Or do you apologize later because you got a sudden case of food poisoning?
All of these questions call attention to my age. I went from the foxtrot and jitterbug to the twist, the pony, the mashed potatoes—all that stuff. And then it all got away from me. I tried to jump around for a few years, but I was always amazed at what people called fast dancing, which was a little too “free-style” to get my head around. Somewhere in time I gave up most dancing, but when Kathy and are at a party or dinner dance, we usually revert to our old high school foxtrot, and we throw in a jitterbug a couple of times. But no head bobbing—absolutely no head bobbing.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given concerning writing?
Spend 20 percent of your time composing and 80 percent revising. And when you publish, enjoy the moment, but don’t conclude that you’re now a big deal.
What’s the number one writing tip you can give aspiring authors?
Don’t ask too much of writing. Getting published rarely brings you fame and fortune, and you won’t walk around in a state of euphoric bliss from that day on. Write because you like to write. If benefits follow, enjoy them, but don’t focus on the benefits and forget the hard work of working until you “get it right.”
And last but not least: you’re a teenager again, what song is playing in the background, or in your head, during your first kiss?
“You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound dog”? Well, no, but my first kiss was in the Elvis era.
When I met Kathy, she had a cute little red dress that just knocked my eyes out. When I would see her in it, I would sing “Hey There, Little Red Riding Hood (by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs). That became “our song.” But let’s see; for a romantic song I’ll take “The Nearness of You,” or maybe, “Moonlight Becomes You.” I know. I know. Those are really old songs. But hey, I keep telling you, I’m an old guy.