1. Tell me about your book Garden of the Falling Moon and where you got your inspiration for it?
The book takes place in a small Ohio city in the summer of 1909. That is a time of extreme inequality of classes (even worse than the present in the USA) and considerable discrimination of blacks and immigrants and women. It is also a time of violent anarchists—bomb throwers and assassins. President McKinley had recently been assassinated. In that world a lovely young woman attempts to help a homeless little girl and alienates her family and the man who wants to marry her. She is forced to submit to what she considers “medical rape” or be committed to an institution. At the same time a small group of anarchists plan to set off a bomb that will kill the mayor and several influential men. Into that mix a hired killer arrives intending to fulfil his contract. Instead, he falls in love with the young woman and becomes attached to the little girl. How did I get the inspiration for it? I’ve been writing a story for each decade of the twentieth century. This is the one that deals with the conflicts of that period and how they are experienced by people trapped in that time. The title comes from the fact that the moon does fall to the earth but misses, as Newton showed. The killer explains to the little girl that everything falls together. I wanted to show the constraints of a period as they affect people. We are dropped into a time, within a particular body and brain, in a world we did not choose, yet have the freedom and the responsibility to create a life of value, to literally make values actual. It’s not easy and often it’s tragic. We have a life in time and a life of value. C. S. Forester writes: “I only saw her for five minutes, but it was worth it.”
2. Who has had the most influence in your life? What lessons did this person teach you?
I’ve learned a lot from many people. I’ve had several excellent teachers, beginning with my mother and her brother. I had a great teacher in college: Elizabeth Hoobler, who once proved you could tap dance to a poem. My wife has been my best critic and taught me to get straight to the point and not go the long way around. From my father I learned the importance of telling the truth and standing up for others and to authority when it was wrong, no matter what would happen to you. Of course, that led to the two of us crossing swords often, and my spending time in the stockade while in the Air Force.
3. How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who added a few good stories to the world and didn’t do much damage to others.
4. What is usually your first thought in the morning?
Am I still alive? That always surprises me. Doesn’t simply being alive seem strange or a miracle to you? Even as a child I was always surprised to wake up. Each day seemed like life was beginning all over.
5. You’re given one million pounds/dollars/euros, what would you spend it on?
I would spend it on my children and my wife. I’d like to make their lives easier.
6. Are you mostly a clean or messy person?
I am personally clean in body and clothes, but my writing table rapidly becomes a mess of notes and possible projects and so on. Even the desktop of my laptop seems to get full of wild weeds.
7. How would you describe yourself in three words?
Emotion under logic.
8. Have you ever killed someone in a novel and regretted it later?
Yes. In Nowhere Nowhen I killed a man I need in volume two, so I have to figure a way to bring him back. The classic case is Sherlock Holmes killed falling over the falls. What a disaster! I hated to kill someone in Garden and in a detective novel I wrote I found there were tears forming when I realized I killed off a girl I really liked. In a western I’m working on, I need to kill off the most interesting character in the novel, so I have to put it at the very end.
9. Who would play you in a film about your life?
Of course you would like it to be a leading man type, but it would more likely be Marcel Dalio. Does anyone now know who he is? Check out “Rules of the Game” and “Grand Illusion” and “Casablanca”.
10. What are the most important attributes to staying sane as a writer?
Not believing what others say about your stuff unless you can trust they’re telling the truth. Do not believe editors. I have been told: “in spite of the obvious quality of your story, we cannot publish it.” Huh? Don’t expect success of any kind. Make sure you have another source of income. Faulkner said that all you need is pencil and paper and a little whiskey. I prefer beer.
11. Are you jealous of other writers?
No. We’re all together trying to tell a story and show what it means to be human. Some writers cheat and lie and, as D.H. Lawrence said, that is the sin that cannot be forgiven. Some writers prefer to be entertainers and should be seen that way. There is nothing wrong with entertaining. Books can be treated as consumer goods and marketed that way and writers became a brand: buy the latest Stephen King or the best of Shakespeare. Of course, the important thing is the work itself. All writers eventually die, so why be jealous of anyone’s success? Envy is something else. I envy Shakespeare, Milton, and Chekhov because of their talent, a talent far superior to mine. But in the same way your ordinary physicist might envy Einstein or Newton.
12. What do you like most about being a writer?
I like absolutely nothing about being a writer. I think it’s one of the worst things you can be. It’s a curse and if I had a choice I would never write another story or poem. For a long time I didn’t. I tried to run away from it. For years I wrote nothing at all. I am not surprised that Rimbaud abandoned poetry for gun running. What a relief it must’ve been.
13. What’s the nicest thing you’ve ever done or ever been done for you?
I’ve done very few nice things, but people have often helped me. I must look like a lost innocent. I was travelling cross country once and had only a bus ticket part way because I’d been rolled by two young ladies in Sacramento. A woman bought me a meal and a ticket to get all the way home. I was once lost and wandering in the desert in Mexico and a taxi driver took me back to the border without charging me a dime.
14. How did you come up with the title for your latest book?
I once saw a woman on a swing in a garden and she seemed very happy as she swung and looked at the sky. I then thought of Newton and the moon falling to the earth like the apple in his garden (the apple was a flower of Kent & I went to Kent State). I wrote a short story about a girl on a swing who had to decide what she would do with her life: marriage, work, or escape. I don’t understand how it coalesced into the novel, but it did. I have no idea how something like that works.
15. What are your current projects?
I am finishing a western that takes the Fenimore Cooper Deerslayer character and puts him down in the west. He is a killer at heart and doesn’t belong among people. I’m having trouble with the second volume of Nowhere Nowhen and struggling with the book dealing with the 1930s decade. I doubt if anyone will publish anything like I have in mind.
16. If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Concentrate on math and stay the hell away from writing.
17. If you gave one of your characters the opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say?
They all speak for themselves; all I do is record them.
In 1909 Esther Marie Morrow hopes to save a homeless little girl from a life of ignorance and poverty. But her family and society oppose her. She is threatened with being institutionalized as mentally incompetent because of her concern. At the same time a determined band of anarchists plan to murder the mayor and the influential people of the city. Then a strange man appears who has an agenda of his own that eventually will change the lives of Esther, the girl, and the anarchists.
Esther and Raymond are now at the rose-covered fence at the end of the garden. Esther leans down to smell a rose. Raymond picks one and places it in her hair.
“I might even consider going into politics, you know.”
“Politics? Really? Why?”
“I realize it is sort of beneath me but, as my father has said, we cannot let the lower classes take over our country. Those socialists and communists are even here in our town. They were the instigators in the strike at the Mill. Now even the Negroes can vote! They are illiterate and barely above the intellectual level of apes. Imagine! No one without property should be permitted to decide the affairs of government, of a state, of a country. On top of all that there is the extreme foolishness of woman suffrage.”
“Yes. Nature has designed women for the necessary function of having children, rearing them, and being a comfort to her husband. Men are the providers and deciders.”
“They are to decide a woman’s life as if she were a child?”
“Well, in a way, women are child-like. Women are controlled by emotions and their bodies. Esther, that is basic physiology. Men do not have ‘times of the month’ or suffer from hysteria. There are important differences that make women the weaker sex. Even you, with all your schooling and knowledge, are emotionally unbalanced over that urchin. Any man would see the child should be in an orphanage where she would get care. She eventually would learn a trade or become a productive person and not a charity case. You can’t see that because you’re a woman. It is sweet of you, but it’s your heart not your brain reacting. It unbalances you. It’s not your fault.”
“Thank you, Raymond, for making everything clear.”
They stop walking and Raymond takes Esther’s hand.
“You mean that?”
“Yes, I really do. Apparently you have talked with my aunt and your mother about my being emotionally unbalanced.”
Raymond drops her hand and looks away.
“Oh, Raymond, I understand that you would not want to marry someone unbalanced.”
“That’s not it. You must know that. I want you. I don’t care what others think. I see your only problem is an emotional involvement with this girl. I also understand why you don’t want to see Doctor Hollister.”
“Oh? You’ve discussed that?”
“Yes, your health is important to me.”
Now Esther looks away. She looks out past the garden to the far fields with the tall white grass. She feels suddenly light as if she were floating over the fields and flying toward the green woods in the distance.
“That is very good of you to consider my health.”
“I’m serious, Esther.”
“I see. I suppose the visit to your grandfather is to see if he will approve, considering my health.”Raymond grabs Esther’s arms and turns her around. “Darling, are you crying?"
(In his own words)
(In his own words)
I was born in the hills of a mining town of western Pennsylvania. By the time I was eight I lived in northeastern Ohio. I served two terms in the USAF, one in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. I spent some time in a hospital in Tachikawa, Japan, and saw the terrible results of that war. I graduated summa cum laude in mathematics from Kent State University and spent one semester in grad school at NYU. I have worked in construction as a control electrician and in data acquisition and analysis for P&G. I’ve had a children’s book published, The Enchanted Sticks, that is still available in the Junior Great Books series. I’ve had stories and poems published in various magazines. Eternal Press published Nowhere Nowhen and Damnation Books published Garden of the Falling Moon. I am married to an incredibly lovely woman, have three children, five grandchildren, and attempt to live in Cincinnati, Ohio. I write because I’m not smart enough to do anything more useful.