What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write New York Stories?
I get a lot my inspirations from current events, news stories, and what people are talking about, bits of overheard conversations. The themes in New York Stories: crime, the police, the homeless, global warming, the decline of democracy, war and global politics, China, massive multiplayer online RPGs, online banking, and insurance companies… are all in the news and are constantly being talked about.
Actually, I got the idea to use life insurance to collect on debts from a Japanese news story on how some Yakuza guys loaned money to people who listed the gangs as beneficiaries on their life insurance. If the borrowers got behind on their payments, the Yakuza arranged for a surprise “vacation trip” to let people get away from their troubles… a free trip to paradise… however, accidents always occurred and the gang got paid back for their investments… like Bob in the story.
If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of New York Stories, what would they be?
New York Stories takes place in the distant future, so those future songs aren’t recognized by people living in the past… but one of their favorite covers from ancient history is “Stayin Alive” by the Bee Gees. “Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’ and we’re stayin’ alive…”
What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?
I read most everything: history, science, business, travel, and fiction… I wanted to write about venture business and Asia as a straight up non-fiction, so I arranged to study and interview some very rich and successful venture capitalists… however the information I gleaned from those studies turned me in another direction and went into parts of my novels, “Moonlight Beach”, “Tokyo Games” and “Osaka Games” all of which feature VCs from California.
Names, etc. have been changed to protect everyone, including me, and one subject actually tried to buy “the story” after I let him read it. However, I didn’t want to sell regardless of his “Hollywood connections” because I’d rather be free (and relatively poor) to do what I want, which allows everyone to read these stories instead of keeping them locked away.
What books are on your TBR pile right now?
Science: “This is your Mind on Plants” by Michael Pollan, who I love and have read his other books.
Travel: “On the Plain of Snakes” by Paul Theroux, who I also love and have read his other books.
Fiction: the “Slough House” series by Mick Herron who I don’t particularly like because of how he kills off good characters. I’ve killed off a few characters in my books too but I can always bring them back as ghosts or spirit guides. However, Mick didn’t give himself those options. I do like the Apple TV version of his books and the cast they picked…
What scene in your book was your favorite to write?
The opening scene with Amy, her genetically engineered guide cat, Zeke, and the Martian Rocks was my favorite. I could have written a whole book about Amy and Zeke and more about Karen and Bob too, but the NY story needed time for the ocean to rise, like how yeast rises over time in a warm oven.
Once the Martians got out with Zeke’s help, it took time for them to spread, from cat to cat. Plus, it took even more time for people to get to Mars and establish a base, etc. Bob needed time to set up his dominant multiplayer RPG as well as to program China Bank’s system. So, Amy and Zeke set things up and years and years later it all paid off…
Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)
I’m always writing and I write everywhere: in bed or on planes, on boats, on trains, in bars and restaurants and even on park benches. Sometimes I’m just writing, working on a story and sometimes I’m editing again and again, trying to shave off excessive words, sentences or paragraphs… and sometimes I’m watching and listening, picking up bits and pieces of people and their conversations then making notes on scraps of paper or on my phone… All that could be construed as creepy lurking but a smile keeps me out of trouble. I usually describe these story gathering processes in the “Dear Reader (author’s note)” in all of my books.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
Aim higher, do better…
If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?
Be skeptical. If the insurance company says, “Get in the boat, we’ll keep you safe.” Don’t believe them. If the politicians say, “Vote for me I’ll set you free…” you may want to think about that since it could mean the opposite, and if anyone says, “Don’t worry, it’s just the weather…” run for high ground.
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