My father and mother were both university professors. One lived in Southern California and the other, in Munich, Germany. I grew up proficient in the twin arts of (1) reading books by the pool, and (2) visiting castles, medieval towns, and opera halls. (My mother was quite the theater and music afficionado.)
Spent four years at Cate School, a tiny preparatory academy near Santa Barbara, then another four at Yale, where I majored in "Intensive English Literature." There, I met the author William Styron, to whom I showed some early samples of my writing. He assured me that I was a "real writer" and that I should stick with it. His enthusiasm and encouragement meant the world to me. Wherever he is today, I hope he knows how grateful I remain.
Following college, I spent seven years in Paris reading Proust, Balzac, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Mallarme, Barthes, Foucault, Michel Butor, Julien Gracq, Albert Cohen, and everything else I could get my hands on. Through a series of fluke encounters, I became friendly with a number of writers and film producers, and ended up earning my baguette and onion soup by translating film scripts for producers looking for foreign (i.e., anglophone) investors.
With my fiancee, Annie, I came back to the States for my sister's wedding in Los Angeles. Lacking the funds to return to my "home" in France, I ended up taking a gofer job for a film production company. Two weeks into that job, I was promoted to the position of "Promotions Coordinator" and then to assistant to the director, Michael Ritchie. From there, I became his "development person." A few films later, Kirk Douglas hired me to perform a similar function in his company, Bryna Productions. I also worked as Production Coordinator on a couple of TV shows before selling my first spec script.
Annie and I wrote several spec scripts together and sold a few. We were also hired as script consultants by several writers and producers. Eventually, we moved from our apartment in Beverly Hills to a big house on a lake in the mountains. I learned to fly a plane and purchased a Piper Archer II for the purpose of commuting to L.A.
I had always longed to be a novelist. For many reasons, the "factory" culture of the film industry was never my culture. However, I did learn a great deal about dramaturgy. Finally, I told my family I was ready to walk away from all of it and begin my long-dreamed-of career as a novelist. Despite the risks, my wife and children gave me and my aspirations their blessing.
our Piper Archer II.
We scoured the country for a place where we could live without too much overhead, while having access to opera, jazz, symphony, rock and roll, art museums, other writers and artists, and universities. Ultimately, we picked Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Having lived in L.A., Munich, Santa Barbara, New Haven, New York, and Paris, we can confidently say that Pittsburgh offers superb "bang for your buck" in terms of quality of life.
I spent six years researching, writing, and rewriting By Fire, By Water. I'm now hard at work on my next novel, which deals with the conflict between the Roman Empire and Judea, and the "parting of the ways" between early followers of Yeshu (Jesus) and those Jews who followed the teachings of Yohannan ben Zakkai (John, son of Zak, the father of post-Biblical Judaism) in the first century AD.
Annie and I have two children. Ariel is a philosophy major at UC Berkeley. Zeke is a sophomore at Mt. Lebanon high school. They're both as crazy as their parents. They're also both unusually intelligent, loving, and idealistic.