Q. Tell us a little about yourself! Who are you? What do you write?
A. I grew up in Montana and Wyoming, where as a young boy, my brothers and I raced by horseback across the grass pastures of my grandfather’s ranch. There is no video game that can match the exhilaration of riding full speed on the back of a galloping horse. With a full access nature pass, I swam, rafted and fished many of the lakes and rivers of Wyoming. Early inspiration hit when I located and walked down the same dirt path Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid used to hunker down in their Hole in the Wall hideout. My brothers and I carried fishing poles, instead of guns, that is when we didn’t have a pretend posse chasing us. I was able to put myself through college playing basketball, getting degrees in Theatre and Broadcasting. Later I began writing and developing stories for film and television, until 2006 when I became the Editor of Dramabiz Magazine, a theatre business management monthly.
How does a writer describe himself–with a story, of course? About 20 years ago, I flew to Wyoming to visit my family. Seated next to me on the airplane, was a gentleman with long, white hair, pulled back in a ponytail wrapped in leather ties with beautiful beads. We fell into an easy conversation telling each other our “stories”. He spoke of his tribe, their history and traditions. I countered with my clan, cowboys and Irish and German ancestors. In true “cowboys and Indians” fashion, the conversation turned to the Battle of the Little Big Horn and “Yellow Hair”. Generations of Dorrs living in Wyoming and Montana heard the stories—and not the kind you read in history books. We had much disdain for George Armstrong Custer, the great injustice the U.S. Government put on the native Indians and the fiction portrayed as historical fact. Finding common historical ground, the gray haired man shared how this too is a story passed down through the generations in his family, in fact some of his relatives died as they fought the American encroachment led by “Yellow Hair.” At the end of our trip, my new friend revealed that he was the official storyteller for the Oglala Sioux Nation. He expressed honor in meeting another tribe’s storyteller, which struck me. He said that I, just like him, was destined to be a storyteller, and that it was my responsibility to pass down my tribe’s history. Years later, I have come to realize what he meant. I have always felt a need to tell stories, as did my father and his father. Ironically, as I reflect back, I remember that I wrote my first play after my father took me to the battlefield at Little Big Horn and explained the truth behind the Indian Nations last great victory. I was in third grade. Who am I? I’m a storyteller from Wyoming.
I just completed my first novel, Those Crazy Notions of Otherwise Intelligent People, a contemporary romantic (dramedy) comedy about making bad choices good again. As a writer in film and television, I never thought of myself as a writer in any one genre because I wrote action, adventure, children, comedy and drama. One day, a friend that I trusted to read my work, asked me if I realized that everything I wrote had a touch of romance in it? When I went back and looked, he was right. Love is powerful. I write about it and all the aspects associated with the feeling. Through my writing, I get to experience it all over again and creating that emotion can be exhilarating or devastating. Many wonderful conflicts arise from being in love and lend themselves to all genres. The most heart wrenching stories of all time, like Doctor Zhivago, use love as the catalyst to propel the story forward.
Q. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
A. I think it was the day I was going down an elevator from a meeting with a management company in Century City (in L.A.). Minutes earlier, my pilot for a television series, called WITNESSED, was optioned. I looked at my producing partner, trying my best to control my emotions as I’m sure they would be captured on the security camera, and asked, “Did what I think just happened, really happen?” When he smiled and shook his head yes, I was convinced that I could truly write, well, a TV script anyway. As the editor of Dramabiz Magazine, I had to interview, write and edit a monthly magazine, which taught me discipline and what to look for in quality writing. Those two experiences gave me the courage to write my first novel.
Q. What is the biggest challenge you have faced on your journey to becoming a writer?
A. The biggest challenge for me is to remember to make writing daily a priority. It’s a gift to have the ability to create a story in your mind and then translate an idea into words so that others can enjoy your thoughts. Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in life that I miss a day or two of writing. I loose touch with that joy of pushing a story along. It is an adrenaline rush to read what I have written after toiling late into the night. Never knowing if it is reader-ready as I boot up the computer, I oftentimes get excited at reading something special that I don’t remember writing (and no I don’t late night binge drink). On my list of loves, writing has surpassed basketball and sits right below family.
Q. Where is the weirdest place or what is the weirdest thing that inspired an idea?
A. I once met a stuntman who was missing his arm below the elbow. Among his many jobs, he was a stuntman for the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, Predator, in a scene where they blew the Predator’s arm off. Anyway, I shook the man’s hand and suddenly I got this idea for a children’s action film featuring broken toys that come to life as imperfect super heroes. The toy’s broken body parts were remade with non-lethal weapons, like goo guns, which shot sticky stuff instead of bullets. They only came to life for one hour. The idea developed into a script called One Hour Warriors and was optioned but never made into a movie.
Q. Who’s a writer you would do backflips to meet and why?
A. I would have liked to have met Michael Chrichton before he passed away. He was a brilliant man (he wrote a novel to pay for medical school for crying out loud) and was able to write novels for all ages with storylines that pushed the envelope of controversy while being entertaining. I miss him and his books.
Q. What is your favorite book?
A. I have so many authors that I love and depending on my mood, I have a ton of favorite books. Lately, I have been really missing Michael Crichton. I mean everyone knows Jurassic Park but I remember Andromeda Strain and one of my all time favorites, Rising Sun, where he helped us understand the Japanese culture, while standing our notions of their society upside-down. He really knew how to flip a story and teach you about a subject without preaching, challenging our preconceived notions of the world. He was a brilliant man who chose to write for all ages yet he was a doctor who paid for medical school by writing a best selling novel. How brilliant is that?
When I want to read a romance I turned to Kristan Higgins and it was a great privilege to get to meet her earlier this year. Kristan has the ability to make you laugh while watching a character in pain trying to figure out life. That is a wonderful talent to have as an author and in my opinion, she is one of the best at making you connect with her characters. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her move to more dramatic storylines in the future because she certainly is a talented writer who can write whatever genre she wants.
Q. If you could go back 20 years ago, What advice would you give yourself?
A. You’ve got potential, kid. Don’t let anyone steal that from you. Stay focused and work harder. Then get some humility.
Q. Tell us about your latest novel, Those Crazy Notions of Otherwise Intelligent People
A. Ilena Doran is a dedicated therapist with a serious problem, and not the lousy haircut or closet-full of outdated clothing kind. Ilena’s big challenge comes in the small, 7 year-old package of her son, Sammy, traumatized by his father’s death.
Percy Powers is a psychiatrist’s wet dream; a wayward rocket fueled by tequila and hard-wired to locate any party starring scantily-clad women in need of his company. Following a chance meeting with Ilena and Sammy, the morning radio star offers to help the little fella, hoping Ilena might entertain a subtle invitation to have a little adult fun along the way.
From what Ilena has seen and heard from the media, she doesn’t like or trust Percy. She knows the type all too well and her professional instincts scream ‘all Mr. Party Pants really wants is inside her lace panties’.
The story is about two people who have ridiculous notions about themselves and others when the truth contradicts what is right in front of them. Sometimes you have to learn to accept help even it if comes from the unlikeliest of places.
I think readers of romance will find the complicated male lead, Percy, to be fascinating and might just break down their stereotypical assumptions of how men think and act when it comes to women, love and relationships. This story is rich with eclectic characters including several strong women, who match wit for wit with the egotistical Percy. The best wit-matcher is Ilena, a warm, loving mom and therapist, who tries to dodge the Percy curveball that is on target to destroy her perfectly, organized imperfect life.
Q. Who is your favorite character in the book?
A. I’m very fond of several characters in the book. Percy, who like so many guys are misunderstood and pretty clueless when it comes to relationships. I love Ilena because she is smart, pretty and can’t control the world no matter how much her brain encourages her to do so. But ultimately, Tiger is my favorite character.
A. Tiger is so pure and honest. As a boy with Down syndrome, he doesn’t have an ounce of animosity, no preconceived or “Crazy Notions” about anyone, unless you cross him. Not that he would do anything horrible but he might give you a funny nickname you’ll hate and never get rid of. Tiger only knows what he truly feels and as a writer that makes him a great tool for humor by embarrassing or putting characters on the spot when they try to play the BS card. Plus he just oozes cuteness like a little Ewok without all the fur.
Q. What was your inspiration for writing this book?
A. Honestly, it was listening to San Diego morning radio shows. It was kind of a simple little thing really but I can still remember thinking about what would happen if one of the guys just sort of went out of control. Then my imagination took over when I saw this little boy with Down syndrome at the YMCA. He was so cute and funny and it really blew my notions about what a boy with Down syndrome is really like. He was quiet until you got to know him and then he would just beam when he saw someone he knew. Just like Tiger in the book, he was infectious and everyone loved him.
Q. Is any part of the book based on experiences or events in your life?
A. I think the similarity to my life experiences is trying to understand what true love is for a guy. When I think about it, God played a cruel joke when he put the peak of the sexual drive for a guy at the age of about 19. Guys from 17 to 22 or so are just boys in big bodies with a limited ability to make good decisions and have no idea if they are in love, infatuated or in lust. Sometimes they develop some preconceived notions about women during this time and Percy is kind of like that - he wants more in a relationship with a woman but he doesn’t have a clue as to what makes a good relationship. When what he thought was true love just blew up in his face, he looked for other ways to mask the loneliness and the sense of loss that he felt.
This is the heartbeat of what makes Those Crazy Notions of Otherwise Intelligent People so different from a lot of other romantic comedies. We see a man in pain and get to know his disappointment in hilarious detail. A lot of books in this genre don’t paint the feelings of a man in this kind of detail, in my opinion. He’s a liar or a cheat. He works too much or he’s a great dad but often we never really learn why he is this way or how he got to where he is in the story. The many layers of Percy are revealed - he is dying inside from shame and having his masculinity ripped away while at the same time he’s the most desired celebrity in the city. Who wouldn’t be confused?
Q. Who designed the cover?
A. Ok, that’s a funny story. Or is it a sad story? Depends on how you look at it. Those Crazy Notions of Otherwise Intelligent People is a different type of book. It crosses genres of romantic comedy and drama into Romantic Dramady and is unexpected to the reader. I wanted the cover to be as unique as the story.
I originally had a contest on 99 Designs, a site where you run a contest by posting the information of what you are looking for in a design (the subject matter etc..) and then designers submit their work. Many of the first designs were palm trees on a beach that looked like it was set on a Caribbean Island. Others had a woman and a little boy that resembled a California highway sign to look out for illegal immigrants trying to cross the highway. And then we tried to help them by suggesting more of a Mad Man feel with silhouettes of people and that really went south and the designs looked dark and menacing. They might have worked for an action cop novel but not mine. In the end, no one liked the designs from the contest. I’m not sure it was the contestant’s fault, I just don’t think I knew what I wanted.
On the next round, I tried to look at some sites online that had covers you could build by adding your ideas to them. But they all looked the same. Then a curious thing happened - we decided to change the name of the book and then that sort of flushed out what we needed in a book design. We needed a way to point out that we all have these notions about people and sometimes they are nothing like we first imagined.
Then, my business partner, marketing director and wife, Julie, pointed out she liked seeing ads or pictures of people with chalk boards behind them and their thoughts in chalk on the board. I went out looking for ideas and found a photographer who takes very cool shots of people lying down on dark mats and then later puts in cool drawings with Photoshop. The photos turned into little stories, like a couple dancing in the rain with chalk looking streetlamps and benches they were dancing on or hanging from. We took one of his photos, cut out the guy and the girl’s head, found a model’s head that looked like Ilena, and cut and pasted it on the girl. Then we changed the color of her dress. Next, we hired two different designers to come up with chalk drawings from the story. The two were completely different and neither really got what I wanted. So I took some portions of each person’s work and combined them. In the final step, I had one chalk drawn image of Percy I liked but only from the waist up. I had always wanted to learn how to use Photoshop, the proper way, and this was the project that made me a master. I had my son, Jackson get on a chair and shoot photos of my legs as I lay on the floor. Then I loaded the images into Photoshop and traced them with the drawing pen to look like chalk was used to draw the bottom half of Percy. So those are my sexy legs on the cover of the book, the upper muscular body, not so much.
Q. Why did you set your book in San Diego?