Why did you write Development?
I wanted to throw a light on the cost to nature of business development. I am concerned with man's exploitation of the natural world, of beauty and of innocence. Real estate development is one place where that exploitation is often seen. But the wanton destruction of nature for profit happens in industry and farming as well. Equally concerning is the exploiitation of each other, of other human beings, again for profit. I think it is important to recognize the real cost of mankind's expansion and growth.
How did you come up with the title Development?
The title has several layers of meaning. Development generally has positive connotations, so I wanted to use it slightly ironcally to emphasize the fact that it is not always a positive force. Certainly the title relates to real estate development. At the same time, the literal physical development of the young girl, Amy, the budding fashion model, is scrutinized and criticized. And it also relates to character development. We watch the positive growth of some of the characters in the book as they become more compassionate and responsible individuals.
Why did you pick Westport for the location of the book?
I grew up in Westport, Connecticut. It is a town I have known well. And it is where I saw the population roughly triple from the 1950s through the 1970s. Unfortunatley, it was a good example of rapacious and exploitive real estate development as the growing population expanded on to more and more of the natural landscape. Originally, I had wanted to set the book in rural Vermont, but I quickly discovered I knew nothing about rural Vermont. It would have taken considerable additional research to write convincingly of that area. So I avoided much of that extra work by choosing I place I was already familiar with. Write what you know, as they say.
Are the characters in the book based on real people?
Some of the characters, such as Holden and Generoso, are completely made up. Others, such as Dora, Hank, Norma and Maddie, for example, have some traits of people I have known. Virtually all the incidents that take place in the book are fictional. And in all cases, the dialog is my own. It is true that there is a little of myself in Hank and even Jared. There almost has to be. I think any novelist cannot help but infuse something of himself in at least one character.
Would you say that Development is sad?
Some people have said they found the book to be sad. And it is in some parts. After all, I think it is very sad that we humans sacrifice the beauty of nature for human expansion. When people exploit nature, destroying a field or forest, there is a sad callousness at work. By definition, exploitation exacts a price. But there is hope too in the book, the hope of caring for each other and for the natural world. The book contains the prospect of love and redemption. It should be our charge as stewards of the planet to protect and preserve nature.
What do you like to read?
I especially like police procedurals. I always like the slightly jaded and edgy detective who, despite his faults, has a moral core and catches criminals in sometimes unconventional ways. Favorite authors of this genre include C.J. Box and Michael Connelly. I also like historical fiction, especially novels that trace family generations down through many years.
Do you have a writing schedule?
No, I don’t have a regular schedule. I need to feel a certain amount of spontaneity to write and that doesn’t fit well with schedules. However, I find I am at my most creative and I generally feel sharpest in the early mornings, so if I can carve out time to write, that is when I try to do it. I need to feel I have a fairly open block of time. The words do not flow if I am conscious of other parts of my life that need time and attention.
What do you like about being a writer?
I love the process of losing myself in a different time, place and character. I enjoy feeling what my characters are feeling and responding with dialog and actions as they naturally would. If I have set the scene and the characters well, I find the dialog flows out of me very naturally. It is that sense I have heard other artists describe of not feeling as though you are actually doing the writing. It is more a sense of it happening to you, of the words flowing through you from an unknown source. And you just let it happen. I love that experience.
Do you have another book in the works?
I do, it is a true mystery, based in Boston, in a psychiatric hospital. Tentatively entitled "Traps," It follows one of the characters from Development a few years later. Someone has abducted a girl. Later her sister, who witnessed the crime, is admitted to a mental institution where the abductor works. While I'm writing, I have launched a blog to share my progress and challenges, with tidbits from the book as it develops. Take a look. WritingAMystery.com.