Everyone is a number in this dystopian near-future where cameras track your every move. Score above 90 and you’re set for life. Score below 75 and you’re on your own, kid.
The short version:
I grew up in the small town of Wenham, Massachusetts. After college and a brief flirtation with anthropology I spent ten years in the film business as both a screenwriter (Hypercube, Prisoner of Love, Specimen) and producer (American Psycho, Buffalo ’66, Vig, Stag, and others) before turning my attention to novels. I am the author of the teen novels, Cycler, (Re)Cycler, and Scored, as well as the upcoming children’s picture book series, Preschool Detective. I am currently at work on my fourth novel.
The long version:
I grew up in a very small town called Wenham, Massachusetts, which is about 20 miles north of Boston. It’s near Salem, but is relatively witch-free, as far as I know. I had a rather normal, crisis-free upbringing, which has deprived me of personal horror stories from which to draw for my fiction (Thanks, Mom and Dad!). My Dad is a stone mason by trade and my mother works in philanthropic administration. As a teenager I played sports, sang, acted, ran for student government and wrote bucketloads of poetry.
I went to Holy Cross College in 1985 with the wildly misguided idea that it would help me understand what it meant to be Catholic. I wound up an atheist within one semester. After graduating in 1989, I spent one year at N.Y.U. where I studied cultural anthropology only to realize that success in that field meant teaching cultural anthropology to other graduate students. The recursive pointlessness of that fate resulted in an existential crisis and a quick decision to drop out. I make all of my most important decisions quickly, which sometimes works out.
I began working in the film industry in 1991 as a Production Assistant on very low budget independent films and music videos but worked my way up quickly to become a line producer. Favorite comic memories include shooting a B52’s video in Woodstock New York and being asked by a very irritated Kate Pierson to procure vodka for the band in the middle of the night despite the fact that everything was closed. Although the band was dropped by their label after we completed that music video, I do not believe my failure to procure vodka was the main reason.
I started writing screenplays around this time and in 1994 I caught the attention of John Dunning and Mike Paseornek who worked at Canadian film company, Cinepix Films. They hired me to write a screenplay for them, then to join Mike in opening a New York branch for the company. That company blossomed (exploded actually) into what is now Lionsgate Films. I wrote several screenplays while working there, three of which were produced (Specimen, Hypercube, and Prisoner of Love) and several of which are still on somebody’s development roster for all I know. I also produced a number of films, including American Psycho and Buffalo 66. I learned a lot in my ten years in film, like how to negotiate a better price on nearly anything (including long distance phone rates) and how to get difficult people to do things they don’t want to do (hint: flattery mixed with threat. Don’t try it at home, though. It’s potent).
In the spring of 2000 I read Dan Simmons Hyperion series, an epic space quadrilogy. Shortly thereafter I found myself writing what appeared to be a novel. Before I could stop myself I’d written almost thirty-thousand words and realized that this is what I had to do. So I did what any responsible adult with an upwardly-mobile career in the movie industry would do. I quit.
After completing that first novel and another, neither of which ever sold, I wrote Cycler, which was published in 2008. Cycler had begun its life many years prior as a screenplay. But Cycler didn’t want to be a screenplay. It wanted to be a novel. Now it has decided it wants to be both a novel and a screenplay so it’s in development with producer Don Murphy of Transformers fame. We’ll see how that goes. The sequel, (Re)Cycler was published in 2009.
My latest novel, Scored, emerged from a personal experience I had with surveillance cameras in a crime-infested block around the corner from my apartment. I’ve since moved to a “better” neighborhood, but the cameras are multiplying. To those who doubt that we are “sleepwalking into a surveillance society,” I have only this to say:
As for the usual biographical details, I have no pets, but I do have some hobbies. I run, dance and love to bake. I play the piano whenever I get a spare moment, which my three-year-old daughter makes sure is approaching never. I’m married to the brilliant photographer, Andrew Woffinden.
Favorite authors include Jennifer Egan, Gillian Flynn, Meg Rosoff, Cintra Wilson, Kurt Vonnegut, Virginia Woolf, Ian McDonald, and Jane Austen.
Quirky factoid: For reasons I have never uncovered I am petrified of butterflies. To overcome this fear, I once spent a year desensitizing myself by reading books, forcing myself to look at photos of them, even befriending some lepidopterists at the Museum of Natural History who were very generous with their drawers of pinned specimens. The whole process was capped off by a nerve-wracking but utterly transforming visit to the Ground Zero of lepidopterophobia—the monarch butterfly overwintering grounds in Central Mexico. Picture an orange blizzard. I was surrounded by them–fifty million of them! After a terrifying few hours, I managed to calm down and learned how to capture and hold them. I’m proud to say that I can now hold butterflies in my hand without fainting and have developed an abiding fondness for the creatures. Caterpillars still freak me out, but one thing at a time.