Life has a way of intruding on an author’s work. This happens because, as my wife and editor Kathleen is fond of saying, “Your output is derived from your input.” In ways both subtle and obvious, a writer’s background shapes his writing.
In my case, one such influence dates back to my earliest childhood. For as long as I can remember, the universe has beckoned me. Astronomy was my first love. When other boys might have said they would grow up to be doctors or policemen, I wanted to be an astronomer. My father taught me the constellations and the names of the brightest stars. In junior high school, I bought a cheap telescope from K-Mart and spent time observing the moon, stars, and sun. In high school I expanded my horizons to cosmology and from there to relativity and quantum physics.
I didn’t actually end up as either an astronomer or a physicist, but my interest in those subjects hasn’t flagged. I have a better telescope today, although still a modest one, and subscribe to Sky and Telescope. I’ve even sold them a couple of essays.
My interest in science and particularly astronomy influenced my literary ambitions, too. In the long ago, I principally read and wrote science fiction. My favorite SF stories to both read and write were those involving the exploration of the universe.
Later I became increasingly interested in mysteries and somewhat disaffected with the direction in which the science fiction genre was heading, but astronomy didn’t get left behind. In The Fibonacci Murders, for example, you’ll find Venus shining in the evening sky, as well as references to the moon and light pollution. Light pollution also figures in the opening scene of my forthcoming novel, Ice on the Bay. My in-progress return to science fiction, Space Operatic, takes place in the inner Oort Cloud.
My other key hobby, bonsai, hasn’t yet worked its way into my writing, but then I’ve only been into the art for about ten years. I have, however, pondered some possibilities. Tomio Kaneko, the Japanese-American mathematician who debuts in The Fibonacci Murders, just might have a son with an interest in bonsai, an art that can yield valuable works through the application of, among other things, sharp instruments.
That sounds about right for a murder mystery, no?