I’m a professor at the University of Arkansas … and a recovering lawyer. That last part is a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course, but there’s also a little truth to it. I spent a few years practicing law, but I didn’t like how jaded I became in the process. I went into the field because I had a desire to help people. After a few years I started to make a nice living, but when clients began returning with the same old problems, I felt like I was spinning my wheels. While trying to shed the misery that caused me, I discovered, quite by accident, that I loved being in a classroom. Around 2002, the senior partner in my law firm had me teach a couple of his business law classes when he was in court. I loved it, and at 35, decided that I needed to change the course of my life. It was a difficult pill to swallow. But ten years later, and with a Ph.D., I couldn’t be happier. I love what I do now: working with students, helping them plot a course in the world—it’s a win, win situation.
Changing careers at such a late age taught me to never give up searching for those things in life that make me happy. So, in a way, I’ve found bliss. I live in Fayetteville, Arkansas—it’s a gorgeous town in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. I spend my days on campus, working with students, and I spend my evenings with my family, my dogs, and more good friends than any one man deserves. When I’m not writing, I meet up with a few friends and jam a little—I play tenor sax.
I started writing because I loved the release from reality—that’s probably why I ended up in the fantasy genre. Writing has always given me the opportunity to disappear into a different world for a few hours and let my imagination run wild. It’s also true that I’ve always enjoyed putting a smile on people’s faces, the kind of smile that only a great song, a beautiful picture, or a good story can provide. I hope my writing can do that for others.
In my writing, I find great inspiration in the rich history of the Ozark Mountain region. My family settled in this area in 1850. My late grandfather was an extraordinary storyteller, who honed his craft until the day he passed. He never wrote, unfortunately, but his stories about the Ozarks, his blending of folklore, legend and reality, stirred my imagination as a boy. Growing up in the Ozarks, I found that many old-timers told similar stories. It really was part of the culture of the region, although a part that has slowly disappeared with each successive generation. I grew up on Osage and Cherokee legends as well. The old-timers told me stories about terrifying creatures that roamed the forests, like Smokey Joe (a.k.a., Momo, the Missouri name for Bigfoot), the massive cat-like Ozark Howler, and the fierce and ill-tempered Razorbacks that terrified even the most hardened mountain folk. They told me numerous tales of magical “folks,” who lived in “hollers” that everyone with sense avoided.
One author in particular has influenced my writing more than any other: Samuel Clemens. His writing has always intrigued me--his use of language and grammar, and his non-conventional views on politics, patriotism and religion, are also a draw. I think if I had an hour to spend with him, and because of his legendary wit, it would make for an amazing time.