1. How does your background as an educator influence your work as a writer?
As a previous teacher, I strive for clarity in my writing, being aware that words, besides having a dictionary definition, also produce different degrees of emotional responses from readers. A teacher's greatest reward is the "Ah!" expressed when a student suddenly understands. I write with the hope and expectation of "Ahs!" when the reader understands a difficult concept, considers a new idea, accepts a different opinion, or is challenged by a different twist.
I strive not just for "good writing" or even "better writing," but my best writing. My companion next to my word processor is Roget's Thesaurus, an invaluable source for finding "the right word." I learned as a teacher that writing is not "talk written down," and that reading challenges a different part of our thinking than does listening.
2. Have you had personal experience with falconry and/or birds, or did you need to conduct a great deal of background research for The Great Hawk?
I had no personal experience with falconry nor did I do extensive research. It is the trappings of falconry, not its substance, that entice young Jimmy when he discovers it in reading about King Arthur.
My wife and I live on the farm that has been in her family for five generations.
One spring day I noticed more than the normal four or five hawks that circled overhead throughout the week. Soon they multiplied until there were over thirty. There is majesty in several hawks circling high above, but thirty becomes ominous. "Let's go inside," I told my wife, and we did.
3. Do you think that young people today are experiencing some loss of connection with the natural world?
Young children now spend too much time viewing and listening to electronic devices and neglect those things that help prepare them in the simple skills of dealing with the real world: simple decision-making, choosing, evaluating, experiencing, and judging chance and probability. The mystical experience of nature is replaced by the magic of electronic devices.
4. How does an appreciation of farming and the countryside help enrich our lives, and how do we see this in action in Jimmy's life in your story?
In The Great Hawk, farming and the countryside represent pristine nature, while Jimmy's wish to "train a baby hawk" is his conditioning to control nature. Our electronic culture encourages us to direct nature, if not control it, and certainly not to marvel at its miraculous manifestations: a small device with no wires allows us to listen to music played hundreds of miles away, and our reaction is not the astonishing activity filling empty space but "can I get it louder."
5. What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
A book that begins with a mystery in 1935 that is answered by a story of redemption beginning in 1862. The title is Holy Ground.
Below is the book trailer for The Great Hawk...