Less boring biography
So if you've managed to make it to this page, you want more information about me. Before we go any further, my conscience compels me to make one short announcement: sorry, ladies, I'm very happily married. I know that's a bitter disappointment for many of you, but if it's any consolation, feel free to gaze at my author photo fondly and wonder what could have been. I'll pause while you do that..
Now that we've got that out of the way, I suppose I should tell you a bit about myself. I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but I don't remember much about my birth. My mother says it was excruciating, and I take her at her word. I'm not sure that she's ever forgiven me for it. My father was apparently buying tires when I entered the world for the first time, and I don't think my mom's forgiven him for that, either.
We lived in Tulsa for a little while, after which we moved to Chickasaw, Oklahoma. My memories of Chickasaw are fuzzy but pleasant. Among them, I remember skipping church choir practice and playing in the elevator with the pastor's daughter. I also remember informing that pastor that if we were ever hit by a tornado, we'd be in deep shit, a tidbit my father had told me the night before. Perhaps most importantly, I remember having a wonderful first grade teacher named Mrs. York, who taught me how to read. I never thanked her for that, and I wish I had.
When I was seven, my family moved to Newburgh, a small town along the Ohio River in southern Indiana. I had a nice childhood; sheltered, quiet, comfortable. It was everything a kid could ask for, especially one who wanted to become a writer.
In elementary school, my favorite author was probably J.R.R. Tolkien, but Stephen King was a close second. The YA book market back then wasn't as strong as it is now, so interesting age-appropriate material was hard to find. I used to sneak their books beneath my desk and read when the teacher spoke. I never liked school; it always felt like a waste of time, both my teachers' and mine. Because of that, I didn't do much homework, and if I did do it, I did it in the five minutes before class started.
I made an exception, though, for our monthly book reports in fifth and sixth grade. For Halloween one year, my fifth-grade teacher required us to read something “scary” and report back to the class on what made it scary. Most of the kids read ghost stories and told the class about things that go bump in the night. I read The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton and spoke about the horrors of biological warfare. My teacher gave me a low grade because I didn't follow the assignment close enough. I still remember that, mostly because I decided to quit school at that point. My parents, fortunately, had other ideas.
Whether I enjoyed my formal education or not, I went to college at a small Liberal Arts school called Hanover, where I met my future wife. I majored in philosophy because those classes tended to start later in the day. After college, I bounced around for a while trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I went to law school, but I decided I didn't want to become a lawyer. After that, I enrolled in a PhD program in philosophy but left when a small university in Arkansas offered my wife a position on their faculty.
I didn't have a PhD, but I taught classes in ethics, the philosophy of religion, and religious studies, giving me the opportunity to interact with students and people I wouldn't normally encounter. I grew up in a middle-class home in southern Indiana, but many of my students came from a different world completely. Many came from rural areas where crushing, multi-generational poverty was simply another part of life, while others came from urban areas as rough as any I've ever heard of.
In just my first semester of teaching, I had three students who had to take time off class because they had to testify as witnesses in criminal trials, I had two students who were arrested and prosecuted for major felonies, and I had one student - a very smart, very quiet girl who sat in the back of my Introduction to Philosophy class - who, along with her boyfriend's entire family, was murdered.
I wrote my first Ash Rashid novel while in Arkansas, and I suppose it was a sort of wish fulfillment. I was twenty-six years old when I donned my teacher's hat, barely older than some of my students. At times, they made me feel almost guilty for my comparatively cushy life. More than that, though, they made me feel proud. Despite the hardships they went through, they came back day after day and did whatever they could to lift themselves from the situations in which they had been put. I liked that; hell, I admired that.
I couldn't have become the writer I am without them. I think, subconsciously perhaps, I created Ash Rashid because of those students. In a lot of ways, he's my idea of a hero. He doesn't have special powers or abilities, but he tries his best to do what's right. People occasionally ask me if he's based on a real person. He's not, but I hope there are people like him out there. The world needs people like that.