Remember that day in the first grade when your teacher asks what you're going to be when you grow up? My burning desire at age six was to be The Batman. While the lifestyle of a billionaire playboy was appealing, it didn't seem like a viable career option without access to a cool costume and a batcave. So I went with my second choice. Because I had no clue how to spell paleontologist, I wrote down "dinosaur picker." Not as scientific or as elegant, but God knows I could spell it.
My childhood was spent in a small Colorado town where my family lived in a house on King Street. No, the street wasn't named after me, but I told everyone it was. I like to think the other kids bought the story until about middle school. I'm sure that experience marks the beginning of my delusion of grandeur. You'll find that's a common—maybe necessary—trait among authors.
As a kid, it was never my dream to be a novelist. I had no interest in writing for the public beyond scrawling stuff on the stalls inside a Garnet Mesa Elementary bathroom. I was a painfully shy kid at school. I had a couple of good friends, but many times I would create stories in my head to fill the social void. I had a big imagination and, strange as it sounds, I regarded it as one of my closest friends. I've enjoyed a productive collaboration with my imagination through the years, even though it still strikes back at me from time to time with some damning nightmares. My imagination has been doing that going back to childhood night terrors, but I'm cool with it now, for the most part, even though it bewilders my wife (let's just say my dreams are interactive, especially the scary ones. You can find a little more detail about this in the Q&A section).
I even had a name for my imagination, inspired during a brisk summer night when I was maybe ten. My family was camping in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. I was walking a darkened wilderness trail with my father when we passed another campsite. Beneath a canopy of trees, a small group gathered around a blazing fire. At one end, a teenager was standing on a log, waving his hands as he told a ghost story. I wanted to stop and listen as we passed, but a more persuasive part of my mind wanted to return to our camp. No longer able to hear the story as we walked, I glanced back at the fire's glow cast high on surrounding Aspen and Spruce trees. Maybe it was my first small glimpse at the power of imagination and storytelling. I started thinking about my imagination as a Dark Forest that I could visit whenever I wanted to escape the world. It's the reason I gave that name to my blog.
I met my soulmate in high school. Cheri Thompson was a petite brunette with dazzling blue eyes and more than a hint of mystery. After an awkward first date, we talked during a second date for more than four hours. I was hooked. Yeah, we married at a young age—Cheri was nineteen and I was twenty—but I love her now more than I did on our rain-swept wedding day.
After flirting with a career as an artist, I discovered psychology during my freshman year of college. It changed my life. Cheri and I both earned bachelor's degrees in psychology before moving right on to grad school. One month after my twenty-fourth birthday, I was offered the chance to teach a course on the History of Psychology while I was still a grad student. I hadn't seriously considered a career as a professor, but I discovered a real passion for teaching. Yeah, I was scared beyond belief during those early lectures, but I hung in there until I felt comfortable in a university classroom. The best part was interacting with my students and I seriously think I've learned more from them than they ever learned from me. More than a few became close friends.
I completed a dissertation on forensic psychology and earned my doctoral degree a few months shy of my twenty-seventh birthday. A month later, I started teaching at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Along the way, I published two nonfiction books on psychology and the history of science. After only four years on campus, I was named CU Boulder's best professor. Along with other teaching awards, I was voted Professor of the Year in a student survey conducted by a Boulder campus magazine in 2010. I've had the honor of teaching more than 35,000 students in courses for the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.
Several of my students, along with my wife, first encouraged me to take a stab at fiction. At first, I thought the two careers couldn't be more different. Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong. At its heart, psychology is a quest, an attempt to probe behavior and explore the mysteries of the mind. Researchers and clinicians study the vistas of human nature, searching for answers about the brain, memory, thinking, psychiatric disorders, emotions, sleep and dreams. The search can be frustrating and convoluted while the answers seem, at times, elusive. The breakthroughs, however, can be exhilarating.
The same is true with fiction.
As I create worlds for my characters, I explore the lost avenues and dead ends that prevent them from finding what they need to discover and the revelations that shape and give meaning to their quest.
My inspiration for writing my debut novel, The Radix, came from a variety of places. I've had a passion for history going back to middle school. I love exploring the gray areas in history, those little moments where we don't have all the facts, but we know most of the details. It's an approach that I took even deeper during the writing of my second novel, The False Door, and a series of shorter works that trace the Radix Saga over the course of different eras. As a writer, I fill in the gaps with my imagination to bring historical perspective to the events in my story. Embellishment is a vice for historians, but a virtue for novelists.
I've never been much of a conformist and I'm terrible at acting my age. I love exploring caves and my imagination. Maybe that's why I became a thriller writer. When I'm not writing or touring my imagination, I enjoy spending time with family and friends. Cheri and I have three incredible children, twin boys and a daughter. Despite being raised by two psychologists, all three kids turned out normal. I know...it's a miracle! I can't tell you what an honor it was to dedicate my first novel to my wife and kids.
I've lived the whole of my life in Colorado, but I don't own a cowboy hat and I don't ski. I enjoy exploring the state's scenic riches, both above and below ground. In a bookstore, I never buy the front book on the shelf, preferring instead the more reclusive ones lurking in the back (I'm just throwing out trivialities here to see if you're still reading). I love visiting with people who read my books and I've even named characters after a few readers. Please visit me on Facebook or on Twitter. Even better, maybe someday we can chat in person at one of my book signings. I appreciate you taking time to check out my novels. Without your support and interest, this dream of mine would be without foundation, so thank you!