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(from England)
(on the publication of Bombardiers, which was a #1 Bestseller there)

How does it feel to be compared with Joseph Heller and Tom Wolfe?

I think people should make up their minds. Is it Heller or Wolfe? I for one would like to know. It would make things a lot simpler. It's hard enough to be compared to either of them, let alone both.

Where did the inspiration for the novel come from?

A story in the newspaper reported that shares of Apple Computer rallied up 10% in price on the same day that Apple announced layoffs of 15% of its workforce. Wall Street was uncorking champagne when Silicon Valley was drowning itself in whiskey. People presume the financial markets are an indicator of economic vitality, but that's too often not the case.

Was your experience in finance a great influence on your reasons for writing it?

After the 1987 stock market crash, two things happened. First, my ex-wife—who was trading Japanese Banker's Acceptances at Paine Webber—was given two hours to clear out her desk and leave the building. Second, investors anticipated that the Federal Reserve would lower interest rates to combat the imminent recession. That afternoon, anyone who held bonds (such as Japanese Banker's Acceptances) suddenly made a ton of money when interest rates dropped. The economy had crashed and we were rolling in huge profits! It wasn't until six years later that I realized this absurdity could be the fuel for fiction.

When did your interest in writing first develop?

In kindergarten I made my first letterforms. I just tried to keep them between the lines. By second grade I was taking it more seriously, learning to combine nouns and verbs into full sentences. Adverbs soon followed.

I've been writing an average of three hours a day for the past ten years. I believe the most important thing a writer can do is make sure your work expresses all of your personality, not just part of it. I denied my own sense of humor for years.

How important was it for you to study a Creative Writing Course at San Francisco State University?

In order to break the rules, you have to learn the rules.

Did you enjoy your recent trip to England?

You have wonderful rain. The drops are small and barely noticeable.

Are any of the characters in the book based upon people that you have met in real life?

Every guy I used to work with thinks he is the basis for Bombardiers' hero, Sidney Geeder. Not one of them realizes they were the inspiration for minor or mundane characters.

Do you believe that vast sums of money inevitably corrupts people?

Not just vast sums. It really depends under what conditions money is earned. I define corruption as being obsessed with money. Sometimes small sums are more destructive, particularly if they are earned slowly by doing work you dislike. If you acumulate wealth doing something you truly love, it isn't corrupting.

There is a lot of humour in the book. How important is that?

The most beautiful noise in the world is the sound of someone laughing. I love that sound.

Is Bombardiers likely to become first of a series of books?

Absolutely. The first in a long series of cantankerous rib-tickling novels, all exposing hypocrisy and bureaucracy in the workplace. In 30 years, if you stack the books on top of each other, they will make a nice nightstand.

Writing is a pretty good business to be in. You can deduct from your taxes almost everything as "research." Last week I bought a new pair of roller skates, and just by mentioning them in this Q&A I effectively lower their price 36%. Also, if you write at home, the kitchen is never very far away.

When you first started writing it, did you ever imagine it would be so well received?

No. Particularly because there weren't any "novels of the workplace" that I could compare it to. I'm hoping the money I've been paid will entice other novelists to write angry, ranting novels about how much they hate their jobs. If enough do it, then we would have a new genre, which I believe qualifies us for our own section in a bookstore.

What have you got planned for the rest of today?

I'm not very good at planning. Thinking ahead makes me frantic and depressed, because inevitably I see that there is a lot of work in my future.